Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Russia's $500

From the MT:
"Russians' Average Monthly Salary Falls to $500 as Food Prices Skyrocket"

Amid soaring inflation, the average monthly salary across Russia shrank to 31,200 rubles ($500) in January, reported Tuesday citing the Economic Development Ministry. The current average represents an 8 percent decrease from the same month last year in ruble terms, and a nearly 50 percent plunge in dollar terms as a result of a severe economic downturn that has rapidly devalued Russia's national currency. Spending on food is expected to account for 50 to 55 percent of household income by the end of this year, business newspaper Vedomosti reported Monday. Food prices surged 22 percent in February alone, though that figure is expected to stabilize in coming months, Vedomosti said, citing VTB analysts. Russia's already struggling economy was hit hard last year by a halving of global oil prices — the country's No. 1 export — and by Western sanctions imposed over Russia's role in the Ukraine conflict. Russia's unemployment rate is also on the rise, having increased to 5.5 percent in January as the government and private sector fired employees amid the economic slump, Reuters reported. About a third of Russians expect their family's income to fall in the next couple of months due to wage cuts and layoffs, according to a poll by the state-run Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VTsIOM).

^  This isn't surprising It's unfortunate that it has to affect the hard-working, ordinary Russian people. I have many friends in Russia and regardless of how we view politics, etc I still don't like to see them suffer. Many just say "We will live and we will see" and trudge through. ^

KR Charged

From the G & M:
"Khmer Rouge official charged in 1978 killing of Canadian Stuart Glass"
The special tribunal dealing with Khmer Rouge atrocities has for the first time filed charges related to the killing nearly 37 years ago of Stuart Glass, a Canadian whose yacht was attacked while he sailed near the shores of Cambodia. An investigating judge announced Tuesday that he had charged a former Khmer Rouge functionary, Meas Muth, with homicide and crimes against humanity. The charges against Mr. Meas include crimes “against Vietnamese, Thai and other foreigners at sea.” Another former Khmer Rouge, Im Chaem, was also charged with homicide and crimes against humanity in other cases. Mr. Glass, who grew up in Richmond, B.C., is believed to have been gunned down when the yacht Foxy Lady was intercepted by the Khmer Rouge Navy in August of 1978. Two other men aboard the boat, a New Zealander and a Briton, were captured, tortured for weeks, then executed. The latest charges, part of Case 003 of the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, come after years of internal wranglings over whether more suspects should be brought to trial, beyond the initial indictment of five high-ranking figures. Prime Minister Hun Sen, Cambodia’s long-time leader who is also a former Khmer Rouge cadre, has repeatedly warned that further prosecutions would create chaos in Cambodia. The tribunal, which is backed by the United Nations, is a hybrid court that operates with local and international jurists. The foreign judges and prosecutors have clashed in the past with their Cambodian counterparts over whether to charge more suspects. Tuesday’s charges were filed by co-investigating judge Mark B. Harmon of the United States, without the agreement of Cambodian co-investigating judge You Bunleng. Specifics of the allegations against Mr. Meas were accidentally made public in December, 2012, when a prosecution submission was mistakenly posted on a public Web page. The document said Mr. Meas was commander of the Democratic Kampuchea Navy from April, 1975, to January, 1979. The DK Navy “was responsible for aggressively defending” waters claimed by the Khmer Rouge, the document said, adding that many Thai and Vietnamese fishermen were captured in border areas, sent to the S-21 prison in Phnom Penh, tortured and executed. “Nationals of other countries were also captured by the DK Navy and sent to S-21. For example, at least four Westerners were captured by the DK Navy in Cambodian waters and transferred to S-21, where they were executed,” the document said.
More details about what happened to Mr. Glass were heard during the trial of S-21 prison head, Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Comrade Duch. After years of hearings, the tribunal has only convicted three people: Comrade Duch and two senior government members, Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. The latter two are currently on trial on other charges, including genocide. The cases against two others ended when former foreign minister Ieng Sary died in 2013, while his wife, social affairs minister Ieng Thirith, was deemed unfit to stand trial because of dementia.
^  It's very odd to think that there would be any real criminal charges or guilty verdicts against any Khmer Rouge official when the Prime Minister is former Khmer Rouge. The KR murdered around a million of their own people (ethnic Vietnamese, ethnic Chinese, those that worked for the French colonial leaders, those that could speak a foreign language and even those that wore glasses.) While the majority of KR will never be brought to justice for their crimes hopefully this one will be for killing Glass. No country can move forward completely until it confronts its past. Cambodia is a striving country that has come a long way from its Civil War, Khmer Rouge genocide, War and occupation with Vietnam to what it is today and while it still has a lot to do this charge could help lead the country further. ^

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shovel On

It's the third day of March and so far it has come in like a lion (hopefully it will  leave like a lamb.) We got measurable snow yesterday and are under a Winter Weather Warning for tonight through tomorrow. It would be great if Spring would come (March 20th) and stay. This Winter has seen feet upon feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures. It's unusual even for a northern New England mountain town.

Crimea Back

From the MT:
"Ukraine Says Ties With Russia Won't Normalize Until It Gives Back Crimea"
No normalization of ties between Ukraine and Russia is likely unless the region of Crimea, now under Russian control, is returned to Kiev's sovereignty, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin said on Tuesday. Klimkin, on the second day of his two-day trip to Japan, also said the border between Ukraine and Russia needed to be completely closed to achieve any settlement to the armed conflict between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. He reiterated his government's stance as a cease-fire deal, reached last month in Minsk, is broadly holding on the front line, but fighters in the separatist stronghold of Donetsk are training for another round of clashes against government troops. "There could be no slightest way of normalizing or getting back to business in the relations between Ukraine and Russia without returning to status quo and establishing full Ukrainian sovereignty over Crimea," Klimkin told reporters in Tokyo. Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea from Ukraine a year ago. "The ultimate precondition for any effective, final settlement is to fully close down the Ukrainian-Russian border," he said. "Because everything that has been destabilizing the situation in (the Ukrainian cities of) Donetsk and Luhansk — mercenaries, money, weapons, heavy weaponry, and of course Russian rebel troops — came through the Russian-Ukrainian border." Ukraine and Western governments have accused Russia of sending troops and weapons to support separatists in eastern Ukraine, despite the peace deal agreed on Feb. 12. Moscow has denied this. "We stress from the very beginning that we've been striving for a peaceful solution. But we will use any means for defending Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty," Klimkin said. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday that Moscow and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine must implement the cease-fire or face "consequences" that could further hit Russia's faltering economy.

^ This is a no-brainer. No country can have good relations with another country that invades, occupies and annexes a part of it. Russia would never accept if another country did those same actions to a part of the Russian Federation and yet it seems to follow a double-standard with the Ukraine. Russians and the Russian Government may not like how things have turned out since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, but that is the reality now for 24 years. Taking over parts of the Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova (or any former Soviet Republic) won't bring back the "Golden Days" it will only hurt innocent people that simply want to be able to be free and decide their own fate. While it would be great if Russia (ie Putin) withdrew from eastern Ukraine and the Crimea I don't see that happening anytime soon. ^

Egypt's Hamas Call

From Yahoo:
"Gaza fears isolation as Egypt calls Hamas 'terrorist' group"

Gaza residents said Sunday they fear growing isolation and more hardships after an Egyptian court declared the territory's ruling Hamas a terrorist organization. Some blamed the Islamic militant Hamas while others said Egypt is being unreasonable. Hamas urged Saudi Arabia to press Egypt to open the Gaza-Egypt border. Egypt's president met Sunday with the new Saudi king. Saturday's court ruling signaled Egypt's growing hostility toward Hamas, an offshoot of the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood. Egypt has blamed Hamas for violence in the country's restive Sinai Peninsula, a charge Hamas denies. Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007, and the territory's borders have been largely sealed by Israel and Egypt since then. Egypt intensified the blockade after its military toppled a Hamas-friendly government in Cairo in 2013. In recent months, Egyptian soldiers have destroyed virtually all smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. In October, they began razing parts of the Egyptian town of Rafah on the border with Gaza. Residents near the border said homes are still being dynamited or bulldozed at a steady pace, with the latest explosion heard Sunday afternoon. The Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, Gaza's main gateway to the world, mostly has been closed since October. This year, it was only open for two days, leaving thousands unable to get out of the territory, including Muslim pilgrims and students at foreign universities. The tunnel closures have put an end to the smuggling of cheap fuel and cement from Egypt, further hurting a crippled Gaza economy and driving up unemployment. Cigarette prices have tripled. Some in Gaza blamed Hamas, saying it's time the militant group moderate or hand over control to the Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from whom it seized Gaza. "Hamas is taking us hostage for the sake of its own interest," university graduate Ahmed Tiri said. Hamas rules Gaza with an iron grip, and such criticism is relatively rare. Last year, Abbas and Hamas reached a deal under which an Abbas-led government would take over in Gaza. However, the agreement was never implemented, with both sides unwilling to compromise. As a result, reconstruction of Gaza after last year's Israel-Hamas war has stalled.
^  It's  about time Egypt officially realized what most of the world has seen for years.  Gaza is ruled by a terrorist group that attacks and kills innocent men, women and children. Until the people of Gaza see that for themselves and work to put a stop to them then I don't see things changing for the better anytime soon. I would be for more rights and international recognition if the Palestinians in Gaza completely rejected Hamas and their terrorist acts. At least Israel can now protect itself from Gazan rockets fired at them. The ball's in the Gazan's court. The West Bank has become more peaceful and so there's a chance for Gaza as well. ^

Gulag Closes

From MT:
"Russia's Gulag Museum Shuts Doors Amid Mounting State Pressure"

A museum commemorating the victims of Soviet-era political repressions is closing down after months of government pressure. Perm-36 — the only museum in Russia created on the site of a former gulag camp — is "ceasing its activities and beginning the process of self-liquidation," the museum said in a statement Monday. The shutdown comes at a time when the number of Russians viewing Soviet dictator Josef Stalin positively has risen to more than half of the population (52 percent), according to a recent Levada Center poll, and amid heightened government rhetoric extolling Soviet-era achievements. Government investigators reportedly inspected Perm-36 — named for the infamous labor camp on whose site it was created more than two decades ago — for "extremism" last year, following a complaint by a television viewer who felt prompted to act by a program aired by state-run broadcaster NTV titled "Fifth Column." The program argued that the museum vindicated Lithuanian and Ukrainian nationalists who had been imprisoned in the labor camp for fighting against the Soviet Union, newspaper Kommersant reported at the time. The museum, located in the village of Kuchino in the Perm region, said that attempts to negotiate with the regional administration "about preserving Perm-36 as a real museum of the history of political repression in the U.S.S.R. and as a unique historical monument have proven unsuccessful." All attempts by the human rights group that runs the museum to preserve it "have been exhausted," the statement said. Since the Perm regional administration approved the establishment of the museum, its employees have restored "nearly all buildings and constructions on the territory of the memorial," according to the museum's website. The work appears to have been helped by an increase in public funding and attention that came after the World Monuments Fund listed Perm-36 on its 2004 "world monuments watch," a list of endangered heritage sites around the world, according to the historical preservation group's website. Perm-36 was also nominated for a UNESCO designation as a world heritage site, the museum said on its website. But "starting in 2012, the attitude of the regional authorities toward the monument and museum has changed drastically," the statement said. "The financing of restoration work has completely stopped, and so has the campaigning for including the museum in the UNESCO World Heritage list." After cutting the museum's funding, the local authorities also reportedly disconnected its water and electricity supplies last spring, citing unpaid bills. Human rights activists and cultural figures have appealed to the government to preserve the museum, and thousands of people have signed petitions on its behalf, Perm-36 said in a statement thanking Russians for their support and saying its activists would continue research into "understanding the tragic experience of our country's history." The work will be largely confined to "academic, scaled-down" efforts, the statement said.

^ It's a shame that this museum is closing especially since millions of people were imprisoned in camps like this one for decades. I don't think there's a family that lived in the former Soviet Union that didn't have a family member sent to a Gulag - not to mention all the ones that came from eastern Europe. People who try and rewrite history (ie making Stalin out to be anything other than a murderous dictator) is the same thing as portraying Hitler as a good man - it's not true no matter how you try and spin it. ^

Monday, March 2, 2015

Passport Changes

From Passport Canada:
"Passport requirements in effect May 9, 2015"

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the security and integrity of Canadian travel documents. On May 9, 2015, the following new passport requirements will come into effect for all passport applicants:

- Photos will be valid for six months from the date they were taken (currently 12 months).
-  Tinted eye glasses cannot be worn.
New passports printed on or after May 9, 2015, will no longer have a pre-printed digital signature on page 2. Applicants must physically sign page 3 in the passport book when they receive it.
- This change has no effect on the security or integrity of the passport. Previous versions of the passport book, which include the signature, remain valid.
These changes comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards for travel documents.

^ These aren't major changes and so I don't see any big issues. ^

IS Towns

From Yahoo:
"Fallen to the IS: Iraqi and Syrian towns"

Below are the main towns and cities in Iraq and Syria which have fallen into the hands of the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group:
- Mosul: IS overran Iraq's second largest city on June 10, two weeks before declaring a "caliphate" in the swathes of territory it controls in Iraq and Syria. Located 350 kilometres (217 miles) from Baghdad, and on the right bank of the Tigris river, it had about 1.5 million mainly-Sunni inhabitants prior to the IS offensive. The city has been all but emptied of its minorities. Kurds backed by US warplanes have retaken Iraq's largest dam from the jihadists and have tightened the noose around Mosul, where US officials have expressed hopes the Iraqi army will launch an offensive soon.
- Tikrit: On June 11, IS seized the mainly Sunni-populated capital of Salaheddin province, 160 kilometres (100 miles) north of Baghdad on the road to Mosul. On Monday, government forces pounded IS positions in and around Tikrit in the biggest offensive yet to retake the city involving around 30,000 troops and militia. The city has symbolic importance because it was the birthplace of Salaheddin, the Muslim warlord of the same name who seized Jerusalem in 1187. It was the hometown of dictator Saddam Hussein, who was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion before being executed.
- Tal Afar: The Shiite-majority town in the northern province of Nineveh and its airport fell into IS hands on June 23, after days of heavy fighting.
Some 380 kilometres (236 miles) north of Baghdad, it is strategically located between Mosul and the Syrian border. Kurdish forces said in January 2014 they had managed to cut off the road linking Tal Afar and Mosul under a large-scale anti-IS offensive backed by the international coalition.

- Fallujah: the restive city in the western province of Anbar fell out of government control even before a major IS push inside Iraq in June last year. It was seized on January 2, 2014. The army has regularly bombarded the city, which is some 60 kilometres (37 miles) west of Baghdad, and has tried several ground operations in surrounding areas. Fallujah is a symbol of the jihadist insurrection which inflicted heavy losses on occupying US forces between 2003 and 2006.

- Raqa: the de facto capital of IS, located less than 200 kilometres (124 miles) from the Iraqi border in the Euphrates valley. It counted 250,000 inhabitants before the start of the Syria conflict in 2011 and is the only provincial capital held by IS and the only one to escape the total control of the Damascus regime.The jihadists, which impose their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, also currently controls most of the oil province of Deir Ezzor in the east, but government forces still hold the provincial capital.IS has also taken several oil and gas fields in the province of Hasakeh in the northeast and near to Iraq and Turkey.

Since late 2014, IS has lost territory.
In Iraq, it lost the northern town of Baiji in November and then parts of the eastern province of Diyala in January. But on February 13 the jihadists took over large parts of Al-Baghdadi, putting it close to an airbase where US troops are training Iraqi forces.
In Syria, faced with Kurdish fighters backed by the international coalition, IS lost the battle for the northern town of Kobane, in its biggest setback since it surfaced in the civil war there in 2013.

^ It's important to remember that IS isn't only going after journalists but that regular people have to live under their domination, threats and torture. ^

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Nemtsov Remembered

From MT:
"Thousands of Russians March to Commemorate Boris Nemtsov"
Holding placards declaring "I am not afraid," thousands of Russians marched in Moscow on Sunday in memory of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov, whose murder has widened a split in society that some say could threaten Russia's future. Families, the old and young walked slowly, with many carrying portraits of Nemtsov, an opposition politician and former deputy prime minister who was shot dead while walking home from a restaurant in central Moscow on Friday night. "If we can stop the campaign of hate that's being directed at the opposition, then we have a chance to change Russia. If not then we face the prospect of mass civil conflict," Gennady Gudkov, an opposition leader, said before the march. "The authorities are corrupt and don't allow any threats to them to emerge. Boris was uncomfortable for them." His murder has prompted deep soul searching in a country where for years after the Soviet Union collapsed many yearned for the stability later brought by President Vladimir Putin. Some now fear his rule has become an autocracy. Putin has vowed to pursue those who killed Nemtsov, calling the murder a "provocation." National investigators who answer to the Russian leader say they are pursuing several lines of inquiry, including the possibility that Nemtsov, a Jew, was killed by radical Islamists or that the opposition killed him to blacken Putin's name. Putin's opponents say such suggestions show the cynicism of Russia's leaders as they whip up nationalism, hatred and anti-Western hysteria to rally support for his policies on Ukraine and deflect blame for an economic crisis. "It is a blow to Russia. If political views are punished this way, then this country simply has no future," Sergei Mitrokhin, an opposition leader, said of Nemtsov's murder.
Some Muscovites, accepting a line repeated by state media, appear to agree that the opposition, struggling to make an impact after a clampdown on dissent in Putin's third spell as president, might have killed one of their own. "The authorities definitely do not benefit from this. Everybody had long forgotten about this man, Nemtsov ... It is definitely a 'provocation'," said one Moscow resident, who gave his name only as Denis. Nemtsov, who was 55, was one of the leading lights of an opposition struggling to revive its fortunes, three years after mass rallies against Putin that failed to prevent him returning to the presidency after four years as prime minister. The opposition has little support outside big cities and Putin has now been Russia's dominant leader since 2000, when ailing President Boris Yeltsin chose the former KGB spy as his successor, a role Nemtsov had once been destined to play. Even many of Putin's opponents have little doubt that he will win another six years in power at the next election, due in 2018, despite a financial crisis aggravated by Western economic sanctions over the Ukraine crisis and a fall in oil prices. Many opposition leaders have been jailed on what they say are trumped-up charges, or have fled the country. Their most prominent leader, Alexei Navalny, is serving a 15-day jail sentence for breaking a law that restricts demonstrations. Nemtsov, a fighter against corruption who said he feared Putin may want him dead, had hoped to start the opposition's revival with a march in Marino on the outskirts of Moscow to protest against Putin's economic policies and what they see as Russia's involvement in the separatist war in east Ukraine. The Kremlin denies any role in the fighting. In a change of plan, the opposition said Moscow city authorities had allowed a march of up to 50,000 people alongside the River Moskva to commemorate Nemtsov's death. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said Nemtsov had told him about two weeks ago that he planned to publish evidence of Russian involvement in Ukraine's separatist conflict.

^  It amazes me that ordinary Russians are actually standing-up for once and showing Putin and his Government that they don't believe he wasn't involved in this murder. It is a big step for a country where, historically, the ordinary people openly hide their  distain for what their government is doing for fear that they will disappear or be murdered. Putin may have bitten off a little to much this time - especially him trying to seem heroic in vowing he will personally find Nemtsov's killer. That was probably the last straw for many Russians.  It seemed like he was throwing the murder, that he probably ordered, into his people's faces. At Stalin tried to hide what he was doing by shipping millions to Siberia or denying crimes like Katyn. While I don't think the majority of Russians will do much, if anything, over this murder hopefully it will make them stop and think a little more as to what is going on in their country and also what their country is doing outside their own borders. ^

Ottawa Disrects Vets

From the G & M:
"Veterans must verify lost limbs every three years, Ottawa says "

A wounded soldier who lost both legs in Afghanistan and has had to prove to Veterans Affairs every year that he still needs a wheelchair, will now only have to go through the experience every three years. The change in policy was quietly announced in the House of Commons by Pierre Lemieux, parliamentary secretary to the veterans minister.  In addition, Lemieux told opposition parties that veterans who are required to complete these renewals under the veterans independence program will have six months to hand in the paperwork, considerably longer than under the current system. Paul Franklin, who was a master corporal when he lost his legs in a 2006 roadside bombing in Kandahar, has long complained about the veterans system and its annual review. He says he was well looked after at National Defence, but has faced a bureaucratic nightmare since retiring almost six years ago and coming under the veterans department. His plight caused a political sensation and even drew the attention of comedian Rick Mercer, who devoted a rant to the subject. Franklin wasn’t immediately available to comment Friday. In early February, he spoke to CTV’s Canada AM and said veterans affairs treats him and other ex-soldiers as though they are trying to cheat the system. The department required him to justify annually why he still qualified for home-care services and income replacement because of his disability. The disputes got so bad, Franklin had his wheelchair taken away from him twice because it wasn’t clear which department should pay for it and which doctor’s notes were needed. Lemieux told the Commons that Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole has spoken to Franklin personally.
^ This a huge disgrace on the part of the Canadian Government and Veterans Affairs. If someone is labelled as having a permanent disability (like loosing a limb) then why would they ever have to re-prove that? I can understand needing to show proof for the initial application, but never again. This clearly shows the disconnect between the government, the military and their soldiers and veterans. I am ashamed as a Canadian to know my Government is treating those that were wounded in the service to protect our country like criminals rather than giving them the respect and dignity they deserve. ^


New Nazi Center

From the DW:
"Nazi Documentation Center opens in Munich"

Following long in the wake of Berlin and Nuremberg, Munich is finally establishing its own Documentation Center. It officially opens on April 30, the 70th anniversary of Munich's liberation from the Nazis.  The newly constructed building stands on Königsplatz, a historical part of the city where the "Brown House" - Nazi party headquarters - once stood, and where now a white cube rises. In the immediate vicinity is the so-called "Führerbau," where Hitler had his office. So the Document Centre rises from the culprit's cradle, said the center's Director Winfried Nerdinger. The Nazi movement was founded in Munich and from its base spread across the rest of Germany. "Munich and National Socialism" is the title of the permanent exhibition, which covers approximately 1000 square meters, and will be constructed in the coming weeks. The exhibition covers the dramatic period from World War I through to the origins, rise and then crimes of the Nazi party, through to Germany's new beginnings in 1945. Nerdinger explained the long delay between the end of National Socialism and the emergence of the Documentation Center as the shame of Munich. "In general, it can be said that Munich has carried a heavy guilt, more so than other cities in Germany because it was more burdened with history than any other city. It all began here." Presented in both German and English, the center expects around 250,000 national and international guests each year.
^ What the Center's director, Nerdinger, said about the long delay being a shame reminds me of a "Family Guy" episode where Stewie and Brian are on a tour bus in Munich and Brian asks what happened during 1933-1945 in Munich. The tour guide tries to skip over the question and then starts shouting things like "Nothing happened. Everything was fine. We were all on vacation." That seems to be the general German response: believe it never happened because if you think about your great-grandparents, your grandparents or your parents aiding in mass murder it would be too much to bare. Well, sadly it did happen and you can't put your head in the sand because then Jews get attacked and killed in Europe which is still happening today. Hopefully, this long-overdue Documentation Center will really bring the genocide to the forefront and people will take their heads out of the sand. ^

Union Logo

From the BBC:
"Union jack to be displayed on publicly-funded projects"

Plaques featuring the union jack and the line "funded by the UK government" are to be displayed on publically-funded projects in Britain. Treasury Secretary Danny Alexander, who will announce the move on Monday, said the plaques would "proudly adorn infrastructure investments from roads in Cornwall to broadband in Caithness".  The aim was to recognise UK taxpayers' contributions, he said.
Projects that receive European Union funding have displayed information about it for many years.
Under the plan, companies that win contracts to build new infrastructure will have to display the logo on the finished project. But it has sparked speculation that the government is attempting to shore up support for the union and stem rising support for the SNP.

^ I see no problem with displaying the Union Jack flag symbol on any project the British Government in London pays for throughout England, Scotland and Wales. I hope they are smart enough to not include Northern Ireland in this as that will just bring more violence. Of course it is a way for London to show Great Britain just what they are doing for the ordinary people   - every government in every country tries to do that. ^

CDN-Ukrainians Join

From the G & M:
"Bypassing official channels, Canada's Ukrainian diaspora finances and fights a war against Russia"

They're doing everything from raising private funds to providing supplies to troops – and even taking up arms on the front lines. As Mark MacKinnon reports, Ukrainian-Canadians aren't content leaving the defence of their homeland up to Ottawa.  The fight for Ukraine is associated, naturally enough, with the blue-and-yellow hues of the country’s flag. But in the struggle to hold back Russian-backed rebels in the east, a second pair of colours is increasingly seen: the red and white of the Canadian flag. In the Kiev headquarters of Army SOS, a volunteer organization that aids Ukraine’s warriors in the field, the Maple Leaf hangs in both the warehouse on the first floor and the drone factory upstairs. Until recently, Canadian flags were often included with supplies delivered by Army SOS to the front – which likely explains why Canada’s colours have been seen flying on the front lines outside of the rebel capital of Donetsk. And the flag is echoed in the red Roots sweatshirt worn by Lenna Koszarny, head of the Kiev arm of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, as she presents official Canadian aid to troops. The gesture is one illustration of how Canada’s powerful Ukrainian diaspora is not content to leave the defence of the homeland up to Ottawa. “Is the diaspora at war with Russia? Absolutely,” says Ms. Koszarny, 45. “The diaspora is helping Ukraine defend itself. How do we do that? In any which way we can.” Welcome to Canada’s unofficial war. It’s being fought on several fronts. In Canada, the Ukrainian lobby, led by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, pressures Ottawa to aid the government of President Petro Poroshenko. But the community also raises funds for its own improvised stream of aid, via organizations such as Army SOS. At the individual level, people have taken up tasks ranging from providing front-line technical help to playing key roles in Ukraine’s propaganda campaign. And some – a handful – have taken up arms. While Canadians who have gone to join the fight in Syria have had their passports revoked, at least one Ukrainian-Canadian who joined a pro-government militia and fought in the Lugansk region has returned to Canada to help raise money for Army SOS. He hopes to recruit other Canadians to the front line. This uncharted territory is not without risks. Most obviously, the fundraising campaign is going where no country, including Canada, is willing to go – supplying sometimes-lethal equipment to Ukrainian fighters, including irregulars. By circumventing official channels in both Canada and Ukraine, activists risk playing into the agendas of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian militias whose patriotism is tainted by extremism.

^ This was a rather long article (but a good one) so as always check out the link below for the whole thing. I have written many times about how the Ukrainian people are doing whatever they can to fight a war with an even bigger country and it's good to see ethnic Ukrainians outside of the Ukraine are helping out to save the independence of their ancestral homeland. While world government do little but make sanctions the ordinary people are trying their best to bring back peace in the Ukraine and to stop the ethnic Russian terrorists in the eastern part as well as to bring the Crimea back to the Ukraine. ^

Jews Leaving?

From the DW:
"How safe are Jews in Germany?"
Can Jews feel safe in Germany? Not everywhere, says the Central Council of Jews, citing hostility from Muslim citizens as one of the reasons. Muslim representatives have even acknowledged that there are problems. The Bavarian regional parliament made an appeal: Its delegates unanimously adopted a motion that called on Jews to stay in the southern German state. "Dear Jewish fellow citizens, we guarantee that we will do everything in our power to safeguard your security and that of your establishments," said Oliver Jörg of the conservative Christian Social Union (CSU). These well-meant words have been directed at the Jewish community at a time when people are, once again, questioning how safe it is for Jews to live in Germany. The debate was sparked by the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, in an interview with the Berlin broadcaster RBB Inforadio on Thursday (26.02.2015).  Jews should not hide away in fear, he said: Most Jewish buildings and institutions were well protected. "However," he went on, "the question is whether in problematic neighborhoods, areas with a large Muslim population, it's really sensible to announce yourself as a Jew by wearing a kippah, or whether it's better to wear a different head covering." Schuster said that while the phenomenon of increasing anti-Semitism is not new, in the past year the Central Council of Jews had consciously observed an unexpected alliance for the first time: "There's the far right on the one hand, combined with an anti-Semitism on the left that presents itself as anti-Israel sentiment, and all this is combined with anti-Semitism among young Muslims." The Central Council of Muslims (ZMD) expressed understanding for Schuster's comments. "These fears are justified," Aiman Mazyek, the secretary-general of the ZMD, told the Berliner Zeitung. He pointed out that the ZMD had explicitly distanced itself from attacks on Jews by young Muslims. The question of whether Jews can feel safe in Germany provokes a strong response with the German public. For many, it's a horror scenario to think that, 70 years after the Holocaust, Jews could once again be the focus of hostilities. German Interior Minister, Thomas de Maizière, for example, has expressed great concern that the Jewish community in Germany should find it necessary to debate whether or not it is safe there. The warning from the Central Council coincided with the publication of new figures concerning anti-Semitic attacks. According to information gathered by the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, 864 such crimes were recorded last year – an increase of 10 percent on 2012, when there were 788. Jan Riebe, the leader of the foundation's project, pointed out that there were also a lot of unrecorded cases. "Many offenses go unreported, which is also because of the very low percentage of crimes that get solved," he said. The German interior ministry suspects that, when all the data is collated, the total figure will be much higher than the one provided by the foundation.
^ It is the 70th anniversary of when the death camps and World War 2 ended and the world could no longer claim in didn't know what was happening during the Holocaust. The attacks on Jews (in Germany and around the world) have been growing. A lot of it has to do with Muslims joining radical terrorist groups (Al-Qaeda, IS, etc.) It is pathetic that in the second decade of the 21st Century anyone (Jew, Muslim, Christian, atheist) has to feel threatened anywhere in the world for their beliefs, but that is the sad reality. There is growing anger around the world of foreigners and those considered "foreign" even if they have always been living in a country (especially those that move someplace and only want to practice their own ways rather than integrate into their new society.) When I lived in Germany as a teenager I saw first-hand attacks by Germans against Americans, the Kurds and the Turks (and this was in western Germany and not in the eastern part as everyone always assumes.) Those feelings of anger from back then have just continued to grow into what is has become today. Many Germans  - especially the younger ones - think that everything that was bad happened in the past and don't want to see or hear about it while Neo-Nazis and others stand right in front of them with their message of anti-Semitism. Many radical Muslims in Germany have seized on that German hatred to help further their own cause against the Jews and Israel ("the enemy of my enemy is my friend" so to speak.) To be Jewish anywhere today is difficult. For those not in Israel (while they are still attacked there they have always successfully stopped any outside aggression against them) it may seem scary. Every local and Federal government needs to do more to protect anyone that is threatened within their jurisdiction. It is one thing to talk big and another to also ensure a safe environment. ^

Venezuela Problems

From Yahoo:
"Venezuela to shrink US Embassy staff, require tourist visas"

Venezuela will shrink the size of the U.S. Embassy staff, limit the activities of U.S. diplomats and require American citizens to apply for visas if they want to come bask on the beach. Speaking before a crowd that rallied to protest imperialism, President Nicolas Maduro said Saturday that "gringo" meddling had forced him to adopt the series of restrictive measures, which include requiring U.S. diplomats to seek approval from the Foreign Ministry for meetings they conduct here. Maduro said he was imposing the new tourist visa requirement for national security reasons, saying that in recent days authorities had detained several U.S. citizens who he alleged were involved in espionage, including an American pilot. Relations between the two countries have been rapidly deteriorating as Maduro blames U.S. plotting for the host of economic and social woes plaguing the socialist-governed country. He recently accused the U.S. of working with local opposition groups to stage a coup that involved bombing the presidential palace. Washington called the accusation ludicrous. The two countries have not exchanged ambassadors since 2010, but have continued to exchange diplomatic staff. On Saturday, Maduro said the U.S. has far more officials in Venezuela than his government has in the U.S.  Venezuela will charge Americans the same tourist visa fees that the U.S. charges Venezuelans and it will require payment in dollars, which are increasingly scarce in Venezuela. Maduro said all comers would be welcome, except for a few selected U.S. officials, who would be banned from the country, including former President George W Bush and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.
^ This seems like a desperate move by a President of a failing country. If you can't solve your country's internal problems then shift blame to the US and get everyone mad at us so they forget the real issues (Venezuela must have read the same handbook the Russians use.) ^


From Yahoo:
"Dakota Johnson’s ‘SNL’ ISIS spoof stirs outrage online"

A “Saturday Night Live” commercial spoof is stirring outrage online over its depiction of a female high school graduate who leaves her family to join the Islamic State militant group also known as ISIS. The ad, starring “SNL” host and “50 Shades of Grey” star Dakota Johnson is a spoof of the Toyota commercial that portrays an Army-bound daughter being dropped off at the airport by her father. In the “SNL” version, though, the daughter is being picked up by Islamic militants in a Toyota pickup truck. “You be careful, OK?” says the father, played by Taran Killam. “Dad, it’s just ISIS,” she replies. When a teary-eyed Killam instructs one of the militants, played by Kyle Mooney, to “take care of her,” he replies, “Death to America.” As the truck drives away, a voice-over assures Killam: “ISIS: We’ll take it from here, Dad.” While the studio audience seemed to laugh, plenty of viewers at home didn’t find it so funny. Depraved? Perhaps, but the premise isn’t entirely inconceivable. Last month, a 19-year-old Colorado woman was sentenced to four years in prison for conspiracy to support the terror group after admitting she wanted “to become an ISIS bride.” The woman, Shannon Maureen Conley, was arrested at Denver International Airport, where she was attempting to board a one-way flight to Turkey. Conley’s parents tipped off FBI investigators after her father reportedly caught his daughter communicating with her terrorist “suitor” on Skype.
^ This skit was funny and sad at the same time. SNL hasn't had many funny skits in a decade, but every once and awhile one sneaks in. I can understand people not thinking it was funny since the reality is lots of stupid girls and women (and boys and men) are joining IS in great numbers. IS aims to destroy and murder anyone not part of IS and so that includes all Christians, Jews and different Muslim sects. Some see the skit in a different way. A woman joining the Nazis to help murder Jews, the disabled, etc. They say it wouldn't be funny it that had happened, but if we had the Internet back in the 1940s the Nazis couldn't have murdered 6 million Jews and millions upon millions of overs. It wouldn't have been a secret and the Allies couldn't act as though they "didn't know" and do nothing to stop it. With IS we see everything they do. Most of the world chooses to not do a thing to stop them and the ones that do (the US, Canada, UK, etc) only bomb them while nothing really changes on the ground. The real issue with this skit is how to stop all the idiots from joining IS. I can think of many things to do to them. They see excitement and rebellion in IS and yet don't realize that IS will use them as cannon fodder and if they aren't killed by the anti-IS coalition then IS will kill them when they are no longer useful. Either way I  say "good riddance" We don't need these kind of idiots. We need to stop them only to save the people they are going to help murder. I could care less what happens to the volunteers themselves. ^

Friday, February 27, 2015

Disabled Rap

From Yahoo:
"Dad's rap for disabled son inspires the Web"
A dad in Connecticut is pulling at the heartstrings of the Web with a beautiful rap song dedicated to his son. Jayce Correia’s 8-year-old boy, Jared, was born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other serious medical conditions. He told Yahoo News, “Jared suffered a stroke in utero. He was born with hydrocephalus and had his first of seven brain surgeries at only three days old. Shortly after, the diagnoses just poured in — septo-optic dysplasia, cerebral palsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, schizencephaly, and more.” Jayce used his passion for rapping and his love for his son to produce an original video. “I wrote this song for Jared because Jared is my hero,” he said. “I have been a firsthand witness of what he goes through and how strong he is. He is the inspiration.”  On Monday, Jayce posted the video to Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 600,000 times. Jayce and Jared’s song has been inspiring other parents of  special-needs children across the country, who have been sharing photos of their families in the video’s comments section. Jared’s dad also launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a van equipped with a handicap ramp to help get the brave little guy to medical appointments and family outings. He told us: “Jared is only getting bigger and has outgrown the typical car seat. We need a safer way to transport him.” That’s a worthy cause for someone who — even at such a young age — is inspiring so many.  
^  I don't usually like rap, but this video was good. ^;_ylt=AwrTWf2B_.9U0hcAcVTQtDMD

Double-Decker St. Pete

From Sputnik News:
"Russian-Made Double Decker Train Ready for New St.Petersburg-Moscow Route"
A new St. Petersburg-Moscow passenger train route being introduced Sunday evening will feature bilevel (two-storey or 'double decker') rail cars, local media has reported. The new trains, featuring four person sleeping compartments with 64 passenger capacity (compared with the usual capacity of 36 persons) are also equipped with modern conveniences. These include comfortable sleeping places, roomier storage compartments, several power outlets, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, magnetic card-based locks, energy-saving windows and bright energy-saving LED lighting. The cars also feature satellite communications and navigations equipment. Steps to the second level are located at either end of the car. The train will include sleeping cars, a so-called staff car and a dining car. The staff car, with space for 50 passengers, is equipped with spaces for people with disabilities, including special spaces for the disabled and their carers, along with a wheelchair lift. The dining car, with room for up to 44 people at a time, features a six-cooker convection oven and a roomy freezer, allowing for meals to be cooked fresh right on the train. The trains are set to set off from St. Petersburg daily at 8:50 pm, arriving in Moscow around 7:00 am the next morning. The first train departing Sunday night from St. Petersburg will see a departure ceremony, with passengers being given special commemorative certificates to mark the event. Tickets for the new route, starting from 1299 rubles (about $20 US), sold out quickly, presumably out of interest in the new cars, designed by the Tver Carriage Works (TVZ), a holding of Transmashholding, for Russian Railways.
The TVZ designs were first introduced in October, 2013 on the Moscow-Adler, Sochi route, in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russian Railways purchased 50 of the double-decker cars in 2011, and is planning the purchase of dozens more for the St. Petersburg-Moscow, as well as for the Moscow-Kazan route to be introduced later this year, Kommersant explains. The company has also purchased cars for shorter distance routes featuring sitting places, including for the Moscow-Voronezh corridor. Business-class carriages in these trains will have 58 places, with 104 spaces in the economy class. The new trains are part of a plan to reduce strain on the country's infrastructure of the most heavily used arteries. In addition to the double-decker train cars, Transmashholding has also signed agreements with Russian Railways subsidiaries on the creation of new, modern designs for electric trains for shorter distance intraregional travel.
^ I once took the train from Yaroslavl to Saint Petersburg and it was a typical old Russian sleeping train. I would love to try this new one. The fact that it was made in Russia is a big step for the country. ^

Leonard Nimoy

From Yahoo:
"Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, and 'Star Trek' Icon, Dies at 83"

I Am Not Spock proclaimed the title of Leonard Nimoy's 1975 autobiography, in which the veteran actor tried to distinguish himself from his most iconic role, as Star Trek's emotionless half-human, half-Vulcan science officer. Twenty years later, he published a follow-up entitled, I Am Spock, in which the actor-director warmly embraced his pointy-eared alter ego. Like it or not, Nimoy — who passed away on Feb. 27 at the age of 83 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — was Spock to generations of sci-fi fans, so much so that when J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in the 2009 blockbuster, Nimoy was the one original cast member he made sure to bring back. Even though the role defined his career for those of us watching him at home and in theaters, Spock was only one small part of Nimoy's overall life. An actor from childhood, the Boston-born Nimoy worked steadily on television before and after Star Trek, appearing on such disparate shows as Sea Hunt, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible and In Search Of…, a five-season series that explored the mysteries of the paranormal. In the '80s, he became an established film director, overseeing back-to-back big-screen Star Trek installments (The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home) followed by the 1987 hit, 3 Men and a Baby. Nimoy parlayed his eye for the camera into a respected career as a photographer, snapping pictures that hung in galleries and were collected in books like The Full Body Project — a collection for which he shot nude photos of plus-sized and obese women. "The first time I had photographed a person of that size and shape, it was scary," he remarked in a 2007 NPR interview. "I didn't know quite how to treat this figure. And I think that's a reflection of something that's prevalent in our culture. I think, in general, we are sort of conditioned to see a different body type as acceptable and maybe look away when the other body type arrives. It led me to a new consciousness about the fact that so many people live in body types that are not the type that's being sold by fashion models."
That's the kind of eminently logical argument that Spock would make and speaks to how being involved in a progressive, socially-conscious series like Star Trek must have helped shape Nimoy's worldview going forward. One of the reasons the franchise has endured is that it imagines a future Earth free of prejudice and strife. Through his life and work on-screen and off, Nimoy sought to make that world of tomorrow possible today.

^ I am not a huge fan of Star Trek (I have never gone to a convention) but I did like watching them and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was one of my favorite. I especially liked him in the 2009 Star Trek movie. ^

Saudi Disabled Training

From Yahoo:
"Disabled Saudi students to get training in US"

The King Salman Center for Disability Research (KSCDR) signed a deal on Sunday with an American university to provide special training for disabled Saudi students, including high school graduates. This was disclosed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of KSCDR, who said that the Compass Program, focusing on the transition from secondary to higher education, would take place at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, in June this year. It is a short-term, intensive college preparatory program that will take place over five weeks. Beacon College is the first accredited institution in the world to offer a four-year degree course exclusively for students with learning disabilities. Speaking at the signing event, KSCDR Executive Managing Director Sultan Al-Sedairy, said the center has been considering US academic programs for some time. “As part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, we annually provide tuition support for about 100 students with learning and other disabilities at universities around the world,” Al-Sedairy added. George Hagerty, president of Beacon College, said: “We are taking a holistic approach based on our cutting edge approach and integrating our best collaborative effort with the ideas of experts from Saudi Arabia.” He said Beacon’s faculty would offer courses to meet the contemporary needs of Saudi students with world-class teaching methods for individual learners. This includes a new concept known as metacognition, or self-understanding. It is a novel way of looking at oneself, at the learning experience, and at the individual, said Hagerty. The program is the first of its kind to be offered anywhere in the world. It is designed for talented and motivated students who aspire to attend university, but who have struggled in traditional academic settings. It will also target those whose performance is inconsistent with their perceived potential as learners. Selected students will be accompanied by Nabil Hab Rumman, KSCDR staff member, who will serve as a chaperone and mentor. He is a former staffer at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Washington, DC. He will also serve as a cultural liaison, arriving several weeks before the program begins so that he can provide lectures and presentations about Saudi Arabia’s culture and history to community groups.

^ It's always a good thing when the disabled are given the opportunities to better themselves. I wonder if this has anything to do with the new King in Saudi Arabia. I have to admit I don't know much about him, but am now really interested. ^

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Dog's Win

From Disability Scoop:
"In Fight Over Service Dog, School Board Is Brought To Heel"

Stevie is a good dog. He doesn’t eat from the table or have accidents in the house. And he never pulls on his leash. The white-and-tan Staffordshire terrier also has a special talent: He alerts caregivers when his little boy, Anthony Merchante, is going to have a seizure or has trouble breathing. Anthony’s mother, Monica Alboniga, tried for two years to persuade the Broward County School Board in South Florida to permit Stevie, a trained service animal, to accompany the 7-year-old on campus. But school administrators repeatedly said Stevie didn’t belong at school. And they hoped that a Fort Lauderdale federal judge would agree with them. Instead they got a scolding. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled that Stevie should be allowed to join his human friend at Nob Hill Elementary — and without a series of requirements the school district had tacked on. Stevie, Alboniga said, “has saved Anthony’s life. I feel completely safe every time he is with the dog, because I know the dog will look for help.” As the lawsuit progressed in federal court, the school board allowed Stevie to go to school every day, but administrators continued to fight the case. “The district has always permitted the service dog at the school,” said the district’s spokeswoman, Tracy Clark. Alboniga “pursued the lawsuit as the parties [the district and the plaintiff] differ somewhat in the interpretation of the federal regulations governing service animals. The district’s legal department is reviewing and analyzing the order.” Had the district won, Alboniga’s lawyer said, 4-year-old Stevie almost certainly would have been expelled. Anthony suffers from a host of serious disabilities: He has cerebral palsy, spastic paralysis, a seizure disorder, and he cannot speak. To get around, he depends on a wheelchair, to which Stevie is tethered most of the time. Alboniga, 37, who is raising her son alone, paid to obtain and train a dog up to the specifications of Assistance Dog International Standards, records say. Stevie can aid caregivers in a variety of ways: He can step onto Anthony’s wheelchair and lay across the boy’s lap; once there, the dog is trained to help stabilize Anthony’s head so his airway isn’t impeded. “Stevie was also trained to ‘tell’ or ‘alert’ human responders in the event that [Anthony] was experiencing a medical crisis,” Bloom wrote. The dog can jump on a sensor mat that activates an alarm, or bark to get the attention of caregivers. He also wears a red service dog vest that holds medical supplies, as well as detailed instructions on how to respond to medical emergencies. “Stevie lets me know when he has seizures or problems breathing. He pushes me toward Anthony. He barks,” Alboniga said. “When Anthony is having convulsions, he starts barking and goes looking for us. Then he goes back to Anthony and stays with him.” Alboniga first approached the school board in May 2013, and submitted a formal request for the dog two months later. In its reply in August 2013, the school board said Stevie must obtain a host of vaccinations that rarely are applied to dogs, required Alboniga to obtain costly liability insurance, and mandated that she provide, at her own expense, a “handler” for Stevie. The requirements, said Alboniga’s lawyer, Matthew Dietz, amounted to “an impossible barrier,” and violated federal civil rights laws that give preference to the choices of people with disabilities. “The fact that the judge said the school board’s rules made no sense vindicates this woman’s belief that what she was doing for her son was the right thing,” Dietz said. For the first four months that Anthony attended Nob Hill Elementary School as a kindergartner, beginning in August 2013, Alboniga worked, at the district’s requirement, as Stevie’s handler herself. Later, the school board appointed a custodian to work as Stevie’s handler. His responsibilities were “to walk Stevie alongside [Anthony] with a leash, instead of allowing Stevie to be attached” to the boy’s wheelchair, and to take the dog outside to urinate. The custodian also ensured that other children did not try to play with the dog. “While at school,” the judge wrote, “Stevie does not eat or drink. Nor does Stevie defecate or make stains, or require cleaning or exercise.” Alboniga, the judge said, “attends to Stevie’s daily feeding, cleaning and care needs.” But administrators continued to assert in the lawsuit that it was not the district’s responsibility to help the boy keep Stevie at school. Anthony’s “individual educational plan” — a detailed accounting of the school’s accommodations to the child — does not mention Anthony’s use of a service dog, Bloom wrote. Anthony found a friend in the U.S. Department of Justice. The department’s civil rights division enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation passed by Congress in 1990. Last month, the DOJ weighed in on the lawsuit, arguing that the school board “fundamentally misunderstands” ADA regulations, which require that “public entities generally must permit individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals.” “Congress specifically intended that individuals with disabilities not be separated from their service animals, even in schools,” the DOJ wrote. The school board contended that it wasn’t necessary for Stevie to accompany Anthony to school since the elementary’s staff already was trained to perform the same tasks as Stevie. The district also argued that, even if Stevie was permitted on Nob Hill’s campus under the ADA, it was not reasonable for the district to bear the costs of the dog’s handler. The judge wrote that the dispute pivoted on whether it was reasonable to expect the district to allow Stevie on campus under the federal civil rights law. The judge ruled that it was indeed reasonable, “in the same way a school would assist a non-disabled child to use the restroom, or assist a diabetic child with her insulin pump, or assist a physically disabled child employ her motorized wheelchair.”
^ It is disgusting to see a school, that is supposed to teach tolerance to their children, openly discriminate against a disabled child. There should be Federal and State penalties for doing this. I wouldn't want my child (whether he/she was disabled or not) to be taught in such a bigoted place. I understand that the teachers can't decide what the school does, but I haven't heard a thing about any of the teachers standing up for Anthony or his service dog and not standing-up for what is right makes you just as guilty as the person/group doing the open discrimination. I hope Anthony and Stevie thrive in school and show the unintelligent people there who fought hard to discriminate against a disabled boy and his dog just how stupid they really are. ^

Tatars Today

From Yahoo:
"Crimean Tatars living in fear in homeland ruled by Russia"
The day after her husband was arrested, Elvira Ablyalimova woke up to find her home in Crimea surrounded by snipers while a squad of men combed through her belongings for 10 hours, letting nobody in or out. Russia's takeover of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine a year ago was hailed by many ethnic-Russian locals, but for Ablyalimova and others from the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, the new rulers have brought little but fear. Ablyalimova's husband Akhtem Chiygoz is a deputy head of the Tatars' traditional decision-making assembly, the Mejlis. But he is now under arrest for allegedly organising riots, inciting violence and committing involuntary manslaughter. And those charges are only part of a sweeping probe that has already seen over 150 people questioned and saw Ablyalimova's family home raided in January. A Muslim community that comprises about 13 percent of the province's population, the Crimean Tatars were opposed to Moscow's takeover from Ukraine.  They boycotted en masse the hastily-organised March referendum in which the pro-Russian majority voted to join Russia. Native to the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars were brutally deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Joseph Stalin for alleged collaboration with the invading Nazis during World War II. The return of Russian rule has triggered anxiety.  "After the Russian authorities came to Crimea, things that had never happened in Crimea before started to happen," said Mejlis member Ilmi Umerov, a longtime head of the Bakhchysaray district who quit when it moved under Moscow's control.  "These actions are meant to teach us loyalty to these authorities." Umerov said four young men remain missing after suspected kidnappings and that four others who disappeared were later found dead. Crimean Tatar survivors of Stalinist repression were not allowed to return and settle on the peninsula until the 1990s, when they began building fragile cooperation with the post-Soviet Ukrainian authorities. But now, their homeland doesn't feel much like home anymore. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Tatars have opted to leave, heading to mainland Ukraine, Umerov said.  "In every Crimean Tatar family there is a feeling of fear and lack of security while living in our own homeland," Ablyalimova said, listing "disappearances, sadistic murders... attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges." The probe against Chiygoz stems from a rally the Mejlis called on February 26 last year near the Crimean parliament, just hours before heavily armed soldiers in unmarked uniforms occupied the building, raised the Russian flag and forced the lawmakers to vote for installing a new pro-Russian government.  Clashes broke out when pro-Russian activists turned up at the same location. Footage shows two groups facing off, ignoring calls for order, yelling "Referendum!" or "Crimea is not Russia!" In the ensuing disorder, two people died. However, the probe only targets Crimean Tatars and applies Russian law to events that preceded Russia's jurisdiction, Ablyalimova said. "It was a different reality, a different state," she said incredulously, calling the case illegal. The authorities say that arrests and searches are well-founded and directed against political troublemakers rather than Crimean Tatars as a whole.
^ The media only seems to focus on what is happening within Russia right now because of the Western-imposed sanctions and the Russian self-imposed food bans, but the real victims in all of this are the Crimeans (Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar.) ^

Prince's Comments

From Yahoo:
"Japan crown prince warns on 'correct' history"

Japan's crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II "correctly", in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country's historic crimes. In an unusual intervention in the discussion, Naruhito's mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimise the institutionalised system of wartime sex slavery. "Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don't," Naruhito said. The comments, released Monday on the prince's 55th birthday come as Abe's controversial views on history roil relations with China and South Korea, and cause unease in Washington. Abe has openly said he wants a more sympathetic telling of the history of the first half of the 20th century, a period marked by brutal expansionism in Asia and warring with China and the West. The prime minister last week appointed a 16-member panel to advise him on a statement he is set to make later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender.  Abe has said he will largely stand by Tokyo's previous apologies, but amid growing anger in China and South Korea over the "comfort women" system, speculation is mounting that he will seek to downplay the issue. Mainstream historians agree that up to 200,000 women, predominantly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during WWII. Right wing Japanese insist there is no documentary proof that the Japanese state or its military were involved in the system on the Korean peninsula and reject official guilt. That position, which is hardening, angers South Korea and China. Both countries will be carefully watching any official pronouncement on the war. While Japan's newspapers remained staid in their coverage of Naruhito's comments, social media users leapt on them.
^ Denying the war crimes the Japanese did during World War 2 is the same as denying the war crimes the Germans did. None of it should be allowed. It's good to see the crown prince making a rare statement about his country's role during the war. (especially considering his grandfather was king at that time.) It is very important for officials as well as regular people to remember the good and the bad of their country's past. The Japanese Government tends to try and brush everything under the rug and hope no one notices or remembers. It is only through great people like the crown prince that Japan can fully make amends for their dark past and gain the respect of the whole world. ^

Austrian Reform

From the BBC:
"Austria passes controversial reforms to 1912 Islam law"
The Austrian parliament has passed controversial reforms to the country's century-old law on Islam.
The bill, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, gives Muslims more legal security but bans foreign funding for mosques and imams. Austria's Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, defended the reforms but Muslim leaders say they fail to treat them equally. The 1912 law made Islam an official religion in Austria. It has been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.  The new measures, first proposed three years ago, include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams. But Muslim groups say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as international support is still permitted for the Christian and Jewish faiths.  They say the legalisation reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court. Mr Kurz told the BBC the reforms were a "milestone" for Austria and aimed to stop certain Muslim countries using financial means to exert "political influence". "What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values," he said.  Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria today, around 6% of the population. Many of them have Turkish or Bosnian roots.
^ The first law was made in 1912 when Austria was the Austro-Hungarian Empire mainly because of the large Muslim population then living within their borders (ie the Balkans.) I don't see an issue with these new rules. It aims to give them some more protections (religious holidays, etc) but it also aims to stop the radicalization of Islam that has plagued the whole world in recent history. Muslims may complain that the Jews and Christians aren't affected by laws like these ones, but in the past 20+ years the main source of world terrorism is radical Muslims. It's clear that the policies of the past haven't helped to stop groups like Al-Qaeda or IS and so more needs to be done (by every country and every religion.) I always hear Muslims say that what these groups are doing doesn't represent them or their religion yet the majority do little to nothing to prevent the attacks and more and more people are running off to join the radicals - yet they all seem to go to arms if you print a cartoon. Tha doesn't seem like a good priority. It's not as though Austria is putting any Muslim in a camp. They are doing what any reasonable country would do to try and prevent the kind of radicalization of Islam that is happening and to stop an attack on their soil. ^

DC Pot

From the BBC:
"Washington DC legalises marijuana possession and use"
Washington DC has become the latest place in the United States to legalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana. As of midnight on Thursday (05:00 GMT), people who use the drug in private no longer face prosecution.  The change has created tension between the city's mayor and Congress.
Washington DC joins Alaska, Colorado, and Washington state as the only places in the US that allow the use of the drug for recreational purposes. Residents and visitors to the city over the age of 21 can possess as much as 2oz (56g) of cannabis, and may grow a few plants at home.  Buying and selling the drug remains illegal, as does smoking it in public.  Washington DC - a federal district, not a state - is required to seek congressional approval for much of its legislation. In a letter sent on Tuesday, two members of Congress warned Mayor Muriel Bowser that she would be breaking US law by proceeding. They said that a national budget bill passed in December prevents the legalisation of marijuana in Washington.
 ^ DC tries and acts like they are independent, but in reality everything they do is governed by Congress. I said it before  - I don't think recreational marijuana should be legal - only medical marijuana. ^

Vet Bonus

From the MT:
"Putin Orders Payment of $115 to WWII Veterans"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a one-time payment of 7,000 rubles ($115) to World War II veterans in Russia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, news agency RBC reported Thursday. The payment will be made between April and May as part of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. Widows of soldiers who died in the war will also be given 7,000 rubles.  Residents of the four countries who were held in Nazi concentration camps and were adults at that time will be given 3,000 rubles ($50). Concentration camp survivors who were children will be given 7,000 rubles.  The end of World War II, in which an estimated 11 million Soviet citizens died, is a major source of national pride in Russia. Moscow has invited heads of state from all over the world to attend celebrations in May.
^ While I think it's good for a country to give extra benefits to its veterans I don't think there should be a price discrepancy when giving money benefits to those that were soldiers over those that were in concentration camps. They all had to suffer to survive and should be given the same amount., Also, Russia (as the successor state of the Soviet Union) should give the money to EVERY person throughout the world that served in the Soviet military regardless if they live in Russia or not. They still served their country and deserve the same respect and recognition. ^

New Net

From the BBC:
"Net neutrality rules passed by US regulator"

New rules on how the internet should be governed have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. In what is seen as a victory for advocates of net neutrality, the commission voted in favour of changes proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler. Three commissioners voted in favour and two against. The US Telecommunications Industry Association said that broadband providers would take "immediate" legal action over the rule changes.
The main changes for broadband providers are as follows:
  • Broadband access is being reclassified as a telecommunications service, meaning it will be subject to much heavier regulation
  • Broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee
  • Internet providers cannot strike deals with content firms, known as paid prioritisation, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers
  • Interconnection deals, where content companies pay broadband providers to connect to their networks, will also be regulated
  • Firms which feel that unjust fees have been levied can complain to the FCC. Each one will be dealt with on a case by case basis
  • All of the rules will also apply to mobile providers as well as fixed line providers
  • The FCC won't apply some sections of the new rules, including price controls
Ahead of the vote, commissioners heard from a variety of net neutrality advocates, including the chief executive of online marketplace Etsy and a TV drama writer. Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee also contributed via video link. Columbia Law School Prof Tim Wu, who originally coined the phrase net neutrality, welcomed the ruling. "It is a historic day in the history of the internet," Prof Wu said. "Net neutrality, long in existence as a principle, has been codified in a way that will likely survive court scrutiny. More generally, this marks the beginning of an entirely new era of how communications are regulated in the United States." But broadband provider Verizon said that the rules being adopted by the FCC were "written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph".
"Today's decision by the FCC to encumber broadband internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors," it said in a statement. US broadband providers are estimated to spend around $73bn (£47bn) a year on upgrading infrastructure. Net usage is expected to double over the next 10 years and data transmissions to increase eight-fold.
^ Not that it affects me as broadband is not available in my area, but it seems like a good thing to make a unified rule. ^

Qath Allowed

From the G & M:
"Supreme Court won’t hear oath to Queen challenge"

A group of three permanent residents who have for years refused to swear an oath to the Queen and become Canadian citizens have lost a bid to have their constitutional challenge heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it would not hear an appeal of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision issued last year dismissing the group’s arguments that the oath violates their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and religion.  As is customary, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons. Last August, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the group was wrong to take the oath literally. The decision, citing previous rulings, says that would-be citizens are not actually swearing allegiance to the Queen herself because “the reference to the Queen is symbolic of our form of government and the unwritten constitutional principle of democracy.” Irish-born retired journalist Michael McAteer, one of those who challenged the oath, had argued that being forced to swear allegiance to the Queen would be a betrayal of his anti-monarchy views, calling the institution of monarchy an anachronism in a multicultural country like Canada. He has lived here since 1964. Another applicant claimed swearing an oath to the Queen would violate her Rastafarian religious beliefs, while another held that the Queen was a symbol of inequality. Lawyers for the group also argued that the citizenship oath requirement was unfair since native-born Canadians, many of whom also oppose the monarchy, are not required to swear it. Lawyers for the federal government argued that those who refuse to support Canada’s “foundational constitutional structure” are not entitled to the benefits of citizenship, such as the right to vote, and that the Queen and the constitution protect the right to dissent.
^ I've written about this before and agree with the Supreme Court's decision to not hear this case. ^