Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wallenberg Rejected

From the MT:
"Moscow Court Rejects Wallenberg Suit Against FSB to Declassify Files"

A Moscow court on Monday rejected a suit against the Russian security services from the family of Raoul Wallenberg, the famous Swedish diplomat who disappeared 70 years ago, RBC reports.  Wallenberg helped rescue thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II before Soviet forces captured him in 1945, reportedly on suspicions of espionage, and transported him to the KGB's Lubyanka Prison. He is believed to have died in the summer of 1947 but his death is still shrouded in mystery. In July, Marie Dupuy, Wallenberg's niece, filed a lawsuit in Moscow against the KGB’s successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB), seeking access to documents she believed could shed light on Wallenberg's fate. The case was dismissed by the Meshchansky Court on Monday, the family's attorney Darya Sukhikh told RBC. Ivan Pavlov, Dupuy's lawyer, said the family planned to appeal the court's decision, which he characterized as “unlawful." "The fate of Wallenberg is one of the biggest mysteries in Russian history,” he was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “The documents requested by Wallenberg's relatives are already 70 years old and access to them should be opened.” 

^ It's clear that Russia knows exactly what happened to Raoul Wallenberg at their (Soviet) hands and it must not be very pleasant since they are still willing to hide the truth from the world 72 years since he was arrested and 26 years since the Soviet Union collapsed. ^


Israel Boycott

The Arab/Muslim Boycott on Israel:  Created in 1948.

  full boycott since 1948
  joined full boycott later
  only primary boycott
  Non-member states of Arab League participating in certain years
  Israel (target of boycott)

Current Member Countries: 
Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Comoros, Chad, Djibouti, Iran, Iraq (except Kurdish Iraq), Indonesia,  Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Former Member Countries: 
Albania, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cambodia, China, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Egypt,  Hungary, Jordan, North Korea, Poland, Romania, the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia

Blacklisted Celebrities (Past and Present):
Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Louis Armstrong,  Eartha Kitt, Frank Sinatra, Harry Belafonte, Helen Hayes, Kirk Douglas, Jerry Lewis, Paul Newman, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger, Elton john, Paul Stewart, Roger Moore, Paul Simon

Blacklisted Corporations (Past and Present):
RCA, Zenith, Coca-Cola, Barclays Bank, Sears, Revlon, Ford Motor Company, General Electric, Hewlett Packard, Hilton Hotels, Mercedes-Benz, Avis, IBM, Citibank, Nestle

Current Member Countries That Refuse Entry to Israeli Citizens: 
Algeria, Bangladesh, Brunei, Djibouti (occasionally), Iran, Iraq (except Kurdish Iraq), Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malaysia (official letter needed), Oman, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
Current Member States That Refuse Entry To Citizens With Evidence Of Israeli Travel:
Iran, Iraq (except Kurdish Iraq), Kuwait (occasionally), Lebanon, Libya, Oman (occasionally), Qatar (occasionally), Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen. 

^ I have been to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. I didn't care for Kuwait at all and the UAE was alright. I am now curious to see Israel since so many countries feel threatened by the very existence of the country that they have or had economic and political boycotts against Israel and anyone who supports/supported them. ^

George And Jean Spear

From the BBC:
"British war bride and Canada groom die within hours of each other"



A British wartime bride and her Canadian veteran husband have died five hours apart - a month after celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary. George and Jean Spear met in 1941 at a dance hall near London, while he was stationed in Britain during the Second World War. The couple passed away in an Ottawa hospital on Friday after Mrs Spear, 94, was admitted for pneumonia.  She was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2006. Mrs Spear and her 95-year-old husband met the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their 2011 Royal Tour.  Mr Spear was admitted to Queensway Carleton Hospital on Wednesday, a day after his wife, when he fell into a deep sleep.  Hospital staff had tried to move Mr Spear to his wife's floor, but Mrs Spear died peacefully in her sleep on Friday at 04:30 local time before that could be arranged. Mr Spear followed quickly afterwards at 09:45 am, the Ottawa Citizen reported. They leave behind two adult children, Heather and Ian.  The couple met during a dance while Mr Spear was serving as a sergeant major in the 1st Corps Field Survey Co, Royal Canadian Engineers.  "She looked down at my army boots and said, 'I don't know whether we can or not with those clodhoppers you're wearing," recalled Mr Spear to the Ottawa Citizen during the couple's 72nd wedding anniversary.  "That was our introduction. I said, 'Let's give it a try.' And we did. And that was it."  They were married not long after on 22 August, 1942 in Mrs Spear's hometown of Kingston upon Thames. In 1944 she sailed for Canada because her husband, who was then stationed in Italy, was to be sent back home to train others.  When she arrived in Ottawa by train, she didn't know her husband would be meeting her because she thought he was still in Italy. "It was snowing and the most amazing blizzard you'd ever seen all your life," she said.  "And this figure came running towards me… and he reached me and he wrapped his great coat around me. "I can't talk about it now without reliving the absolute ecstasy of that moment."  In 2006, the Queen made her a Member of the Order of the British Empire for her work for other war brides. She founded the first club for war brides in Canada.  She travelled to London for the ceremony with Mr Spear, and got to meet her hero, wartime singer Dame Vera Lynn.  Almost 50,000 British women moved to Canada at the end of the war because they married Canadian soldiers. The couple were invited to a private reception with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in Ottawa during their 2011 Royal Tour.  Mr Spear showed the Duchess his sergeant's cap that held a black-and-white picture of Jean from before they were married, and the Duchess asked if he always kept the photo. "All through the war and ever since," he replied.


^ This is one of those sad yet good stories. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41310591

Changing Laws

From the MT:
"In Russia, It's a Woman's Job to Challenge Soviet-Era Labor Laws"

In Soviet propaganda posters, women feature alongside men as powerful and resolute workers. Forward-looking and muscular, they are portrayed as heroines of the proletariat. It was women workers who in February 1917 started a protest that would evolve into the Russian Revolution. Today, Russia’s labor legislation is among the most stagnant in the world with women barred from hundreds of professions. Svetlana Medvedeva had just landed her dream job in 2012 as a captain with a shipping company in southern Russia when it revoked the offer because of her gender. But Medvedeva contested the move and after a five-year legal battle, won a landmark court case for discrimination this month. “This is the first victory against the list of banned professions,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. She hopes it will pave the way for Russian women who are fighting for a career in so-called “men’s professions.”  Medvedeva, 31, spent years studying to become a navigation officer so that she could eventually become a captain. But when three years ago she applied to work with Samara River Passenger Enterprise, a private shipping company, it turned her down, citing Article 253 of the Labor Code and Government Regulation no.162. The rule effectively bars women from entering 456 professions across 38 different industries, including work as a metro driver, a miner or a firefighter, unless a special committee rules the conditions as safe. “No one warned me about this list,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. “I was only warned about the prejudice that my profession was considered a ‘man’s job.’” The restrictions were introduced in 1974 and are not unique to Russia. Hundreds of professions are still off-limits to women in Belarus, Ukraine and other former Soviet republics.  The list was originally introduced to protect women’s safety and reproductive health, which was considered vital for a Communist society. But, Medvedeva argues, the limitations apply to all women, even if they can't give birth or are sterilized. “It can’t be considered a matter of protecting our reproductive health,” she says. The St. Petersburg-based Anti-Discrimination Center Memorial (ADC), an NGO that defends the rights of minorities and vulnerable groups, then took up her case. “In 2012, we filed a lawsuit to the district court to oblige the defendant to employ me and to recognize their initial refusal as a case of discrimination,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. The case was first rejected by a district court in Samara and then by a regional court. One year later, her lawyers filed a complaint to the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), to which Russia is a state party. In March 2016, the UN recognized the company’s refusal to employ her as gender discrimination and the list as a violation of women's rights. But international recognition didn’t mean the legislation was changed or the list was scrapped. In fact, Medvedeva’s case was once again rejected by the district court in Samara. That changed last week, when on Sept. 15, after a five-year-long legal battle, the same court recognized her rejection of employment as discriminatory. “It means a lot to me,” Medvedeva told The Moscow Times. “There are women, who like me, work in the merchant navy and are denied employment because of this list. But now everything will change. "  Medvedeva’s case, her lawyers agree, sets a legal precedent for other women to challenge similar job rejections in court. “It is symbolically important for fighting gender discrimination in Russia with legal means,” says Sergei Golubok, one of Medvedeva’s lawyers. But the ban is still in place and the court did not grant the second part of her case obliging the shipping company to hire her. It is unclear what practical impact Medvedeva's victory will have. Women are still only allowed to work in vessels which are considered safe, explains Bartenev. “The state allows companies to continue using risky technologies as long as they are not hiring women,” she adds. In March this year, ADC Memorial launched a campaign with the hashtag “alljobs4allwomen” to change the legislation, not only in Russia but other post-Soviet countries. “We believe that women can decide for themselves what is good or bad for them — just like men do,” Stefania Kulayeva, the head ADO, told The Moscow Times. 

^  These laws were made in 1974 by the "classless, gender-equality" Soviets (which just gives another example of why Communism has never and will never work since there can never be a classless society) and upheld in post-Communist Russia (which is led by many of the same people who influenced the laws in the first-place.) Names may have been changed since the USSR collapsed, but not the people or the laws. Hopefully more Russians (men and women) will strive to stop accepting that they always have to play the victims - as they have been taught to do for generations - and to work on making their everyday lives better. Complete gender equality is one good step in that direction. ^


https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/captain-svetlana-medvedeva-paved-way-for-russian-women-to-enter-mens-professions-58973

Monday, September 18, 2017

Stanislav Petrov

From the MT:
"Stanislav Petrov, Who Saved the World from Nuclear Holocaust, Died in May"



Stanislav Petrov, the man credited with preventing a global nuclear disaster, died in May, the German newspaper Waz reports. The former Soviet lieutenant made a decision that saved the world from a nuclear crisis in 1983 while operating as the commanding officer of a nuclear early-warning center outside of Moscow. It was just after midnight when Petrov spotted a blip on a radar which the computer identified as five U.S. ballistic missiles headed towards the Soviet Union.  Protocol required Petrov to report an attack to his superiors within fifteen minutes of its detection, a choice that could have likely triggered a retaliatory nuclear offensive against the US and its NATO allies. Instead, Petrov reported a false alarm, relying on the logic that Washington would have launched an entire arsenal of missiles in the event of a real attack. A later investigation confirmed that the incident was indeed the result of a technical malfunction. Until 1993, the Russian government kept the incident a secret, and even Petrov’s wife was unaware of his actions. The world hailed Petrov as an international hero after the incident’s public revelation. At the United Nations' headquarters in 2006, the former officer was presented a crystal statuette in the form of a hand holding a globe and engraved with the inscription: "To the man who prevented a nuclear war." In 2013, Petrov became the second Russian citizen to receive the Dresden Peace Prize after Mikhail Gorbachev. Petrov died quietly at his Moscow home on May 19, 2017. Not a single media outlet reported on his death until last week. The news of Petrov’s death was made public after his German friend Karl Schumacher learned about it by accident, Russian media outlet Meduza reported. Schumacher called Petrov’s home on Sept. 7 to wish him a happy birthday, only to be told the news by Petrov’s son. Schumacher soon published an obituary on his blog, which was subsequently picked up by Waz.


^ It is such a shame that Russia and the whole world didn't do more to honor Stanislav Petrov - especially when he died last May. It is because of his quick-thinking that all of us are still here. ^


https://themoscowtimes.com/news/stanislav-petrov-died-in-may-58967

Maria And Jose

From USA Today:
"Hurricane Maria grows to 'extremely dangerous' Category 4 storm; hurricane warnings issued for Puerto Rico"



Maria:
Warnings and watches lit up across the Caribbean on Monday as Hurricane Maria gained strength and roared toward islands already hobbled by the carnage of Hurricane Irma. Maria, which grew to a Category 4 hurricane Monday afternoon, had maximum sustained winds of of 130 mph at 5 p.m. ET.
The storm should move across the Caribbean islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe overnight Monday before roaring towards the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on Tuesday. Additional rapid strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, the hurricane center said. By later Tuesday, Maria should have winds of 155 mph. A hurricane warning has been posted for the entire island of Puerto Rico. Hurricane warnings are also in effect for both the U.S. Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands, along with Guadeloupe, Martinique and St. Lucia. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said the government has prepared hundreds of shelters capable of housing more than 100,000 evacuees if necessary. The National Weather Service in Puerto Rico warned that "catastrophic winds" are expected from Maria beginning Tuesday afternoon. "Locations may be uninhabitable for weeks or months." In addition, "major to record rains and flooding are expected to accompany Maria," the weather service said. It is still too early to determine whether the storm will impact the U.S. East Coast — and any threat would not be until early next week — but a strike on Florida is still a possibility. "We may luck out and it turns north before reaching Florida," AccuWeather meteorologist Dave Samuhel said. "Unfortunately, it looks like blocking high pressure could force it into Florida. Definitely something we are watching." Due to the uncertain path of Hurricane Jose, it's "much too early to judge what portions of the U.S. East Coast or Canada might be threatened by Maria next week," according to Weather Underground meteorologist Jeff Masters. But first, the U.S. Virgin Islands likely will face "at least a glancing blow if not a full-on landfall" late Tuesday or early Wednesday, Samuhel said. On St. John's, the smallest of the U.S. Virgin Islands, people lined up to flee the storm. Irma blasted across the island Sept. 7, a Category 5 storm with sustained winds of 185 mph. Homes and businesses were blown apart and power is expected to be out for months. Haiti and the Dominican Republic could see Maria's wrath on Wednesday. A potential impact on the East Coast will depend on steering currents in the upper atmosphere over the western Atlantic and the eastern U.S. that can't be determined more than a week in advance, according to the Weather Channel.  
Jose:
Meanwhile, Hurricane Jose's 75 mph sustained winds will continue to bring rip currents and rough surf to the U.S. East Coast over the next several days. Tropical-storm warnings have been posted along the southeastern New England coast, including most of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coastline. "Coastlines from North Carolina to southern New England are in for a long period of rough surf and an increasing risk of beach erosion," Weather Underground meteorologist Bob Henson said. "If Jose were to make landfall, it could end up producing significant surge even as a post-tropical storm."  Jose will produce heavy rain as it passes near southern New England and the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday and Wednesday, the hurricane center said.  Total accumulations of 3 to 5 inches of rain are expected. The hurricane center said the center of Jose was forecast to pass well offshore of the Outer Banks of North Carolina on Monday, east of the Delmarva peninsula overnight and Tuesday and east of the New Jersey coast on Wednesday. 


^ It has been a very active last couple of weeks hurricane-wise. I had family impacted by Harvey in Texas. I had family impacted by Irma in Florida. We are supposed to get some tropical rain here from Jose Tuesday/Wednesday and now Maria will cause problems in places already struggling from Irma. ^


https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/09/18/hurricane-maria-grows-stronger-marches-toward-irma-battered-islands/676350001/

3,000 More Troops

From the BBC:
"US sends 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan"

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says the US will send 3,000 extra troops to Afghanistan as the Taliban gain ground and security deteriorates. American combat operations against the Taliban officially ended in 2014, but over 8,000 US special forces remain in the country backing Afghan troops. US President Donald Trump last month signalled he would keep US boots on the ground indefinitely. The Taliban pledged to turn Afghanistan into a "graveyard" for foreign forces. Mr Mattis confirmed the deployment on Monday, speaking to reporters at the Department of Defense.  US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis says the US will send 3,000 extra troops to Afghanistan as the Taliban gain ground and security deteriorates. American combat operations against the Taliban officially ended in 2014, but over 8,000 US special forces remain in the country backing Afghan troops. US President Donald Trump last month signalled he would keep US boots on the ground indefinitely. The Taliban pledged to turn Afghanistan into a "graveyard" for foreign forces. Mr Mattis confirmed the deployment on Monday, speaking to reporters at the Department of Defense.  But once he became a frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, Mr Trump modified his stance.  He said the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan was "a terrible mistake", but supported keeping troops in the country to prevent a "collapse". Last month he said the US would remain in the country to kill terrorists rather than nation-build. At peak deployment levels in 2011, there were some 100,000 US personnel in the country.  Sixteen years after the US-led invasion, the Afghan government still only controls half of the country.


^ Saying American soldiers in Afghanistan aren't combat troops is like saying American soldiers in Vietnam were only advisors. American soldiers in Afghanistan not only have to deal with the Taliban, but also Afghan soldiers that turn on them. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41314428

Social World

From Wikipedia:



Most popular social networking site as of 8 November 2015
  Facebook
  Twitter
  VKontakte
  Qzone
  Odnoklassniki
  Facenama
  no data



^ This was pretty interesting (to see which countries use which social media site.) ^




https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/VK_(social_networking)

Stalin Backlash

From the MT:
"'The Death of Stalin' Comedy Has Russia’s Culture Ministry Bracing for Communist Backlash"

The Russian Culture Ministry’s public council should pre-screen a satirical movie on the death of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin to avoid repeating the ongoing controversy over a Tsar Nicholas II biopic, a senior council member told the Govorit Moskva radio station on Monday. Scottish director and writer Armando Iannucci’s “The Death of Stalin,” based on a graphic novel of the same name, is slated for release in Europe and North America next month. Concerns reportedly arose that Russia’s communists could resort to violence to protest the film’s screening in the country, borrowing from a fundamentalist Orthodox group’s threat to burn cinemas if they showed “Mathilde.” “Mathilde,” which depicts Tsar Nicholas II’s love affair with Polish ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska, has riled Orthodox activists. A major cinema chain said they wouldn’t show the film last week, after Russia’s National Film Foundation did the same hours after two cars were set on fire outside its director’s lawyer’s office. Pavel Pozhigaylo, deputy chairman of the Culture Ministry’s public council, told Govorit Moskva on Monday that Russia’s communists might take offense at the satirical depiction of Stalin. “If the film about Stalin is as provocative as ’Mathilde,’ then it should not be released,” Pozhigaylo said. “We will ask that not only the members of the Culture Ministry, but also members of the public council, are able to watch it." “If there is a danger, we will insist that it is not issued a distribution certificate.”   Asked about concerns that the movie’s screening could elicit backlash from Russia’s communists, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that he hadn’t heard of the British-French production. However, he noted that the Culture Ministry “always approaches the issue of distribution certificates extremely responsibly.”


^ There is definitely something odd going on throughout Russia lately. I don't understand all the hysteria about a film. If you don't agree with it then don't watch it. There's no need to call-in bomb threats or commit violence like there has been for "Mathilde." As for "The Death Of Stalin" I think it's a little ironic that the two movies are placed together since the Communists murdered the Czar and now have to deal with a possibly similar hysterical situation as "Mathilde." Communists around the world (except in China and North Korea) are a shell of their former self.  Communists once had dictatorships that controlled the life and death of millions in: Latin America, Africa, Eastern Europe and Asia and now they are reduced to crying over a Western-made movie. Oh how times have changed and the mighty have fallen. ^


https://themoscowtimes.com/articles/death-of-stalin-comedy-has-russia-culture-ministry-bracing-for-communist-backlash-58975

Draft Number

From USA Today:
"Would Your Draft Number Have Been Called?"


On Dec. 1, 1969 the United States held its first draft lottery, which gave young men a random number corresponding to their birthdays. Men with lower numbers were called first and told to report to induction centers where they could be ordered into active and duty and possibly sent to the Vietnam War.

If you had been born in 1950, what would your draft number have been? Enter your birthday to find out.


^ This is really interesting (especially for those of us that never lived through it.) I checked my birthday and I wouldn't have been Drafted in 1970.. Before the Draft Lottery in 1969, men had to go to their local Draft Board where they were either given an exemption or Drafted. The Draft Lottery changed things in that only those people whose number was picked had to go to their Draft Board to learn if they got an exemption or had to serve. The US ended the military Draft in 1973 but still requires all men (but not women) to register at 18 for the Selective Service just in case Congress ever brings back the Draft.  Click on the link below to see if you would have been Drafted.  ^

https://www.usatoday.com/vietnam-war/draft-picker

Russian Moon

From the MT:
"Nearly 400 Aspiring Cosmonauts Apply to Go to the Moon"

Up to 400 aspiring cosmonauts have submitted applications this year to go to the moon, the head of Russia’s cosmonaut training center told the pro-Kremlin Izvestia newspaper in an interview published Monday. The Roscosmos space agency announced an open recruitment drive last spring to train a team of up to eight cosmonauts to become the first Russians to go to the moon before 2040.
Yury Lonchakov, head of the Yury Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, told Izvestia that the number of applications received so far exceeds a previous recruitment drive in 2012 by 100. Even so, the deadline this year has been extended. “Yes, we consider this number of applications small, so with the consent of Roscosmos, we extended the submission deadline until December to select the most suitable [candidates],” Lonchakov said.  Russia currently has 31 trained cosmonauts, though nearly half have never traveled to space. Lonchakov explained the need to beef up Russia’s roster of cosmonauts saying there was an expected thinning out of the corps beyond 2021. Eight people were picked out of 304 applicants when the Roscosmos space agency first began the open recruitment process in 2012.


^ I guess it's about time Russia went to the Moon (48 years after we did.) ^



https://themoscowtimes.com/news/nearly-400-aspiring-cosmonauts-apply-to-go-to-the-moon-58968

Waiting Dying

From the AP:
"Disability backlog tops 1 million; thousands die on waitlist"

More than 1 million Americans await a hearing to see whether they qualify for disability benefits from Social Security, with the average wait nearly two years — longer than some of them will live. All have been denied benefits at least once, as most applications are initially rejected. But in a system where the outcome of a case often depends on who decides it, most people who complete the appeals process will eventually win benefits. The numbers come from data compiled by the Social Security Administration. About 10.5 million people get disability benefits from Social Security. An additional 8 million get disability benefits from Supplemental Security Income, the disability program for poor people who don't qualify for Social Security. The disability programs are much smaller than Social Security's giant retirement program. Still, the agency paid out $197 billion in disability payments last year. Recipients won't get rich as the average benefit is $1,037 a month — too small to lift a family of two out of poverty. For some, the benefits come too late. Chris Hoffman worked as a mason, laying bricks and tile and pouring concrete. He had terrible back pain for much of his life, but he kept working until a series of heart attacks. He applied for Social Security disability benefits in 2014 but was denied. He appealed to an administrative law judge. In November, Hoffman died at 58, following his fourth heart attack. Ten months later, the judge ruled that he was entitled to benefits. "It wasn't that he was limited, it was that he wasn't able to do anything," said Hoffman's son, Dustin. Last year there were 7,400 people on waitlists who were dead, according to a report by Social Security's inspector general. For someone to qualify for Social Security disability benefits, a doctor must determine that the disability is severe enough to prevent an applicant from working. The disability must last at least a year or could result in death. If applicants can't perform their old jobs, officials see if they can adapt to new ones. The Social Security Administration says it is working to reduce the backlog by hiring 500 new administrative law judges and more than 600 support staff. The judges, who now number about 1,600, hear appeals from people who were initially denied benefits. The agency is also expanding a program that quickly awards benefits to people with serious illnesses and conditions, including certain cancers, said Bea Disman, the agency's acting chief of staff. But advocates say budget cuts over the past five years have frustrated efforts to reduce the disability backlog. Last year, the agency's budget was $12.6 billion, roughly the same as it was in 2011, even though an additional 6 million people receive either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security. "No search for efficiencies, reprioritization of tasks or technological improvements can substitute for adequate resources," said Lisa Ekman of the National Organization of Social Security Claimants' Representatives. To get benefits, applicants first apply to state agencies that work with the Social Security Administration. These agencies approve, on average, about one-third of the applications they receive, Disman said. In most states, applicants who are denied benefits can ask the same state agency to reconsider, though very few of these applications get approved. The next step is to file an appeal with an administrative law judge. This is where the backlog swells, with 1.1 million applicants waiting for a hearing before a judge. That's slightly down from last year, but a 31 percent increase from 2012. The average wait for a hearing is 602 days. Five years ago, it was less than a year. The delay is an "unfair hardship for people already living with disabilities," said Mike Stein, assistant vice president of Allsup, a firm that represents applicants. Chris Shuler couldn't attend his hearing. Shuler was working as an airplane mechanic in Oklahoma when he was exposed to some chemicals and developed severe respiratory problems, said his wife, Elizabeth Shuler. The medicine he took for his lungs affected his bones and he eventually had two hip replacements, she said. Chris Shuler applied for Social Security disability payments in 2012 and was denied almost immediately, his wife said. He died in July 2015 from an infection that started in his hip, just before his 40th birthday. Four months later Elizabeth Shuler attended her husband's hearing on his behalf. "I wanted to make sure I at least saw a judge," she said. "The judge said it was a no-brainer."



^ I helped someone apply for Social Security Disability once and it was the worst experience. We were living in Virginia when we started and the people there found every excuse to need even process the application. We jumped through hoops to meet their demands and never even got to the denial stage this article talks about. After a few years of waiting and many stupid excuses from Social Security we moved out of Virginia and up to New England and so went to a different Social Security office. I remember being at the new office and hearing the new case worker get the Virginia office on the phone and yelling at them to simply push a few keys on their computer to release the application from VA to the new office. Within a week of that visit the application was approved and the years of back Disability benefits were given. It is a completely corrupt system inside and out. The officials in Virginia were clearly getting bonuses, etc. to stall rather than deny applications. I understand there has to be checks done to make sure the person is really disabled because there are those out there that will abuse the system, but when you have several doctors in various states saying the person is disabled and the person's disability allowance will be 98% less than they used to make in regular salary (and they were not fired from their job, but had to quit because of their disability) it makes no sense at all. Social Security Disability is a Federal Government program and so shouldn't matter what state you live in, but in my case (helping this person with the whole process) it did matter. The whole system is rigged from the moment you start and that is just plain wrong. If someone meets all the requirements for Disability then they should receive it in a timely manner and not have to jump through hoops or fight for what they are owed. ^


https://www.yahoo.com/news/disability-backlog-tops-1-million-thousands-die-waitlist-122743401.html

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Truth Protests

From the BBC:
"Protests over Army Troubles prosecutions"

A protest against the prosecution of former soldiers for killings during the Troubles in Northern Ireland has been met with counter-demonstrations. Supporters of Army veterans have staged a protest at Horse Guards Parade in London, demanding an end to what they have called a "witch hunt". But campaigners seeking justice for those killed by soldiers want the prosecution cases to continue.  They have held counter-protests in London and four Northern Ireland sites. Supporters of the veterans have called their demonstration "I am Dennis Hutchings" to highlight the case of an elderly former soldier.
Mr Hutchings is facing trial for the attempted murder of a man who was shot dead in County Armagh in 1974.  John Patrick Cunningham, 27, was unarmed when he was shot in a field close to his home outside Benburb. Saturday's counter-demonstrations have been called "I am John Pat Cunningham - I'm dead". The dead man's friends held a vigil at Horse Guards Parade at the same time as the veterans' protest. At one stage, some people attending the veterans' protest shouted questions about past IRA atrocities at Mr Cunningham's supporters.  Those attending the vigil did not respond to the remarks. Other counter-protests took place in Belfast, Londonderry, Strabane in County Tyrone and at the scene of Mr Cunningham's shooting in County Armagh. They were organised by members of the Pat Finucane Centre and the Relatives for Justice campaign group. The protest in support of former soldiers was staged by a group called Justice for Northern Ireland Veterans.  Campaigners have previously described the prosecution process as a "one-sided witch hunt". They have claimed that former soldiers are being brought to court while paramilitary suspects have been granted immunity from prosecution. In January, the director of public prosecutions in Northern Ireland defended his record of impartiality in respect of the cases. Barra McGrory QC said critics who accused him of treating former soldiers unfairly had insulted him and his office.



^ I come from a long line of people who served/are serving in the military. With that said any person -in the military or not - who commits a crime (such as murder of innocent people) should be tried and punished. It doesn't matter if you are from the US or the UK. With regards to the British Military and The Troubles in Northern Ireland (1968-1998): what most people do not understand is that when these unjustified murders happened the British Military, and in my cases the British Government, covered-up their crimes at the time and often blamed the victim and/or their families for the deaths. For decades that was the "official" version. Since the British Military left Northern Ireland in 2007 and the British Government is finally admitting to their role in the deaths and cover-ups it may seem like a one-sided "witch hunt" targeting British soldiers now, but it wouldn't had the soldiers involved in the murders been tried and punished at the time they happened (sometimes nearly 50 years ago.) The official cover-ups stopped justice from being done at the time of the murders and now that the world knows they happened every single last one of the murders needs to be investigated and any soldier or official who either participated in the actual murder of the innocent man, woman or child or the cover-up needs to be held accountable for what they did. It doesn't matter if the murder happened 50, 40 or 30 years ago. In some cases (such as the 1972 Bloody Sunday Massacre) the British soldiers involved in the murder of innocent civilians not only were kept safe by a British Military and Government cover-up that lasted until 2010, but the soldiers also received awards from Queen Elizabeth II for their actions. The British Military and the British Government created the problem when they did not stop their soldiers from murdering innocent men, women and children in the 1960s, the 1970s, the 1980s and the 1990s and when they covered-up the soldiers' crimes for decades. Now that the truth of the official cover-up is publically known all those involved need to be brought to justice. Not every soldier of the British Military in Northern Ireland was a murderer, but there were a lot and because of the Government's decades-long cover-up any case that falls into question now needs to be investigated along with those that took part. To me that isn't a "witch hunt" it is righting a wrong that should have been done decades ago.  ^


http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-41282400

Fluent German

"Of course I speak fluent German. I went to Oktoberfest in Munich once."

Foie Gras Ban

From Yahoo:
"Appeals court taking foie gras off the menu in California"

A federal appeals court reinstated California's ban on foie gras Friday, finding that a state law preventing sales of the luxury liver pate made by force-feeding ducks and geese was not pre-empted by federal authority to regulate poultry products. The ban was passed more than a decade ago after proponents said the process of fattening the livers of the birds was cruel and inhumane. The law took effect in 2011, but was blocked by a court in 2015, delighting chefs who wanted to serve the delicacy and leading to protests by animal rights groups. While the unanimous decision by three judges won't immediately take effect, giving farmers and a restaurant time to seek further review, animal activists celebrated. "The champagne corks are popping," said David Perle of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "PETA has protested against this practice for years, showing videos of geese being force-fed that no one but the most callous chefs could stomach and revealing that foie gras is torture on toast." State lawmakers voted in 2004 to bar California farmers from force-feeding birds with a tube, which is how foie gras (fwah-GRAH'), is produced. That part of the law, phased in over seven years, was not challenged. But foie gras farmers in Canada and New York and Hot's Kitchen in Hermosa Beach targeted a second part of the law that banned foie gras produced out of state from being served in restaurants or sold in markets. They argued successfully in the lower court that state law was superseded by the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act. That law prevents states from imposing labeling, packaging or ingredient requirements different from federal standards. The main question was whether the state was banning an ingredient or a process. "It is not the livers that are force-fed, it is the birds," Judge Jacqueline Nguyen of the appeals court wrote. "The difference between foie gras produced with force-fed birds and foie gras produced with non-force-fed birds is not one of ingredient. Rather, the difference is in the treatment of the birds while alive." A lawyer for the farmers and Hot's Kitchen said the fight was far from over. "The ruling is disappointing, the reasoning is flawed," attorney Michael Tenenbaum said. "Federal law is supreme when it comes to poultry products, whether it's foie gras or frozen chicken breasts." When he won in U.S. District Court two years ago, Tenenbaum sent a press release saying that chef Sean Chaney was shouting "let the foie gras start flowing" from the rooftop of Hot's. Chaney said he plans to continue serving the rich treat until ordered to stop by a court and said the ruling was merely "a little speed bump." While the popularity has waned since they were allowed to first serve it after the lower court ruling, there are still popular selections on a special menu customers must request, Chaney said. Among the offerings are "Lego my foie," a waffle with a dollop of pate and maple syrup and a burger topped with the spread. He plans to put foie gras back on his main menu this fall despite the ruling. Tenenbaum said he would seek a review from a full panel of the 9th Circuit and press on to the Supreme Court if necessary. If the appeals court rejects a review, the ruling will take effect after the case is returned to the lower court, where Tenenbaum can raise other issues. David Levine, an expert in federal court procedure at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said it's a longshot that the ban won't go into effect. "It's probably the end of the road, but not tomorrow," Levine said.


^ I am surprised that this is happening in California with all the celebrities and rich people who love to eat anything that is expensive. I personally am for the ban. ^ 

https://www.yahoo.com/news/appeals-court-takes-foie-gras-off-menu-california-183205178.html

Credits

Have you ever watched the credits of a TV show or a movie saw a weird character name (like: "creepy stranger #1" or "guy with soup") and thought: "I could do that?" No? ........ Um. Me either.


Friday, September 15, 2017

To Defend Or Not

From the BBC:
"US policy is 'not to defend Canada' in any N Korea attack"

A top general has told Canadian MPs they cannot count on US support if North Korea launches a nuclear attack on their country. Lt Gen Pierre St-Amand told the national defence committee in Ottawa there is no policy that requires the US to aid Canada in any nuclear attack. But on the upside, the committee also heard North Korea views Canada as a "peaceful" and "friendly" country.  Gen St-Amand told MPs: "The extent of the US policy is not to defend Canada. "That's the fact I can bring to the table."  Canada has long avoided joining the US ballistic missile defence programme, under the assumption that the US would shoot down a nuclear missile heading for its northern neighbour anyway. But Lt Gen St-Amand's testimony suggested otherwise. However, Mark Gwozdecky, assistant deputy minister for international security, said all evidence suggested Canada was not in North Korea's crosshairs.  "There's been no direct threat to Canada," Mr Gwozdecky told the meeting.
"In fact, on the contrary, in recent contacts with the North Korean government, including in August when our national security adviser was in Pyongyang, the indications were they perceived Canada as a peaceful and indeed a friendly country." Mr Gwozdecky stressed that even if Canada was not a target, North Korea still posed a serious threat to global peace and security.


^ I'm not so sure that statement is correct. The US and Canada have in two military alliances: NATO and NORAD. I know for a fact that an attack on a NATO member state is considered an attack on all NATO member states and so they are required to assist. Also with NORAD the Canadian and American airspaces and their defenses are intertwined so it would be near-impossible for the US not to do something to help if Canada was attack from the air. The US can not guarantee that a missile is headed only to Canada and not the US (and vice versa.) I do think that every country should not completely rely on other countries to protect them 100% and should have a plan in place just in case. ^


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-41285474

Kurdish Vote

From the BBC:
"Kurdish MPs say yes to independence referendum"

The Iraqi Kurdish parliament has voted to back an independence referendum in the face of opposition from across the globe The Kurdistan Regional Government, sitting for the first time in two years, backed the 25 September vote on Friday.  Iraq's central government rejected the referendum as unconstitutional on Tuesday. Iran, Turkey and the US also object to the vote, fearing further instability.  The White House issued a statement hours after the vote, asking the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and "enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad".
The statement warned the independence vote could "distract from efforts to defeat" the Islamic State militant group (IS).  But there was a feeling of jubilation amongst those who back the referendum. "We've been waiting more than 100 years for this," Omed Khoshnaw, of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDR), told news agency Reuters. Of the 111 MPs who sit in the regional parliament, 65 voted to go ahead with the plan.   However, more than 40 did not attend the sitting, according to local media. A number of opposition MPs had said they were planning to abstain. Iraq's government has also authorised the prime minister to "take all measures" to preserve national unity. Meanwhile, neighbouring Iran and Turkey - which both have Kurdish populations - fear a Yes vote will bolster separatism movements in their countries. The US had suggested unspecified "alternatives" to the referendum ahead of Friday's meeting.



^ The Iraqi Kurds have done more than most to fight ISIS (not to mention what they had to endure under Saddam) and deserve to be treated much better than many countries (Iraq, Turkey, etc.) currently do. I am not sure if they are ready for independence yet, but do think they should be allowed to vote on it and if it passes with a majority than it should be respected by all parties involved. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-41279682

Growing Candy

If I was a farmer I would grow candy corn because who doesn't love candy corn?

Peace Corps Out

From Yahoo:
"Cambodia PM calls on U.S. to withdraw Peace Corps volunteers"

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called on the United States on Friday to withdraw Peace Corps volunteers in an escalating row over accusations that U.S. agents conspired with an opposition leader to plot treason. Hun Sen was responding after the U.S. embassy in Phnom Penh issued a travel warning that urged citizens to show caution amid "anti-American rhetoric by officials". "Are you scaring Cambodians?" Hun Sen said of the United States in an address to garment workers at factories which export much of their production to the United States. "Are you prepared to invade Cambodia and that's why you told Americans to be careful? It's good if you pull out the Peace Corps," Hun Sen said. The U.S. embassy declined to comment. It has previously dismissed the accusations of collusion with opposition leader Kem Sokha and called for his release. On Friday, the embassy was swearing in 71 new volunteers from the Peace Corps, which sends Americans abroad to help with local projects with the stated goal of promoting mutual understanding. Hun Sen said on Friday that he had ordered an investigation into whether any Americans were involved with Kem Sokha. Opponents of Hun Sen accuse him of arresting Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) leader Kem Sokha and cracking down on independent media and other critics ahead of a general election next year. The evidence presented against Kem Sokha is a video recorded in 2013 in which he discusses a strategy to win power with the help of unspecified Americans. Hun Sen, a close ally of China, has taken a series of measures against U.S. interests this year from ending joint military exercises to expelling a naval aid unit to forcing a U.S.-funded pro-democracy group to leave. On Thursday, Hun Sen said he was suspending cooperation with Washington to find the remains of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. According to the U.S Embassy, more than 500 Peace Corps volunteers have served and worked in Cambodia since 2006, providing English teaching and teacher training as well as community health education. U.S. President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps in 1961 to promote world peace and friendship.


^ The Peace Corps. has been completely non-political since it was created in 1961. It is there to: teach English, business skills, hygiene. etc. to the poor around the world who otherwise wouldn't get any help. This latest move by Cambodia is only going to hurt ordinary Cambodians. I remember when Russia ordered the Peace Corps. out of Russia several years ago. I met a Peace Corps. volunteer in Yaroslavl and several in Moscow (who worked around the country.) They seemed nice and genuinely wanted to help people. When they left the ordinary poor in Russia were left on their own since little to nothing was done by the Russian Government to replace the help the Peace Corps. was giving. ^


https://www.yahoo.com/news/cambodia-pm-calls-u-withdraw-peace-corps-volunteers-043045199.html

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Special Pencil

From Disability Scoop:
"Students Create Custom Pencil Grip For Girl With Special Needs"

By the end of the school day, 9-year-old Natalie Quintana is worn out from writing. Arthrogryposis, a congenital condition that contracts joints and weakens muscles, makes it hard to make a pencil dance across paper. But a custom-designed gripping tool that seventh- and eighth-grade students at Janitell Middle School created for Natalie’s right hand is making a big difference.  “It helps me write,” says Natalie. “I like that it keeps my hand supported and doesn’t keep my arm up, so I write better.” Natalie’s disability affects all four limbs, leaving her fingers and wrists curved inward. Braces help keep her legs straight in her wheelchair. The awkward positioning of her hand and arm elevates Natalie’s shoulder and tires her, said Jaimie Hunsicker, an occupational therapist for Widefield School District 3. “She currently has to rotate her hand, and we’re concerned about fatigue, as she gets older and has to write more at school,” said Hunsicker. “That’s why we’re trying to deal with this now.” Despite her physical limitations, Natalie’s spirits are high. “She’s a little diva,” jokes her mom, Michelle Castillo. Natalie, a fourth-grader at French Elementary School in Security/Widefield aspires to be a meteorologist and loves to read and write. “She seems to be motivated by the pencil grip,” her mom said. “It’s great they were able to do something for her.” Over the summer, Natalie practiced with the plastic purple instrument that has a ring for her thumb and space for her index and middle finger to rest on top. Using a pencil held in the grip, she’s been finding her way through mazes on paper and doing other fun activities. The invention can be chalked up to brilliant serendipity. Hunsicker had been trying to find a way to help Natalie overcome her struggles. “We went through a lot of commercial grips, but they didn’t work,” she said. Hunsicker was talking about her frustration at dinner one night, when her daughter, who was an eighth-grader at Janitell, suggested running the problem by one of her teachers, Curtis Esch. He teaches an elective modeling and design class that’s part of the national science, technology, engineering and math curriculum called Project Lead the Way. Esch embraced the challenge. “It was a huge connection to the real world,” Esch said. “It was amazing we were able to help a real person instead of a fictional scenario we were working on in class.” Students in the class learn about designing model prosthetics, such as a therapeutic boot for a child with cerebral palsy and toys for children with disabilities to improve dexterity and motor skills. All 30 students in Esch’s class last semester brainstormed solutions for a pencil grip for Natalie. About one-third of the class submitted a design for consideration, Esch said. Modeling clay helped develop prototypes, and Natalie tested each one. A software design program and a 3-D printer led to a final product, which is still being fine-tuned. “We used the engineering process to attack it,” Esch said. “You go round and round until you get it perfect.” It’s almost there, but not quite “This year we’re going to try to make it better with some tweaks,” Esch said. “We’re also going to work on other therapeutic devices for children with special needs.” Hunsicker said Natalie is still in “the practicing phase,” being given the option of using the pencil grip or not in class. Natalie said she likes it a lot. “I feel happy,” she said.


^ This is one of those stories that makes you feel good. Ordinary people saw a need and wanted to help someone and they did. ^


https://www.disabilityscoop.com/2017/09/13/students-custom-pencil-grip/24158/

Up Lifting


Monday, September 11, 2017

Catalan Rally

From the BBC:
"Catalan independence rally: Thousands gather in Barcelona"



Thousands of Catalans are thronging the streets of Barcelona to mark their national day - the "Diada" - and show support for an independence referendum. Catalonia's pro-independence government plans to hold the referendum on 1 October, defying Spain which deems it illegal. Catalonia has passed a law to secede from Spain if the vote is Yes. Opinion polls suggest the vote, if it takes place, will be very close. With their own language and customs, Catalans already have much autonomy. But there is a widespread feeling in the region - one of Spain's richest - that too much of its tax revenue goes to Madrid.   Spain's economic woes since the 2008 financial crisis - including chronic unemployment - have fuelled the pro-independence mood in Catalonia.  In recent days Spain's Guardia Civil police have raided several Catalan printing shops suspected of preparing material for the referendum. The crowd in central Barcelona is expected to swell to as many as 500,000, as Catalans of all ages descend on the city. Nearly 2,000 buses were chartered to bring people to the rally. The crowd - many sporting T-shirts in the national colours - is to form a giant cross, the regional daily La Vanguardia reports. The 11 September Diada marks the fall of Barcelona in the War of Spanish Succession in 1714 - a defeat for Catalan forces.  Last week Spain's Constitutional Court placed a legal block on the independence referendum. A majority of Catalans want the vote to go ahead, polls suggest, to settle the thorny issue of independence. The left-wing mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, cautiously backs the referendum, but has asked the Catalan parliament for guarantees to make the vote as inclusive as possible.  In November 2014, Catalonia held an unofficial "consultation" on independence - and some 80% of those who voted backed it. But turnout then was relatively low and the vote was non-binding, as the Constitutional Court had ruled it illegal.


^ I've written about this before. If the majority of registered voters in Catalonia vote to stay within Spain or vote to leave Spain then both the Spanish and Catalan Governments should respect that decision. If there is low voter turn-out that's another story. Canada allowed Quebec to hold  two independence votes and they were both defeated and the United Kingdom allowed Scotland to hold an independence vote and it was defeated, For Spain to out-right refuse any vote just adds fuel for independence. Canada and the UK showed their loyalty, support and why staying together was a good idea and it worked. Spain is just saying that what the Catalans want doesn't matter. On a side note I feel the same about this with any country. If a state/territory within the US wanted its independence and the majority of registered voters in that state/territory voted for independence than it should be given by the US Government. A country needs to show its people that they are there for them and not the other way around. When they stop doing that you get these kinds of votes and then it's up to that country to prove they will be better together  - threatening lawsuits and arrests does the opposite of bringing the country together. ^


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-41229486

WCA

The World Clown Association has stated that their members can not get paid jobs anymore because people are scared after seeing the new "It" movie. I'm more scared that there is a World Clown Association.


It Opening

From the DW:
"Horror movie 'It' scores record-breaking opening weekend"

The scary clown movie "It" has become a verified hit with audiences. The horror film, based on a Stephen King novel, broke two box office records and pulled over $117 million in its opening weekend.  The creepy clown in the latest film adaptation of Stephen King's "It" is known for trying to lure children into the sewers – but he has proven highly successful at luring crowds to the movie theaters as well. The movie, made by New Line and Warner Bros, shattered records in its opening weekend, according to industry websites and studio estimates on Sunday. Earning an estimated $117.2 million (€97.3 million), "It" scored the largest ever opening for a horror movie and the largest September opening of all time. The movie more than doubled the earnings of both previous record holders.  "We blew past everyone's most optimistic and aggressive projections and I think there might be room for us to grow this weekend even more," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution. The movie, from Argentine director Andy Muschietti, comes after one of the slowest cinematic summers in years and only cost $35 million to produce. Prior to the release of "It," the movie "Paranormal Activity 3" had the biggest horror movie opening with $56.6 million in 2011. Previously, the highest September debut was "Hotel Transylvania 2" which garnered $48.5 million its opening weekend in 2015.  Bill Skarsgard plays the movie's terrifying clown Pennywise who goes around terrorizing a group of children in a small town in the US state of Maine. King's novel, which was first published in 1986, was turned into a two-part mini-series in 1990 staring Tim Curry as the clown. The mini-series garnered a cult following in the US. The latest adaptation is the first part of a planned two-part series. Pennywise will once again return to theaters when the second part premiers in 2019.


^ I remember watching the original "It" on TV years ago and it scared me. I can't wait to see this new "It." ^


http://www.dw.com/en/horror-movie-it-scores-record-breaking-opening-weekend/a-40442007

16 Years: 9/11


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Australian Amnesty

From the BBC:
"Australians turn in 26,000 guns in national amnesty"

Australians have handed in nearly 26,000 firearms in the nation's first gun amnesty since its landmark response to a mass shooting in 1996. The amnesty began on 1 July to help counter a growing terrorism threat and an influx of arms in the country. It is illegal to own an unregistered firearm in Australia.  Those caught outside the amnesty period face fines of up to A$280,000 (£172,000, $225,000) and up to 14 years in jail. The current programme, running until 30 September, means Australians can surrender unregistered firearms and related items without fear of prosecution.  Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the "great result" so far would make the nation safer. Police estimate there are as many as 260,000 illicit guns in Australia, with some used in organised crime as well as recent terror incidents. Mr Keenan cited the example of Man Haron Monis, the perpetrator of a Sydney cafe siege in 2014, who used an unregistered shotgun which had entered Australia in the 1950s. Australians turned in 643,726 firearms in 1996 and 1997 following the killing of 35 people in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur - the nation's worst and most recent mass shooting.  The incident also led to a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons in the country.



^ While this sounds like the perfect way to make things safer in Australia the reality is that terrorists and criminals aren't going to turn over their weapons and so while Australia may see a decrease in accidental gun misfire violence and other small accidents and crimes the amnesty won't do a thing to protect Australians against organized crime or terrorists so everyone should still be cautious about those threats (especially after the recent operation that uncovered the threat to planes in Australia.) The amnesty is a good way to help ordinary people who may not have realized they were breaking the law to get rid of the weapons without being punished for it. ^


http://www.bbc.com/news/world-australia-41196637

Equifax Breach

From the BBC:
"Equifax slammed after major data breach"

US lawmakers attacked credit report giant Equifax after the company revealed that 143 million US customers may have had their information stolen. Two Congressional committee chairmen said they would hold hearings into the data breach, one of the biggest ever reported in the US.  Several state prosecutors also said they would investigate. Shares in Equifax dropped by almost 14% on Wall Street as investors weighed up how the incident would affect the firm. Rep Jeb Hensarling, who leads the House Financial Services Committee, said: "Every breach leaves consumers exposed and vulnerable to identity theft, fraud and a host of other crimes, and they deserve answers."  That committee and the commerce committee will hold hearings.  Also on Friday, attorneys general in New York, Illinois, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania said they were opening state investigations into the data breach.  The breach puts people at risk of identity theft and other forms of fraud. Equifax said it found signs of unauthorised access to data including names, addresses and Social Security numbers at the end of July.  Customers in the UK and Canada had also been affected. The hackers also accessed credit card information from more than 200,000 people. The company set up a website for people to learn if they were among those whose information had been accessed and sign up for free credit and identity theft monitoring. The website required people to waive the right to sue, drawing outrage. The company later clarified that the clause only applied to people who signed up for the credit monitoring services, and not to actions arising over damage suffered due to the data breach. Equifax handles data on more than 820 million consumers and 91 million businesses worldwide, according to its website. It performs services such as credit checks, employment verification and identity theft monitoring.

Recent massive data breaches
  • Yahoo one billion records exposed
  • 711 million online spambot accounts
  • 412 million Friend Finder Networks
  • 200 million US voter records

^ There needs to be a lot more oversight into places like Equifax that hold so much personal information on millions upon millions of people. In top of that Equifax should be held responsible if any of the 143 million people whose data was stolen and are victims of identity theft. Maybe that will teach these companies to be more careful with our personal information. ^

http://www.bbc.com/news/business-41205415

NHC

Having the National Hurricane Center in Florida probably not the smartest idea. Just saying. It's like have the National Volcano Center inside a volcano.


Going To Disney


Friday, September 8, 2017

Irma Military

From USA Today:
"Tens of thousands of military personnel prepping for Hurricane Irma"

As hundreds of thousands of Floridians trek north to escape Hurricane Irma, tens of thousands of military personnel are heading south to prepare for rescue and recovery efforts. Army Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said Friday afternoon it was too early yet to know where and how much support Florida would need in the wake of the historic storm, but he said Department of Defense assets would be "very ready and willing to assist if called upon." The Department of Defense reported it has identified several possible bases to serve as staging areas for post-Irma support operations on the East Coast — including Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala.; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J.; Fort A.P. Hill, Va.; Moody Air Force Base, Ga.; Fort Bragg, N.C.; and Robins Air Force Base, Ga. “Right now, majority of this is preparation,” Davis said. “We’re identifying where bases are and ideal possible bases, but until things actually shift we can’t actually respond.” On Friday afternoon, Hurricane Irma was still trekking west-northwest between Cuba and the Bahamas. Though Irma's path is still subject to change, forecasts currently show the hurricane making landfall as a Category 4 storm Sunday morning on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. From there, current models have Irma lumbering northwest through the center of the Florida peninsula and into Alabama, Georgia and beyond.  In advance of the hurricane, Florida Gov. Rick Scott activated the entirety of the Florida Army and Air National Guard — some 7,000 guard members — to support with planning, logistics and support. The governor advised that 1,000 high water vehicles, 13 helicopters, 17 boats and more than 700 generators were on standby. The Illinois National Guard assisted Florida with the air transport of prepackaged "Meals Ready to Eat" rations, and the New Jersey National Guard prepared 130 soldiers and more than 50 vehicles to provide transportation assets for movement of troops, supplies and equipment to aid during Hurricane Irma operations.  Elsewhere, the National Guard reported about 120 troops were assisting in Puerto Rico, and about 140 troops from Kentucky and New York were assisting in the Virgin Islands. The support assets include two UH-60 Black Hawks equipped for medical evacuations. All told, the National Guard Bureau has identified approximately 30,000 troops, 4,000 trucks, 100 helicopters and air evacuation crews that are standing by for Hurricane Irma support.  Additionally, U.S. Northern Command deployed three vessels — the USS Wasp and USS Kearsarge amphibious assault ships and the USS Oak Hill dock landing ship — to the U.S Virgin Islands with 20 medium- and heavy-lift Marine Corps and Navy helicopters to aid in transporting people and supplies.  The fleet brings a host of capabilities, such as medical support, maritime security, logistical support, assessment tools, security and water purification systems. Rep. Stacey Plaskett, the Virgin Islands' delegate to Congress, told USA TODAY the hurricane had "devastated" and ripped the roof off the only hospital on St. Thomas, shutdown the islands' 911 system and crippled roads and airports. In the Southeastern U.S., various military organization are moving people and equipment into place in case Irma brings similar conditions to the continental U.S. The military is sending 65 Army helicopters and two Navy surveillance planes to Pensacola Naval Air Station, and the U.S Coast Guard has a "flood punt team" stationed in Mobile, Ala., to assist with operations in shallow flood areas. Still, not all military personnel are moving toward the storm. On Wednesday, Rear Adm. Bette Bolivar, commander of Navy Region Southeast, directed the evacuation of non-essential personnel and family members from Naval Air Station Key West,, noting in a statement, "Their safety and security is a top priority."  Approximately 50 to 60 personnel are remaining behind to maintain essential functions on the installation.


^ For those people that think that all American soldiers do is protect other countries they should know that the soldiers main focus is to protect the United States and that means they help local, State and Federal governments whenever there is a major natural disaster - like a hurricane. While civilians flee the military and National Guard go into the danger to rescue and help the victims. ^



https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/09/08/tens-thousands-military-personnel-prepping-hurricane-irma/648305001/

Irma Prep

From the Weather Channel:
"5.6 Million Asked to Evacuate Florida Ahead of Hurricane Irma"

Roughly one-quarter of the nation's third-largest state has either been asked or ordered to evacuate, according to an official. Florida's hurricane program manager, Andrew Sussman, said at least 5.6 million people have been asked to flee the storm, according to the Associated Press. This includes residents ordered to evacuate in South Florida, as well as those who live in substandard housing inland, the report added. The state is home to some 21 million people – many of which have temporarily relocated to Georgia or other neighboring states ahead of Irma's severe impacts.

Here's the Latest

• Scott ordered evacuations in cities surrounding the southern half of Lake Okeechobee from Lake Port to Canal Point in Hendry, Palm Beach and Glades counties. The cities include Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, Lake Harbor, Moore Haven, Pahokee and South Bay.
• Tampa ordered mandatory evacuations for all residents in Zone A, effective 2 p.m. Friday.
• Mandatory evacuations are underway in Pasco County for all residents living west of U.S. 19, and in Pinellas County, residents in the Level A evacuation zone are also evacuating.
• In Manatee County, evacuations in the Level A evacuation zone are now mandatory.
• In Sarasota County, a mandatory evacuation order was issued Thursday for residents living in Zone A.
• Florida's emergency management officials say nearly 6,000 people are already huddling in shelters across the state.
• All Florida public schools, state colleges and universities will remain closed through Monday. Florida State University announced it will remain closed through Tuesday.
• Scott asked gas stations to stay open as long as possible and said he would arrange for police escorts for employees to get out when needed.
• FEMA Director Brock Long said Friday 8,000 workers were being deployed to Florida.
• Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price declared a public health emergency in Florida Thursday, in addition to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
• Scott activated 7,000 members of the Florida National Guard Thursday to help with evacuations, sheltering and the aftermath of the storm.
• Scott has rescinded all weight and driver restrictions on the highways and also suspended all tolls for the duration of the storm’s impacts to Florida so water, food, fuel and emergency supplies can be brought in quickly.
• Scott said Friday school buses will be made available to help cities evacuate.
• Throughout the state, residents are making one last run on water, gas and other essentials ahead of the storm, with shelves quickly emptying. Scott said they are moving fuel into the state to address gas shortages. He urged residents to only take as much fuel as necessary.
• Prison officials in Florida have been forced to conduct the largest evacuation of prisoners in state history, moving more than 7,000 inmates from work camps and community release centers to more secure facilities.
• Scott said he has asked all Florida hotels to waive pet restrictions as thousands flee.
• Walt Disney World in Orlando announced it would close for at least two days beginning Sunday.
• The U.S. Postal Service has suspended deliveries and retail operations in South Florida until further notice.
• Comcast has opened 137,000 Xfinity wifi hotspots across Florida to help people trying to evacuate.
• St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport closed 11 a.m. Friday, airport officials announced.
• Orlando International Airport will shut down 5 p.m. EDT Saturday and Ft. Lauderdale at 7:45 p.m. EDT Saturday.
• Miami International Airport will halt all flights Friday night.
• From Florida to Georgia, some 1.4 million people have been told to leave their homes.


^ Irma is the largest Hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean ever on record and we have seen what it did to lots of Caribbean countries and territories. This seems like it will do a lot of damage to a lot of Florida before it goes to other parts of the US. ^


https://weather.com/storms/hurricane/news/hurricane-irma-florida-tampa-miami-preparations-evacuations