Thursday, August 17, 2017

UK Free Travel

From the BBC:
"Brexit: UK looks to keep visa-free travel from EU"

The government plans to keep visa-free travel to the UK for EU visitors after Brexit, the BBC understands. But if visitors from EU countries wanted to work, study or settle in the UK they would have to apply for permission under the proposals. EU citizens are currently free to live and work in the UK without a permit. The Home Office says managing migration is about access to work and benefits as much as the ability to control entry at a physical border. But ministers are likely to face questions about whether there will be a "back door" into Britain and how the Home Office would stop visitors staying longer and getting jobs without a visa or a work permit.  Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, a member of the Open Britain campaign against a "hard Brexit", said: "Nobody who voted to leave the European Union expected Brexit to mean Britain losing control of immigration, yet that is exactly what the government proposes. "Restricting the right to come and work in Britain while leaving an open door for everyone else seems to be opposite of a common sense immigration system.
"It will not restrict anybody coming here from Europe who does not intend to work and may push other EU nationals into the black economy." He said the proposed new system "offers little control while burdening British businesses with yet more red tape" and the government should "put single market membership back on the table" instead. The Migration Watch pressure group said it was a "sensible, proportionate" proposal but the government would need to spend more money on immigration enforcement to deal with overstayers. The Home Office said: "Proposals for the future immigration system for EU citizens will be published in due course." Prime Minister Theresa May said free movement "as we've seen as members of the European Union" will end and there will be immigration rules "for people coming from inside EU - as today we have rules for people coming from outside the EU".  The UK already grants visa-free travel to nationals from 56 countries - ranging from the United States to the Maldives.  Passports are stamped on entry, and people are allowed to stay for a maximum of six months.  But they are not allowed to work, study or settle. It's hardly surprising that a similar scheme is being considered for nationals from EU countries after Brexit - not least because future arrangements are likely to be reciprocal.  In other words, if EU citizens needed visas to come to the UK in the future, UK citizens would need visas to travel to the EU.  So it may be that the government's immigration plans will be to add several hundred million Europeans to a scheme that already exists.  And the main burden for policing it, and checking whether people are here legitimately, would not fall on a beefed up border guard or immigration service. Rather, it would rest with employers - everyone from the NHS to a small high street cafe - as well as landlords, banks and local government agencies.  According to The Times, the new system for EU visitors will be phased in after Britain officially leaves the EU in March 2019, with those coming to work in the UK initially having to register with the Home Office without work restrictions.
It would be up to the EU to decide whether the offer of visa-free travel - if it is formally proposed by the UK Brexit negotiating team - would be reciprocated. The EU is working on a travel authorisation scheme for visitors to the EU, similar to the US ESTA visa-waiver scheme. Sources in Brussels said it would be a matter for the negotiations whether UK travellers will have to apply to it after Brexit. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage has accused the government of caving in to EU demands. But Brexit-backing Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen said: "I don't think anybody ever intended we were just going to pull the shutters down and become a Little England.   "The same restrictions will apply to UK citizens who wish to visit the Continent.   "I mean, did you really think we were going to have a visa system just to go for a weekend to Paris?"  Lord Green of Deddington, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said: "The point is that a work permit system for EU workers would lead, in due course, to a massive decrease in net migration from the EU as low-paid workers (who comprise some 80% of the inflow) are squeezed out.  "The reduction could, by our calculation, be about 100,000 a year." He said enforcement could be done through employers but the government would have to spend more money on a "crackdown" on illegal immigration, something he said was "increasingly necessary" in any case. The government says it wants to progress to negotiations with the EU about the future operation of its border controls as quickly as possible. On Wednesday, the government said there should be no hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland after Brexit. A paper detailing its proposals stressed there should be no physical infrastructure - such as customs posts - at the border, which has almost 300 crossing points. Critics said the proposals lacked credible detail, with Labour deriding the plans for the border as a "fantasy frontier".

^ It doesn't seem right that the British Government would push the burden of immigration enforcement from British Immigration to ordinary people working in ordinary businesses. Of course this proposed system is not definite and will probably change many more times before something is made concrete. The British seem to announce their proposals and see how the EU reacts. The British have to remember that what they do to EU citizens inside the UK the EU will do to British citizens inside the EU. ^

Russia's Grief

From the BBC:
"Wall of Grief: Russia remembers victims of Soviet repression"

Vera Golubeva spent six years in a Stalinist labour camp for telling a joke. In 1951 she was labelled an enemy of the people and sent to Siberia. "It sounds ridiculous," the former history teacher smiles. "But that's the only 'evidence' they had on me." Now almost 98, Vera walks slowly, leaning on a stick. But this woman was once forced to lay railway sleepers made of cement in temperatures that plunged to minus 56 degrees Celsius.  Everyone was exhausted and got sick," she recalls, as we talk on a bench in the yard of her Moscow apartment block. "The hardest part for me was chopping wood. I was a city girl and not very good at it. So my food ration was cut to 300 grams. That's nothing!" she says.  "It was psychologically tough, too. Many people went out of their minds. They couldn't cope," she says.  Now Russia is preparing to pay its respects to millions of people like Vera. Just alongside Moscow's central ring road, the pieces of a vast bronze sculpture are being slotted into place. It is Russia's first ever national memorial to the millions deported, imprisoned and executed in Soviet times.   Most were victims of Joseph Stalin's brutal, paranoid rule.

Stalin's victims

  • Tens of millions died under Joseph Stalin, who ruled the Soviet Union between 1929-53
  • Victims lost lives in deportations, famine, forced collectivisation, executions and in prison camps
  • Estimated 750,000 people summarily killed during Great Terror of 1937-38
  • Millions were sent to Gulag labour camps
"It was a catastrophe on a universal scale, one of the greatest human atrocities. It was impossible for me not to be affected by that," explains artist Georgy Frangulyan, as he watches his sculpture take shape by the side of a busy road.  Made up of jagged human forms with no faces, the monument will curve like a giant scythe. The artist says that is meant as a physical reminder of a repressive machine that mowed down innocent victims. There are gaps in the wall which he wants people to step inside, and feel the weight of that history on their shoulders.  "It's not normal, representative art. It's an expression of feelings, of fear and alarm," Mr Frangulyan says. "It depicts all the lives that were scratched out ruthlessly." The Wall of Grief is part-funded by the Moscow city government and partly by donations, though the artist says there is still a significant shortfall. It is part of a broader government programme signed by the prime minister two years ago which states that Russia cannot adopt a leading role in the international community without "immortalising the memory of the many millions of its citizens who were victims of political repression".  And yet there are very mixed messages from the top. In June, President Vladimir Putin himself warned that Russia's enemies were "demonising" Stalin excessively as a form of attack.  Under his rule, the Soviet victory over the Nazis has become central to a new ideology of Russian greatness.   In that context, Stalin is increasingly seen as a war hero. He regularly tops opinion polls here as an outstanding, historical figure.   But there is no need to go to Siberia to see the suffering he caused.  The Moscow canal runs for over 120km (75 miles) around the city, incorporating locks and reservoirs. Designed to allow the Volga river to flow into Russia's capital, the giant project was built with forced labour at the height of Stalin's rule. That included political prisoners. "Most people know nothing about the canal," says researcher Dmitry Kotilevich. "They know even less about the Dmitrovsky labour camp." At the grand opening ceremony in 1937 dozens of officials who had overseen construction on the canal were arrested and later shot, he says. "It's very hard for many people to think about winning the war and about the Gulag at the same time," the young historian explains. "I often hear that you somehow violate the memory of [Soviet] victory by noticing what Stalin did before that. So the Gulag is being ignored." Soon that will be harder to do.   The Wall of Grief is 30m (100ft) long and its creator believes those who pass by, including children, will be curious and ask questions.  "There will always be some who don't want to admit what happened. But I hope they will be fewer, thanks to this memorial. Brutality, the annihilation of innocent people, can never be justified," says Georgy Frangulyan.  Vera Golubeva survived that brutality, but at huge cost.   She says her youth was stolen in the Gulag. Her husband was sent to the camps too, and her parents. Vera herself was eight months pregnant when she was taken. She lost her baby and says after that, life became pointless. So for her the new memorial is long overdue recognition of the horror.   "What happened needs to be exposed, so it's never repeated," Vera says, her voice strong and firm despite her age.  "We say here that things go in spirals. But that was a black spiral. It was a frightening time," she adds. "Unfortunately, there are still supporters of that system." They are not hard to find. As I leave Vera on her bench in the sunshine, another woman sitting nearby calls out.  She knew I was a foreigner, and had been watching as we talked.  "Was she criticising Russia?" the woman demands to know, pointing to Vera. "Was she saying bad things?" "She'd better not have been. Or we'll give her what for."

^ This is a very important step that Russia has to take. I am glad that it is backed by some politicians. There needs to be more done throughout Russia to tell the millions upon millions of people imprisoned and/or killed by the Communists from 1917 to 1991 both within Russia and throughout Eastern Europe. ^


From the BBC:
"Barcelona: Van rams crowds in Ramblas tourist area"

A van has ploughed into crowds in Barcelona's famous Las Ramblas tourist area. People were killed and injured as the vehicle sped along the pedestrianised area, sending many fleeing for cover in shops and cafes. Witnesses said the van had deliberately targeted people before coming to a stop. El Pais newspaper said the driver of the vehicle had fled on foot after mowing down dozens of people. Police are treating the incident as a terror attack. Spanish media reports say one or two armed men barricaded themselves inside a bar in the area after the attack.  Tom Markwell from New Orleans, who was just arriving in a taxi in Las Ramblas, said: "I heard a crowd screaming. It sounded like they were screaming for a movie star. "I saw the van. It had already been busted on the front. It was weaving left and right, trying to hit people as fast as possible. There were people lying on the ground."  Aamer Anwar said he was walking down Las Ramblas, which was "jam-packed" with tourists. "All of a sudden, I just sort of heard a crashing noise and the whole street just started to run, screaming. I saw a woman right next to me screaming for her kids," he told Sky News. "Police were very, very quickly there, police officers with guns, batons, everywhere. Then the whole street started getting pushed back. "Police officers who got there just started screaming at people to move back, move back." Vehicles have been used to ram into crowds in a series of attacks across Europe since July last year.

^  When I had a choice to go to either Barcelona or to Israel later this year some people said I was dumb to chose Israel over Barcelona because Europe was safer. I guess they also didn't hear about: Germany, France or the UK. These kinds of terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. ^

Confederate Trump

From the BBC:
"Trump defends ‘beautiful’ Civil War statues"

US President Donald Trump has denounced the removal of "beautiful" Confederate statues amid a heated national debate about US race relations.  "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted.  "You can't change history, but you can learn from it," he continued.  Mr Trump drew outrage by defending organisers of a white supremacist rally that left a woman dead and dozens hurt. The rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, supported by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, was in protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War.   It turned deadly when a driver ploughed into a crowd of counter protesters, inflicting fatal injuries on Heather Heyer. "Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Mr Trump continued in a series of tweets on Thursday.   "The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!"  The recent removal of controversial statues, including some to leaders of the pro-slavery rebellion defeated in the US Civil War, has been the latest flashpoint in racial tensions across the country.  Critics say monuments to the Confederacy are racially offensive, but supporters say they are important symbols preserving Southern heritage.  Donald Trump's condemnation of white supremacists on Monday increasingly feels like the guy in the bar who starts his diatribes with "I'm not a racist, but…". While the president has felt compelled to distance himself from the hate and bigotry that many of the marchers last weekend spewed, he has come down with both feet in support of the cause for which they were supposedly rallying. This may not be as surprising a strategy as it first seems, however. Recent polls show the American public is generally against removing the statues scattered across states of the old Confederacy.  As Steve Bannon said in his surprisingly blunt interview with the American Prospect magazine on Thursday, drawing liberals into a contentious debate about "race and identity" allows Mr Trump and his supporters to become champions of economic nationalism. After a tumultuous several weeks, the president is trying to find his footing. While it might seem jarring for the president who boasts that Republicans are "the party of Abraham Lincoln" to speak warmly of "beautiful" statues of Robert E Lee, it wouldn't be the first time intellectual coherence has taken a back seat to political expediency.  Maine's Governor Paul LePage, a Republican, said on Thursday taking down Confederate statues is "just like" removing a monument to the victims of the 9/11 attacks.  But relatives of Stonewall Jackson, a Confederate leader Mr Trump mentioned in his Thursday tweets, wrote an open letter to the mayor of Richmond, Virginia, urging him to remove the statue of their great-great-grandfather and all other Confederate statues in town.  Jack and Warren Christian, Mr Jackson's great-great-sons, said removing the statues would "further difficult conversations about racial justice".  "While we are not ashamed of our great-great-grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer," the pair wrote. "We are ashamed of the monument." Robert E Lee V, the great-great-grandson of the famous Confederate general, issued a statement condemning the violence in the wake of the statue removals.  "While the debate about how we memorialise figures from our past continues, we the descendants of Robert E Lee decry in the strongest terms the misuse of his memory by those advancing a message of intolerance and hate," he said in a statement to the BBC.  "He never would have tolerated the hateful words and violent actions of white supremacists, the KKK, or Neo Nazis." The president's comments came after a week of turmoil over his response to the violent clashes in the small Virginia town.  Mr Trump was criticised for blaming both sides for the violence, but belatedly condemned the white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups on Monday.   During a heated news conference on Tuesday he backtracked and again blamed left-wing counter-protesters for the incident, too.  Amid the fallout over the president's response, corporate leaders and CEOs began resigning from two White House business councils.  On Wednesday, the Strategy and Policy Forum announced it would disband as Mr Trump said he would end the council as well as a manufacturing one.

^ I will never understand how anyone (politician or ordinary citizen) can defend the Confederacy and anything associated with it. I've said it before: I don't think the statues and monuments should be torn down by angry mobs, but should be removed by towns, states, the Federal Government, etc. and placed in museums to show the full history of America without glorifying our dark past. ^

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lincoln Defaced

From the BBC:
"Lincoln Memorial vandalised with profanity in Washington DC"

The memorial to President Abraham Lincoln, who led the US through the Civil War, has been vandalised in Washington DC.  The vandals appear to have used red spray paint to write "[expletive] law" early on Tuesday morning, the National Park Service said in a statement. Crews are removing it with a "gel-type architectural paint stripper that is safe for use on historic stone". US Civil War memorials have become a lightning rod in the US race debate. Other "undecipherable graffiti" was found written in silver paint on a nearby sign directing tourists to the Smithsonian Institution on Washington's National Mall public park.  President Lincoln led the northern Union government to defeat the secessionist Confederacy and ordered African-American slaves to be freed in 1863. He was assassinated in Washington only five days after southern General Robert E Lee surrendered, effectively ending the war.  The statue of General Lee became a flashpoint over the weekend, when white supremacists clashed with anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, over that monument's removal. A protester died after she was run over, and President Donald Trump was widely criticised in US media for failing to immediately lay blame for the violence on the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi groups. Statues to Confederate leaders have been targeted for removal by many cities across the US, including Charlottesville, following a 2015 hate attack by a man in South Carolina who used the rebel flag to espouse his racist views.  After Saturday's violence several more cities announced plans to remove their monuments to the Confederacy. Baltimore, Maryland; Lexington, Kentucky; Memphis, Tennessee; and Jacksonville, Florida have all announced proposals to remove controversial monuments. On Monday, protesters in Durham, North Carolina, toppled a bronze statue to a Confederate leader as police filmed the crowd. Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews later issued a statement saying police are reviewing the video in an effort to identify and prosecute those responsible for bringing down the 1924 statue.

^ Abraham Lincoln is clearly one of the most important and one beloved Presidents in US History (right up there with George Washington.) Clearly some racist, bigots can't fathom that the South lost the Civil War. Maybe they didn't get the memo that it ended 152 years ago. Of course this type of vandalism only brings more people to the correct side (the one where we don't honor and praise the Confederacy, the KKK or Neo-Nazis.) ^


Today is the 72nd anniversary of V-J Day (the US sees September 2nd - when the formal surrender document was signed in Tokyo Bay - as the "real" V-J Day rather than when the Japanese Emperor announced the surrender to the Japanese people.) The last Japanese soldier didn't surrender until he was discovered in the jungles of Indonesia on December 18, 1974. Many such hold-outs either were so remote they didn't know Japan surrendered in 1945 or refused to surrender because it was seen in Japanese society as a great dishonor and so kept fighting.

Hotel Steps Up

From Disability Scoop:
"Hotel Looks To Make Stays Easier For Guests With Special Needs"

On top of the usual luggage for four, the Behuras pack extra things for 10-year-old Maximillian. Special food, easy-to-use plates and utensils, medication, iPads and tablets, light-up toys, an oversized stroller. Traveling with a child with autism can be real tough, but the Yorba Linda family refuses to miss out on vacations. For years, Alexander Behura, 17, has helped his parents plan ahead for trips with Max, who has autism. From this brotherly love grew a major Anaheim hotel’s desire to help those like the Behura family.  Max has soft eyes and the gangly arms of a young boy tall for his age. He’s friendly and energetic. He likes to hold and be held; often clutching someone’s arm in a friendly manner, even a stranger’s. Alexander is a straight-A student at Valencia High in Placentia who speaks four languages. He plans to be a cardiovascular doctor. Born with a congenital heart disease, Alexander has a five-inch scar like a zipper on his chest. He’s had two open-heart surgeries and a third is expected. They play video games together, old games such as Mega Man and Super Mario Bros. Max calls him Dada, Bengali for older brother. Some nights when Max has a hard time falling asleep, he sneaks into Alexander’s room and boinks his brother on the head with his own before plopping on top of Alexander and falling asleep. “I don’t really mind it,” Alexander said. “He only does it to the people he loves. Max likes to hold onto someone.” Last year, while the family stayed at the Sheraton in Palo Alto scouting colleges, Max ran out of diapers. He wanted to swim, too, but Alexander and his parents didn’t know where they could buy diapers and a swim vest. And that’s when an idea struck Alexander: “Wouldn’t it be great, rather than having to pack up all this stuff, if the hotel had these items?” It was a wish from experience, from more than 30 family trips around the world, dealing with Max’s extra luggage and a lack of understanding by others. In China, Alexander typed a letter with a few phrases in Mandarin about his brother’s condition that his parents carried around to offer explanations. At a tour stop in Norway, Max threw a mini-fit; Alexander held his brother’s hand to calm him, but two women spoke ill of Max’s behavior in Italian. Alexander and his parents turned around and — in Italian — explained Max’s condition. “After 7,000 times you see it, or hear it, and come to expect it, but it still hurts,” Alexander said. “I’ve grown numb to it. I expect them to not know what it is.” Oftentimes, said the brothers’ mom, Sylvia, “Families like us don’t want to travel.” Larry Landauer, executive director of the Regional Center of Orange County, a nonprofit providing services and support for individuals with developmental disabilities including autism, said traveling does present special challenges for many on the autism spectrum and their loved ones because of unpredictability. At home, many live a life based on a regimented routine. “Sensory challenges and extreme hypersensitivity can be magnified in new environments, and special diets that many follow can be difficult to replicate on the road,” he said. “There can also be behaviors related to (autism spectrum disorder) that fellow travelers may not understand, so that can make it difficult for families to really relax and enjoy a vacation.” But the Behuras push on, on the road. “We love to travel and see it as a learning experience for our children,” said Sylvia Behura, a math teacher in Whittier. Still, Alexander thought, traveling should be easier.  “You could tell, it’s something he was already thinking about it,” said Alexander’s dad, Nathaniel, president of an engineering consulting firm. “We encouraged him to write letters.” The letter took months. It wasn’t so much a letter, but an audacious business proposal to create an autism awareness and support program. The teenager sent his five-page missive to autism organizations, airlines, cruise ships, elected officials. He waited, for months. One organization said it was too bold. A congressman wrote back the office didn’t support individual causes. Others didn’t bother to reply. Alexander persisted. With his parents’ help, he shortened the letter and focused on a hotel near Disneyland — a popular destination for families with children with autism.
Dear Mr. Gee …
“It’s so rare to receive a personalized letter, something that you can hold, as opposed to something you just read on a screen,” said Ian Gee, general manager of the Sheraton Park Hotel. “There was a lot of detail and passion in the letter. He presented his family and the challenges his family faces and how they overcame them. But what I liked about it was it wasn’t a complaint; he offered suggestions.”
Gee invited Alexander and his father in to present the ideas. Gee liked what he heard. He asked Alexander to make a presentation to Sheraton Park’s managers. “It was intimidating,” Alexander said. “They were all wearing suits.” They liked what they heard, too. “I did not realize how prevalent autism is, how it affects people in different ways, and never thought how it impacts their travel plans,” Gee said. “The staff wholeheartedly embraced it.” So over the last six months, Gee and his staff worked with Alexander and his family to make changes. The hotel spent about $8,000. A behavioral therapist was brought in to train the staff. The hotel’s restaurant menu added gluten- and casein-free offerings and was stocked with special adaptive plates, utensils and sippy cups. The front desk now offers, for free, iPads and tablets, a weighted vest and exercise balls. In the gift shop, adult diapers, swim diapers, floaties and other supplies are available for purchase. Prior to checking in, the hotel surveys families with children with autism for their needs and room preference. Accommodations are made so they don’t wait in long lines. The hotel also offers oversized stroller rentals and a sitting service that specializes in autism spectrum disorder care for parents who want a date night. Drew A. Nguyen, CEO of Behavior Functions, a Costa Mesa-based company specializing in behavioral therapy and training for autism and special needs, said he hasn’t seen a program like this at a hotel before. Nguyen, who estimates nearly 3.5 million people in the country live with an autism spectrum disorder, was brought in to train the staff. “These families face so many barriers, either staff not understanding autism or (viewing it as) a stigma. Some don’t go out at all,” Nguyen said of the families. “This is really a big project, and we are hoping this program can allow many of these families to go out into the community and be in a comfortable area and enjoy life and make memories.” Gee said if the pilot program is successful in Anaheim, Sheraton’s parent company, Marriott, may implement it in more of its hotels. “I did this for my brother,” Alexander said. The program is called Member of Autism Care Services. For short, the hotel employees call it the MAX Program.

^ This is a great story. It always amazes me when I hear about one person working so hard to get something done and it actually happens. I am also impressed with this hotel for wanting to make the changes. I hope that other hotels around the US and the world will see this example and work to make it easier for disabled travelers to stay with them. ^

Swiss Sign

From the BBC:
"Swiss hotel's signs for Jews spark row and Israeli complaint"

Israel has expressed anger to the Swiss government over a hotel's sign that told Jewish guests to shower before using the swimming pool. The sign in English, at Apartmenthaus Paradies in the mountain resort of Arosa, triggered much criticism.  Another sign told Jewish guests to use a refrigerator only at certain times. Israel's deputy foreign minister called it "an anti-Semitic act of the worst and ugliest kind". Reports say the hotel has now removed the signs. A photo of the shower sign was tweeted, after an Orthodox Jewish guest spoke about it on Israel's Channel 2 TV.   The Israeli interviewee told the TV: "The staff were really very nice to us. But one morning I came down and saw this sign. I was shocked!" "To our Jewish Guests, women, men and children, please take a shower before you go swimming," it said, adding that "if you break the rules I'm forced to cloes [sic] the swimming pool for you".  Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said she had discussed the "anti-Semitic" case with Israel's ambassador to Switzerland, who told her the signs had now been removed. However, she said those responsible should be punished, as a deterrent. Correspondents say the instruction to Jewish guests to have a shower touches raw nerves about the Holocaust, because Nazi death camp guards sent Jews to "showers" that were actually gas chambers. The sign in the hotel kitchen said: "To our Jewish guests: You are allowed to approach the fridge between the hours: 10.00-11.00 in the morning and 16.30-17.30 in the evening. I hope you understand that our team does not like to be disturbed every time."  Reports say the hotel often has guests from Israel, some of whom are Orthodox Jews. The hotel management was quoted as saying there was "no anti-Semitic intent" and "we have no problem with Jewish guests at the hotel". Ruth Thomann, responsible for the shower sign, said her choice of words had been a mistake. She said some Jewish guests had gone swimming with clothes, such as T-shirts, on and had not showered first.  As for the fridge, she explained, Jewish guests - but not other guests - had been allowed to use it to store kosher food. Arosa is in Switzerland's eastern Graub√ľnden region.

^  For those that believe the Swiss were neutral or not anti-Semitic during World War 2 (which this "shower" sign is referring to - the gas chambers were made to look like showers for disinfection and instead of water coming out poison gas came out) it was the Swiss Government who told Nazi Germany to add the "J" (for Jude or Jew) on German ID cards in 1938. The Swiss refused entry to those with a "J" while the Germans without one could enter Switzerland without a visa. The Swiss also allowed cattle cars full of Jews to go through Swiss territory from France and Italy on their way to the death camps. I don't know if the woman who made the sign is anti-Semitic, but she clearly needs to learn how to make signs. ^

Removal Statues

From Reuters:
"U.S. cities step up removal of Confederate statues, despite Virginia violence"

Undeterred by violence over the planned removal of a Confederate statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, municipal leaders in cities across the United States said this week they would step up efforts to pull such monuments from public spaces.  The mayors of Baltimore and Lexington, Kentucky, said on Monday they would push ahead with plans to remove statues as a national debate flared anew over whether monuments to the Confederacy are symbols of hate or heritage. A rally by white nationalists protesting plans to remove a statue of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the pro-slavery Confederate army in the U.S. Civil War, sparked clashes with anti-racism demonstrators on Saturday. A woman was killed and 19 people were injured when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. Officials in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jacksonville, Florida, announced new initiatives on Monday aimed at taking down Confederate monuments. And Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, urged lawmakers to rid the state's Capitol of a bust of Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate general and early member of the Ku Klux Klan. "This is a time to stand up and speak out," Lexington Mayor Jim Gray said in an interview on Monday. He brought forward the announcement of his city's efforts after the Charlottesville violence.  Saturday's clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, in which two police officers were also killed when their helicopter crashed, appeared to have accelerated the push to remove memorials, flags and other reminders of the Confederate cause. Some opponents took matters into their own hands. Demonstrators stormed the site of a Confederate monument outside a courthouse in Durham, North Carolina, on Monday and toppled the bronze statue from its base. Local television news footage showed protesters taking turns stomping and kicking the fallen statue as others cheered. Durham County Sheriff Mike Andrews said in a statement on Tuesday that his office would seek vandalism charges against those involved. The drive by civil rights groups and others to do away with Confederate monuments gained momentum after an avowed white supremacist murdered nine African-Americans at a Charleston, South Carolina, church in 2015. The shooting rampage ultimately led to the removal of a Confederate flag from the statehouse in Columbia.  In all, as of April, at least 60 symbols of the Confederacy had been removed or renamed across the United States since 2015, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. But such efforts also have made Confederate flags and memorials a rallying point for white supremacists and other extreme right groups, according to Ryan Lenz, a spokesman for the center. Opponents of Confederate memorials view them as an affront to African-Americans and ideals of racial diversity and equality. Supporters argue they represent an important part of history, honoring those who fought and died for the rebellious Southern states in the Civil War. New Orleans' efforts to dismantle four Confederate statues sparked protests and litigation that became so contentious that crews waited until the middle of the night to remove a 14-foot-tall (4.2-meter-tall) bronze likeness of Confederate General P.G.T. Beauregard on horseback in May. The violence in Charlottesville is unlikely to bolster the argument for maintaining the monuments as items of historical value, said Carl Jones, chief of heritage operations for the Sons of Confederate Veterans. But he said he would continue to make that case. "Where does it stop? The Egyptian pyramids were built by slaves. Do we tear those down?" Jones said in a telephone interview. Egyptian archaeologists, however, say tombs found near the Great Pyramids prove they were built by free workers, not slaves. Across the country, 718 Confederate monuments and statues remain, with nearly 300 of them in Georgia, Virginia or North Carolina, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are also 109 public schools named for Robert E. Lee, Confederate President Jefferson Davis or other leading figures of the Civil War-era South, the group said.  Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh said on Monday she would move forward in removing several statutes, including those of Lee and Stonewall Jackson. She stopped short of endorsing calls by some city council members for the monuments to be destroyed. Memphis officials said the city would take legal action to get state approval to remove a Confederate statue there. The city council voted to remove it in 2015, but the effort was blocked by the state historical commission, local media said. In Kentucky, Gray said he had heard opposition to his plans but that he had also received offers to pay for the statutes to be relocated as early as this fall. "We expected criticism," he said. "It's a challenging and polarizing time - and issue."

^ I have said this before and will continue to say it: no part of the Confederacy should be praised or honored. Once the US Civil War ended in 1865 any monument or place name associated with the Confederacy should have been removed, but instead new ones have been added from 1865 into the 1970s. I do not think ordinary people should go around and destroy these places, but ordinary people should work with elected officials to get the monuments and place names removed as quickly as possible. All the Confederate monuments should be saved and placed in special museum areas (the same way Nazi monuments and Communist monuments are around the world.) This way you don't simply wipe-out the dark past, but can show and teach people not only what happened during the Confederacy (or the Nazi and Communist dictatorships) but also what happened after they collapsed and how people and officials continued to praise their horrible deeds for decades and even over a century afterwards. The disgusting attitude of the Confederacy of the 1860s was continued well into the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. I have lived in the South and travelled throughout it and you can still see many areas, place names and monuments that praise this dark past in US history and that needs to be changed. ^

Rewriting The Truth

From the DW:
"Japan's 'nationalist' school books teach a different view of history"

As the nation marks the 72nd anniversary of its surrender at the end of World War II, there are still many here who insist that Japan acted honorably throughout the conflict. Julian Ryall reports from Tokyo.  The latest edition of a history text book used in more than 50 junior high schools across Japan makes no mention of the over 300,000 deaths in the Nanjing Massacre of 1937, skips allegations that as many as 400,000 girls and women were press-ganged into serving as prostitutes for the Japanese military during World War II and hints that the 1941 attack on US forces at Pearl Harbor was justified as the US embargo on Japan was a form of undeclared war.  The book is just one way in which nationalists here are trying to whitewash the worst excesses of Japan's brutal invasion and annexation of large swathes of Asia in the early decades of the last century and promote national pride, critics charge. And it is all the more alarming, they say, because the far right here is attempting to indoctrinate children with their beliefs. The fourth edition of the text book was introduced in schools here last year and The Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact, a rightwing group, is already working on a new edition that will be issued in time for the start of the 2018 academic year. Hiromichi Moteki, the group's acting chairman and a former history teacher, claims the text books are "free from a biased view of history" that is being aggressively pushed by Japan's neighbors, primarily China and both North and South Korea. After Japan annexed the Korean Peninsula [in 1910], we spent a lot of money on infrastructure and education there to raise the living standard of people there to that of Japan," said Moteki. "Japan spent so much money that you could say it was the Koreans that exploited us." He dismisses claims from hundreds of Korean women, a handful of whom survive to this day, that the military abducted them and forced them to work in frontline brothels. Similarly, historic accounts of the events that unfolded in Nanjing are batted away as "communist propaganda." And more than 70 years after the end of the war, Moteki professes to be at a loss as to why its former colonial conquests harbor ill-feeling toward Japan. "For our part, we were not responsible for any wrongdoing and we cannot understand why China and Korea refuse to accept that," he said. He adds that Japan's relations with its neighbors have been difficult for many years, due to differing interpretations of history, but the growing military power of China and North Korea are now a physical threat to Japan's security. And that, he believes, is driving support for Shinzo Abe, a deeply conservative prime minister who is pushing through a number of new laws that have horrified liberals here.  That legislation includes a controversial anti-conspiracy law, which generated sufficient concern to prompt the UN to claim that it could "lead to undue restrictions on the rights to privacy and the freedom of expression." Earlier this year, Japan's education ministry approved the return of "jukendo" to junior high school physical education classes; the mock combat sport uses wooden representations of a rifle with a bayonet attached and has its roots in the military drills that used to be carried out in the 1930s. Other factions within the far right of Abe's Liberal Democratic Party are calling for the emperor to once again be perceived as a living god. Abe's primary aim, however, is to rewrite the nation's pacifist constitution that many conservatives in Japan insist was imposed on a defeated country by the vengeful Allies at the end of World War II.  Abe - whose grandfather, Nobosuke Kishi, was known as the "Showa Era Devil" for his brutal repression of local people in occupied Manchuria and held for three years as a Class-A war criminal before becoming prime minister - has announced that he intends to rewrite parts of the constitution that deal with the nation's security and defense postures. The prime minister believes that the section most in need of revision is Article 9, which stipulates that the Japanese people "forever renounce war" and that "land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained." Attending a rally in May, Abe said it was time "to show the people, with confidence, our vision for the future of our country and what an ideal constitution should look like." That, in turn, has provoked concern in Beijing, Seoul and Pyongyang - although North Korean propaganda claiming that Japan is preparing to once again invade and enslave mainland Asia are more than slightly alarmist.  "A decade ago, the far right said it was going to 'reinterpret' Japanese history, essentially allowing them to put a positive spin on everything," said Makoto Watanabe, an associate professor of communications and media at Hokkaido Bunkyo University. "But now they are simply trying to erase things like the Nanjing Massacre and the comfort women from history books," he told DW. "To delete anything that is seen as negative from our history means that young people are ignorant about their own nation's past. And not knowing about Nanjing or other uncomfortable facts means that they are not able to make appropriate decisions on the future of our country." Abe's support, according to public opinion polls, has dipped in recent weeks, although rightwing groups still see him as the champion of their growing national pride. "Every country has the right to consider its own history in its own way," Moteki said. "There was a war but Japan was defeated, so the victors say all the causes were Japan's fault. It is our policy to dispute this. If we look at specific events or issues it is easy to see where conventional thinking has been wrong."

^ They say that History is written by the victor, but it seems that it doesn't last. The Southern States of the US have changed the way they teach the US Civil War (or the War Between The States as they call it.) Germany has changed to focusing on how they were victims (ie. the Dresden Bombing) rather than the millions upon millions of men, women and children they murdered - don't forget they also started the war and how it was to be fought (ie. focusing on civilians.) First the Soviets and then the Russians have changed how their Communist dictatorship is taught and tends to skip the millions  upon millions of people within the USSR and Eastern Europe murdered. The Japanese have been rewriting their history for some time now. They will apologize officially and then teach their students that things weren't so bad for the people in the occupied territories. They tend to leave out the extreme torture, beheadings, chemical experiments and the countless other horrible things the Japanese did to both Asian locals and Europeans/Americans/Canadians/Australians/New Zealanders. The Japanese saw surrendering as something that just isn't done. They would rather commit suicide than surrender and so they treated anyone who surrendered extremely badly. All of these countries (and many more) are trying to whitewash the dark parts of their past. The true sign of a great country is one that praises its great achievements while also remembering and learning from the mistakes of their dark past. ^

Silent Big Ben

From the BBC:
"Big Ben's bongs to fall silent until 2021 for repairs"

Big Ben's famous chimes will fall silent from next week until 2021 to allow essential repair works to take place. The bongs will sound for the final time at midday on Monday before being disconnected to allow the clock and surrounding tower to be restored. The Great Bell has sounded on the hour for 157 years. It last fell silent in 2007 and before that, for major refurbishments between 1983 and 1985.
Parliamentary authorities said stopping Big Ben - the commonly used name for the Palace of Westminster's Elizabeth Tower - would protect workers carrying out the repairs.  It will still sound for important events including New Year's Eve and Remembrance Sunday. The clock's keeper, Steve Jaggs, said Big Ben falling silent was a "significant milestone" in the project to restore the tower. "This essential programme of works will safeguard the clock on a long term basis, as well as protecting and preserving its home - the Elizabeth Tower," he added.  The landmark Elizabeth Tower is said to be the most photographed building in the UK. Scaffolding is up and repair work has already started. The project's principal architect Adam Watrobski told the BBC the works would install new amenities in the tower, including a lift, toilet and kitchen. Essential maintenance will also be carried out and the building will be made more energy efficient. As well as conservation work to the tower, the Great Clock will be dismantled piece-by-piece and its four dials will be cleaned and repaired. The Ayrton Light, which shines when Parliament is sitting, will also be renovated.  During the repair work, an electric motor will drive the clock hands until the main mechanism has been restored, so it will continue to tell the time. However, the faces will need to be temporarily covered while the clock is undergoing maintenance. The wider Parliamentary estate is also in need of repair, and a multi billion-pound programme involving MPs temporarily relocating has been put forward. Meanwhile BBC Radio 4, which broadcasts the chimes of Big Ben live, has announced it will broadcast a recording when the bells fall silent. Head of station management Denis Nowlan told the Today programme that various alternatives were considered, including the bells of Nottingham Council House. "We came very close to using the sound of Nottingham's bells," he said. However, a spokesperson confirmed: "After considering various options, we've decided that pre-recording Big Ben's chimes offers the most reliable and resilient option whilst the Palace of Westminster carries out its repairs."

^ It's sad to know that the tradition of Big Ben ringing it's bells will be stopped - even if for repairs. ^

72 Years: V-J Day!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Female Pilots

From the BBC:
"Russia to train female fighter pilots"

Russia is to accept female fighter pilots into its Air Force for the first time since the World War Two.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said women were being accepted after the military received "hundreds of letters" expressing interest in enrolling. There will be 15 women in the first group, which starts training in October, Mr Shoigu said. During WW2, Russian female pilots were known as "Stalin's Falcons". German troops called them "Night Witches". This new generation of fighter pilots will be trained at the Krasnodar military aviation school, in the south of the country.  The academy has been accepting women since 2009, the state news agency Tass reported, but not for pilot training.

^ I think it is a good thing to open more fields to women (whether it's in Russia or any other country.) Of course I believe that women and men should have complete equal rights no matter if they are in the military or a civilian. I once met a Russian woman who was a sniper during World War 2. She went from protecting her country against the Germans to being forced back to a regular job after the war (so much for a classless and equal Soviet society.) As long as a person can do their job it should not matter if they are male or female. ^

Eclipse Tips

From the Dept. Of The Interior's Website:
"2017 Total Solar Eclipse Viewing Tips"

On Monday, August 21, 2017, millions of people across the U.S. will get to see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights -- a total solar eclipse.  With wide-open spaces and low light pollution, public lands are the perfect place for viewing this rare event, and we’re sharing advice for safely witnessing this awesome moment. 

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and earth, blocking all or part of the sun. For thousands of years, people have observed this phenomena, and this year many in the U.S. will get that chance! The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979, and the next total eclipse over the U.S. won’t be visible until April 8, 2024. From beginning to end, the solar eclipse will last up to 3 hours, but the total eclipse (when the moon completely blocks the sun) will be visible from each location for much shorter. For those lucky people in the path of totality, which spans about 70 miles in width and crosses portions of 14 states from Oregon to North Carolina, they’ll get to watch as day turns into night when the moon blocks the sun for up to 2 minutes and 40 seconds. Everyone else will see a partial solar eclipse. During the partial eclipse, the sun’s rays will cause eye damage and should only be viewed through a solar filter or special eclipse viewing glasses. These can be purchased from numerous sources for as little as $2. Homemade filters or ordinary sunglasses (even very dark ones) are not enough to protect your eyes. 

Tips for where to watch the total solar eclipse

From Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area on the west coast to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in the east and Grand Teton, Homestead National Monument, and Clarks River National Wildlife Refuge in between, America’s public lands offer some of the best viewing locations for the total solar eclipse.  Whether you choose to watch the eclipse from an iconic national park or a lesser known (and just as beautiful) public land, these tips will help you have a safe and memorable experience while respecting your public lands:
  • It is NEVER safe to look at the sun during the eclipse. Except during the very short period of totality do not look directly at the sun without approved solar-viewing devices.
  • Be sure to get there early to beat the crowds and find a good parking spot. Only park in designated areas or lots. Please don’t park along the sides of roads or in meadows. The total eclipse lasts only 1 minute-2 minutes and 41 seconds (depending upon your location), so do not be late!
  • Know the fire risks and respect fire restrictions. August is peak wildfire season for public lands, and a small spark can rapidly become a large fire. Be sure to properly put out campfires, and in many areas, vehicles are required to have a shovel and fire extinguisher or gallon of water.
  • Get your maps. Some public lands are remote areas along unmaintained roads and are often inter-mingled with private land, so know where you're going. Contact your local Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or Forest Service offices for camping and jurisdiction maps. Before you head out, make sure you are familiar with the area you are going to and ensure you have appropriate gear, equipment, and supplies.
  • Use designated spots for camping. While most reservable campgrounds are already booked, there are some locations that offer first come, first serve campsites. Remember: whether in a developed campground or at a dispersed site, you can usually camp in an area for up to 14 days. Learn more about camping guidelines.
  • Don’t forget your eclipse glasses. You’ll be able to buy eclipse glasses at some public land visitor centers, but to ensure you have them for viewing, it’s best to purchase them before leaving home. Learn more about protecting your eyes during a solar eclipse.
  • Please use designated routes and trails. Going off road disturbs wildlife and habitat and in dry conditions can spark a fire.  
  • Tread lightly and leave no trace. Leave your site better than you found it.
  • Bring plenty of water. It can get hot during the summer, and water can be limited. Always carry at least one gallon of water for every person in your group.
  • Pack the sunscreen. Even though this event is about the sun’s rays being blocked out, you’ll probably spend some time waiting in the sun. Protect yourself.
  • Remember to pack it in, pack it out. Remove all trash (including your viewing glasses and any food scraps like apple cores).
  • Be patient and don’t expect all services to be available. Many small towns within the path of the eclipse expect their infrastructure and community services to be stretched to the limit during the event. Be early and patient and expect traffic on rural roads. Don’t expect cell-phone reception as it is already spotty in rural areas and may be overtaxed by the high number of users.
Check out some of the solar eclipse events across the country from the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Tips for photographing the solar eclipse

Just as the partial eclipse will damage your eyes, it will also damage your camera unless you place a special solar filter over the lens. These are widely available from photography stores. No filter is needed during totality, so be sure to practice removing your solar filter quickly before the day of totality so that you are not wasting precious time. The dark sky during totality makes it important to have your camera/smartphone on a tripod or some other support to prevent blur. With a wide angle lense, the sun will appear as a tiny dot in the image, so consider using a telephoto lens. Want to know how large the eclipse will appear? You can practice ahead of time by taking an image of the full sun as long as you have your solar filter on (and protective eyewear). Make sure to turn off your flash as it won’t improve your photos and will distract other eclipse viewers. Speaking of viewers, consider taking a video of the audience as the eclipse goes into totality -- they are guaranteed to applaud and gasp at the magical sight and will make for some memorable clips. Unlike the fleeting few minutes of totality, the partial phases of the eclipse provide several hours for creatively composing photos. Take the time to to silhouette foreground subjects like trees, mountains, people or other objects against the skyline and crescent sun to lend the context of your location to the eclipse.  Above all, plan your time during totality to be able to capture some images quickly so that you can spend part of this precious short time enjoying the eclipse itself.  

^ Even though I don't live in the direct line of the solar eclipse it is still big news up here. ^

Friday, August 11, 2017

Disabled Heathrow

"Disabled flyers 'wait hours' for Heathrow help"

Disabled passengers at Heathrow Airport are being forced to wait up to two hours for help disembarking planes, a report has found.   The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has labelled the UK's busiest airport as "poor" for its disability services - with Manchester, East Midlands and Exeter airports receiving the same low rating. The CAA's Richard Moriarty told Sky News: "It is critical Heathrow raises its game in terms of the service it provides to disabled passengers. "The good news is Heathrow recognises that, and Heathrow has put in place commitments and plans to do just that over the next year." More than a million passengers who need extra assistance pass through the west London hub every year, which is more than any other European airport. But a survey of 1,200 disabled passengers at Heathrow found 62% rate it as "poor" or "very poor".  A spokesperson for the airport said they were "extremely disappointed" with the findings, admitting they "fall short" of the passenger experience they aim to provide. "We apologise to those who have been affected and are taking action, including the amendment and re-tendering of our contract with new and higher standards of service to ensure passengers receive the service they rightly deserve," they added. The UK's airports were graded based on a range of information - including how long passengers wait for assistance, how happy they are with the service, and how well the airport engages with disability organisations. The report found six airports - Inverness, Glasgow, Glasgow Prestwick, Humberside, Birmingham and Norwich - provide "very good" assistance.  Another 20 airports were described as "good" - and London Gatwick was among them, where passengers with hidden disabilities such as autism are given special lanyards so staff are aware they may need extra support. Sara Marchant, a manager at Gatwick, said the airport holds regular meetings with disability groups to identify what needs to be done. Among the services is a family familiarisation day where children with autism can visit the airport before flying. She said: "They can practise checking in, they can go for a ride in a buggy, they can practise going through security.  "All those things mean that when they come here to travel, children are more used to it, children understand what's happening and they've got that bit of experience." Penny Wilkinson has two autistic children and says airports are often stressful and difficult. "I would find it a lot easier if people were aware of their needs," she said. "I think sometimes to be with crowds - if it's really busy or waiting a long time - they sometimes might have a little bit of a meltdown. "So I feel a lot calmer in myself if staff are aware that they've got needs." Disability charities broadly welcomed the findings of the report but added it's vital airports take action to improve. Selina Mills, from Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: "You don't have to be specialist care trained to treat someone as an individual and to think about what they need. "Everyone has difficulties in airports, they're complicated places but I think you just need to make sure your staff know what they're doing." The CAA said it would continue to monitor standards. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: "It is encouraging to see the overwhelming majority of UK airports providing a good service for passengers with a disability, but I am determined to push the aviation industry to do more."

^ I have flown into/out of Heathrow with a person in a wheelchair numerous times and as I have written many times in the past Heathrow Airport is one of the world's worst airports for the disabled. Even when you book handicapped assistance months in advance and then reconfirm that assistance shortly before your trip when you actually get to Heathrow it doesn't seem to make a difference. Nothing is set-up or organized. I have had to push a wheelchair with one hand and our luggage cart with the other and transfer from one terminal to another without any assistance because what little help Heathrow does give is sub-par. I remember going to the handicapped assistance area in one terminal and thinking it looked like the scene of a Third World country. It was dark and smelly with disabled people "abandoned" all around and no employees to help. I quickly got out of there. Luckily the person I was travelling with had someone non-disabled who could help them. I feel extremely bad for those people who were on their own and at the mercy of the non-exist assistance workers. The airport itself is not very handicapped accessible. You have to go several miles from the plane to Immigration and when you are departing Heathrow you have to wait in a central boarding area that is not near any of the gates. Then they announce the gate number at the last minute - even if you have been waiting there for hours - and expect you to run through all the people. One time I literally had to pick-up the wheelchair and move it down several stairs to get to the gate area. There was a female airport employee who just watched even when I asked her for help or to at least call for someone else to come help. Then got "yelled" at by the gate agent for not being on time with the wheelchair  - I let that little idiot have it and asked why the airport and the airline didn't help at all. That shout him right up and he looked like the true idiot he was in front of all the other passengers. I don't know if the people running and working (both for the airlines and the airport itself) think it's beneath them to give assistance to the disabled or if they simply don't care, but I have never had a pleasant experience at Heathrow and even though I no longer have to help someone in a wheelchair when I travel I still avoid Heathrow like the plague for all the past horrible experiences I have had there. These new findings only prove that the problems at Heathrow aren't just related to myself, but are a very major and important problem that has to be addressed and fixed immediately. I should also state I have flown into/out of: Gatwick, Stansted, Glasgow and Edinburgh with someone in a wheelchair and while there were some minor issues every now and then there were no major issues I encountered at  those other airports.  ^

Yisrael Kristal

From the BBC:
"World's oldest man, Auschwitz survivor Yisrael Kristal dies"

The world's oldest man - the only member of his immediate family to survive the Holocaust - has died at the age of 113. Polish-born Yisrael Kristal died on Friday, a month before he was due to turn 114, Israeli media reported. Mr Kristal, who lived in Haifa, Israel, hit the headlines last year after deciding to celebrate his bar mitzvah a century late. The original celebration had not taken place because World War One broke out.  Mr Kristal was born in the village of Zarnow, about 90 miles (146km) south-west of Warsaw, in 1903.  The son of a religious scholar, Mr Kristal lost his mother and father during World War One, according to reports. He later moved to Lodz to work in the family confectionery business. After the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany in 1939, Mr Kristal and his family were moved into the Lodz ghetto. His two children died there and Mr Kristal and his wife Chaja Feige Frucht were sent to Auschwitz in 1944 after the ghetto was liquidated.  Mr Kristal's wife was murdered in Auschwitz but he survived, performing slave labour in that and other camps. When he was found by the Allies in May 1945 he weighed just 37 kg (5 stones 11 lbs). According to Tablet Mag, he thanked the Soviet soldiers who rescued him by making them sweets. The sole survivor from his family, Mr Kristal emigrated to Israel in 1950 with his second wife and their son, where he continued to run his confectionery business until his retirement. Mr Kristal was officially recognised as the world's oldest man by the Guinness Book of Records in March 2016. Speaking at the time, he admitted he did not know the secret to a long life, saying: "There have been smarter, stronger and better looking men than me who are no longer alive." He is survived by two children, as well as grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.  His daughter Shula Koperstoch said he had died on Friday afternoon after becoming ill on Thursday. She told Israeli news website Ynet [in Hebrew] she had had a "great father", adding: "Despite all that he went through, and he lost the whole family in the Holocaust, he had a lot of optimism, and he always saw only light and good in everything."

^ No one can fully understand what happened during the Holocaust unless they were there. Every man, woman and child that survived the horrors is a testimony against Hitler, the Nazis, their helpers and everything they stood for. There goal was to rid the world of every Jewish person and luckily they failed in that. Not only were there survivors of the Holocaust, but many lived long lives (as Yisrael Kristal did) and not only rebuilt their own lives but also their own families. While every person with a Nazi or Nazi collaborator in their family is a dark stain on that family every person with a Holocaust survivor is a mark of honor on that family. ^

RBS Polymer

From the BBC:
"RBS to issue polymer £10 banknote in October"

The Royal Bank of Scotland is to issue its first polymer £10 note to the public on 4 October. The new note features images of Scottish mathematician and astronomer Mary Somerville, her hometown of Burntisland in Fife, and two otters.The material includes a variety of new security features which the bank said makes them "difficult to counterfeit but easy to authenticate". For the first time, the note includes braille to help the visually impaired. The bank also announced that the face of its polymer £20 note, which is not expected to enter circulation until 2020, will feature Glasgow philanthropist and entrepreneur Catherine Cranston.  The new £10 note is 15% smaller than the paper ones currently in circulation. It follows the bank's polymer £5 note, which features Scottish novelist and poet Nan Shepherd, and came into circulation in 2016. RBS chief executive Ross McEwan said the bank felt that their notes had value beyond the figure printed on them, and were a "symbol which lives in people's pockets and touches everyday lives". He said: "It has been 30 years since we produced a new £10 note, and we wanted the public to help influence the design. They helped influence our theme of 'fabric of nature' and helped us consider the impact Mary Somerville has had on our understanding of the world in which we live. "It is fitting that our most advanced note yet will carry her portrait." A moon diagram taken from Somerville's book Mechanism of the Heavens appears when the note is viewed under UV light. Words from the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig also feature. Bank of Scotland also has a polymer £10 note entering circulation, featuring the image of Sir Walter Scott, while Clydesdale Bank's version, featuring Robert Burns, comes out on 21 September.

^ It seems polymer is becoming the favorite way to make new currency. It has an odd feel to it. ^

Animal CCTV

From the BBC:
"CCTV to be compulsory in all abattoirs in England"

Slaughterhouses in England will have to install CCTV as part of government plans to monitor animal welfare. Under rules being phased in over the next year, Food Standards Agency vets will be able to ask to see footage of all areas where livestock are held. Slaughterhouses found to be failing welfare standards could face a criminal investigation or lose staff licences. Environment Secretary Michael Gove said the proposals would make the UK a "global leader on animal welfare". Currently, keepers of animals bred for meat must meet animal welfare laws and codes of practice, which cover the treatment of livestock including how they are fed, housed and transported, as well as how they are killed.  Abattoirs in England must meet welfare regulations, with separate rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and additional EU regulations. Plans to make CCTV mandatory in all slaughterhouses are being considered by the Welsh government. The government has said it plans to increase standards for farm animals and domestic pets in England by updating these statutory animal welfare codes.  Breaches would result in a welfare enforcement notice, the suspending or revoking of staff licences or referral for a criminal investigation.  The first codes to be revised will cover chickens bred for meat, followed by laying hens, pigs, dogs, cats and horses over the course of the next year. New codes were needed to reflect modernising medicines, technology, as well as the latest research and advice from vets, the government said. Mr Gove said: "We have some of the highest animal welfare standards in the world and the actions I am setting out today will reinforce our status as a global leader. "As we prepare to leave the EU, these measures provide a further demonstration to consumers around the world that our food is produced to the very highest standards."  FSA chairwoman Heather Hancock said the watchdog supported compulsory CCTV in abattoirs, since voluntary adoption by slaughterhouses had reached a "plateau". She said: "We look forward to the introduction of a comprehensive requirement for using, accessing and retaining footage from CCTV in abattoirs. "We see CCTV as an invaluable management tool for business owners to help with compliance with official controls and to improve animal welfare standards across the industry." British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Gudrun Ravetz said the mandatory CCTV in all areas of slaughterhouses was "essential" to safeguarding animal welfare. "We are particularly pleased to see a commitment to official veterinarians having unrestricted access to footage, which the BVA has been calling for," he said. "Vets' independence and unique qualifications help ensure that the UK will continue to have the highest standards of animal health, welfare and food safety."

^ I see these new rules to be a step in the right direction. It is one thing to have laws and another to have laws like this one that is physical evidence of something. I am one of those people that eats meat and knows where it comes from, but at the same time I don't think I could kill an animal or watch one being killed. Maybe that makes me a hypocrite, but it is what it is. I would like to see this law made around the world - including the US. It is one thing to slaughter an animal for meat and another to do so humanely. ^

Tunnel Barrier

From the BBC:
"Israel to speed up Gaza tunnel barrier"

Israel is to accelerate the building of a huge barrier along its boundary with Gaza aimed at preventing militants from tunnelling under the border. The 64km (40-mile) long construction will reach a depth of 40m (131ft) below and 6m above ground, at a cost of 3bn shekels ($833m). An Israeli army commander said the barrier should be completed in 2019. Israel has sought to neutralise the threat of cross-border tunnels since its war with militants in Gaza in 2014.  During 50 days of fighting, militants from Gaza's ruling Hamas faction used tunnels to infiltrate Israeli territory on four occasions, killing 12 soldiers.   Israeli troops destroyed more than 30 tunnels and have found two since the end of the war. The conflict left at least 2,251 Palestinians dead - including more than 1,462 civilians, according to the UN - and 11,231 injured. On the Israeli side, 67 soldiers and six civilians were killed, and up to 1,600 injured.   At a briefing on Wednesday, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Maj Gen Eyal Zamir said the hi-tech barrier would be completed, even at the risk of renewed conflict with Hamas. "If Hamas chooses to go to war over the barrier, it will be a worthy reason [for Israel] to go to war over. But the barrier will be built," Israeli media quoted him as saying. Last year, Hamas's leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the group was still digging tunnels, without specifying whether these extended into Israel. Part of the new barrier will protrude into the Mediterranean Sea, in an apparent effort to thwart attacks by frogmen. Four such Hamas militants tried to swim out to attack an Israeli army base during the 2014 war, but were killed by the IDF. According to local media reports, the machine used to dig the new the barrier will destroy any existing tunnels, while the barrier itself will be equipped with sophisticated technology to detect any new tunnels being built.

^ Israel, like every other country, has every right to defend itself against attacks. Getting rid of these tunnels is part of that defense. ^

Support Or Not

From the DW:
"Nations start to choose sides in event of North Korea war"

As tensions rise, North Korea has found a supporter even as some US allies reaffirmed they would back Washington in the event of an open conflict. Could Germany - and other NATO members - be forced to fight for Trump?  Amid growing talk of the possibility of open conflict between the United States and North Korea, countries have started to affirm their positions in case violence breaks out on the Korean Peninsula or elsewhere. Although countries have yet to throw their support behind Pyongyang in the event of a confrontation, North Korea has found supporters in its neighbor China - with some conditions. "If the US and South Korea carry out strikes and try to overthrow the North Korea regime and change the political pattern of the Korean Peninsula, China will prevent them from doing so," said an editorial in the state-run Global Times.  However, the paper did not recommend Beijing support Pyongyang under all circumstances. "China should also make clear that if North Korea launches missiles that threaten US soil first and the US retaliates, China will stay neutral," it wrote. Earlier this week, China's Foreign Ministry urged both North Korea and the United States to "stop provoking each other" and de-escalate the situation in a bid to return to "dialogue and negotiations."  But others nations have been keen to choose a side. Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told Melbourne radio station 3AW on Friday that Washington "has no stronger ally than Australia." "Let's be very clear about that. If there is an attack on the United States by North Korea, then the ANZUS treaty will be invoked and Australia will come to the aid of the United States," Turnbull said.  Roh Jae-cheon, spokesman for South Korea's Joints Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that Washington and Seoul are prepared to "immediately and sternly punish" provocations from Pyongyang. Meanwhile, Japan's Defense Ministry said on Thursday that Tokyo "can never tolerate" such provocations from Pyongyang, noting that technically the country could intercept a missile bound for US territory if it appeared to be an existential threat to its own domain.  While German officials have warned of the "very serious situation" unfolding between its ally and North Korea, Berlin has yet to affirm support for a US incursion. However, given Germany's position in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), would it have to heed the call if Washington triggered Article 5?  Despite Article 5 of the NATO Charter, which requires all members to come to the aid of any attacked member, it is unlikely Germany and other NATO members would be required to take military action against North Korea as Guam falls outside of the collective defense geographic limits detailed in the charter's sixth article. Even as US President Donald Trump says the "fire and fury" he said North Korea would face if it attacked the US maybe "wasn't tough enough," senior officials in the White House have played down the president's tough talk, with Defense Secretary James Mattis saying a war would be "catastrophic."

^ While I do not believe North Korea will attack any US territory and I hope the US doesn't attack North Korea first if North Korea does attack or try to attack any US territory then the US should immediately respond in kind with a show of force. Any country that does not support the US if it is attacked first is no ally and should face consequences (diplomatic, economic, etc.) Any NATO country that doesn't aid the US if it is attacked shows that NATO is of no use and should immediately be disbanded. I feel the same if any NATO member country was attacked and other NATO states did little to nothing to help them. Any country that sides militarily with North Korea against the US should be dealt with militarily. It is another issue if the US attacks North Korea first. ^

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raising Blindness

From the BBC:
"Global blindness set to 'triple by 2050'"

The number of blind people across the world is set to triple within the next four decades, researchers suggest. Writing in Lancet Global Health, they predict cases will rise from 36 million to 115 million by 2050, if treatment is not improved by better funding. A growing ageing population is behind the rising numbers. Some of the highest rates of blindness and vision impairment are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.  The percentage of the world's population with visual impairments is actually falling, according to the study.    But because the global population is growing and more people are living well into old age, researchers predict the number of people with sight problems will soar in the coming decades. Analysis of data from 188 countries suggests there are more than 200 million people with moderate to severe vision impairment.   That figure is expected to rise to more than 550 million by 2050. "Even mild visual impairment can significantly impact a person's life," said lead author Prof Rupert Bourne, from Anglia Ruskin University. "For example, reducing their independence... as it often means people are barred from driving."   He said it also limited people's educational and economic opportunities.  The worst affected areas for visual impairment are in South and East Asia. Parts of sub-Saharan Africa also have particularly high rates. The study calls for better investment in treatments, such as cataract surgery, and ensuring people have access to appropriate vision-correcting glasses.  Prof Rupert Bourne said: "Interventions provide some of the largest returns on investment.  "They are some of the most easily implemented interventions in developing regions."  "They are cheap, require little infrastructure and countries recover their costs as people enter back into the workforce," he said. The charity Sightsavers, which works in more than thirty countries to try to eliminate avoidable blindness, says it is seeing a rise in conditions such as cataracts, where the eye's lens clouds over.   "Due to an ageing population and a rise in chronic disease, we expect the burden of blindness to only grow within the world's poorest countries" said Imran Khan from the charity.  He said health systems in developing countries need to be improved, and more surgeons and nurses need to be trained to deliver sustainable eye health care.

Blindness affects:

  • 11.7 million people in South Asia
  • 6.2 million people in East Asia
  • 3.5 million people in South East Asia
  • more than 4% of the population in parts of sub-Saharan Africa
  • less than 0.5% of the population of Western Europe

^ People should be aware of these kinds of "trends" even if they don't live in the area that is affected or supposed to become affected. ^

Team America

^   Where's Team America when you need them? Like father, like son. ^