Tuesday, August 31, 2010

President's Speech

From Yahoo News:
"Obama: US combat in Iraq over, 'time to turn page'"

WASHINGTON – Claiming no victory, President Barack Obama formally ended the U.S. combat role in Iraq after seven long years of bloodshed, declaring firmly Tuesday night: "It is time to turn the page." Now, he said, the nation's most urgent priority must be fixing its own sickly economy. From the Oval Office, where George W. Bush first announced the invasion that would come to define his presidency, Obama addressed millions who were divided over the war in his country and around the world. Fiercely opposed to the war from the start, he said the United States "has paid a huge price" to give Iraqis the chance to shape their future — a price that now includes more than 4,400 dead, tens of thousands of troops wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars spent since March 2003. In a telling sign of the domestic troubles weighing on the United States and his own presidency, Obama turned much of the emphasis in a major war address to the dire state of U.S. joblessness. In his remarks of slightly less than 20 minutes, only his second address from the Oval Office, Obama looked directly into the TV camera, hands clasped in front of him on his desk, family photos and the U.S. and presidential flags behind him. Even as he turns control of the war over to the Iraqis — and tries to cap one of the most divisive chapters in recent American history — Obama is escalating the conflict in Afghanistan. He said that winding down Iraq would allow the United States "to apply the resources necessary to go on offense" in Afghanistan, now the nation's longest war since Vietnam. In Iraq, for all the finality of Obama's remarks, the war is not over. More Americans are likely to die. The country is plagued by violence and political instability, and Iraqis struggle with constant shortages of electricity and water. Obama is keeping up to 50,000 troops in Iraq for support and counterterrorism training, and the last forces are not due to leave until the end of 2011 at the latest. As the commander in chief over a war he opposed, Obama took pains to thank troops for their sacrifice but made clear he saw the day as more the marking of a mistake ended than a mission accomplished. He spoke of strained relations with allies, anger at home and the heaviest of wartime tolls. "We have met our responsibility," Obama said. "Now it is time to turn the page." To underscore his point, Obama said he had telephoned called Bush, whom he had taunted so often in the 2008 campaign, and he prominently praised the former Republican president in the heart of his speech. "It's well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset," Obama said. "Yet no one could doubt President Bush's support for our troops, or his love of country and commitment to our security." In a post-Sept. 11, 2001, world, the Iraq war began with bipartisan congressional backing — based on what turned out to be flawed intelligence — over what Bush called a "grave danger" to the world posed by Saddam Hussein. Now, Iraq is in political turmoil, its leaders unable to form a new government long after March elections that left no clear winner. The uncertainty has left an opening for insurgents to pound Iraqi security forces, hardly the conditions the U.S. envisioned for this transition deadline, which Obama announced 18 months ago. Obama pressed Iraq's leaders anew, saying it was time to show urgency and be accountable. Obama sought both to assure his own nation that the war was finally winding down and yet also promise Iraq and those watching across the Middle East that the U.S. was not simply walking away. "Our combat mission is ending," he said, "but our commitment to Iraq's future is not."

^ This speech didn't say anything that the public or the media didn't know a head of time. One thing I found interesting is that he said that since combat operations in Iraq are now over we can now focus on Afghanistan (we were in Afghanistan 3 years before Iraq so why couldn't we focus then?) Also he said that since we aren't in Iraq anymore (combat wise) we can now focus on the economy and other reforms - again we still have Afghanistan to deal with too. At least he didn't commit us to be out of Afghanistan by a certain date like he did in Iraq - since it just gives the terrorists our timetable to attack us. ^


Katrina 5 Years Later

From Yahoo News:
"5 years after Katrina, a revival not yet complete"

It doesn't seem like much has changed in the city in 5 years. Before the storm the city had the highest murder rate and was full of corruption. Five years after the storm the only thing I can see that has changed is that the city isn't completely rebuilt. One good thing that has happened is the mayor was replaced. I don't know if New Orleans will ever become a worthwhile city, but they have a long way to go.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Leaving Home At 8

This is a show on BBC America about eight year olds who are sent away to boarding school. I have to say that this show is extremely stupid and the British version of Child Protection Services should step in. It is apparent that the parents are sending their kids to boarding school so they can be on this TV show (although the show tries to say it is because they are from Army families and their parents want them to stay in one place.)
I am a military brat and moved all the time. I went to so many schools and had to constantly meet new friends yet with all that change the one thing that stayed constant was that I was with my family - I know that sounds corny, but it's true.)
I don't think parents should be allowed to send their children to boarding school until they are at least teenagers.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Israeli Children Learning

From the BBC:
"Arabic to become compulsory in Israeli schools"

The Israeli authorities are introducing a new scheme to make Arabic-language classes compulsory in state schools. The programme, which will start in 170 schools in northern Israel, will make lessons mandatory for fifth graders. Education officials hope the scheme, called "Ya Salam", will turn language into a cultural bridge and promote tolerance between Jews and Arabs. Arab students currently are required to learn Hebrew while Jewish children can take Arabic as an additional language. But increasing demand from students to study Arabic as part of their school matriculation certificate, the Bagrut, had prompted changes to the national curriculum, officials said. "We live in a country that has two official languages," Shlomo Alon, head of Arabic and Islamic Education at the ministry of education, was quoted as saying by Haaretz newspaper. "Studying Arabic will promote tolerance and convey a message of acceptance." Mr Alon said the ministry was interested in recognising all of the state's citizens and providing opportunities for Arab teachers within Israeli education. There are some 1,000 Arabic teachers, most of them Jewish. "The state aspires to complete equality of citizenship. We will not deal with conflicts based on cultural identity," he added.

^ While I do not think that learning Arabic will bring the Israelis and Arabs closer together (since Arabs learn Hebrew and it doesn't bring them closer to the Israelis.) The fact is that Israel has two official languages - Hebrew and Arabic - and so both languages should be taught to all its citizens. The Arabs should learn Hebrew and the Israelis should learn Arabic. It is the same thing as in Canada where English and French are both official. English Canadians need to learn French and French Canadians need to learn English. If Israelis do not want their children to learn Arabic then they need to make Hebrew the only official language. Until that happens children need to learn both. ^


Competitive Hospitals

From Albany Times Union:
"If it's an emergency, they're on the clock"

A searing pain in Todd Croote's rib cage sent him to a local emergency room last year. He sat on a gurney in the ER's hallway for six hours without ever seeing a doctor until he left in frustration and found care elsewhere. On Wednesday, Croote rested on the bumper of a minivan in the parking lot of Albany Memorial Hospital, which has been advertising itself as the ER where you "get the care you need, fast." When his wife had stomach pain the night before, they went to Memorial Hospital to see if the claim was true. A doctor examined his wife, Angela, within 20 minutes of her walking through the door. "I'm pleasantly surprised," said Croote, a warehouse supervisor from Greenville. Competition for ER patients has not yet driven Capital Region hospitals to post live, up-to-the-minute wait times, but they are heading there. "It's certainly something the public wants," said Dr. Roger Barrowman, chairman of the department for emergency services at Schenectady's Ellis Medicine. "Americans don't want to wait for hamburgers or Disney World rides, and they certainly don't want to wait for medical care." Area hospitals have launched a variety of efforts to reduce waits for ER patients. In addition to building new treatment rooms, creating express units for minor injuries and registering patients at the bed side, hospitals have instituted the following:

- Physician in triage: Rather than the traditional nurse triage, doctors make the first assessment and can immediately order X-rays, CT scans and other tests.
- Electronic patient tracking boards: The most advanced versions tell staff in real-time when a lab result is ready, or when a patient is being admitted to a hospital bed. The board flashes a warning when a patient has been waiting too long.
- Advance orders: Standard protocols based on symptoms that allow nurses to start blood work and other diagnostic tests without waiting for a doctor.
- Patient navigators: Guide patients through the ER process and advice people about wait times.

For patients who see the physicians in triage, the door-to-doctor time dropped from 45 minutes to 20 minutes at Memorial Hospital, said Dr. Clifford Erickson, director of the emergency department. Ellis Medicine's Nott Street ER saw a similar drop when doctors started handling the first exam. Both hospitals deploy the triage doctors from about 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Heated competition in other areas of the country has prompted some hospitals to publish live wait times by text message and flashing billboards, marketing devices that target patients with minor injuries. Memorial Hospital hopes to post its real-time numbers someday. "One of the greatest sources of frustration for patients in the emergency department is lack of the ability to get a good idea of how long a visit is going to take and having no control over that," Erickson said. "This may help allay some of those fears, or ease expectations." Hospital officials at Albany Medical Center Hospital and St. Peter's Hospital aren't so eager to post their times, saying that their ERs have heavy volume, extreme surges in visits and high-intensity patients. Both said their priority is quality, not speed. Albany Medical is the region's top-level trauma center and its ER accepts 5,000 transfers from other hospitals annually. St. Peter's said it has the oldest patient population who often come with many health problems. "Our first and foremost concern is that we are providing the best care we can, not the fastest care we can provide so we look good on a billboard," said Elmer Streeter, spokesman for St. Peter's. Albany Medical would not provide door-to-doctor wait times. "You may wait X amount of time, but once you get in the door what you are going to get is high quality care," said Dr. Dennis McKenna, medical director at Albany Med. Emergency room patients in the Capital Region waited 30 to 48minutes to see a doctor in 2009.

^ I used to live in the Capital District and went to some of the hospitals mentioned. Ellis Hospital was pretty fast and effective. They even made special arrangements for me when I had to be admitted for the night. One hospital not mentioned in the article, the Samaritan, I did not like at all. While I was brought to a room fairly quickly I did not see a doctor nor got any pain medicine for over an hour. The worse hospitals were when I lived in Virginia. I remember telling a stupid triage nurse that unless they took care of the person I was with (who was brought in by an ambulance and just left in the waiting room until I showed up) right away that I would take her to another ER. The nurse threatened to call the police and have me arrested to which I told her that she should call the police so they could see how the hospital and the nurse were refusing to treat a person in pain. That made her call a hospital supervisor and after I yelled at the guy for not taking care of the person I was with and telling him that unless the person was seen right away I would go to another ER and make sure the media heard about how the hospital treated us. The person was then brought to a bed. It is sad that I had to threaten the nurse and supervisor but that was the only way they would get off their arrogant high horse and help someone in pain. Things will only get much worse if Obama's health care reform are allowed to take effect. I only hope that the people in Congress who voted for it will be sent home in November and the reforms will be overturned. ^


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Ground Zero Church

From Yahoo News:
"Supporters: Church ignored in NYC mosque furor"

NEW YORK – Supporters of a Greek Orthodox church destroyed on Sept. 11 say officials willing to speak out about a planned community center and mosque near ground zero have been silent on efforts to get the church rebuilt. But the World Trade Center site's owner says a deal to help rebuild St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was offered and rejected, after years of negotiations, over money and other issues. Though the projects are not related, supporters — including George Pataki, New York's governor at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks — have questioned why public officials have not addressed St. Nicholas' future while they lead a debate on whether and where the Islamic cultural center should be built. "What about us? Why have they forgotten or abandoned their commitment to us?" asked Father Alex Karloutsos, assistant to the archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. "When I see them raising issues about the mosque and not thinking about the church that was destroyed, it does bother us." In an effort to deal with the furor over the planned location of the Islamic center, Gov. David Paterson has suggested that state land farther away from ground zero be used. He was scheduled to meet with New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Tuesday to discuss the Park51 project, which is planned for two blocks north of the 16-acre World Trade Center site. "Rather than focus his attention on the mosque, Gov. Paterson should step in right away to ensure that the state of New York and the Port Authority uphold the agreement with the Greek Orthodox church so this project can go forward without further delay," state Sen. Dean Skelos said Monday. Paterson declined to comment on the issue. The 300-member congregation lost its 90-year-old parish just south of the World Trade Center when the twin towers collapsed on Sept. 11, 2001, leaving only a handful of artifacts that were removed from the rubble, including a small bell and cross, a crucifix and wax candles that had not melted. Leaders of the church and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — the agency that owns ground zero — have spent years negotiating a deal that would let the church rebuild on land a bit farther south than the 1,200-square-foot lot it sat on, in exchange for financial help to rebuild it. The agency said the church stopped negotiating after rejecting an offer in 2008 of $20 million in financing, plus up to an additional $40 million to cover costs related to the construction of a parking lot underneath the church. Port Authority officials said the church wanted final approval on the design of the parking lot and the potential for an additional $20 million in public money. The agency said it made a final offer in 2009 that was rejected. "St. Nicholas Church continues to retain the right to build on its original location," the agency said in a statement Monday. It said work could begin in 2013 if the church helped finance it. Karloutsos, the archbishop's assistant, denied that any offer had been rejected, instead saying that Port Authority pulled the deal and has since ignored the church's attempts at dialogue. "This is about the Port Authority reneging on a promise," he said. Pataki, who as governor promised that St. Nicholas would be rebuilt after the 2001 attacks, said Monday that the Port Authority needed to reach out to church officials. "It's just wrong that the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Church, which was there, which was part of the master plan ... has basically been ignored," he said. George Demos, a Long Island Republican congressional candidate seeking to unseat Rep. Tim Bishop, said he wrote President Barack Obama a letter lobbying for the church. "All of our political leadership seems intent on assisting the mosque, at the same time they have taken no steps to make sure St. Nicholas is rebuilt," he said. Both Demos and Pataki are opposed to building an Islamic center and mosque at a building two blocks north of the World Trade Center site. The uproar over the proposed $100 million center has become a national campaign issue and led hundreds to rally in front of ground zero over the weekend. Critics of the project say it's an affront to the memories of the more than 2,700 people killed at ground zero on Sept. 11 to locate the center so close to the site. Proponents say accepting the center respects religious freedom and tolerance.

^ It seems very clear to me (and anyone who is even semi-intelligent) that the Greek Church that was destroyed on 9-11 deserves to be rebuilt in the same exact location. I do not understand why people are even considering putting a mosque near Ground Zero when there was never one there before. I guess they just want to stir-up trouble. The Federal Government, City of New York and every American needs to demand that the mosque be moved away from Ground Zero and that the Greek Church be rebuilt without delay. ^


50,000 US Troops

From BBC News:
"US troops in Iraq 'below 50,000' ahead of August target"

The number of US troops in Iraq has fallen below 50,000, ahead of a 31 August deadline when US combat operations are due to end, the US military has said. After taking office last year, US President Barack Obama set the August deadline to cut numbers below 50,000. Last week, the last US combat brigade left the country, seven years after the US-led invasion began. Under a US-Iraq deal, all US troops must pull out by the end of 2011. This number of US troops will remain until the end of 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests. They will be armed, but will only use their weapons in self-defence or at the request of the Iraqi government, and will work on training Iraqi troops and helping with counter-terrorism operations, the US military said. From 1 September, US troops will operate under Operation New Dawn instead of Operation Iraqi Freedom. There have been as many as 165,000 US troops in Iraq; it was down to 120,000 in January this year, and they have been leaving mostly by the plane-load since then, reports the BBC's Hugh Sykes in Baghdad. The remaining troops will be part of what the Americans have termed AABs (Advise and Assist Brigades), but to suggest that they are non-combat forces is misleading, our correspondent adds. They are fully armed and can switch to combat immediately if asked to do so by the Iraqis. They can also act alone in self-defence without Iraqi permission.

^ No matter what the Government and military call the soldiers still left in Iraq, the fact is that 50,000 of them are still in a war zone. I have the feeling that the media and public will stop thinking of the men and women who are serving over there (especially since most of the public and media already don't seem to care.)People need to remember the sacrifice of these soldiers and the news should keep reporting about Iraq until the last soldier comes home. ^


Monday, August 23, 2010

East Germany Was Ready To Invade

From Deutsche Welle:
"East Germany was ready to attack West Berlin, documentary says"

Through the decades of Berlin's division, many West Berliners had an inkling that East Germany (GDR) that surrounded their part of the city would at some stage be seeking to conquer it. A TV documentary, "Der Fall X" (The Case of X), shown by Germany's public broadcaster RBB finally proved them right. In the most comprehensive footage on East Germany's conquest plans so far, two filmmakers, supported by military experts, tell a fascinating story about how the defunct state planned to overrun West Berlin in only three days. "As far as we can tell, the planning was quite serious," German military historian Winfried Heinemann told Deutsche Welle. "But whether they would have managed to take the city within three days is another question." Heinemann pointed out that the Western allies were quite serious about defending West Berlin from a ground attack. But he acknowledged that next to nothing was known about any defense strategies as the relevant documents are still classified. Bahr knew that West Berlin was never really a safe place
Egon Bahr, a former West Berlin radio commentator and later adviser to West German chancellor Willy Brandt, argued that the GDR's National People's Army troops, and those of the Soviet Union deployed in the region, would have outnumbered the soldiers from the Western allies by far. "In the event of an attack, our defenses could have been maintained for no more than five to seven hours," Bahr concluded. The plans found in the files of the East German secret police, the GDR army and the Soviet military command reveal some details as to how the attackers would have gone about their job. A detailed map available to the filmmakers showed the most important installations and infrastructure compounds in West Berlin, which would have been targeted first. Among them were strategically important bridges that the French, British and US allies used to move around as well as airports and train stations. A second phase of the operation would have included the imprisonment of leading West Berlin politicians, policemen, public servants and journalists. A corresponding list of names was updated by the GDR leadership several times until the collapse of the regime in 1989. The research done by military historian Winfried Heinemann also revealed that plans to attack West Berlin were, surprisingly, only developed fully in the early 1970s - a time when political relations between the two German states were in the process of improving considerably. "Whether it was just a question of the GDR military having grown up enough to feel fit for the job - we don't really know," said Heinemann. "But considering that the whole military posture of the GDR was kept up right until 1989, it's at least no surprise that the planning for an attack went on until the very end." In fact, East Germany's National People's Army (NVA) carried out military maneuvers as late as 1988 to train for the takeover of West Berlin. Exercises took place in the East German town of Magdeburg some 200 kilometers (124 miles) west of Berlin. The training ground was designed to look as if the target territory were divided up between a French, British and US brigade, which reflected the fact the West Berlin was seperated into sectors occupied by those three countries. One year later, the Berlin Wall fell, and East German intelligence managed to destroy most of the documents regarding the GDR's hostile intentions toward West Berlin.

^ Anyone who studies the Cold War will not be surprised by this report. The fact that the East Germans had plans to invade West Berlin is not the surprising part. The surprising part is that the East Germans actively trained for the invasion up to the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989. I have the feeling that the Soviet Union also knew about the invasion plans and am sure that the USSR had their own. It wouldn't surprise me to learn that the US, Britain and/or West Germany created plans to invade East Germany. What would be interesting to know is how complex they were and how the different armies trained for the possibility. ^


British Airways' Problems

From BBC News:
"BA changes child seating policy following court case"

This is just one more example of why I do not care for British Airways. I have flown them numerous times in the past and nowadays make an effort to use a different airline. Their service and planes are poor and their employees are constantly going on strike for more benefits. The airline needs to completely revamp itself from the bottom - up if they want to modernize and change their image.


Company C

The full title of the book is: "Company C: An American's Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel." It seemed like a really interesting book about a foreigner in the Israeli Army. It was a very long and bland book. It goes all over the place and is written in such a style that it doesn't engage the reader at all. The stories aren't that interesting (or at least are told in an interesting way.) It had a lot of potential that was seriously lost in what was eventually published.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chechnya: The New Iran

From: Moscow Times:
"Chechen Women Without Headscarves Targeted During Ramadan"

GROZNY — Chechen women said Friday that they had been harassed and some physically harmed by bands of men for not wearing headscarves during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. Bearded men in traditional Islamic dress have been roaming the streets both on foot and in cars since Ramadan started on Aug. 11, demanding bareheaded women wear a headscarf, Grozny residents and witnesses said. "Two men came up to me, one furiously fingering a prayer bead, and said it wasn't pretty to have a bare head during Ramadan," said Markha Atabayeva, 38. "They instilled such fear in me." Atabayeva said she had seen a group of men with automatic rifles taunting women for not wearing headscarves. Atabayeva was one of at least a dozen women who told of harassment or attacks. A woman in her mid-30s said she was punched in the face by a man in Islamic dress after refusing to put on a headscarf he had given her. One of the women's assailants said in an interview that "hundreds" of women had been warned. "We are trying to warn women of their possible sins before God," the assailant, who described himself as an "activist," said on condition on anonymity. "We do this through force, fighting and battles." Another assailant said they were working under orders from Chechnya's Center for Spiritual-Moral Education, which Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov set up 18 months ago. Kadyrov's spokesman declined to comment on the action against women failing to wear headscarves. Alcohol is all but banned in Chechnya, and women must wear headscarves in state buildings. Polygamy is encouraged by authorities. The men's action follows an order earlier in the week from Chechnya's spiritual leader to shut all cafes during Ramadan, as well as paintball attacks on bareheaded women in June. A number of other women last week described how men in cars threatened them with violence if they did not cover up. While some women carry headscarves in their bags, those without were encouraged to go home immediately.

^ It seems that Chechnya is becoming more like Iran or Saudi Arabia everyday and the Russian Government is allowing it to happen. The President of Chechnya is nothing more than a dictator and is forcing people to adhere to strict Islamic law. He is creating laws that demean women and are technically illegal according to the Russian Constitution which is supposed to have supreme rule over all of the Russian Federation. Russia needs to step in and protect all of its citizens (whether they live in Moscow or Grozny.) The world does not need another strict Islamic dictatorship where crazy men are given the power to attack innocent people (stoning them to death, beating them for not covering up, chopping off their hand, etc) for not following the ravings of a small few. ^


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Palestinians Learning About The Holocaust

From Yahoo News:
"Palestinians learn about the Holocaust in Israel"

JERUSALEM – Growing up in the West Bank, Mujahid Sarsur knew next to nothing about the Holocaust and saw little ground to sympathize with a people he saw as his occupier. But thanks to an Israeli roommate overseas, the 21-year-old Palestinian student learned about the Nazi murder of 6 million Jews during World War II and discovered a new understanding of his Israeli neighbors. Now he wants other Arabs to do the same. Sarsur heads one of a handful of Palestinian grass-roots groups seeking knowledge about the Holocaust. On Wednesday, he led a delegation of 22 students to Israel's official Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem. The students, fasting for Ramadan, listened closely to their Arabic-speaking guide's explanations, and were left wide-eyed by the gruesome images of the death camps. Girls in Muslim head scarves turned away in horror at the sight of Jewish corpses being shoveled into pits. They huddled together as they watched film from Auschwitz, where about 1 million Jews were put to death. "The Holocaust is a huge part of Israeli society. We live so close to them and we need to understand them better if we are ever to live in peace," said Sarsur, a junior at Bard College in New York. "If we change the way we think about the Holocaust, we can create bridges." Arab sentiment toward the Holocaust ranges from ignorance about its details to outright denial. Some hold a more complex belief system, acknowledging that the Holocaust did happen, but that they are paying the price by the loss of their land with the creation of the state of Israel after World War II. Last year, in an incident that got international attention, a Palestinian youth orchestra performed a concert for Holocaust survivors in Israel and caused such uproar among Palestinians that it was shut down. Its conductor was banished and blocked from entering a West Bank refugee camp out of concern for her safety. Two years ago, Yad Vashem launched an Arabic version of its website to combat Holocaust denial in the Arab world and provide credible historic material to those who seek it. A similar version in Farsi was aimed at Iran, whose president has called the Holocaust a "myth." Noor Amer, a 15-year-old Palestinian who attends high school in Jordan, said he compares Jewish suffering in the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering in the West Bank and Gaza. While he still rejects Zionism, he said the Yad Vashem visit helped him understand that "the Jews had nowhere else to go" after the Holocaust. He said Palestinians have trouble seeing their enemies as victims to be sympathized with. "The conflict is so complicated that people cannot forget it or put it aside," he said. "If we say that the Holocaust happened, if we accept it, then we accept that Israelis are human just like us and I think that here is the twist — we do not want to consider Jews as humans because of all the suffering that we go through we cannot believe that human beings can do such a thing." Palestinians maintain that Israelis generally have failed to come to grips with their responsibility for the Palestinians' six decades of dispossession and exile, though a new generation of Israeli historians has challenged their country's widely held narrative of blamelessness. Surveys show that Holocaust denial is common even among the 20 percent of Israeli citizens who are Arab and grew up under the Israeli educational curriculum. Aumamah Sarsur, 22, an Israeli Arab and cousin of Mujahid Sarsur, said the Yad Vashem visit taught her that Jews were tortured and killed by the Nazis. "I am not giving them legitimacy to come here and make their own country, but I get their point of view," she said. Dorit Novak, the director of Yad Vashem's international school for Holocaust studies, called the visit a "blessed initiative" and hoped for continued dialogue to break down the stereotypes on both sides. "I appreciate their principles, their courage, their curiosity and their willingness to come, listen and learn," she said. "The Arab world is exposed to the Holocaust in a very distorted way. I know this is limited outreach, but I am willing to suffice with something limited in the reality in which we live."

^ It is about time Palestinians learned about the Holocaust. I think it should be mandatory for all religious (Jews, Muslims, Christians, etc) in every country should learn about the horrors of the Holocaust. It is really the first time in history that large-scale mass murder on a national level was carried out. The Nazis did not just kill Jews. They also killed: Slavs, the disabled, homosexuals, Freemasons, the clergy, Communists, etc. Everyone around the world needs to learn about the Holocaust so that we can make sure it doesn't happen again (like it has: in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda the Sudan, etc.) ^


Giuliani Against Mosque

From Yahoo News:
"Giuliani supports move of mosque near WTC site"

NEW YORK – Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani on Thursday joined a growing number of politicians supporting a move of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero to state-owned land farther from the Sept. 11 attack site. Giuliani, who led New Yorkers through Sept. 11 and its aftermath and whose opinion on the mosque could carry considerable clout, made his comments as the imam leading plans for the community center toured the Middle East promoting religious tolerance. "If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project," Giuliani said on NBC's "Today" show, referring to the center's leader, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. "If you are a warrior, you do." Developers want to build the $100 million community center, including a mosque, at a building two blocks north of where Islamic extremists brought down the World Trade Center in 2001. Muslims have been holding prayer services at the building since last year. Support is growing for a possible land swap to provide an alternate site for what's called the Park51 project, Gov. David Paterson said. "One of the problems the cultural center is going to have is just a constant point of antagonism, which I don't think is what they want," Paterson told WOR Radio on Thursday. Paterson said he had the support of Islamic clergy, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan and Giuliani. The governor and state officials refused to say what site would be suitable for the proposed cultural center or where the state owns nearby land. Paterson said he expects to meet with the developers in a couple of days to persuade them that a move could best assuage the "national hysteria" that has followed the project. Sharif el-Gamal, Park51's developer, and The Cordoba Initiative, an organization that hopes to operate the community center, didn't return telephone and e-mail messages Thursday. Buthayna Abdul Rauf, the imam's mother, said Thursday she was mystified by the controversy surrounding the project, which she only recently heard about from news reports and a friend. "This is the first time I've heard people in America being against a mosque," she told The Associated Press in a telephone interview from her home in Bethesda, Md. "The Americans are very generous. ... Mosques have been erected everywhere in America." She called her son, whom she hasn't seen for three months, a "very peaceful man." Feisal Abdul Rauf, who heads Cordoba, arrived in Bahrain on Thursday for a U.S.-funded outreach trip for two weeks in the Middle East. Rauf was expected to discuss Muslim life in America and promote religious tolerance. He will be visiting mosques, Department of State spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. "He will be involved in direct discussions to help people in the countries he'll visit understand the role of religion in our society, how American Muslims celebrate Ramadan, how we emphasize religious tolerance in our society," Crowley said. Rauf won't be allowed to raise funds for the mosque on the trip, Crowley said. The project has caused a political uproar, pitting national Republicans against President Barack Obama and dividing Sept. 11 families and New Yorkers. Foes argue that the proposed mosque is offensive because it's too close to the place where the terrorists killed more than 2,700 people. Supporters led by Mayor Michael Bloomberg say the center's constitutional rights to religious freedom should be protected. Bloomberg reiterated his support Thursday. "I haven't changed my views. This is about the First Amendment," he said. "It's about people being able to pray to whomever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want. That's one of the fundamental tenets of our society. It's one of the things that differentiates us from other countries. ... In terms of this particular mosque, I've said I think it would add to the diversity of the city and be fine." Both sides were on display Thursday at the site, where on the sidewalk passers-by had scribbled messages in multicolored chalk. "Mosque Yes Hate No" read one. Heated words were exchanged between visitor Matt Harris, of Yorba Linda, Calif., standing face to face with Matt Sky, a New Yorker who hoisted a placard that read: "Support Freedom of Religion." "Dude! You have other mosques in New York — why here? This is lack of respect!" Harris yelled. "We believe there is freedom of religion in this country," replied Sky, a 26-year-old resident of Manhattan's East Village neighborhood. He added: "Islam is not terror. The guys who blew up the towers called themselves Muslims. But other Muslims did not blow up the towers."
Giuliani noted that the right to religious freedom has nothing to do with the sensitivity of locating a large community center so close to the attack site. "They have every right to build it. The question is, should they build it?" Giuliani said, noting the group claims to be about sensitivity and healing between cultures. "All this is doing is creating more division, more anger, more hatred." "I think Governor Paterson had the best approach," the Republican said of the Democratic governor. "Nice compromise, find another place, have a beautiful mosque there." An expert noted that government resources have often been used to help religious organizations and their buildings. "But the government can't simply buy property and turn it over to a religious entity where the benefits are exclusively for the members of that church," said Robert B. Ward, of the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. Said the governor: "Not-for-profits that are run by churches receive state resources all the time."

^ I am really impressed that Giuliani came out and voiced his opinion about building the mosque at Ground Zero. Some people (Obama, Bloomberg) seem to only care about being PC and not about what is morally wrong. I'm sure that the mosque could be built in another location in Manhattan. I honestly think the group that wants the mosque just doesn't have the money to build it themselves and hopes that by causing all the controversy around Ground Zero it will provide them the money to build it. They can do that, but they should build it away from Ground Zero. This is no way for Muslims to try and show that Islam is peaceful and cares about everyone (which is all you ever hear after a terrorist act is carried out and is found to be done by Muslims.) I don't see how it can be peaceful when they want to desecrate a memorial site - basically throwing the events of 9-11 into our faces. ^


The Complete Idiot's Guide To Canadian History

I read this book and found that it was pretty dry. I have numerous other "Idiot's Guides" (World War 2, the Cold War, the American Revolution, American History, Communism, etc) and those are good summaries of their topics. This book was written by a Canadian and for the most part just complains. She complains about Americans and their influence throughout Canadian History and she complains about the French-Canadians and their influence. One thing I noticed about all her complaining is that she doesn't include the British and their influence in Canadian History (and I consider the UK to have more overall influence than either the Americans or the French-Canadians.) The fact that the British Queen (Elizabeth 2) is also the head of Canada proves that.
I took a Canadian Studies class in college and have studied it on my own and consider myself well-versed. This book tries hard to include all the important events and dates of Canadian History, but in the end it falls short on numerous accounts.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Passport to Pimlico (1949)

This was a pretty funny movie (even though it was made in the '40s.) It is about a section of London that is found to really be part of Burgundy and because the residents are sick and tired of the British policies of the time (continued rationing despite the war ending 4 years earlier and being forced to carry an ID card, etc) they decide to use their right and become a separate country.
At first people take it as a joke and then when both sides try to force the other's hand the territory is sealed off completely by the British (ie no water or food, etc.) This movie was made during the Berlin Blockade when the Soviets did the same thing to West Berlin and like in Berlin there are airlifts and support from the outside.
Even though it is from the 1940s and many people would think there is no relevance to current issues in the UK especially they should remember that the British Government tried to impose a new ID card system that was just recently turned down because it was very unpopular. It also shows the way world governments "handle" international situations and why some things in that process need to be fixed. While it is a comedy it still makes you stop and think about current issues and what needs to be done to fix them.

Obama Supports Mosque

From Yahoo News:
"Obama supports 'the right' for ground zero mosque"

The fact is that Obama was filmed at a dinner to celebrate Ramadan saying that he fully supported building a mosque at Ground Zero. He did mention that Muslims have the right to practice their religion too. Of course once he announced that he supported the Ground Zero Mosque and the American people voiced their disgust with him for saying that he back-tracked on his own words (despite the fact they are on tape.)I think it is a slap in the face to every American (especially those directly affected by 9-11) for Muslims to even consider building a mosque at Ground Zero. Why can't they find another place in Manhattan to build their mosque? Building a mosque at Ground Zero is equal to the Germans building a Nazi Center at Auschwitz. Since it is clear that Obama fully supports the building of the mosque at Ground Zero (as does the Mayor of New York City) I can only hope that more sane people come out and get the mosque moved someplace else. This is just one more piece of dirt that Obama and his supporters are digging from their hole that the American people should remember this November.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

WW 2 Kiss-In

From Yahoo News:
"U.S. to commemorate WWII with "kiss-in"

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Americans will gather for a group "kiss-in" in Times Square and buglers across the country will play the military funeral tune "Taps" on Saturday in the first national day of remembrance for the World War Two generation. This year's event comes on the 65th anniversary of what Americans call V-J Day, marking the victory over Japan that ended the war in 1945. The celebration was immortalized in Alfred Eisenstaedt's photograph of an unidentified sailor kissing nurse Edith Shain in Times Square. A group "kiss-in" recreating the moment is scheduled to take place beside a 25-foot (7.5-meter) statue of the couple. At estimated 6,000 buglers will play "Taps" coast to coast and numerous events will be held at World War Two memorials and city halls, event organizers said. In future years the commemoration will be held on the second Sunday of August. Shain died in June at age 91 before she could see her campaign for the commemoration completed. Congress approved the resolution in July. Shain had become something of a celebrity because of the photo and wanted to leverage that fame into a worthy cause, said Warren Hegg, national supervisor for the "Keep the Sprit of '45 Alive" campaign. "It really became Edith's mission in life that there would be this national day, that every day someone thought about that day in August when a girl was kissed in Times Square, that people would think about it more deeply," Hegg said. "She said we should have a day for all the ordinary men and women of that generation who did so many remarkable things and never were really recognized for that: The people who endured the Great Depression, saved Western democracy, and then went on and rebuilt the world," Hegg said.

^ This is one good way to remember the 65th anniversary of the end of the war. It honors the men and women who fought and died fighting both the Germans and the Japanese. The recreation of the famous picture was a really good idea. It shows all the joy and happiness perfect strangers had when they learned that the war was finally, completely over. ^


V-J Day: 65 Years

From Yahoo News:
"Japan PM shuns shrine, apologizes at WWII ceremony"

TOKYO – Japan's new liberal prime minister shunned a visit to a shrine that has outraged Asian neighbors for honoring war criminals, breaking from past governments' tradition and instead apologizing Sunday for the suffering World War II caused. Members of the now-opposition Liberal Democratic Party, which ruled Japan nearly continuously since the end of the war, made a point by carrying out their own trip to Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo on the 65th anniversary of the end of World War II. The Shinto shrine — a spectacular building with sweeping roofs and a museum in its grounds that glorifies kamikaze pilots — has set off controversy by honoring the 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including Class A war criminals such as Hideki Tojo, Japan's wartime prime minister who was executed in 1948. Among those who visited Yasukuni was LDP leader Sadakazu Tanigaki and former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. About 40 legislators went to the shrine, but none from Prime Minister Naoto Kan's Cabinet, according to Japanese media reports. Kan leads the Democratic Party, which took power last year after winning elections on promises of greater transparency and grass-roots democracy. It is the first time since the end of World War II that the entire Japanese Cabinet has avoided visiting Yasukuni on Aug. 15, the day Japan surrendered in the war. "We caused great damage and suffering to many nations during the war, especially to the people of Asia," Kan told a crowd of about 6,000 at an annual memorial service for the war dead at Budokan hall in Tokyo. "We feel a deep regret, and we offer our sincere feelings of condolence to those who suffered and their families," he said. "We renew our promise to never wage war, and we promise to do our utmost to achieve eternal world peace and to never repeat again the mistake of war." Among those listening to Kan's words were Emperor Akihito, whose father Hirohito announced the surrender 65 years ago in a radio broadcast — the first time the Japanese public had heard the real voice of the emperor, who had been revered as a living god to justify imperial expansion. Akihito, who has never visited Yasukuni, led a moment of silence at noon, bowing deeply before a stage filled with yellow and white chrysanthemums. The families and friends of more than 3 million Japanese who died in war, including a gray-haired woman in a wheelchair clutching a black-and-white photo of a soldier, bowed their heads in silence for a minute. "I don't ever want war," said the woman, Chiyoka Takakura, 96, whose husband died in the Philippines. "I am asking his spirit to protect us all." Takakura and others, mostly elderly but some younger mourners remembering older family members, each placed a chrysanthemum on the stage. "I feel once again a deep sadness for those many who lost their precious lives and for their families," Akihito said, attending the ceremony with his wife Michiko. "I pray for the continued prosperity of our nation and for world peace." Tomoaki Iwai, a professor of politics at Nihon University, said Kan's shunning the Yasukuni visit underlined the Democrats' liberal-leaning pacifist policies. "His decision is in line with what would be expected of the Democrats," he said. Kan also paid respect at a far less controversial memorial for the war dead, laying a bouquet before a grave for Japanese soldiers. Last week, he apologized to South Korea for Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule. Imperialist Japan committed atrocities in Asia, including forcing Koreans to fight as front-line soldiers, work in slave-labor conditions and serve as prostitutes in military-run brothels. In Seoul, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, speaking Sunday before a crowd packing a plaza near the former royal palace, said history should not be forgotten but urged Japan and his nation to work together for a new future. "I have taken note of Japan's effort, which represents one step forward," Lee said of Kan's apology.

^ Japan has not done enough to make up for what it did to Asia and the Allied countries during the war. First West Germany and then a united Germany has tried hard to admit its mistakes, ask forgiveness and make sure nothing like that could ever happen again in their country. Japan has shelled out some money, but does not fully admit all their mistakes or work to make sure it never happens again. They simply want it to go away. Both Germany and Japan did unspeakable horror during the war (mostly to innocent men, women and children.) It has been 65 years since we defeated them and won the war and yet in those 65 years only Germany has really tried to make amends. I have to say that even though people have tried to revise the war I think that the Allies did everything they could to end it sooner rather than later. I have studied the effects of the atom bombs on Japan and even though people today try to say it was not called for I fully support the US using both bombs on Japan. I am sure that had we had them ready before we defeated Germany we would have used them there - and I would support that as well. The atom bombs ended the war in a more effective way then any invasion ever could. That fact will never change no matter how many years past. ^


Friday, August 13, 2010

Kids' Visit

My niece (who is almost 9) and nephew (who is 11)flew back home yesterday morning. It was nice that they got to come visit for 2 weeks - especially because they live in Colorado and we don't get to see them that often. Their dad (my brother) just went to Afghanistan and we wanted to give them a change of scenery before their school started. It was the first time they flew by themselves (although I flew across the Atlantic several times by myself when I was their age and we lived in Europe.)
They flew on United from Denver to Manchester via Washington-Dulles. I would have preferred to use Southwest but they only allow unaccompanied minors to fly on direct flights and there aren't any to Manchester from Denver. There was no issue picking them up. My mom and I got our passes to go through security and meet them at the gate (no issues with the TSA.) Their plane was on-time.
While they were here we took them to Upstate New York for a few days. We stayed at the Great Escape Indoor Water park Lodge in Lake George (it was my first time going there.) It was a nice, although small water park. The kids had fun and I got to have my Dippin' Dots. There was a Johnny Rockets restaurant inside the Lodge and we ate there for dinner one night (and for breakfast twice with our pre-paid lunch coupons.) They didn't have the smartest people working there. It took some time for them to figure out where we could sit - even though the place wasn't crowded and then we had to return the Caesar Salad twice because they used Iceberg lettuce instead of Romaine - yet they had Romaine.
While in NY we took the kids to see my grandparents (their great-grandparents), my great-aunt (their great-great aunt) and my other great-aunt and great-uncle (their great-great aunt and great-great uncle.) It was a few days after my great-aunt's 89th birthday so we had the kids make cards and brought cupcakes from the Schuyler Bakery in Watervliet. It was really cool to see everyone and I took a bunch of pictures.
We also took the kids to Fort Ticonderoga for the day. My mom went there as a kid and she took my brother, sister and me there when we were kids. It lightly rained off and on, but we still got to see gun and cannon demonstrations as well as the fife and drum playing.
When we got back from NY we took the kids to a nearby Planetarium. It was pretty interesting. We saw a movie called "Ice Worlds" and the kids had fun using the hands-on exhibits. There was one exhibit where you could pretend you are a TV weatherman.
Another day we took the kids to Funspot (an indoor arcade.) We gave them a bunch of tokens and they had fun on the games. I even played Skee Ball - which I loved as a kid.
We also took them to see two movies on two different days. We saw "Despicable Me" one day and "Dinner for Schmucks" the other. It was a good way to kill time and have fun.
Yesterday we had to get up at 2 am and head to the airport. The old woman, Pat, at the United check-in counter wasn't the smartest person. I told her we had two unaccompanied minors that we needed to see to the gate and she kept asking if my mom and I were flying while the kids stayed here. Then I had to remind her we needed the kids' boarding passes and also our passes to get through security.
When we went to the security line the guy at the metal detector started shouting at my nephew to take his belt off - and we were still at the x-ray machine. Another TSA guy at the x-ray machine told us we could keep the belts on, but I told him the other guy told us to take them off so we did. Then the first guy was pretty rude when the kids went through the metal detector and just plain nasty when I went through. My mom had a female TSA search her and she was nice and professional. When I went through a female TSA person told me that the guy at the metal detector was always like that. I asked to speak with the supervisor and it seemed everyone was helping and encouraging me to complain about the guy - I guess none of his co-workers like him. I complained and the supervisor took him into a separate room right away and let him have it.
Then we went to the gate where Pat (from United) and a guy were working. The guy boarded the kids and my mom and I waited for the plane to leave the gate. When 20 minutes went by I asked the guy what was going on and he said there was a dent in the wing that they had to fix before the plane could leave. Then shortly afterwards he said there was a ground-stop in DC and they unloaded the plane. Pat gave me a piece of paper that had a new flight number and time for the kids to fly from DC to Denver. I called and told their mom. Shortly after that a ground crew guy came to the gate and said the wing was fixed and then all of the sudden the ground-stop in DC was also over with (I don't think there was a ground-stop in DC.) They started re-boarding the plane and I asked Pat if the kids could be put back on their original connecting flight and she was very rude and nasty to me and said it was only a backup plan (of course I'm a mind reader and am supposed to just know that.) Pat kept going off on me and I finally told her that I was done dealing with her and that I would talk to the guy. She didn't want to hear that and walked up to me and kept complaining. Finally I had to tell her to shut up so that I could say good-bye to my niece and nephew. After that I just ignored her completely. We watched as the plane left the gate and then left. I have never had any problems all the times I flew out of/into Manchester airport. Yesterday I had several with the TSA and United. It will be a long time before I use United from Manchester again (the TSA lane was a separate one from the main lane and is used only for United and US Airways flights.) My dad is the only one who used United when he flies back home from Iraq because his tickets are already paid for. I will stick with flying Southwest from Manchester since I have never had any problems with the TSA or Southwest when I did.
On a side note: my niece and nephew made their original connection in DC and got to Denver on-time where their mom picked them up. All-in-all their trip here was both fun and exhausting.

EU Divorce

From Deutsche Welle:
"Ten EU countries move to streamline divorce process"

Some 300,000 marriages between people from different European Union countries take place every year - the romantic side of the increasing borderlessness of the 27-nation bloc. But 140,000 mixed-nationality EU couples file for divorce every year, and many are faced with a legal maze created by divorce laws that vary from country to country across the EU. But ten EU countries - Austria, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Romania, Slovakia and Spain - want to take advantage of a never-before-used 1997 treaty provision to simplify that process. It allows for a subgroup of EU countries to develop a system of "enhanced cooperation." The ten want to form their own pact harmonizing their divorce laws. The countries need approval from EU justice ministers to draw up such a deal, but the idea would be to obligate couples to agree on a jurisdiction for their divorce proceedings. If they cannot agree, the divorce laws of the country where they last lived together would apply Reding says EU should work to simplify mixed-nationality divorce
Supporters of the idea say it would streamline mixed-nationality divorces, possibly reduce legal fees, and discourage "divorce shopping," in which one spouse seeks out the jurisdiction that favors him or her."International couples can encounter arbitrary legal problems that turn the tragedy of divorce into a financial and emotional disaster… because national legal systems have so far failed to provide clear answers," said EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding. But critics of the proposal say it would create a "Europe within Europe." And value-laden family policy is an area the EU usually sidesteps. Divorce laws vary dramatically across the bloc. Malta does not even permit divorce, only legal separation. But Reding downplayed concerns of a two-speed Europe, saying that "several" other countries were also interested in the enhanced cooperation.

^ I think the streamlined-divorce laws need to be applied in every member country of the EU or none at all. There are too many opt-outs and other laws that seem to apply in some EU countries and not in others. What is the point of having a "united" Europe if not all the countries within the EU use the same laws? ^


Gay Marriage Re-Allowed

From the USA Today:
"California gay-marriage ban ends Wednesday"

I have said before that I think each state should have its citizens vote on whether they want to allow gay marriage or not. California did that and voted it down. I may not agree with the vote, but think it should be respected. It seems that each side will keep winning. One minute gays will be allowed to marry and the next they won't and then they will again, etc.


New Russian Police

From the Moscow Times:
"Police to Get New Name in Reform"

A first step in President Dmitry Medvedev's reform of the notoriously corrupt police force will be to replace its Bolshevik-imposed name "militia" with the tsarist-era "police." Medvedev rolled out his much-anticipated bill to reform the Interior Ministry on Saturday, but it remained unclear whether the legislation would bring about any change more substantial than a name change. The bill, which is to replace a 1991 law on the police, aims to compile all the rights and responsibilities оf the police, whose activities are currently regulated by hundreds of additional laws and bylaws, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev wrote in a commentary attached to the legislation. Medvedev said in his own commentary that the bill should clearly define the police force's sphere of activities and close all loopholes for potential abuse of power. He said the bill should be the only legislation that citizens need to consult to know the police's powers. The old police law is used as the foundation for the draft but is expanded from 43 articles to 57 and is almost twice the size, Nurgaliyev said. The 11-chapter draft was posted on the government's web site Zakonoproekt2010.ru on Saturday, and viewers are encouraged to comment on it on the site. More than 2,000 comments had been posted 24 hours after the draft was put online. The bill is expected to be submitted to the State Duma in the fall after undergoing a review by the Public Chamber, said Anatoly Kucherena, head of the chamber's commission on police reform. It would come into force on Jan. 1. The biggest obvious change that the reform offers is renaming the police force from "милиция" to "полиция." The Bolshevik government introduced its “worker and collective farm militia” in 1917 to differentiate the force from the tsarist police, a longtime enemy of the revolutionaries. Medvedev announced the name change Friday, saying the police needs “professional, effective employees … so I think the time has come to return its name,” Interfax reported. Medvedev did not say how much the name change would cost the state, which would have to buy new uniforms, repaint vehicles and replace official stamps, among other things. Internet users who posted comments about the bill on the government's web site were more interested in how the police would be able to treat citizens than how much the name change would cost. The draft offers some notable improvements on the current law, they said, because it not only prohibits police officers from torturing people but also obliges them to prevent fellow officers from doing so. Lev Ponomaryov, head of the Committee for Human Rights, praised the draft for including many proposals from human rights activists but said it still afforded opportunities for abuse. He cited as an example an article on the legal framework for police work that says, “All actions of a police officer are assumed as legal unless otherwise stated by legal procedures.” The bill's chapter on police work contains vague wording that makes it “much tougher toward citizens” than the current law, which provides a clearer definition of the work, said Eduard Sukharev, a civil lawyer. The bill also gives no clear definition on how public control over police would be enforced. Sukharev added that “many police officers currently have very little understanding of the existing laws required for their duty.” As if echoing Sukharev's reservations, Nurgaliyev said Friday that police officers would undergo regular tests on the Constitution and other laws. Alexei Volkov, deputy head of the State Duma security committee and a retired police general, said vagueness in the police bill could undermine the Kremlin's hopes to fight corruption through transparency. "The police system should be transparent,” he told The Moscow Times. Volkov, a member of the ruling United Russia party, praised Medvedev and Nurgaliyev for posting the bill online for public review. But Gennady Gudkov, a fellow committee member from A Just Russia, remained skeptical, saying the timing for a discussion was questionable because many Russians were distracted by smog and wildfires. “Who is going to discuss it? People who can hardly breathe because of the smog?” he said. One key proposal from human rights activists that did not make the draft was for elections for the chiefs of local police precincts, which the activists said would give officers more public support. Instead, the bill proposes for centralization by making the whole police force funded by the federal budget. Currently, the police are divided into the federally funded “criminal police department” and the regionally funded “public safety police." Volkov said a fully federally funded police force would cut police officers' dependence on governors. “They will not have to bow low to them in order to obtain financing,” he said. A new police law is just one step proposed by Medvedev to reform the police force, which is ranked as the most reviled state institution in polls. A March survey by the Levada Center found that about 70 percent of Russians do not trust the police. The reform also proposes the dismissal and re-evaluation of every one of the 1.2 million police officers nationwide by October, with only 75 percent of the current staff hired back. But many observers have questioned the reform, pointing out that Medvedev has not replaced the unpopular Nurgaliyev, who was appointed by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2004. “The reforms will be carried by the same people who brought the police into disgrace,” Ponomaryov said.

^ I think a new name, along with the other reforms, is something that Russia really needs right now. I know a name doesn't change the fact that there is corruption in the current police force, but the re-evaluation of every single police officer and the firings of those deemed to abuse their power is key to making the reforms work. ^


A Disturbed Flight Attendant

From Yahoo News:
"Lawyer: NY flight attendant wants to return to air"

^ I don't understand why people like him. He is supposed to be there to handle emergencies (weather-related, mechanical or terrorist) and yet he acted like a complete idiot. If I ever saw him on my plane I would simply leave. It is obvious that he is not a trained professional. I would not risk my life or the lives of my ...friends and family with a person like him. I hope that everyone (the FAA, the police, JetBlue, etc) throw the book at him. They need to show the flying public that the airline and planes are staffed with stable, trained people that can handle stressful situations (since many are life and death.) Had a passenger done what he did they would have been arrested and never heard from again. ^


Monday, August 9, 2010

$14 ESTA = Visa

From Earth Times:
"EU commissioner 'regrets' US travel authorization fee"

Brussels - The European Union's commissioner for home affairs said on Friday that she "regrets" a decision by the United States to impose a fee on travellers who require no visa in return for an electronic travel permit. On Friday, the US published an interim version of the fees for the use of its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which obliges visitors who would not need a visa to obtain an electronic permit to enter the country. The 14-dollar fee consists of a 10-dollar charge to enter the US under the Travel Promotion Act (TPA), which came into force in March, and a 4-dollar charge for using the ESTA system. "I understand that today's decision is taken in accordance with the Travel Promotion Act's obligations. Nevertheless, I regret very much the fee established by the interim rule," EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a statement. The ESTA system, which came into force in January 2009, was set up to give US authorities more security information on travellers entering the country. The TPA is a separate piece of legislation that earmarked the 10- dollar charge for use in promoting the country as a tourist destination. European commentators have criticized the ESTA legislation, which they say is tantamount to a reintroduction of visa requirements. Experts from the European Commission, the EU's executive, say that the interim version of the system is not a closet visa, but are still waiting for details of the final system. "The commission will carry out a definitive assessment once the final rule on ESTA is published by the US federal authorities. The ESTA fee requirement will of course be an additional factor in the final assessment," the statement said. Officials nevertheless say that the ESTA and TPA requirements are a needless financial and administrative burden on EU citizens. "I remain convinced that these new requirements ... are inconsistent with the commitment of the US to facilitate transatlantic mobility and will be an additional onus for European citizens travelling to the US," Malmstrom said.

^ It seems that the United States is starting to impose visas on the countries under the Visa Waiver Program. It is one thing to make foreigners use ESTA before travelling and having it be free and another to make them pay $14. The fee makes it a visa (just like Australia charging Americans $20 for their electronic visa.) I have a feeling that countries/organizations (especially places like: the UK, Schengen, Japan, etc) will start making Americans pay to visit. This is just another step in the US Government's move to closing its borders from tourists and business people. Just when you think things are going well (ie the Visa Waiver Program expanding) then things turn worse (the $14 fee.) ^


Russian Wildfires

From BBC:
"Death rate doubles in Moscow as heatwave continues"

The full health impact of the heatwave nationwide has not been reported Moscow's health chief has confirmed the mortality rate has doubled as a heatwave and wildfire smog continue to grip the Russian capital. There were twice the usual number of bodies in the city's morgues, Andrei Seltsovsky told reporters. Meanwhile, a state of emergency has been declared around a nuclear reprocessing plant in the southern Urals because of nearby wildfires. Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said this year's harvest, hit by fire and drought, would be worse than previously forecast. Currently expected to be 65m tonnes, it could be as low as 60 million tonnes, Mr Putin said.Mr Putin also said that a ban on grain exports could be extended beyond the end of 2010 because of shortages for domestic markets. Russia is the world's third largest wheat exporter. Its biggest customers include Egypt, Turkey and Syria. As of Monday morning, 557 wildfires continued to burn in Russia, 25 of them peat fires, the emergencies ministry said. While 239 fires were extinguished on Sunday, 247 new ones were discovered. The head of the state weather service, Alexander Frolov, said on Monday that the heatwave of 2010 was the worst in 1,000 years of recorded Russian history. "It's an absolutely unique phenomenon - nothing like it can be seen in the archives," he was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying.

Recent death rates for parts of central Russia other than Moscow, which are seeing similar droughts and wildfires for more than a month, have not been released.Soon after Mr Seltsovsky gave his information, Russia's Health Minister, Tatyana Golikova, demanded a formal clarification of his data. Her ministry said it was "puzzled by the unofficial figures quoted at the briefing". Mr Seltsovsky did not give a time frame but earlier reports had spoken of the death rate in Moscow for July rising by up to 50% compared with the same period last year."On normal days, between 360 and 380 die - now it's around 700," Mr Seltsovsky told reporters. Moscow, he said, had 1,500 places in its morgues and 1,300 of these were currently occupied.While stressing there was still capacity, he added that about 30% of bereaved people were asking to have the body kept in a morgue for more than three days, "which slightly complicates the situation". The concentration of carbon monoxide in Moscow was still more than double acceptable safety norms on Monday as smog from peat and forest wildfires continued to blanket the city. Temperatures of more than 35C (95F) are forecast for the city until Thursday. Since the second half of July, at least 52 deaths in Russia as a whole have been attributed directly to fires, which have destroyed hundreds of rural homes. Mr Seltsovsky did not attribute the rise in the mortality rate to the heatwave or smog but doctors, speaking off the record, have talked of morgues filling with victims of heat stroke and smoke ailments.
A nuclear plant in the Urals being threatened by the wildfires was the site of Russia's worst nuclear disaster in 1957. Fires are still burning across central Russia Some of the land around the Mayak plant in the town of Ozersk (known in Soviet times as Chelyabinsk-40) is believed to be still contaminated from the disaster, in which a tank of radioactive waste exploded. Several leaks of radioactive waste have been reported from the plant in recent years. Ozersk's administration announced on the town's website that residents were forbidden from entering the region's abundant, picturesque woodlands until further notice, and ordered urgent, unspecified fire safety measures. According to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency, Moscow airports were working normally on Monday after last week's disruptions due to smog. Sunday saw more than 104,000 air travellers leaving the capital - a record number, according to Russian news agencies. Those who remain in the city of 10.5m people were being urged to wear face masks if they ventured outdoors, and to hang wet towels indoors to attract dust and cool the airflow.
Most apartments in the city lack air conditioning and there are media reports of wealthier citizens moving out of their homes into hotels, shopping malls, offices and private cars.

^ This is a real big mess. Hundreds are dying everyday and it seems that the Moscow City Government and the Russian Federal Government have just recently started taking the wildfires seriously. Moscow and surrounding places have to deal with smog, wildfires and extreme temperatures. Officials have just opened smog centers where people can come and sit in air-conditioned places. Hopefully the smog will lift and the air will clear soon. ^


Monday, August 2, 2010

Miranda Rights Changing

From Yahoo News:
"High court trims Miranda warning rights bit by bit"

I don't see why they need to change anything in the Miranda Rights. It has worked for decades in giving those who are arrested knowledge into their rights. It seems that the changes are made to protect the police, FBI, etc and not those arrested. I guess we are moving closer and closer to becoming a country where you are guilty until you prove yourself innocent instead of the other way around.


TSA And Cargo

From TSA Website:
"TSA Announces Key Milestone in Cargo Screening on Passenger Aircraft"

WASHINGTON —The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) today announced the airline industry has met a key requirement of the 9/11 Act by screening 100 percent of air cargo on domestic passenger aircraft.

TSA worked closely with the cargo and aviation industries to fulfill this important Congressional mandate by the Aug. 1, 2010 deadline. TSA continues to utilize a multi-layered approach to air cargo security, including procedures for known and established shippers to ship cargo on domestic passenger aircraft, deploying explosive detection canine teams, and conducting covert tests and no-notice inspections of cargo operations.

"TSA has taken another step forward in strengthening the security of air travel,” said TSA Administrator John S. Pistole. “Screening all cargo on domestic passenger aircraft adds another layer to our already robust security system and ensures that TSA is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of air travel.”

TSA is also continuing its work to improve cargo security on passenger flights originating in other countries. TSA requires 100 percent of high risk cargo to undergo security screening and has increased the requirements for overall cargo screening.

“International air cargo is more secure than it has ever been,” added Pistole. “TSA continues to work closely with our international partners and is making substantial progress toward meeting the 100 percent mark in the next few years.”

To meet the mandate, TSA created the Certified Cargo Screening Program (CCSP), which allows certified facilities across the country to screen cargo before it reaches the airport. CCSP facilities must be approved by TSA and adhere to strict security standards, including physical access controls, personnel security, and screening of prospective employees and contractors. A secure chain of custody must also be established from the screening facility to the aircraft.

Prior to the Aug. 1 deadline, over 900 facilities became CCSP certified. This innovative program spreads the cargo screening responsibility, on a voluntary basis, throughout the supply chain to manufacturing facilities and distribution centers. This distributed screening effort has enabled over half of the more than 9 million pounds of cargo loaded onboard passenger-carrying planes each day to be prescreened, avoiding potential bottlenecks at airports.

^ This is something that should have been done years ago. I don't see how you can screen every person and bag on a plane and not screen every piece of cargo that is also going on that plane. To mean that means the plane is only 50% secured. Well, 9 years later it seems that TSA is finally screening 100% of the cargo. I hope that means what it should mean - all cargo on every plane, every time. ^