Sunday, October 31, 2010


Today is Halloween and is seems that this year the TV channels actually remembered and showed Halloween-themed movies and shows. Like last year we didn't get any trick-or-treaters (which isn't surprising since we live on a small mountain road with no kids on it.) We did get some snow tough (just a few flurries.)
I watched some scary movies and ate some candy and had a decent day.


This week they went from Norway to Saint Petersburg, Russia. I have been there once before and like the city. The show has also been to Russia before and it has always been fun. The teams also seemed to really like the city as well. I would not have wanted to do any of the challenges (the music listening, the film watching or planting potatoes. I really think the team from Nevada should have been sent home, but am sure they will be gone next week.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cargo Explosives

From Yahoo News:
"Obama says packages appeared to have explosives"

President Barack Obama says initial examination of two packages bound for the U.S. determined that they apparently contained explosive materials. Obama says the packages, which were intercepted overseas, originated in Yemen and were apparently bound for places of Jewish worship in Chicago. The president said the American public should be confident in the government's counterterror efforts. Obama spoke to reporters Friday hours after details of the potentially al-Qaida-linked plot emerged.

^ You would think that after last December when the guy with ties to Yemen tried to blow up the airliner the Obama Administration would start focusing on everything and everyone going to or coming from Yemen. It is no real surprise that the terrorists would try using cargo for their attacks since experts around the world have been saying it for years. The fact that the US does not inspect every piece of cargo entering/leaving the US by plane, train or ship is just plain stupid. Every air passenger is inspected before they fly so why not all the cargo? I would rather each piece of cargo be searched and there be delays then a bomb or worse happening because of the lax system. I guess Obama and his administration would rather be politically correct and not specfically search things/people from/going to Yemen, the Middle East, Pakistan, northern Africa or parts of Asia - even though they are known to hold terrorists plotting against the world. ^

Aggressive Pat-Downs

From USA Today:
"Airport screeners get more aggressive with pat-downs"

I flew out of Boston last summer and after going through the full-body scanner a TSA guy then did the aggressive pat-down. When I asked him why he was doing the pat-down after I just went through the body scanner he made some comment and continued. I don't really think these new procedures will have any real impact on airline/airport safety. I think it is just one more "fake" safety practice that is supposed to make passengers feel safer, but really has no merit. I have flown out of many airports around the world and they seem to be able to keep their people safe without abusing them.

Fingerprinting School Buses

From USA Today:
"School buses test fingerprint scan"

I think this is a good idea. As long as the fingerprints are not stored or misused. It is one more step to help get children to/from school and home without getting lost.

TSA's New Lists

From USA Today:
"Pushy fliers may show up on TSA's radar"

WASHINGTON — Airline passengers who get frustrated and kick a wall, throw a suitcase or make a pithy comment to a screener could find themselves in a little-known Homeland Security database.
The Transportation Security Administration says it is keeping records of people who make its screeners feel threatened as part of an effort to prevent workplace violence. Privacy advocates fear the database could feed government watch lists and subject innocent people to extra airport screening. "Is this going to be the baby watch list? There's a potential for the misuse of information or the mischaracterization of harmless events as potential threats," American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Michael German said. A TSA report says the database can include names, birth dates, Social Security numbers, home addresses and phone numbers of people involved in airport incidents, including aggressors, victims and witnesses. Incidents in the database include threats, bullying or verbal abuse, remarks about death or violence, brandishing a real or fake weapon, intentionally scaring workers or excessive displays of anger such as punching a wall or kicking equipment, the report says. The database was created in late 2007 as the TSA launched a program to prevent the nation's 50,000 airport screeners from being attacked or threatened, agency spokeswoman Kristin Lee said. At the time, TSA officials voiced concern about passengers disrespecting screeners, and they began issuing new uniforms with police-style badges pinned to shirts. Lee said attacks and threats against screeners are "rare" and the database has records from about 240 incidents. Most are screeners in conflict with other screeners. About 30 incidents involve people such as passengers or airport workers attacking or threatening screeners, Lee said. Information about passengers is taken from incident reports that the TSA writes when a traveler threatens or attacks a screener, Lee said. "The program's focus is on prevention," Lee said. The database helps the TSA spot trends in incidents that can shape workplace-safety programs, Lee said. A TSA document published in February says database information can be given to government agencies and to airports, airlines and rail and bus systems in cases involving their workers or job applicants. "They may be contacted by the TSA if an incident involves their employee," Lee said. A.J. Castilla, a screener at Boston's Logan International Airport and an official with a TSA union, said he has seen passengers throw shoes at and push screeners, but incidents have subsided more recently. The ACLU's German said he worries that the incidents in the database are broad. "I've been very angry at an airport because flying can be a very frustrating experience," he said.

^ I see a big problem with this. I have flown many times in the past few years and have had issues with the TSA. I have even had to call the supervisors and in one instance the problem was the supervisor. While I never threatened any of them or kicked a wall I did shout. When I got back from my trip and filed complaints with the TSA nothing ever came of it - they never wrote me back even though I had names,dates, locations, times, etc. It seems the TSA needs to focus more on its employees and train them better rather than this list. ^

New Canadian E-Passport

From Yahoo News Canada:
"New e-passports won't have biometric data"

MONTREAL - The federal government rolled out some details of its new 10-year electronic passport on Tuesday, saying the Canadians who know about the new document seem to like it. "Generally Canadians are not aware of the project by the government of Canada to adopt the new passport, nor do they know exactly what the passport consists of," a survey released by Passport Canada indicated. But the idea of the microchip-equipped passport, which offers a choice of validity of five or 10 years, "experienced significant support," the survey said. The new passport will contain a photograph but not biometric data such as fingerprints or iris scans. Adults will be able to choose between a five-year passport and one valid for 10 years but children will only be able to get the five-year document. "The goal of the validity period of 10 years is not to reduce costs but to be more convenient for Canadians, to get Canada to the same level as a growing number of countries such as the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Australia," said Monique Boivin, a Passport Canada spokeswoman. She said about 80 countries issue e-passports and "Canada is the only G8 country not to issue electronic passports to the general public." Boivin said Canada chose not to include fingerprints and iris scans in the passport to comply with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. "Right now the ICAO standard is the facial image," she said. The Passport Canada survey said that about 55,000 Canadian passports were lost or stolen in 2008-2009. The country issued 4.38 million passports in the same period. Boivin said that there are 19 million passports in circulation and those stolen "represent a very small, tiny portion of what is outstanding at this time." There have been some suggestions that Passport Canada raise the price of replacement passports for those lost or stolen rather than pass the cost on to everyone. Boivin said a final proposal will be developed that will set the costs and standards and be sent to Parliament for approval. Once that's done, the new electronic passport could be implemented from 2012 onwards. However, some people have raised concerns about privacy issues. The Canadian Civil Liberties Union worried about the confidentiality of information contained on the passport's microchip. "Some feared that the passport chip could lead to surveillance and monitoring of Canadians by unauthorized parties," the group wrote in the report. "That means making personal information available electronically can increase the number of forged passports and identity theft." Boivin said an awareness campaign will be conducted to "reassure" Canadians about the confidentiality of data. She noted the passport has to be opened to the second page to be scanned unlike other documents such as a driver's licence. It also must be held close to the computer drive to be read. The passport agency acknowledged that there is an upward trend in states adding other biometrics, such as fingerprints and iris scans for security. The Employers Council, which was also consulted by Passport Canada, welcomed the adoption of e-passport because it lengthens the validity period, reduces paperwork, and eases mobility.

^ I don't see any issue with the new Canadian Passports. I like that they are giving its adult citizens the option of either a 5 year or a 10 year passport. ^

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Survivor: N

The teams first fought for a reward (of riding horses and eating breakfast.) Then they had their immunity challenge where Fabio went the bathroom in the water and let everyone know about it. Marty was pretty dumb to give up his idol and sell-out Jill. I would have liked to see either Jane or Brenda sent home. It seems that next week the two tribes merge so hopefully it will get more interesting.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Titanic (1943)

I got this movie from Netflix. It is German and made during the height of World War 2. I thought I would watch it to see if I could find any overt Nazi propaganda (like I have done while watching Soviet movies with Soviet propaganda.) The film is in black and white and while the majority of the movie feels like any from the 1940s there were two scenes I found to be purely German.
The first was when the crew orders the passengers to separate with men on one side and women and children on the other. This may not seem like anything, but you have to remember that this film was made in 1943 when all over Germany and German-occupied countries the Nazis were separating men and women and children in the concentration and death camps(and using the same words as the film: Quick, quick. Men on one side and women and children on the other. Quick.) With that in mind it is a very Nazi scene.
The second is everyone following orders (the passengers and the crew.) I know that in 1912 when the Titanic sank class and society rules were followed, but with respect to the actual sinking I am sure the passengers did everything they could to save themselves and their loved ones. The scene where the captain shouts that there is no more orders and yet orders the passengers by saying it is every man for themselves and then everyone panics shows the typical German characteristic of following orders even when they are ordered into chaos. I am not saying that every German needs someone to tell them what to do, but have found that to be the case most of the time and I lived in Germany and saw this first-hand.
The movie was alright for what it was: a Nazi-made film made during the war to show the "evils" of the English (which you can see at the very end of the movie.) The fact that it was banned in Germany during the war because of the panic scenes and that the Nazis didn't want to cause panic with those bombed out of their houses shows it does have some merit as a decent movie (if the Nazis hated it than it must be good.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010


This week they were in Narvik, Norway. They had to go down a bridge and either ride a bike or take a boat. The challenges this week were pretty straightforward and easy. There was also a Fast Forward where the doctors had to eat meat (and one hadn't eaten meat in 20+ years.) They finished and came in 1st place.
The only team I am not completely annoyed with are the doctors. The Home Shopping team have an annoying voice and are pretty dumb. The old father on the Asian team constantly complains about his inability to do things. The funniest and dumbest team by far are the ones from Nevada. They always say something stupid. This week it was them deciding what "taken" means.
In the end the volleyball girls were sent home.

Spain Bans Smoking

From Yahoo News:
"Spain says 'Adios' to smoking in bars, cafes"

Spain is just another country that has banned smoking. It seems it is only banned in bars and cafes than in restaurants. I still think places need to consider their smoking bans. It seems to be the "cool" thing to do, but they don't take into account a smoker's right. I am all for not forcing smoke on those that don't want it, but people who do smoke deserve to have their right allowed. Unless Governments want to completely ban cigarettes than they have to allow smoking.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Survivor: N

This week each tribe had to vote someone off. The one tribe voted off Kelly B because she only has one leg and they didn't want her to win because of that and the other tribe voted of Yve. It seems that most people seal their fate when they go to Tribal. This week it was Yve who kept talking and made everyone vote her off. I really wish people would realize the pattern and keep their mouths shut. It would be more interesting.

Monday, October 18, 2010


This week the teams painted a school in Ghana and then went to Sweden. One thing that was funny was when the team from Nevada got into the taxi in Ghana instead of telling the guy to go to the airport they told him to go to the Arctic Circle (in Sweden.) That team isn't the brightest.
Half the teams were able to get on an earlier flight and so got to Sweden about two hours before the rest. They had to get their clue at the summer storage site of the Ice Hotel. The first challenge they had to do was to use sled dogs (with summer gear.) That looked really fun and the dogs were so cute.
Then they either had to use a scooter and go down a mountain or build a traditional tent for the Sami.
In the end I wasn't surprised that the singing team was sent home. They were a little off from the very beginning.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

German Multiculturalism Failed

From Deutsche Welle:
"Chancellor Merkel says German multiculturalism has 'utterly failed'"

In a speech to supporters, Chancellor Angela Merkel said multiculturalism in Germany has not been successful. Party leaders also sparred over immigrants' role in filling the country's shortage of skilled workers. Attempts to build a multicultural society in Germany have "utterly failed," according to Chancellor Angela Merkel. "This approach has failed, utterly failed," said Merkel, head of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), in a speech to the party's young people's association in Potsdam on Saturday. She added that not enough was done in the past to support the movement. "The failures of the last 30 or 40 years cannot be resolved so quickly," she said. The comments followed a similar speech from Horst Seehofer, head of the CDU's Bavarian sister party to the CSU. On Friday he declared his party's stance against multiculturalism: "Multiculturalism is dead," he said, to delegates' applause.Seehofer's comments were criticized by Stephan Kramer, the general secretary of the Central Council of Jews. In an interview with the Rheinpfalz am Sonntag newspaper, he said the idea that immigrants from Turkey as well as Arab countries found it harder to integrate was "not just tactless, but downright irresponsible." In her speech, Merkel stressed that immigrants must learn to speak German in order to be able to compete on the job market.
"Those who want to take part [in our society] must not only obey our laws, they must also master our language," she said.Merkel's comments come a week after a visit to Berlin by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The two leaders said they would work to improve the integration of the some 2.5 million members of the Turkish community in Germany. Erdogan told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung that Turks living in Germany should learn to speak fluent and accent-free German. On Saturday, Merkel also underscored the continued importance of immigration to Germany and the job market, especially highly skilled migrants.She pointed out that every year, 200,000 Germans retired and left the job market, and weren't replaced, which could lead to companies leaving Germany due to labor shortages. The German Chamber of Industry and Commerce has said Germany's shortfall of about 400,000 skilled workers costs the country 1 percent in growth annually. Merkel said, however, that older German workers should not be overlooked in favor of immigrant laborers, adding that immigrants should not be considered "until we have done all we can to help our own people to become qualified and give them a chance."For his part, Seehofer, in an interview with Focus magazine, said Germany should not use a lack of skilled workers as an excuse to open its doors to all comers, adding that demands made of those who wish to move to Germany should not be watered down."We do not want to become the world's welfare office," he said.German Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, however, said politicians need to consider lowering the barriers to entry for some foreign workers to Europe's largest economy. "For several years, more people have been leaving our country than entering it," she told the weekly Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung. "Wherever it is possible, we must lower the entry hurdles for those who bring the country forward."German Education Minister Annette Schavan agreed, telling the Welt am Sonntag newspaper Germany should be more concerned with emigration than immigration and adding that her ministry was preparing a bill that would make it easier for foreign qualifications to be recognized in Germany.Germany's integration debate is sure to continue as President Christian Wulff, who in a speech marking 20 years of German unity said Islam was now a part of Germany, begins a five-day trip to Turkey on Monday. He is scheduled to address the Turkish parliament on Tuesday.

^ It seems so odd that Germany would announce this so soon after the results of a poll showed 1 in 10 Germans want a dictatorship. I am all for countries (whether it is Germany or the US) to require immigrants learn the national language and adhere it local customs and traditions. The only real issue here is that Germany once tried to create a Germany where only pure Germans could live. If there aren't checks and balances then history could repeat itself. ^,,6118859,00.html

Russian Census

From Russia Today:
"Russian census starts – no Jedi expected"

The nationwide census began in Russia on Thursday. Over 12 days, hundreds of thousands of clerks will be ringing people or visiting homes to gather fresh statistics. Some 500,000 Russians living in remote settlements have already been accounted for, during the pre-census period, which started in April. The last census in Russia was taken in October 2002, showing the country’s population to be 145.2 million. The estimated number today is 141.9 million. Before 2002, Soviet authorities carried out seven censuses. In the tsarist Russian Empire only one was taken. It is famous for Emperor Nicholas II choosing to write his occupation as “Master of the land of Russia.” The current census has a budget of US$350 million. An extra $215 million will be spent over the next two years to process the gathered information. The first results are expected in April 2011, while the final report will be ready in late 2012. The census aims to record age, family status, nationality, spoken languages, living conditions, work and household income. The information will be used to plan budget support programs and city development plans, among other things. The “religion” field has been left out off the form. It seems Russians with a spark of creativity and overwhelming sense of humor will have to resort to indicating their nationality as “elf” or “wookie”, instead of claiming to be Jedi believers. The upcoming census has become one of the top discussion topics in the Russian blogosphere. Some of the most popular posts call for people to ignore the census or to partially misreport the requested data. The authors do not trust local authorities and believe there may be corrupt census workers who will not honor the anonymity of the form and may misuse the data. Other critics of the census have been targeting its enormous cost – 17 billion rubles ($550 million) – which they argue could be used in many other ways. Furthermore, Russian students have been complaining about being pressed into working at the census in exchange for good marks. For their part, the organizers of the census are calling on people around Russia to give the initiative their full support. They say that among the main aims of the census is tackling the problem of unemployment and providing the population with better education facilities. “There is no source of information about the Russian population other than the results of the census,” said Aleksandr Surinov, the head of the Federal Statistics Service. “And it’s not just about the number of people living in the country; it’s also about qualitative aspects of the nation. This has one of the main influences on the state budget.”

^ Since the US had our census this year it is interesting to see other countries conducting theirs. I am curious to see what the results are of all the censuses. ^

1 In 10 Germans

From Deutsche Welle:
"10% of Germans want Führer back - survey"

One in ten Germans would like to see a Führer in power; they see dictatorship as the best option for the country, a survey has revealed.
The poll, aimed at revealing ultra-right and nationalistic feeling, covered 2,400 Germans aged 14 to 90, and yielded unexpected results. Ten per cent of respondents said that for its own sake, Germany needs a strong leader, a Führer who can rule the country with a steady hand. They pointed out that dictatorship was the best form of government. The results were even more worrying regarding the nationalistic sentiments of the Germans. More than 35 per cent expressed concern that Germany risks being packed with immigrants; almost 32 per cent suggested that considering the current labor market conditions, foreigners should be “sent home.” Xenophobic attitudes toward Muslim immigrants turned out to be especially strong. According to 58 per cent of the respondents, the religious freedom of Muslims in Germany should be limited. The results of the poll came just as the German History Museum in Berlin opens an exhibition on Adolf Hitler. It is the first exhibition in Germany's postwar history focusing exclusively on Hitler's life. According to Johannes Kiess, researcher from the University of Leipzig, democracy should not be taken for granted as xenophobic feeling is on the rise. “The study shows that there is a lack of education in some parts of society. Secondly, people always, especially in times of crisis, search for scapegoats for their own political, economic or social deprivation,” he said. “This combination of all things together points up to the actually important thing which is that democracy itself is nothing self-fulfilling, or which is always there, or something we have in Europe without doing something for it. We have to fight for democracy every time and every day.” Another researcher at Leipzig University, Marliese Weissmann, told RT xenophobic attitudes might be related to the discrepancy in the perception of democracy. “You can observe that people in general approve democracy, but in fact they are not satisfied with how it works in practice,” she said. But of course there are other factors as well, she noted. “The economy is quite an important factor, but there are also other factors playing an important role in the rise of right-wing extremist attitudes, such as education and political declarations,” she said.

^ I don't find this news surprising. The German people have historically been led by dictators. There were the Kaisers, Hitler and the Communists in East Germany. The fact that did surprise me is that so many Germans openly expressed their desire to have aomeone rule over them. The same thing is happening around the world. In Russia, which has been ruled by the Czars, then the Communists and now former Communists, it seems many Russians also want one person to tell them what to do. In both Germany and Russia, ordinary people need to learn their true histories so they will fully understand what has happened and what will happen if new dictatorships do arise. ^

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Miners In Chile

The last miner in Chile was brought up today. There are still several rescuers down there that went down to help bring the miners up. I am impressed at how fast and effeicently the Chileans were about all this. It seems that the majority of the world were watching all this from when they were first discovered on day 17 to today - day 69. One reporter said that she thinks people around the world watch this so closely for two reasons: something like this has never happened before and the thought of going to work each day and not knowing if something bad will happen.

Survivor: N

This week the tribes changed and are no longer old vs young. I thought it was funny when the PE Teacher, Nay, broke down in the rain. I really wished she had gone home. Instead Tyrone left. I'm not sure what the new tribes will accomplish, but hopefully the show picks up soon since it is starting to drag along.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


This week's show they stayed in Ghana. They went to a local school and had to do several challenges. Only one team was able to figure out the code challenge. The rest had to move the wheel with a stick. It seems that the old Asian guys on the show (the last 3 seasons) always complain and have health problems. This show was no different. Maybe the show should consider not having any old Asian men next season. Unfortunately, the father and son team were not eliminated. I don't think they will be able to finish the extra challenge next week. The previews for next week shows they leave Africa and go to the Arctic.

Netherlands Antilles Dissolved!

Today the Netherlands Antilles ceased to exist. There are now four countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands: the Netherlands, Aruba, Sint Maarten and Curacao. The other islands: Bonaire, Saba and Sint Eustatius have become part of the country of the Netherlands within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While the residents of all these places are considered Dutch citizens and thus EU citizens only those from the country of the Netherlands (in Europe proper) have full EU rights. The three islands that just joined the country of the Netherlands will retain their regular status within the EU at least until 2015. Those three islands will replace the Netherlands Antilles Guilder with the US Dollar in January 2011 (this last part isn't that big of a deal as the Dollar is already accepted almost everywhere.)
While these changes will not really affect all the tourists who visits these islands it will make the EU pay more attention to the Caribbean (despite the fact that France already has numerous islands that are part of the EU little attention is currently paid there.)

More info at Wikipedia:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Survivor: N

This week's show was alright. It was obvious that either Dan or Jimmy would leave. I'm glad that it was Jimmy. He was just very weird and needy. The women on that tribe just seem to be there with the men doing the majority of the work and decision-making.
The young tribe was alright. I don't think they should have gotten the knives since the black girl is crazy and from south-central LA and she will probably cut someone (most likely the woman with one leg since the black woman doesn't like her at all.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


This book has got to be one of the most boring books I have ever read. I am very interested in everything Russian/Soviet, but this book was a real waste of time. The book was supposed to deal with the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union and finally the Russsian Federation, but it mostly focused on the USSR. It was so bland and jumped all over the place. One line it was dealing with the Soviet Union and the next about Czarist Russia. The author's conclusions were pretty basic and nothing new while his evidence of those conclusions were long-winded.

Monday, October 4, 2010

IDF: A People's Army

The full title of the book is: "Israel Defence Forces - A People's Army." It is written by Louis Williams who served in the IDF for 40+ years. The book goes in depth on why Israel has mandatory conscription of all Israelis (both men and women) - except for Israeli Arabs. It also describes the process each person must go through when they first enter the military (ie all the tests, career decisions, etc.) There is also the whole social aspect of both being in the military as well as returning to civilian life.
It was a really interesting book since it went beyond all the wars Israel has fought (although they are mentioned in the book) and dealt more with the soldiers. The fact that Israelis not only serve in the military - 3 years for men and 2 for women - but that they are then in the reserves - up til 54 years old for men and 24 for unmarried women - shows the true commitment both the Israeli Government as well as the Israeli citizen has to keeping their country safe.
One reason the Arab/Muslim countries have never won a war against Israel is because they are not truly committed to their cause. Most of their invasions and battles are simply a half-hazard attempt to show their dislike for Israel rather than for any real decisive goal. The Arabs/Muslims say they are trying to help the Palestinians regain their freedom yet the Palestinian refugees in those Arab/Muslim countries aren't allowed any freedoms.
Israel is the best example of how a society that is constantly faced with complete destruction can continue to overcome everything that comes their way. Some foreigners may not agree with their methods all the time, but those same people have not grown up knowing that the majority of the neighboring countries actively call for the total destrucion of their homeland. Even when faced with invasions, battles, rocket attacks, etc Israel still tries to adhere to International Law even when the Arabs/Muslims do not.
Israel has been around for 60+ years and it is only with the complete dedication of all its citizens that the country not only has won every war thrown at it, but continues to thrive and remain the only democratic country in the Middle East.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


This week they went to Ghana. I have to say that after seeing how dirty it was and how the people were I have no desire to ever go there. Ghana is supposed to be one of the best and safest places in all of Africa - if that's true it doesn't say much for Africa.
The teams had to sell sunglasses and then either move weird-shaped coffins or install antennas in shanty homes. I would have done the coffins. The driving in Ghana reminded me of how people drive outside the US (especially in Eastern Europe) where they make their own lane and cut people off, etc.
It was too bad that the mother and daughter team got eliminated. I would rather have had the team from Nevada or the father-daughter team go.

20 Years Of German Reunification

From Deutsche Welle:
"Germany celebrates two decades of reunification"

Today is the 20th anniversary of German Reunification. While a lot has changed in those 20 years it seems that the eastern part of Germany still lacks way behind western Germany. A recent poll showed that only 34 % of western Germans have ever been to the eastern part since 1990 while 98% of eastern Germans have been to the western part. That is a big difference. Eastern Germany still has high unemployment (higher than the rest of the country) and many young Germans from the eastern part go to school and live in the western part. Western Germans still pay the Reunification Tax to help rebuild the eastern part and bring it to the west's standards. It is taking longer for the eastern part to bring itself into the western's standard of living than it took West Germany to rebuild after World War 2 (and that includes rebuilding cities destroyed by bombs.) It seems the German Government needs to use its money more wisely in the eastern part since it shouldn't take so long (20 years.) I have the feeling that the eastern part will take another 20 years to fully be integrated with the western part.,,6070436,00.html

Friday, October 1, 2010

Eastern Germans Still Remember

From Yahoo UK and Ireland:
"East German upbringing made me a hoarder: Merkel"

Twenty years after German unification, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday she has found some habits of her communist East German upbringing hard to break, such as stockpiling consumer goods. The 56-year-old German leader told Superillu magazine that she tended to overstock her cupboards "because you used to just get what you could in an economy where things were scarce". "Sometimes I just buy things because I see them even though I don't really need them at the time," she told the magazine which was founded in East Berlin during the communist era and which specialises in issues facing eastern Germany. Merkel, who lives in private apartment with her chemist husband in Berlin's city centre, said she also still has a hankering for typical foods in the German Democratic Republic, as the repressive state was known.
Soljanka, a meat and pickled vegetable soup, schaschlik (kebabs) and lecso, a thick Hungarian vegetable stew, are a few of the eastern delicacies Merkel said she still savours. Merkel said it took her several years to adopt western terms in her vocabulary, long opting to shop at a "Kaufhalle" (shopping hall), as such stores were known in the east. "But it occurred to me that since the 15th or 16th year of German unity, the word 'supermarket' has passed my lips more easily," she said. Germany on Sunday will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the unification of east and west after 40 years of division, prompted by the fall of the Berlin Wall in a peaceful revolution in November 1989. East Germany's planned economy was marked by chronic shortages of consumer goods, just one factor feeding its citizens' dissatisfaction with the "Farmers' and Workers' State", as the communist leaders called the country.

^ I think it is interesting that after 20 years eastern Germans still have some of the same habits they did from when they lived in East Germany. I guess it makes sense that people who were 30 or older when Germany reunited in 1990 would continue to have some of their old ways. It seems that the youth in Germany (both in the western and eastern parts) know very little about what East Germany was like with its secret police, rationing, prison camps, pioneer meetings, censorship, etc. While I'm sure even those who were in their 30s in 1990 would not want to ever go back to that kind of state it is the little things (like buying things because you see them for sale) that continue to this day. I am curious to see how many people in the former Soviet Union who were at least 30 in 1991 feel about the "good old days." ^

USPS Rate Denied

From Yahoo News:
"Postal service denied rate increases for mail"

I have to say that hearing this news put a smile on my face. The USPS was finally told to start cutting from their organization rather than simply taking more money from us. I have seen numerous little towns on a 1 hour drive that all have a Post Office. Maybe the USPS should consolidate them. That would save a lot of money if it happened around the country. My town doesn't even have its own Zip Code and we use the Post Office in the next town so I know what I am talking about. People blame e-mails for the low USPS usage, but you would think that the heavy increase in, E-bay and other sites would mean more packages being mailed.

Most Americans Not Affected

From Yahoo News:
"Gates says too few in US bear the burdens of war"

DURHAM, N.C. – Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday that most Americans have grown too detached from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and see military service as "something for other people to do." In a speech Wednesday at Duke University, Gates said this disconnect has imposed a heavy burden on a small segment of society and wildly driven up the costs of maintaining an all-volunteer force. Because fewer Americans see military service as their duty, troops today face repeated combat tours and long separations from family. The 2.4 million people serving in the armed forces today represent less than 1 percent of the country's total population. To attract and retain recruits, the Defense Department finds itself spending more money, including handsome bonuses and education benefits. The money spent on personnel and benefits has nearly doubled since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, from $90 billion to $170 billion. "That is our sacred obligation," Gates told the audience of compensating troops. "But given the enormous fiscal pressures facing the country," the nation must devise "an equitable and sustainable system of military pay and benefits that reflects the realities of this century." Gates, who plans to retire next year, has been using academic-style speeches to outline what he believes to be the nation's toughest challenges that lie ahead when it comes to defense. Earlier this year, Gates asked whether troops were training for the right kinds of missions and called into question the utility of D-Day style amphibious landings handled historically by the Marine Corps. He has also embarked on a cost-cutting initiative to prepare for what he says are leaner days ahead for the department. As is the case in most of these speeches, Gates on Wednesday tried to raise awareness about a long-term problem rather than solve it. He offered no plan for what he described as a growing divide between Americans in uniform and those who aren't. "Whatever their fond sentiments for men and women in uniform, for most Americans the war remains an abstraction — a distant and unpleasant series of news items that do not affect them personally," Gates said. Even after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, for most Americans "service in the military — no matter how laudable — has become something for other people to do," he added. Gates gave his speech in front of some 1,200 faculty and students at Duke, considered one of the nation's top universities. Like most elite colleges, only a small fraction of Duke students consider military service. With 34 of its 6,400 undergraduates enrolled in its Reserve Officers' Training Corps, an officer commissioning program known as ROTC, Duke is actually considered among the more military-friendly elite colleges. Yale, for example, has only four of its 5,200 students enrolled in ROTC, whereas Harvard doesn't allow ROTC or military recruiters on campus. Without calling out any one particular university, Gates said he was disappointed in institutions that "used to send hundreds of graduates into the armed forces, but now struggle to commission a handful of officers every year." The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are considered the first large-scale, protracted conflicts since the Revolutionary War fought entirely with volunteers. Most military officials agree that this isn't a bad thing. Today's U.S. military forces are considered more professional and better educated than their predecessors. More enlisted troops hold a high school diploma, or its equivalent, than their civilian peers. Two-thirds of new recruits come from neighborhoods that are at or above the median household income. But the military isn't representative of the country as a whole. Recruits are most likely to serve only if they grow up around others who do so. The military also draws heavily from rural areas, particularly in the South and the mountain West. The trend is reinforced by the location of military bases, which tend to be in rural areas and the South where land is cheapest, rather than close to the big cities and the Northeast and West. Today, most soldiers who are not deployed are stationed in Texas, Washington, Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina. Many military facilities in the Northeast and along the West coast, meanwhile, have been shut down for environmental and budgetary reasons. Whereas Alabama hosts 10 ROTC programs, the city of Los Angeles — with twice the population — hosts only four. "There is a risk over time of developing a cadre of military leaders that politically, culturally and geographically have less and less in common with the people they have sworn to defend," Gates said. The premise underlying an all-volunteer force also has changed. Initiated in 1973, the concept was that such a force would fight in short, conventional conflicts like the 1991 Gulf War, or defend the U.S. and its allies against Soviet aggression. But after almost a decade of warfare since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, troops who have escaped combat unscathed still faced repeated deployments with long separations from their families. In Iraq at one point, some combat tours stretched to 18 months. More than 1 million soldiers and Marines have been deployed there during the course of the conflict. The consequences of long deployments in combat zones have been real. Suicide figures have increased, while the divorce rate among enlisted soldiers has nearly doubled. "No matter how patriotic, how devoted they are, at some point they will want to have the semblance of a normal life — getting married, starting a family, going to college or graduate school, seeing their children grow up — all of which they have justly earned," Gates said. Without offering specifics, Gates said a system must be created that is generous enough to recruit and retain people without causing the Defense Department to sink under the weight of personnel costs.

^ It does seem that the majority of Americans do not spend one second thinking about those that are fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. It is really sad to think that those men and women are doing something to keep people safe and yet they are largely ignored. Soldiers not only have to fight the enemy and risk death on a daily basis, but they also have to think about their families, the mortgage, the bills, etc. Little aid is given to military families who have to do a double burden while the average American only has to think about themselves. ^