Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Survivor: N

I didn't write about last week's show so I will include it with this week's. Last week everything seemed fine until Tribal Council where Shannon just couldn't stop talking and really sealed his fate. He was pretty dumb in doing it. It seems most people tend to give up way too much information at Tribal.
This week's show was alright. The fisherman is just a little too unstable. He always has to repeat himself over and over again and complains like a little kid. On the young tribe Fabio is just plain annoying. It is clear he doesn't have a clue about anything. The black woman (Naoka or whatever her name is) is pretty trashy. She is always looking for a fight and when she gets one it makes no sense. She tries to act tough yet does little in the challenges and she's a gym teacher (I won't start on how much I hate Gym.) She really goes off on the woman with one leg and looks like a bigot by all the things she says about her. I wouldn't want to be disabled and in her class - she would be ruthless.
I think Dan should have gone home since he doesn't really do much yet thinks he does. The Coach was alright, but I don't really think his leaving will help his team.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Southwest And AirTran

From Yahoo Travel:
"Southwest-AirTran deal means more options for some"

YORK -- Southwest's decision to buy AirTran will mean more routes and fewer delays and cancellations in small cities but higher fares in the Northeast and perhaps the end of the super-low sale fare. Southwest Airlines, which has built a loyal following with its tongue-in-cheek ads and refusal to charge for checked bags, said Monday it planned to buy AirTran for $1.4 billion. The deal will move Southwest into 37 new cities, expand its presence in cities like New York and Boston and move it into Atlanta, the busiest airport in the nation. Combining the AirTran and Southwest routes means more connecting options for people flying through places like Moline, Ill., and Wichita, Kan., which should result in fewer delays and cancellations because there will be more options for rerouting passengers. In bigger cities like the Northeast hubs, however, fares will probably eventually go up. They may not rise right away because many of those cities are still served by a third discounter, JetBlue Airways, said fare expert George Hobica. The acquisition may also spell the end of the deep-discount sales currently offered by AirTran and Southwest because there will be less competition. Right now, for example, AirTran is offering a $54 one-way fare between Baltimore and Boston. "The era of irrational, stupid, destructive fare sales is over," Hobica said. "This is the new normal. JetBlue now has permission to raise prices between Baltimore and Boston. Other airlines now have permission to raise prices between Washington, D.C., and Florida." In welcome news for weary travelers, Southwest said it will drop AirTran's bag fees when the pair combine in 2012. Right now, AirTran charges $20 for the first checked bag, $25 for the second. Some major airlines charge even more. Southwest claims it has lured passengers by refusing to charge for bags, and it has built a marketing campaign around the policy, with baggage handlers shouting declarations of love to suitcases on the tarmac. The combined airline probably won't be large enough to pressure big competitors like United and American to give up the hundreds of millions of dollars a year they make from baggage fees, airline analyst Jay Sorensen said. While Southwest will be about 25 percent larger when the deal is complete, it will remain the fourth-largest by traffic. The upcoming combination of United and Continental will be No. 1, followed by Delta and the parent of American. Southwest will move into Atlanta, the only major business hub it doesn't already serve. Business travelers are key to airlines because they tend to pay higher fares. In an interview with The Associated Press, Southwest CEO Gary Kelly said Atlanta was a "gaping hole in our route system." Southwest also gains routes to Mexico and the Caribbean, where JetBlue has a big presence. The buyout is the latest in a wave of consolidation in the airline industry. Continental and United will topple Delta as the largest airline in the world when they combine this week. Delta got the title when it bought Northwest in 2008. In the past 10 years, 10 major airlines have paired off, leaving five fewer. The deal will leave only four major airlines without suitors: American, US Airways, JetBlue and Alaska Airlines. Several experts suggest the unexpected Southwest deal will pressure American to tie up with US Airways, or possibly JetBlue.
AirTran was founded in 1992 as ValuJet Airlines. It was renamed after the 1996 crash of ValuJet Flight 592 into the Florida Everglades, which killed all 110 people on board. It would be Southwest's largest acquisition by far. Southwest founder Herb Kelleher, a cigarette-smoking, Wild Turkey-drinking Texas lawyer, revolutionized the airline industry in the 1970s by offering low fares to leisure travelers out of secondary airports. Early on, the airline drew customers by passing out booze and putting flight attendants in hot pants. The company, which began with a handful of planes hopping among three Texas cities, bought Morris Air and Muse Air in the mid-1980s. Two years ago, it bought assets of ATA Airlines out of bankruptcy and began limited service to and from New York's LaGuardia Airport. Last year, Southwest tried unsuccessfully to buy Frontier Airlines out of bankruptcy. Republic Airways Holdings won the auction instead and bought it for $109 million. Southwest's acquisition of AirTran is expected to close in the first half of next year. It requires both regulatory and shareholder approval. Based on Southwest Airlines' closing share price on Friday, the deal is worth $7.69 per AirTran share. That's a 69 percent premium over its closing price of $4.55. AirTran shares jumped 62 percent to $7.36, while Southwest shares rose $1.73 to $14.01. Southwest will pay about $670 million with available cash and assume $2 billion in AirTran debt. Southwest and AirTran said the new airline will operate from more than 100 different airports and serve more than 100 million customers.

^ It seems that this won't really help passengers since fares will rise as there will be one less airline to compete with Southwest. ^

Luzhkov Out

From Yahoo News:
"Medvedev fires defiant Moscow mayor"

This has been widely talked about in Russia, but it was still a shock because Medvedev actually stood up for something he wanted rather than simply doing what Putin wants him to do. Luzhkov has been mayor of Moscow since 1992 and it is time for change. He is of the old Soviet school (as opposed to the new Soviet school that Putin and Medvedev are in.) Hopefully, this will do good things for Moscow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


This is the first show of the new season and it was pretty good. The teams this time are only family based or dating (there are no married couples.) Some of them are pretty stupid - it seems a lot of the teams this season. They went from Boston to London (I have parked at the off-airport parking they parked at.) They went to Stonehenge and a castle. In the end the 2 black guys were sent home. They were on the first plane but didn't even finish the challenges and so were sent home. The best part of the show was when the girl was hit in the face with the watermelon. It looked like it hurt, but it was still funny to watch,

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

6 Months On: Healthcare

Yahoo News:
"Health law kicks into 2nd gear; does it help me?"

The nation's new health care law turns 6 months old Thursday and starts delivering protections and dollars-and-cents benefits that Americans can grasp. But it won't affect all consumers the same way, which may cause confusion.

Q: Will everyone's health insurance change on Thursday?

A: No. It depends on when your health insurance plan year starts. Many of the new requirements begin with plan years starting on or after Sept. 23. But if your plan year starts Jan. 1, as many do, that's when the changes start.

"Grandfathered" plans, those that existed before the law was enacted March 23 and which remain essentially unchanged, must meet only some of the requirements. New plans and those with significant changes in benefits or out-of-pocket costs must comply with even more changes in the law.

Q: How do I know how my health plan fits in all this?

A: If you get insurance through work, ask your employer about any changes. If you buy insurance yourself, call your insurance company.

Q: What are some of the new benefits?

A: Free preventive care, for one. Some people will no longer have to pay copays, coinsurance or meet their deductibles for preventive care that's backed up by the best scientific evidence. That includes flu vaccines, mammograms and even diet counseling for adults at-risk of chronic disease.

Q: Are there exceptions?

A: Free preventive care isn't required of existing health plans that haven't changed significantly, those "grandfathered" plans we mentioned earlier. New plans, and those that change substantially on or after Sept. 23, must provide this benefit.

Q: What other changes start Sept. 23?

A: If you go to an emergency room outside your plan's network, you won't get charged extra. Patients will be able to designate a pediatrician or an ob-gyn as their primary care doctor, avoiding the need for referrals that are required by some plans.

Q: I've heard lifetime limits are being eliminated. What does that mean?

A: Millions of Americans have insurance that sets a cap on what their insurance will pay to cover their medical costs over a lifetime. The caps have left very sick patients with medical bills topping $1 million or $2 million high and dry. These lifetime limits will be eliminated for plans issued or renewed on or after Sept. 23.

Those who have maxed out because of the caps but remain eligible for coverage must be reinstated on the first day of the plan year that begins on or after Sept. 23.

Q: What about annual limits?

A: Plans issued or renewed on or after Sept. 23 can't have annual limits lower than $750,000. Annual limits will be eliminated entirely by 2014.

Q: Are there exceptions?

A: Employers and insurance companies can apply for waivers for so-called "mini-med" plans that offer limited benefits. The intent of the waivers is to allow these low-cost plans to exist so that people don't lose their health coverage when premiums go up.

Q: Any changes that affect parents?

A: Insurers can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. Parents can keep their adult children on their health plans until age 26.

Q: Are there other consumer protections?

A: The law bars insurers from canceling policies retroactively when a person gets very sick and runs up high bills. Insurers still will be able to rescind policies in cases of fraud and intentional misrepresentation. But they can't cut you off when you need coverage most for a capricious reason.

Q: Why Sept. 23?

A: That's six months after President Barack Obama signed the law. Many provisions were scheduled to start six months after enactment.

Q: Are these changes likely to raise health insurance premiums?

A: The Obama administration says the new benefits will raise premiums by no more than 1 to 2 percent. Benefit consulting companies say the impact will be in the single digits, but may vary from plan to plan.

^ It is 6 months since Congress and Obama pushed the new health care bill into law. While I know the current system is broken and needs to be fixed I do not agree with how the new bill was rushed through with no thought to cost or fixing the existing system. The new health care bill only adds more to an already strained system rather than fixing the current problems first before adding anything new. ^

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Germany's Foreign ID Cards

From Deutsche Welle:
"Germany planning digital ID card for foreigners"

Non-EU citizens living in Germany - including Turks, Americans and Swiss - who do not possess a German passport may soon be forced to issue their fingerprints to German authorities, according to a newspaper report published on Saturday. German daily Die Welt reported that, beginning next year, all foreigners in Germany from outside the European Union would be required to carry a digital identification card. The credit-card-sized document is planned to contain the person's digitized finger prints and photograph and be valid for a maximum of ten years. 'Effective means' to fighting illegal immigration Die Welt quotes sources from the interior ministry saying the ID card will be a "means to combating and preventing illegal immigration" as authorities will be able to "determine the identity of persons without having to refer to any databases." Another security advantage offered by the electronic residence permit, says security expert Hans-Peter Uhl, will be the ability to determine the "true identity of illegal immigrants caught applying for asylum with falsified documents." “It will give us reliable data on whether immigrants are registered twice, or even three times, and also how many foreigners enter and leave our country," Uhl told Die Welt. The digital identification card will be tested this year and is planned to be introduced at some point during 2011. At present, an estimated four million non-EU citizens in Germany will require the new document. Turks and American account for the highest portion of that number.

^ This isn't really that big of a deal. Germans (and most other European citizens) have to carry or have an ID Card. Making foreigners in Germany also carry one just makes sense. The one question I have regarding this move deals with all the American military personnel and their families that are stationed in Germany. I am not sure if the SOFA waives this new German ID Card requirement. If I or my family was stationed in Germany (as my family was twice) I would not submit to this German ID Card requirement since the US Government and not the German Government dictates what US military people are stationed in Germany. If I have a special US Passport that says I am overseas because of the US Military, live on-base, go to an American dependant school, etc then I would say that this German law does not cover me and so wouldn't get one. Besides all military personnel and their families in Germany are required to carry an American Military ID Card with them at all times and that should be enough for the Germans if they stop anyone (although having a German stop you and ask for your "Papers" reminds me of all the war movies when the Nazis did just that. I can understand an American married to a German and living in Germany on their own would need to get the new ID Card though. ^,,6018114,00.html

Senate Keeps Ban

From the BBC:
"US Senate blocks debate on gay military policy repeal"

US senators have rejected attempts to open a debate on a bill which proposed lifting the ban on openly gay people serving in the US military. Just 56 senators voted in favour of debating the defence authorisation bill, four short of the 60 required. Gay people can serve in the military, but face expulsion if they reveal their sexuality. US President Barack Obama has promised to scrap the policy. Democrats could still try again later this year to pass the legislation. Reacting to the vote - which split largely along Republican-Democrat party lines - White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said: "We're disappointed at not being able to proceed on the legislation, but we'll keep trying." The BBC's Paul Adams, in Washington, says the vote is a setback for Mr Obama, who had hoped to deliver on a campaign promise to repeal the law - known as "don't ask, don't tell". The Pentagon is conducting a study into how repeal might be implemented, but Republicans, and many in the military, fear that it could damage morale at a time when the armed forces are fighting two wars, our correspondent adds. Earlier, the only Republican senator to support repealing the law, Susan Collins, said she was withdrawing her support. In the event Democratic senators Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor both sided with Republicans to block the bill, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat, also voted against the measure as a procedural tactic. It is not clear how the Democrats intend to respond to this setback in the Senate, but it seems highly unlikely that President Obama will get his way on gays serving openly in the military before November's mid-term elections. If the Republicans retake control of one or more houses of Congress, then the president may never get his way, our correspondent says. Defence Secretary Robert Gates and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, have said they support a repeal but want to move slowly on it so as to not damage morale. Mr Gates has asked Congress not to act until the Pentagon finishes a study on the impact on the military of lifting the ban. The Obama administration has said any repeal of the law would not be implemented until after the study, which is due on 1 December, is completed. Most Americans now accept openly gay service personnel, according to a recent Gallup poll. Mr Obama's nominee to take over command of the Marine Corps said on Tuesday that he opposed repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In testimony to a Senate committee, General James Amos said letting gay people serve openly in the force could disrupt unit morale. "I'm concerned that a change now will serve as a distraction to marines who are tightly focused at this point on combat operations in Afghanistan," he said in written testimony. "In my personal view, the current law and associated policy have supported the unique requirements of the Marine Corps, and thus I do not recommend its repeal."

^ I see no problem with allowing openly-gay people serve in the military. There was a time (up to 1948) where blacks were not allowed to serve with white soldiers in the US Military and yet since they were integrated there have been no real issues. I know that there are several countries that allow gays to openly serve. The main example of this is in Israel. Even after allowing gays to openly serve the Israeli Military continues to be strong and united. ^

US Supporting Obama's Aunt

From Yahoo News:
"Obama's aunt says US obligated to make her citizen"

This is just one more way that people abuse the system. I think it is "odd" that a judge denied the woman's case and then the same judge allows it only after Obama became President and the woman is his aunt. This woman should be stripped of her asylum and deported back to Kenya. The arrogance she has is disgusting. She said that the United States has an obligation to make her a citizen. She is receiving $700 a month and free public housing and yet is not made to work. I have the feeling that once Obama is no longer President her case will be reviewed and she will be kicked back to Kenya as was the first decision of the court.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Survivor: Nicaragua

The first show of the new season was pretty bad. The separated everyone by age (the old vs the young) which is something they have done in the past. It seems that the majority of the people on the old team have some sort of social defect. There is something off-putting by all of them. The young team just seems fake.
I thought it was funny that Wendy Jo said her husband thought she would be the first person voted off because she talked to much and she was. She really sealed her fate when she wouldn't stop talking at Tribal Council. I also liked that she had a New Jersey/Long Island accent and was from Montana.
I don't care for the NFL guy, Jimmy. He just seems not sincere and very fake. Also the fisherman from MA seems just plain crazy (after the way he randomly snapped.)
So far this new season does not impress me at all. I hope it gets more dramatic and interesting.

American Released

From Yahoo News:
"Oman in rare spotlight after bail deal with Iran"

I think it is interesting that no former US President (Carter or Clinton) went to Iran to get these people released like they did several times to North Korea. I think that it is damaging to America's interests to make deals with places like North Korea or Iran. As someone who likes to travel and has lived overseas I was constantly told that when I am in a foreign country I must abide by the local laws and if I am arrested (knock on wood that doesn't ever happen) then I can only expect to contact the US embassy to notify my family and nothing else. Here the opposite is happening - US officials are getting involved. I don't understand why these three Americans were hiking around the Iraq-Iran border in the first place since Iraq is still a war-zone. People need to educate themselves about the region they are travelling to and know the risks. If you travel to a war-zone and get in trouble then it is your own fault.

US-Iraq Settlement

From Yahoo News:
"US, Iraq sign deal to settle Saddam-era claims"

BAGHDAD – Iraq has agreed to pay $400 million to Americans who say they were abused by Saddam Hussein's regime, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Friday. The agreement, recently signed by U.S. and Iraqi officials, represents a significant step forward for Iraq and could bring an end to years of legal battles by Americans who claim to have been tortured or traumatized under Saddam's regime. But the deal is likely to anger Iraqis who consider themselves the victims' of both Saddam and the 2003 U.S. invasion, and wonder why they should pay money for wrongs committed by the ousted dictator. The American Embassy spokesman in Iraq, David Ranz, said the agreement "to settle claims of American victims of the Saddam Hussein regime," was signed Sept. 2. He gave no details of the agreement, including who the specific claimants are or the dollar amount involved. A senior Iraqi government official confirmed the deal has been signed, and said Iraq agreed to pay about $400 million. He said the money would be given to Americans who were affected by the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait in 1990. Saddam's government held hundreds of Americans hostage during the run-up to the Gulf War, using them as human shields in hopes of staving off an attack by the U.S. and its allies. Many of the Americans pursued lawsuits for years against Saddam's government. The Americans kept up their legal fight after Saddam was overthrown in 2003 and a new government came to power. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, who was held for more than a month during the Gulf War, was one of the people suing Iraq. The Iraqi official did not say specifically who would receive money from the settlement, but said the deal was connected to the Gulf War. "This agreement is related to the invasion of Kuwait during the former regime time. Saddam detained U.S. citizens as human shields, and he did torture," said the official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue. The settlement, which was first reported by the Christian Science Monitor, could help Iraq shake off U.N. sanctions imposed following Saddam's invasion of Kuwait. Baghdad would need the help of the United States to remove the sanctions, and the settlement may remove what has been a stumbling block between the two sides. Ranz said Iraq still has to go through several steps for the agreement to be finalized. He did not say what those steps are. Generally such agreements have to be approved by the Cabinet, but this settlement would likely be extremely unpopular among Iraqis who survived years under Saddam only to suffer vicious sectarian fighting after the American invasion. Approving such a settlement would likely be politically toxic for any Iraqi government, and the matter is further complicated by the fact that Iraq is in month six without a new government after the March 7 elections.

^ This is one more step towards ending the US involvement in Iraq. Germany is still dealing with claims from its Nazi past and it only makes sense for Iraq to do the same about its invasion of Kuwait. The fact that most Iraqis do not like it means little - I'm sure many Germans don't like constantly being reminded about the Nazi crimes - but a country has to make-up for its mistakes. ^

Saturday, September 11, 2010

9 Years After 9-11

From Yahoo News:
"Unsettled nation marks 9/11 with rituals of sorrow"

NEW YORK – Rites of remembrance and loss marked the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, familiar in their sorrow but observed for the first time Saturday in a nation torn over the prospect of a mosque near ground zero and the role of Islam in society. Under a flawless blue sky that called to mind the day itself, there were tears and song, chants, and the waving of hundreds of American flags. Loved ones recited the names of the victims, as they have each year since the attacks. They looked up to add personal messages to the lost and down to place flowers in a reflecting pool in their honor. For a few hours Saturday morning, the political and cultural furor over whether a proposed Islamic center and mosque belongs two blocks from the World Trade Center site mostly gave way to the somber anniversary ceremony and pleas from elected officials for religious tolerance. But this Sept. 11 was unmistakably different from the eight that came before it, and not only because a new World Trade Center is finally ready to rise. As they finished reading names, two relatives of 9/11 victims issued pleas — one to God and one to New York — that the site remain "sacred." And within hours of the city's memorial service near ground zero, groups of protesters had taken up positions in lower Manhattan, blocks apart and representing both sides of the debate over the mosque, which has suffused the nation's politics for weeks leading up to the anniversary. Near City Hall, supporters of the mosque toted signs that read, "The attack on Islam is racism" and "Tea Party bigots funded by corporate $." Opponents carried placards that read, "It stops here" and "Never forgive, never forget, no WTC mosque." At the other Sept. 11 attack sites, as at ground zero, elected leaders sought to remind Americans of the acts of heroism that marked a Tuesday in 2001 and the national show of unity that followed. President Barack Obama, appealing to an unsettled nation from the Pentagon, declared that the United States could not "sacrifice the liberties we cherish or hunker down behind walls of suspicion and mistrust." "As Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam," the president said. "It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al-Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion." In Shanksville, Pa., first lady Michelle Obama and her predecessor, Laura Bush, spoke at a public event together for the first time since last year's presidential inauguration. At the rural field where the 40 passengers and crew of United Flight 93 lost their lives, Obama said "a scar in the earth has healed," and Bush said "Americans have no division" on this day. In New York, the leader of a small Christian congregation in Florida who had planned to burn copies of the Quran to mark the Sept. 11 anniversary called off his plans. Pastor Terry Jones gave an interview to NBC's "Today" after flying to New York in hopes of meeting with leaders of the mosque and persuading them to move the Islamic center in exchange for his canceling his own plans. No meeting had taken place, he said. Nonetheless, "We feel that God is telling us to stop," he said. "Not today, not ever. We're not going to go back and do it. It is totally canceled." Jones' plan had drawn opposition across the political spectrum and the world. Obama had appealed to him on television, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates in a personal phone call, not to burn the Islamic holy book. Gen. David Petraeus, head of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, said carrying out the plan would have endangered American troops. Nevertheless, there were isolated reports of Quran desecrations on the anniversary, including two not far from ground zero. Afghans, meanwhile, set fire to tires in the streets and shouted "Death to America" for a second day despite Jones' decision to call off the burning. The largest drew a crowd estimated at 10,000. There were no arrests in New York, police said. There were scattered scuffles in the streets, including one in which a man ripped up another's poster advocating freedom of religion and the second man struck back with the stick. Near the World Trade Center site, a memorial to the 2,752 who died there played out mostly as it had each year since 2001. Bells were tolled to mark the times of impact of the two hijacked jets and the times the twin towers collapsed. Assigned to read the names of the fallen, relatives of 9/11 victims calmly made their way through their lists, then struggled, some looking skyward, as they addressed their lost loved ones. "David, please know that we love you. We miss you desperately," said Michael Brady, whose brother worked at Merrill Lynch. "We think about you and we pray for you every day." Sean Holohan, whose brother was killed, called out to the 343 firefighters who died: "All of you proved that day to the world that we are still one indivisible nation under God." Family members of Sept. 11 victims also laid flowers in a reflecting pool and wrote individual messages along its edges. Around the spot where they paid tribute, ground zero is transforming itself. Just this week, officials hoisted a 70-foot piece of trade center steel there and vowed to open the Sept. 11 memorial, with two waterfalls marking where the towers stood, by next year. At the northwest corner of the site, 1 World Trade Center, formerly known as the Freedom Tower, now rises 36 stories above ground. It is set to open in 2013 and be 1,776 feet tall, taller than the original trade center. The proposed Islamic cultural center, which organizers say will promote interfaith learning, would go in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory two blocks uptown from ground zero. Muslim prayer services are normally held at the site, but it was padlocked Friday and closed Saturday, the official end of the holy month of Ramadan. Police planned 24-hour patrols until next week. Worshippers on Friday were redirected to a different prayer room 10 blocks away. On Saturday, about 1,500 opponents of the mosque chanted "USA" and "No mosque here." Critics have said that even if organizers have a First Amendment right to build the center where they want, putting it near ground zero would be a show of disrespect.
"Stop bending down to them. Stop placating them. No special treatment," said Alice Lemos, 58, speaking of Muslims and holding a small American flag on a stick. "This isn't about religion. This is about rubbing our faces in their victory over us." Elizabeth Meehan, 51, was among about 2,000 rallying to support the mosque. Meehan, who rode a bus to the rally from her home in Saratoga, N.Y., about 180 miles away, said she is an observant Christian and felt it was important for Christians to speak in favor of religious freedom. "I'm really fearful of all of the hate that's going on in our country. People in one brand of Christianity are coming out against other faiths, and I find that so sad," she said. "Muslims are fellow Americans, they should have the right to worship in America just like anyone else."

^ I can't believe it has been 9 years already. It seems just like yesterday. I guess the question "Where were you on 9-11?" Is the new question school kids ask their parents instead of "Where were you when JFK was shot?" ^;_ylt=ArkpeN1fuaTa

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Yesterday my mom and I made our annual Fall trip to Lakeside Cider Mill in New York. I have been going there for years. It used to be a nice, family-owned and operated farm that sold local produce, made great sandwiches, pies and had juicy apples, apple cider and apple cider doughnuts. The people there were also always very friendly and helpful.
When we went there yesterday the staff were too busy talking with each other to be friendly or helpful. The woman who served us only gave us 6 apple cider doughnuts instead of our dozen - yet she charged us for the dozen (which we didn't notice until we were already home.) While their apple cider was really good it didn't make a very good trip - especially since we drove several hours each way.
I think Lakeside has become too arrogant from all its popularity in recent years and has let quality - of both their employees and products - go way down. As of right now I have no desire to make a trip back to NY solely to go to Lakeside. I did write them and let them know what kind of experience we had and can only hope that things will change in the future.

International Forum In Yaroslavl

From Russia Today:
"Global Policy Forum gets underway in Yaroslavl"

The Global Policy Forum “The Modern State: Standards of Democracy and Criteria of Efficiency” has kicked off in the Russian city of Yaroslavl. The event is being held under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev. Celebrating its millennium anniversary in 2010, Yaroslavl has become a meeting place for heads of states and ministers, authoritative politicians, representatives of the business community, scientists, scholars and experts in various fields from around the world. This year the forum will continue the discussion of the role of the modern state in ensuring security and stability in the contemporary world, which began last year at the International Conference “The Modern State and Global Security.” The conference was held on September 14, 2009 in Yaroslavl with the participation of President Medvedev, French Prime Minister F. Fillon and Spanish Prime Minister J.L. Rodriguez Zapatero.
Natalya Timakova, press attaché of Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, said this year’s forum has attracted a lot of attention from Russian and foreign politicians and analysts. “During the forum, President Medvedev will meet his foreign colleagues and make an address, but he will also meet separately with Russian and foreign political experts to discuss the problems and achievements during the year,” Timakova told RT. In his speech during the opening session, former NATO Secretary General George Robertson noted that the forum could help to bridge a communication gap between Russia and the rest of the world. “Russia is a hugely important influence in Europe and in the world. It has a right to be heard and has important things to say. It is, however, too often misunderstood, suspected and ignorantly written off. That is a mistake. So this Global Policy Forum is a chance for Russia,” Robertson said. Reflecting on Robertson’s words, political scientist Adrian Pabst said the former was correct to note that the world is at an important stage of international debate. “It is no longer about east and west or north and south. There are now so many common challenges: economic, environmental, also political,” Pabst said. “And it is very clear that countries like Russia, with a long cultural and intellectual tradition, have a lot to offer in terms of trying to understand the problems and find common solutions.” “I think that competition around the world is so hard that a nation without a true innovation system is almost gone,” said Holm, one of the creators of the first science park in Sweden. “By turning your investment to in research and development to new companies, new products, global ones hopefully, is a way of building your economy and that is a future.” While the forum in Yaroslavl is in full swing, a terrorist attack hit the southern Russian city of Vladikavkaz, provoking comments from the conference’s participants. The blast in Vladikavkaz is undoubtedly not a spontaneous local outburst of terror, but part of international terrorist networks, says Vyacheslav Nikonov, president of the Polity Foundation. According to Nikonov, the attack is a reaction to the successful battle against terrorism that Russia has been leading. “Russia, in fact, was quite successful during last year in fighting terror. And this is, of course, a response,” he said. “Now it is a sort of spread of terrorism in the areas which were, at least for the time being, free from terrorism.” International security is one of the major topics to be discussed at the forum. Richard Woolcott, founding director of the Asia Society Australasia Centre, says steps towards better regional security could lead the world towards better global security. “President Medvedev introduced this concept of need for better regional security arrangements in Europe and the Atlantic. He did that in Germany in June 2008. Our former prime minister, Kevin Rudd, also launched this idea of a need for an Asia-Pacific sort of community to deal with security issues, also in 2008. This is, I think, a very important concept,” Woolcott said.
Global Policy Forum will focus on four sections:

– New Challenges and the Concept of International Law;
– The State as an Instrument of Technological Modernization;
– Regional Systems of Global Security;
– Standards of Democracy and the Diversity of Democratic Experiences.

The languages of Global Policy Forum are Russian, English, German, Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Korean and Japanese.

The first day of the Forum opened with an hour-long plenary session, after which the sections’ meetings began. The second day will be dedicated to scheduled plenary meetings as well as to an intersectional meeting on the European security treaty. The main organizations behind the event are the Institute for Public Planning, the Institute of Contemporary Development and Yaroslavl Demidov State University.

^ I studied in Yaroslavl twice and think it is a really great location to have this kind of forum. It is a modern city that is far enough away from Moscow to make it distinct, but also close enough to Moscow to get people to/from Russia. The fact that Yaroslavl is celebrating the 1,000th anniversary of it's founding this year is another good reason to highlight the city - since there are many new projects, buildings and other things built for the celebrations.

Germans Rewriting History

From Deutsche Welle:
"Expellee head to leave party role after Polish war comments"

This and other similar current news stories prove that their are many, influential Germans who are trying to rewrite their nation's history to better serve their own agendas. I know that it is illegal to deny the Holocaust in Germany, but I think they need to also make it illegal to rewrite German history regarding the years under the Nazis as well as in East Germany.
The woman who said this is also head of a group that represents Germans expelled from Eastern Europe after World War 2. I don't have any remorse for how the Germans were treated right after the war when the Allies liberated the ghettos, concentration camps, labor camps, POW camps, death camps and other areas the Germans occupied. In most cases (especially in Eastern Europe) the ethnic Germans worked to ethnically cleanse the newly occupied areas during the war and treated thousands upon thousands of Poles and other groups the same way the Soviets and other countries treated the ethnic Germans after the war.
More needs to be done in Germany and around the world to make sure people can not try to rewrite facts. I know that in some cases it is hard to determine what is fact versus what is propaganda, but in the case of World War 2 the facts are known and accepted by the majority of members of the UN.,,5989586,00.html

Castro: Communism Doesn't Work

From Yahoo News:
"Fidel latest to say Cuba's communism doesn't work"

Any person who can read and watch TV and other medias know that communism doesn't work in real-life. It is only good on paper. The fact that Fidel Castro finally admitted this openly means little. I get the feeling he is just admitting all his mistakes because he feels guilty and knows he is very old and sick.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Flu Shots

From Yahoo Health:
"Time to get your flu shot, but just one this year"

It's flu-shot season already, and for the first time health authorities are urging nearly everyone to get vaccinated. There is even a new high-dose version for people 65 or older. What a difference a year makes: Crowds lined up for hours for scarce shots during last fall's swine flu pandemic, when infections peaked well before enough vaccine could be produced. This year, a record vaccine supply is expected — an all-in-one inoculation that now promises protection against that swine flu strain plus two other kinds of influenza. Shipments began so early that drugstores are offering vaccinations amid their back-to-school sales. But without last year's scare factor, the question is how many people will heed the new policy for near-universal vaccination. No more stopping to check if you're on a high-risk list: A yearly dose is recommended for virtually everyone except babies younger than 6 months — the shot isn't approved for tots that young — and people with severe allergies to the eggs used to brew it. "Influenza is serious, and anyone, including healthy people, can get the flu and spread the flu," said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Flu vaccines are the best way to protect yourself and those around you." The CDC was moving toward that policy even before last year's pandemic brought home an inescapable fact: The flu virus doesn't just kill grandparents and babies and people with weak lungs or hearts, although they're particularly vulnerable. It also can kill healthy pregnant women and 30-somethings. And 5-year-olds. "We were discussing how we were going to go get his Star Wars Halloween costume after he got out of the hospital ... and all of a sudden his eyes lost their focus," said Serese Marotta of Dayton, Ohio, describing for reporters how her son Joseph, 5, died of swine flu last October before vaccine was available in her community. She urged families to make vaccination a priority.

Here are some questions and answers about flu:

Q: I got vaccinated against both seasonal and that so-called H1N1 flu last year, so why do I need vaccine this year?

A: It protects against a different strain of the H3N2 influenza family that has cropped up, as well as last year's swine flu, part of the H1N1 family, and a Type B strain. Every year a different flu vaccine is brewed to match the constantly changing flu strains that circle the globe.

Q: Why is there a new high-dose version for seniors?

A: Your immune system weakens with age, so it doesn't respond as actively to a flu shot. Sanofi Pasteur's Fluzone High-Dose quadruples the standard dose for people 65 and older. This winter, scientists will track if that translates into less illness. Until that proof's in, the CDC says it's OK to choose either option.

Sanofi is finalizing how much to make, and availability may vary with location. For example, Dr. Marvin Bittner of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Omaha estimates the new shot might benefit one in four seniors and said his center has ordered enough for that population, while other VA clinics aren't ordering as much.

Q: Will I need just one shot?

A: Most people will, but any children under 9 getting their first-ever flu vaccine will need two, a month apart, to prime their immune systems.

Q: What if my child's first-ever vaccine was last year and she got one dose of seasonal and one dose of swine flu vaccine?

A: She wasn't primed enough and needs her two doses this year, said Dr. Michael Brady of Nationwide Children's Hospital, who co-authored the American Academy of Pediatrics flu vaccination guidelines out Monday.

Q: Will there be enough vaccine?

A: Manufacturers project 170 million doses. Obviously that won't cover the entire population, but the CDC knows its near-universal vaccination policy won't spark a stampede for shots. Before last year, flu vaccine was recommended for 85 percent of Americans but only about a third got vaccinated. Last year nearly all 114 million doses of seasonal vaccine were used, but as the swine flu outbreak slowed, just 90 million doses of the special vaccine were used out of nearly 162 million eventually produced for the general public.

Q: Who's at high risk from flu?

A: Young children, anyone 50 or older, anyone with chronic medical conditions such as asthma or heart disease, pregnant women. Also, health workers and caregivers of infants can infect the vulnerable unless vaccinated.

Q: Who can use the nasal spray vaccine?

A: FluMist is for healthy people 2 to 49, no pregnancy or underlying health conditions.

Q: When should vaccination start?

A: Chain pharmacies already have started vaccinating; protection will last all winter. It takes about two weeks to kick in, and flu typically starts circulating around November.

Q: How do I know it's safe?

A: Unprecedented safety monitoring last year turned up no rare side effects from the special swine flu-only vaccine sold in the United States. "We're hoping a lot of the myths people had about the influenza vaccine may be a little bit less of a concern," said pediatrics specialist Brady. Abroad, a few reports of narcolepsy after a European swine flu vaccine are being probed; that vaccine didn't sell here. An Australian seasonal vaccine dosed for young children won't be sold here after being linked to some fever-related seizures in that country.

Q: Why should I bother since fewer people than usual died last year?

A: Last year's U.S. toll: about 12,000 deaths, 60 million illnesses and 265,000 hospitalizations. New CDC statistics last week suggest flu strain mortality varies widely, from 3,000 in an exceptionally mild year to 49,000 in a recent really bad one — and it's impossible to predict how bad each year will be.

^ I guess all the life and death hype over swine flu that we were constantly warned about last year is over and is now included in the regular flu shot. ^

Hurricane Earl

It seems the media and government were wrong again. The "storm of the century" that caused evacuations and states of emergency before any wind or rain came did very little damage. I really wish people would stop putting so much hype on every little thing. I know we are in a 24 hour news world and that there isn't always something to report, but to make every weather disturbance a major storm just to get ratings does more harm than good. It is just like the story of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." If the media and the government make everything a major storm than people will not take any of them seriously anymore. You can not evacuate or declare a state of emergency for every little storm. The only thing this unnecessary hype does is make people stop and think of how stupid our media and government are. When the next major storm (the real "storm of the century") happens many people will not heed any warnings because of all the false alarms.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Moscow Integrating Disabled

From Russia Today:
"Disabled students given chance to study in Moscow schools"

Millions of Russian students are returning to school after a three-month-long summer holiday, getting back down to work with mixed feelings of enthusiasm and trepidation.
This year officials in Moscow are piloting a scheme aimed at integrating disabled students into mainstream schools. Some schools have already been integrating disabled pupils for a number of years. Now Moscow is officially starting such integration based on the decision of Moscow’s State Duma. A bill has been passed that says there could be up to three disabled students in a classroom, but this number cannot exceed 10% of the overall student body.It is difficult for people living with disabilities to get around on the streets, more so for them to integrate into society because of the stigma attached with being disabled. However, this new program is meant to tackle that at an early age. Students do not describe their classmates as disabled or not disabled – they all are just regular students. They are not allowed to use those terms in a classroom. The program is aimed at changing the attitudes towards disabled students; to treat them with tolerance, respect and acceptance. It also gives the body of students living with disabilities the chance to experience something that all kids want to be a part of: going to a regular classroom, making friends, and playing. As a first year pupil, Gosha Bychkov said, “I really want to go to school and I'm happy I can study now, because so many schools refused to take me before, just because I can't walk.” His mother told RT that “Of course I'm worried about him, but I want him to be more social, to be independent and to get a real profession in the future.” Unfortunately it is not possible to introduce all disabled students to start integrated lessons in ordinary schools this year. Nevertheless, up to 200 Moscow schools welcomed such students today. Many of them are coming to Moscow from quite far away for an opportunity to have this kind of educational experience. By next year all schools will be obliged to be ready with special desks to have more integrated classrooms.

^ I think this is such a great idea. Russia is one of the worst countries I have been to with regards to how they treat their disabled. They have not heard of the phrase: disabled accessible. Ordinary people's attitudes towards the disabled are also one of the worse I have ever seen. When I lived in Russia I visited a "children's home for the disabled." It was very run-down and neglected. The director of the school said she did her best to educate people - especially the children's parents - that the disabled can lead a regular life, but not many would listen.
My teacher (who was in her 60s-70s) and who took me there didn't even know it existed and then when I told her about it she didn't want to visit it. The Russians I spoke to (not at the school, but in general) seem to think that being disabled is against nature and that if a "normal" person associates with a disables person they (the "normal" one) can catch the disability.
I hope that this new program in Moscow will help teach a new generation of Russians the truth about the disabled and bring about more freedom and acceptance. ^