Friday, December 30, 2011

Lose A Day

From the BBC:
"Samoa and Tokelau skip a day for dateline change"

Samoa and Tokelau have skipped a day - and jumped westwards across the international dateline - to align with trade partners. As the clock struck midnight (10:00 GMT Friday) as 29 December ended, Samoa and Tokelau fast-forwarded to 31 December, missing out on 30 December entirely. Samoa announced the decision in May in a bid to improve ties with major trade partners Australia and New Zealand. Neighbouring Tokelau decided to follow suit in October. The change comes 119 years after Samoa moved in the opposite direction. Then, it transferred to the same side of the international date line as the United States, in an effort to aid trade. But New Zealand and Australia have become increasingly valuable trade partners for the country. Samoan Prime Minister Tuila'epa Sailele Malielegaoi said he expected to see immediate benefits from the change, particularly for the tourist industry, as Samoans would now have five working days of continuous contact with counterparts in New Zealand and Australia. Local time up to 29 December had been 23 hours behind Auckland - but now it is one hour ahead.

^ Well, I hope it works out for them. A few years ago Samoa changed from driving on the right to the left because of Australia and New Zealand and now they change their time for them as well. I wonder how it will affect "Survivor" since most of the more recent seasons were/are filmed on Samoa. ^

Christmas Lies

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Not everyone came home from Iraq by Christmas"

Although she is a relatively new Army wife, 23-year-old Andrea Thane understands things can turn on a dime when it comes to military life. But a recent Army pivot has left Thane and other spouses and soldiers of the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st Brigade miffed at their command and the White House. When announcing the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq by year’s end, President Barack Obama on Oct. 21 said the remaining 40,000 troops in Iraq would “definitely be home for the holidays.” “Ironhorse” brigade leadership also announced on the unit’s official Facebook page that soldiers would be coming home early. “I hope you all left the light on for us,” the Oct. 1 Facebook announcement read, “as the Ironhorse Brigade will be coming home sooner than expected.” But 1st Brigade didn’t make it home for Christmas. A new posting emerged on the brigade’s Facebook page Nov. 9, notifying troops and families that the brigade would instead go to Kuwait, filling out the second half of its tour doing security cooperation, joint training and exercises. This abrupt change led some soldiers and families to cry foul against the White House and brigade command for misleading the unit’s community and causing family members to think their soldiers would be home early. Some also expressed anger over the brigade leadership’s choice to use an informal system like Facebook to disseminate such an important message.

^I knew (and wrote about it) that Obama was full of it when he came on TV and said that all US soldiers from Iraq would be home for Christmas. This is just one more lie that Obama and his team have fed us. Of course Obama always has excuses when the things he promises don't come true - rather than taken the blame like a real man. Even couldn't even get things done when the Democrats ruled both houses of Congress. I really hope this is his last term in office. We do not need more lies, czars and useless committees. ^

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Travels: 2011

It's that time of year again. Here are the places I travelled to in 2011:

- Massachusetts

- Massachusetts

- Iceland

- Massachusetts, New York

- Massachusetts

- Massachusetts, Alaska

- Alaska

- Massachusetts

- No where

- Massachusetts

- No where

- Colorado

I hope that next year we can go to many more places.

UK's Quarantine Law

From Yahoo News:
"Britain eases quarantine rules for visiting pets"

For a famously animal-loving nation, pet owning visitors to Britain have had it remarkably tough. Ever since the 19th century, new arrivals have had to bid a teary farewell to their cat or dog for six months while it sat in quarantine to prove that it did not have rabies. But no longer. As of January 1, Britain will allow animals from the European Union and listed countries such as the United States and Australia to enter with just a rabies vaccination given 21 days beforehand. Pets coming in from unlisted countries such as India, Brazil and South Africa will also need to have been vaccinated and take a blood test, but the subsequent quarantine has been halved to three months. The new measures will bring Britain in line with other EU nations while at the same time ensuring the risk of rabies entering the country remains "extremely low", according to officials. Announcing the change in June, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said: "The UK?s quarantine system was designed to combat the threat of rabies in the 19th century and has now been left far behind by scientific advances.

^ The UK may have needed these quarantine laws up until the Chunnel was opened in the 1990s. Before that it made since for the island-nation to have strict rabies rules. Nowadays it is baseless for pets coming from Western countries to have to be quarantined I'm glad these archaic rules are be done away with for many nationalities. ^

New 2012 Laws

From Yahoo News:
"Abortion, immigration changes among new 2012 laws"

- Alabama, with the country's toughest immigration law, is enacting a key provision requiring all employers who do business with any government entity to use a federal system known as E-Verify to check that all new employees are in the country legally.

- Georgia is putting a similar law into effect requiring any business with 500 or more employees to use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of new hires. The requirement is being phased in, with all employers with more than 10 employees to be included by July 2013.

- Tennessee will also require businesses to ensure employees are legally authorized to work in the U.S. but exempts employers with five or fewer workers and allows them to keep a copy of the new hire's driver's license instead of using E-Verify.

- South Carolina law would allow officials to yank the operating licenses of businesses that don't check new hires' legal status through E-verify. A federal judge last week blocked parts of the law that would have required police to check the immigration status of criminal suspects or people stopped for traffic violations they think might be in the country illegally, and that would have made it a crime for illegal immigrants to transport or house themselves.

- California is also addressing illegal immigration, but with a bill that allows students who entered the country illegally to receive private financial aid at public colleges.

- Colorado, coaches will be required to bench players as young as 11 when they're believed to have suffered a head injury. The young athletes will also need medical clearance to return to play.

- Florida will take control of lunch and other school food programs from the federal government, allowing the state to put more Florida-grown fresh fruit and vegetables on school menus. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says the change will help children eat healthier.

- California law will add gays and lesbians and people with disabilities to the list of social and ethnic groups whose contributions must be taught in history lessons in public schools. The law also bans teaching materials that reflect poorly on gays or particular religions.

- New Hampshire, a law requiring girls seeking abortions to tell their parents or a judge first was reinstated by conservative Republicans over a gubernatorial veto. The state enacted a similar law eight years ago, but it was never enforced following a series of lawsuits.

- Arkansas, facilities that perform 10 or more nonsurgical abortions a month must be licensed by the state Health Department and be subject to inspections by the department, the same requirements faced by facilities that offer surgical abortions in the state.

- Federal laws, a measure Congress passed last week to extend Social Security tax cuts and federal unemployment benefit programs raises insurance fees on new mortgages and refinancings backed by Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Housing Administration by 0.1 percent beginning Jan. 1. That covers about 90 percent of them and effectively makes a borrower's monthly payment on a new $200,000 mortgage or refinancing about $17 a month more than it would have been if obtained before the first of the year.

- Nevada's 3-month old ban on texting while driving will get tougher, with tickets replacing the warnings that police have issued since the ban took effect Oct. 1. In Pennsylvania, police are preparing to enforce that state's recently enacted ban on texting, scheduled to take effect by spring.

- Rhode Island and Tennessee will require voters to present photo ID, a measure that supporters say prevents fraud and that opponents say will make it harder for minorities and the elderly to cast ballots.

- Ohio, a measure that creates one primary in March, instead of two that would have cost the state an extra $15 million, goes into effect later in January.

- Ohio is also one of eight states with automatic increases in the minimum wage taking effect Jan. 1. The others, with increases between 28 and 37 cents, are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.A few laws try to address budget woes.

- Delaware, new state employees will have to contribute more to their pensions, while state workers hired after Jan. 1 in Nevada will have to pony up for their own health care costs in retirement.

Deaths 2011

2nd - Richard Winters, 92, American army officer and World War II veteran, basis of book and miniseries Band of Brothers, Parkinson's disease
3rd - Jill Haworth, 65, English actress (Exodus, In Harm's Way, Cabaret, The Outer Limits), natural causes.
4th - Ali-Reza Pahlavi, 44, Iranian royal, son of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, suicide by gunshot.
8th - Peter Donaldson, 58, Canadian actor (The Sweet Hereafter, Emily of New Moon, Road to Avonlea), lung cancer
9th - Vítor Alves, 75, Portuguese soldier and politician, member of the MFA, responsible for the Carnation Revolution, cancer
10th 0 Bill Bower, 93, American aviator, last surviving pilot of Doolittle Raid, complications from a fall.
10th - John Dye, 47, American actor (Touched by an Angel), heart attack
11th - Audrey Lawson-Johnston, 95, American-born British RMS Lusitania passenger and last survivor
11th - David Nelson, 74, American actor (The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet), colon cancer
13th - Tuviah Friedman, 88, Israeli Nazi hunter.
23rd - Jack LaLanne, 96, American fitness and nutritional expert, pneumonia

5th - John Paul Getty III, 54, American heir and kidnapping victim, grandson of J. Paul Getty and father of Balthazar Getty, after long illness
5th - Peggy Rea, 89, American character actress (Grace Under Fire, The Dukes of Hazzard, Step by Step, The Waltons), heart failure.
27th - Frank Buckles, 110, American supercentenarian soldier, last living U.S. World War I veteran, natural causes

11th - Hugh Martin, 96, American songwriter ("Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas") and film composer (Meet Me in St. Louis), natural causes
16th - Lloyd Oliver, 88, American veteran, World War II code talker
18th- -Warren Christopher, 85, American diplomat, Secretary of State (1993–1997), complications from kidney and bladder cancer.
19th - Knut, 4, German-born polar bear, drowned
23rd - Dame Elizabeth Taylor, 79, British-American actress (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Cleopatra, BUtterfield 8), heart failure
26th - Geraldine Ferraro, 75, American politician, U.S. Representative from New York (1979–1985) and 1984 Vice Presidential nominee, multiple myeloma

3rd - Amy Applegren, 83, American baseball player (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League).
24th - Madame Ngo Dinh Nhu, 87, South Vietnamese First Lady (1955–1963), after short illness.

1st - Moshe Landau, 99, Israeli jurist, Chief Justice (1980–1982), presided over Adolf Eichmann's trial (1961).
2nd - Osama bin Laden, 54, Saudi founder of Al-Qaeda, planned September 11 attacks, shot.
27th - Jeff Conaway, 60, American actor (Grease, Taxi, Babylon 5
6th - John R. Alison, 98, American airman, launched the Allied Reoccupation of Burma during World War II
6th- Eleanor Dapkus, 87, American baseball player (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League), breast cancer
7th - Mietek Pemper, 91, Polish-born German Holocaust survivor, compiled and typed Oskar Schindler's list
12th - Geoffrey Fisken, 95, New Zealand World War II flying ace.
12th - Alan Haberman, 81, American grocer, first to use the barcode system, heart and lung disease
18th - Yelena Bonner, 88, Russian human rights activist, after long illness
23rd - Peter Falk, 83, American actor (Columbo, Murder, Inc., Pocketful of Miracles, The Princess Bride)

4th - Otto von Habsburg, 98, Austro-Hungarian royal and politician, MEP (1979–1999).
4th - Lawrence R. Newman, 86, American advocate for the deaf
8th - Betty Ford, 93, American First Lady (1974–1977) and co-founder of Betty Ford Center.
12th - Bolesław Gładych, 93, Polish World War II flying ace
17th - Joe Morris, Sr., 85, American Navajo World War II code talker
23rd - John Shalikashvili, 75, Polish-born American army general, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1993–1997), stroke.
23rd - Amy Winehouse, 27, British singer-songwriter ("Rehab"), accidental alcohol poisoning

1st - Zhanna Prokhorenko, 71, Russian film actress (Ballad of a Soldier).
3rd - Rudolf Brazda, 98, German concentration camp prisoner, last known survivor of pink triangle homosexual deportation
3rd - Annette Charles, 63, American actress (Grease), complications of lung cancer.
14th- Albert Brown, 105, American veteran, oldest survivor of Bataan Death March
30th - Lou Zaeske, 69, American founder of English-only movement, advocate for Czech ethnic causes.


5th - Charles S. Dubin, 92, American film and television director (Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, M*A*S*H), natural causes
6th - Archduke Felix of Austria, 95, Austrian royal, last surviving child of Charles I of Austria
10th - Cliff Robertson, 88, American actor (Charly, Spider-Man, PT 109), natural causes.
15th - Dorothy Harrell, 87, American baseball player (All-American Girls Professional Baseball League
16th - Kara Kennedy, 51, American television producer, daughter of Ted Kennedy, heart attack.

7th - Paul Kent, 80, American actor (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Three's Company), multiple myeloma
10th - Alan Fudge, 67, American actor (7th Heaven, Matlock, Hawaii 5-O), lung and liver cancer
12th - Patricia Breslin, 80, American actress (The People's Choice, Peyton Place, The Twilight Zone), wife of Art Modell, pancreatitis
20th - Jerzy Bielecki, 90, Polish social worker, survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp, Polish Righteous among the Nations recipient
20th - Muammar Gaddafi, 69, Libyan leader (1969–2011), shot
22nd - Sultan, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, 83, Saudi royal, Minister of Defense and Aviation (since 1962) and Crown Prince (since 2005).
28th - Ed Walker, 94, American World War II veteran and writer, last surviving member of Castner's Cutthroats.

4th - Andy Rooney, 92, American journalist, 60 Minutes correspondent (1978–2011), surgical complications
8th - Bil Keane, 89, American cartoonist (The Family Circus), heart failure
15th - Karl Slover, 93, Slovak-born American actor (The Wizard of Oz).
17th - Enric Garriga i Trullols, 85, Spanish Catalan independentist and defender of Occitan Nation.
22nd - Svetlana Alliluyeva, 85, Soviet-born American defector and author, daughter of Joseph Stalin, colon cancer
22nd - Danielle Mitterrand, 87, French activist, widow of François Mitterrand, First Lady of the French Republic (1981–1995).
30th - Leka, Crown Prince of Albania, 72, Albanian royal and politician, pretender to the Albanian throne (since 1961).

6th - Dobie Gray, 71, American singer ("The 'In' Crowd", "Drift Away").
7th - Harry Morgan, 96, American actor (M*A*S*H, Dragnet), pneumonia
8th - Nancy Hoyt, 56, American reality show contestant (The Amazing Race), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
17th - Kim Jong-il, 69 or 70, North Korean Supreme Leader (since 1994), heart attack.
18th - Václav Havel, 75, Czech playwright and politician, President of Czechoslovakia (1989–1992) and the Czech Republic (1993–2003).

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Southwest And A Dying Boy

From the Union Leader:
"Flight home a nightmare for parents of dying boy"

Nicholas Dainiak of Bedford was just trying to come home from what his parents said may have been the last trip the dying 8-year-old would ever take to Disney World in Orlando. The trip down to Florida on a Southwest Airlines flight last week, in which Nicholas, who is suffering from Batten disease, sat in a protective travel chair, had been no problem. But coming back on Thursday, the Dainiak family was told by Southwest staff that the boy would either have to forgo the protective seat or get off the plane because the chair was not compliant with Federal Aviation Administration rules. “It was a little shocking,” said the boy's father, Chris. “We flew down with this exact chair six days before.” They were trying to fly two days before Christmas, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Chris and his wife, Heather, had to make a quick decision — do they get off the plane and risk not being able to find a flight home or do they spend the three-hour flight with the two of them propping Nicholas in place in a standard seat? Given that this might be Nicholas's last Christmas alive, Chris said, they stayed on the plane to get him home in time for the holiday. “There was a high likelihood we'd be stuck in an airport with a very sick child for a very long time,” he said. “We knew that the chances of us getting off that plane and getting home in time for Christmas were pretty poor.” Nicholas got home safe, but in photos the family shared with the New Hampshire Union Leader, Heather is seen crying because she was so upset. “We felt frustrated,” Chris said. “You feel helpless because you can't protect your child the way he needs to be protected.” “We are working directly with the family after sincerely apologizing and issuing a full refund for their less-than-positive travel experience,” Southwest spokesman Brad Hawkins said Sunday night. “We certainly will take away any potential learnings from this experience in our constant evaluation of how to provide the best possible customer service, which is second only to the safety of every passenger.” Chris said he was particularly frustrated on the flight from Orlando because he was told that the decision to provide the family with the ultimatum about the chair was made not by the pilot or an employee on the plane, but by a customer service manager directing staff over the phone. “I know they were trying to follow the rules, but there was such confusion on their part,” he said. “It was somebody on the phone. I'm confused as to how the decision was made. “They put Nicholas in more danger than he had to be,” he said. “I really didn't want to cause any issues. We just wanted to come home.”

^ Southwest and everyone involved with this disgusting case (except for the family of course) should be severely reprimanded and forced to undergo extensive training on how to treat passengers as people - especially those with disabilities. There was no reason for the airline or its employees to treat the family in such a disrespectful and discriminating way. Right now I would be ashamed if I worked for Southwest - even if I wasn't involved in this directly. Southwest likes to portray themselves as a great airline that has the most volume of passengers and the lowest prices. I guess sometimes the cheaper tickets and quick turn-around is no substitute to poor customer service. Several years ago I had a complaint with Southwest and tried to complain at the airport only to be told there was no one available and so I complained to them by letter only to get condescending responses back. They are a pretty arrogant airline and I don't see why. They have had numerous incidents in the past few years that show their airline in a very bad light. Just by saying you are sorry doesn't fix everything. We give too much power to many people in the airlines and at the airports that do not deserve the authority and most abuse what little power they have. That seems to be the case here. Some stupid Southwest employee made the decision to discriminate against a dying boy and make his flight home with his family a terrible experience - BY PHONE! I really hope that this story stains Southwest's reputation for a while and that people start demanding that Southwest and other airlines treat passengers as people and not as cattle and learn how to deal with the disabled. ^

December 25, 1991

I just finished this book - called "December 25, 1991: The Last Day of the Soviet Union" - (in one sitting) and really liked it. I got it for Christmas and thought I would start reading it because this is the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the USSR. I didn’t expect much from a book like this.
The book is about the last day the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics existed (hence the title.) It is divided in the different parts of the day for Gorbachev and Yeltsin. Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev (Михаил Сергеевич Горбачёв) was the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991 and the first/last Soviet President from 1990-1991. Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin (Борис Николаевич Ельцин) was the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) from 1990-1991 and the first President of the Russian Federation, serving from 1991 to 1999. They were completely different men that worked to bring the collapse of the Soviet Union – whether they wanted to or not. Gorbachev worked to keep the USSR together but with liberal socialism while Yeltsin worked to give more power and autonomy to the RSFSR.
The book shows how one of the world’s two superpowers ended without much fan-fare. The 74 years of Soviet Communist experiment was dead. The once mighty and feared Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed from within.
I have studied a great deal on the USSR and thought I knew everything major about the former country, but this book taught me even more. One thing I learned was that Gorbachev expected to resign as the first/last Soviet President on December 25, 1991 but that the Soviet Union wouldn’t officially dissolve until December 31, 1991. In fact, shortly after Gorbachev resigned Yeltsin had the Soviet Hammer and Sickle Flag lowered from the Kremlin and replaced with the Russian Tri-Color. You would think that a world superpower, the largest country in the world with an empire that stretched from Europe to Asia, which dominated world politics for almost 50 years and helped bring the world to the brink of nuclear disaster would have ended in a more dynamic way. In the end, after decades of immense military spending, the country was bankrupt. By the 1980s the ordinary Soviet citizen was forced to stand many hours each day in lines looking for food and basic supplies. There was rationing of most food products and consumer goods – when anything was available. In short, the everyday survival for the Soviet citizen was more important than what country they currently lived in or what its name was.
I can’t imagine what it must have felt like for a Soviet citizen in their 30s in 1991 to go from living in a superpower, Communist dictatorship to there being 16 independent countries and capitalism overnight. For over 70 years Soviets could move around the USSR (although there were controls) and in one night you could find yourself in a foreign, independent country. Ethnic Russians who enjoyed the most benefits within the Soviet Union were now second-class citizens in many of the former Soviet Republics (some countries don’t even consider them citizens at all even 20 years later.) While ethnic Russians had a difficult time even within the new Russian Federation it was all the other former Soviet people (ie the ethnic Ukrainians, Georgians, etc) who literally lost everything and had to start from scratch. The Russian Federation gained control of all the major former Soviet institutions (ie embassies, etc) and simply renamed them Russian instead of Soviet while the other 15 former Soviet Republics had to finance their own from the ground-up.
This book gives a very good, detailed account of what happened on the last day of the Soviet Union. While many people at the time probably didn’t notice or care about what happened – especially those in the former USSR – it is important to know what happened 20 years ago and see where the world has come since.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


We just finished our Christmas dinner and I have to say this year was pretty good. We had an "early" Christmas in Colorado with my sister, brother and his family. It was nice that my whole family could be together and celebrate even if it was before December 25th.
Christmas Eve we had our traditional dinner of: pepperoni bread, meat pie, holly leaves, cheese and crackers and cookies. We also had a fire and opened presents. This year I got: 32 DVDs, 29 books, money, a historical newspaper, candy and several other things. I was lucky to be able to give my family and friends presents that I really think they all liked.
We also had a white Christmas. It snowed two days ago and then we got a little more today. It was nice just to be able to look outside and see everything white without having to worry about shovelling or driving anyplace.
Today I continued watching Christmas movies on TV and listening to Christmas music and then helped make dinner. We had our traditional meal of: roast beef (prime, prime rib), Yorkshire pudding,horseradish soup, mashed potatoes, spinach ans artichokes, brussel sprouts, rolls and pumpkin cheesecake.
I am so glad that things turned out so well this year. It was a really great Christmas.

Queen's Christmas Speech

From the BBC:
"In full: Queen's Christmas Speech"

Here is the text in full of the Queen's 2011 Christmas message, which was recorded on 9 December - before her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, was treated in hospital for a blocked coronary artery.

"In this past year my family and I have been inspired by the courage and hope we have seen in so many ways in Britain, in the Commonwealth and around the world. We've seen that it's in hardship that we often find strength from our families; it's in adversity that new friendships are sometimes formed; and it's in a crisis that communities break down barriers and bind together to help one another. Families, friends and communities often find a source of courage rising up from within. Indeed, sadly, it seems that it is tragedy that often draws out the most and the best from the human spirit. When Prince Philip and I visited Australia this year, we saw for ourselves the effects of natural disaster in some of the areas devastated by floods, where in January so many people lost their lives and their livelihoods. We were moved by the way families and local communities held together to support each other.Prince William travelled to New Zealand and Australia in the aftermath of earthquakes, cyclones and floods and saw how communities rose up to rescue the injured, comfort the bereaved and rebuild the cities and towns devastated by nature. The Prince of Wales also saw first-hand the remarkable resilience of the human spirit after tragedy struck in a Welsh mining community, and how communities can work together to support their neighbours. This past year has also seen some memorable and historic visits - to Ireland and from America. The spirit of friendship so evident in both these nations can fill us all with hope. Relationships that years ago were once so strained have through sorrow and forgiveness blossomed into long-term friendship.It is through this lens of history that we should view the conflicts of today, and so give us hope for tomorrow. Of course, family does not necessarily mean blood relatives but often a description of a community, organisation or nation. The Commonwealth is a family of 53 nations, all with a common bond, shared beliefs, mutual values and goals. It is this which makes the Commonwealth a family of people in the truest sense, at ease with each other, enjoying its shared history and ready and willing to support its members in the direst of circumstances. They have always looked to the future, with a sense of camaraderie, warmth and mutual respect while still maintaining their individualism. The importance of family has, of course, come home to Prince Philip and me personally this year with the marriages of two of our grandchildren, each in their own way a celebration of the God-given love that binds a family together. For many, this Christmas will not be easy. With our armed forces deployed around the world, thousands of service families face Christmas without their loved ones at home. The bereaved and the lonely will find it especially hard. And, as we all know, the world is going through difficult times. All this will affect our celebration of this great Christian festival. Finding hope in adversity is one of the themes of Christmas. Jesus was born into a world full of fear. The angels came to frightened shepherds with hope in their voices: 'Fear not', they urged, 'we bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 'For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Saviour who is Christ the Lord.' Although we are capable of great acts of kindness, history teaches us that we sometimes need saving from ourselves - from our recklessness or our greed. God sent into the world a unique person - neither a philosopher nor a general, important though they are, but a Saviour, with the power to forgive. Forgiveness lies at the heart of the Christian faith. It can heal broken families, it can restore friendships and it can reconcile divided communities. It is in forgiveness that we feel the power of God's love. In the last verse of this beautiful carol, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, there's a prayer:

O Holy Child of Bethlehem,

Descend to us we pray.

Cast out our sin

And enter in.

Be born in us today.

It is my prayer that on this Christmas day we might all find room in our lives for the message of the angels and for the love of God through Christ our Lord.

I wish you all a very happy Christmas."

^ Queen Elizabeth (Queen of Canada, the UK and other parts of the Commonweath) gave a good speech this year. Most years I just skimmed what she said, but this year I tried to really pay attention. She gave a good summary of what happened during the year and a good message of hope for the future. ^

USSR: 20 Years Later

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Союз Советских Социалистических Республик) officially dissolved 20 years ago today. I was too young at the time to notice what was happening, but from what I have since learned it seems that no one (Soviet or Western) thought that the USSR would collapse. Now, 20 years later, Russia is rocked with protesters again calling on Putin to resign as Prime Minister and urging for free elections and real democracy. It seems not everyone - especially the young - are willing to let the status quo continue. While the old want the return of the Soviet Union and Communism the young are now starting to speak for real reform that has never come to Russia.
Since the break-up of the Soviet Union many things have changed. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia are now all part of the European Union, the Schengen Area and NATO with Estonia also part of the Eurozone. There have been wars in: Tajikistan, Georgia, Russia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan . There have been revolutions in: Kyyrgyzstan, the Ukraine and Georgia. The same people who ruled the former Soviet Republics in the dying days of the USSR are still in power which is one reason the people in the former Soviet Union are starting to call for real change in their countries.
I am surprised by what 20 years has not brought to most of the former Soviet Republics. You would think that if people wanted real change than it could be done in 2 decades or at least lay the foundations for real change. I have been to Russia and the Ukraine and from what I personally saw things on the surface seem to have changed very little. I hope that it doesn't take another 20 years to bring the countries of the former USSR into true democracies.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Greeting

The traditional English greeting of "Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year" as it appears in other languages:

Albanian: Gëzuar Krishtlindjet dhe Vitin e Ri
Basque: Gabon Zoriontsuak eta urte berri on
Bulgarian: Весела Коледа и Честита Нова Година
Catalan: Bon Nadal i Feliç Any Nou
Chinese Simplified :圣誔快乐,新年进步
Chinese Traditional (Hong Kong & Taiwan): 聖誔快樂,新年進步
Croatian: Čestit Božić i sretna Nova Godina
Czech: Veselé vánoce a šťastný nový rok
Danish: Glædelig jul og godt nytår!
Dutch: Prettige kerstdagen en een gelukkig nieuwjaar
Estonian: Häid jõule ja Head uut aastat
Filipino: Maligayang Pasko at Manigong Bagong Taon
Finnish: Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta
French: Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année
Galician: Bo Nadal e Feliz Aninovo
Georgian: გილოცავთ შობა-ახალ წელს
German: Fröhliche Weihnachten und ein glückliches/gutes Neues Jahr
Greek: Καλά Χριστούγεννα και ευτυχισμένος ο Καινούριος Χρόνος
Hungarian: Kellemes Karácsonyi Ünnepeket és Boldog Új Évet
Icelandic: Gleðileg jól og farsælt nýtt ár
Indonesian: Selamat Hari Natal dan Tahun Baru
Irish: Nollaig Shona Duit
Italian: Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo
Latvian: Priecīgus Ziemassvētkus un laimīgu Jauno gadu
Lithuanian: Linksmų šventų Kalėdų ir laimingų Naujųjų metų
Macedonian: Среќна Нова Година и честит Божиќ
Malay: Selamat Hari Krismas dan Tahun Baru
Maltese: Il-Milied Hieni u s-Sena t-Tajba
Mongolian: Зул сар болон Шинэ жилийн баярын мэнд хүргье
Norwegian: God jul og godt nyttår
Persian: کریسمس و سال نو مبارک
Polish: Wesołych Świąt i Szczęśliwego Nowego Roku
Portuguese: Feliz Natal e um Feliz Ano Novo
Romanian: Crăciun Fericit și La mulți ani
Russian: С Новым Годом и Рождеством
Slovak: Veselé Vianoce a Štastný Nový rok
Spanish: Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo
Swedish: God Jul och Gott Nytt År
Vietnamese: Chúc mừng Giáng Sinh
Ukrainian: Веселих свят! З Новим роком і Різдвом!
Urdu:آپکو بڑا دن اور نیا سال مبارک ہو

Friday, December 23, 2011

NORAD Tracks Santa

The program began on December 24, 1955 when a Sears department store placed an advertisement in a Colorado Springs newspaper which told children that they could telephone Santa Claus and included a number for them to call. However, the telephone number printed was incorrect and calls instead came through to Colorado Springs' Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Center. Colonel Shoup, who was on duty that night, told his staff to give all children that called in a "current location" for Santa Claus. A tradition began which continued when the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) replaced CONAD in 1958]‹The template Better source is being considered for deletion.› NORAD relies on volunteers to make the program possible. Each volunteer handles about forty telephone calls per hour, and the team typically handles more than 12,000 e-mails and more than 70,000 telephone calls from more than two hundred countries and territories. Most of these contacts happen during the twenty-five hours from 2 a.m. on December 24 until 3 a.m. MST on December 25. Google Analytics has been in use since December 2007 to analyze traffic at the NORAD Tracks Santa website. As a result of this analysis information, the program can project and scale volunteer staffing, telephone equipment, and computer equipment needs for Christmas Eve. By December 25, 2009, the NORAD Tracks Santa program had 27,440 Twitter followers and the Facebook page had more than 410,700 fans.

^ I watch their website every year! ^

Christmas Giftgivers

Christmas/New Year's Giftgivers Around the world:

Austria: Christkind = Christ child

Belgium: Père Noël (French) or Kerstman (Dutch) = Father Christmas on December 25th and Sinterklaas (Dutch) or Saint Nicholas (French) on December 6th

Bulgaria: Дядо Коледа (Dyado Koleda, "Grandfather Christmas"), with the Russian-borrowed version of Дед Мороз (Djed Moroz, "Grandfather Frost") being somewhat more widespread in Socialist times from the end of World War II until 1989 and still in favour nowadays.

Canada: Santa Claus (English)or Le Père Noël = Father Christmas(French)

Croatia: Djed Božićnjak ("Grandfather Christmas"), or Djed Mraz (Grandfather Frost) on December 25th and Sveti Nikola ("Saint Nichlaus")on December the 6th

Czech Republic: Ježíšek (diminutive form of Ježíš ("Jesus")

Denmark: Julemanden, ("The Christmas Man")

Estonia: Jõuluvana ("Old man of Christmas")

Finland: Joulupukki ("Yule Goat")

France: Le Père Noël ("Father Christmas")

Germany: Weihnachtsmann ("Christmas Man") or Christkind ("Christ Child") (in southern Germany) bring the gifts on Christmas Eve; Nikolaus is celebrated on December 6th.

Greece: Άγιος Βασίλης ("Saint Basil")

Hungary: In Hungary the Angels are bringing the Christmas gifts, or the child Jesus ("Jézuska or Kis Jézus "); note that Mikulás ("Nicholas") on December 6th

Iceland: Jólasveinar. In Icelandic folktales, there are 13 Santa Clauses.

Ireland: Daidí na Nollag ("Father Christmas")

Italy: Babbo Natale ("Father Christmas"), sometimes substituted by Gesù bambino ("Baby Jesus"), On the Epiphany, Jan 6th, La Befana, a very old lady who rides a broomstick brings candies and sweeties to children, and she puts them into the socks the children have prepared for her (and traditionally hung near the fireplace). In Trieste, because of Slovenian and Croatian influences, Saint Nicholas is also celebrated on the 6th December.

Latvia: Ziemassvētku vecītis

Liechtenstein: Christkind (Christ Child)

Lithuania: Kalėdų Senelis

Luxembourg: Klaussenhofer

Macedonia: Dedo Mraz (Father Frost)

Netherlands: Kerstman ("Christmas Man"), is recently celebrated by some people on Christmas Day; Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th.

Norway: Julenissen, a small, elderly man. a Christmas dwarf

Poland: Święty Mikołaj / Mikołaj ("Saint Nicholas")

Portugal: Pai Natal ("Father Christmas")

: Moş Crăciun ("Old Man Christmas")

Russia: Дед Мороз (Ded Moroz, "Grandfather Frost").

Scotland: Bodach na Nollaig (Old Man of Christmas)

Serbia: Deda Mraz (Деда Мраз - Grandfather Frost) - renamed from Božić Bata (Божић Бата - Christmas Brother) during the communist times after World War II and moved from Christmas to New Year to prevent any religious connections

Slovakia: Ježiško (Refers to newborn(baby) Jesus); note that Mikuláš ("Nicholas" as Santa Claus) has a separate feast day earlier (6th of Dec), puts candy in kids' boots (which are to be polished and put in the window), but Mikuláš is never involved in Christmas

Slovenia: Bozicek

Spain: Papá Noel (Father Noel); the Tió de Nadal in Catalonia; Olentzero in the Basque Country. A more common and traditional Christmas present-giving figure in Spain are "Los Reyes Magos" ("The Three Kings"; "Magi").

Sweden: Jultomten ("The Yule/Christmas Gnome")

Switzerland: Christkind (Christ Child)

Turkey: Noel Baba ("Father Noel") Also, Noel Baba is widely thought to bring new year presents in Turkey due to the country's predominant Muslim population. Christmas is celebrated among the Christian communities.

Turkmenistan: Aýaz baba

United Kingdom: Father Christmas also known as Santa Claus though they were originally two quite different people, and Father Christmas did not originally bring gifts

United States: Santa Claus; Kris Kringle; Saint Nicholas or Saint Nick

Wales: Siôn Corn

Argentina: Papá Noel (Father Christmas), El Niño Dios (God Child)

Brazil: Papai Noel (Father Christmas)

Chile: "Viejito Pascuero" (Old man Christmas)

Colombia: El Niño Dios ("God child"), Papa Noel (Father Christmas)

Costa Rica: San Nicolás or Santa Clos (Santa Claus)

Dominican Republic: Santa Clos (Santa Claus)/Papá Noe (Father Christmas), The Three Kings (Los Tres Reyes Magos) on the Epiphany (January 6th) and not on Christmas.

Ecuador: El Niño Dios ("God child"), Papá Noel (Father Christmas)

Mexico: Santa Claus ("Santa Clos"); El Niño Dios ("God child,"Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings)

Peru: Papá Noel (Father Christmas)

Puerto Rico: Jesús (Christmas, Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings Day), Santa Clos (Santa Claus).

Venezuela: Niño Jesús ("child jesus"); San Nicolás ("Santa").

China: 圣诞老人

Hong Kong: 聖誕老人 ('The Old Man of Christmas')

Indonesia: Santa Claus or Sinterklas

Japan: サンタクロース (Santa Kuroosu, or Santa-san)

Korea: 산타 클로스 (Santa Harabeoji, or "Grandfather Santa")

Philippines: Santa Claus, the Los Tres Reyes Magos (The Three Kings)

Taiwan: 聖誕老人 or 聖誕老公公 ('The Old Man of Christmas')

Thailand: ซานตาคลอส (Santa Claus)

Vietnam: Ông Già Nô-en ('The Old Man of Christmas')

India: ಸಾ೦ಟಾ ಕ್ಲಾಸ್

Tatarstan: Qış Babay/Кыш Бабай (Winter Grandfather)

Uzbekistan: Ayoz Bobo (Frost Grandpa), Qor Bobo (Snow Grandfather)

Egypt: Baba Noel (Grandfather Christmas)

Afghanistan: Baba Noel (Grandfather Christmas)

Iran: Baba Noel (Grandfather Christmas)

Israel: סנטה קלאוס (Santa Claus)

South Africa: Sinterklaas; Father Christmas; Santa Claus

Australia: Santa Claus, Father Christmas and Saint Nick.

New Zealand: Santa Claus, Father Christmas

TSA's Disabled Helpline

From TSA:
"TSA Announces Launch of TSA Cares Toll Free Helpline for Travelers with Disabilities and Medical Needs"

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced the launch of TSA Cares today, a new helpline number designed to assist travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, prior to getting to the airport. Travelers may call TSA Cares toll free at 1-855-787-2227 prior to traveling with questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint. “TSA Cares provides passengers with disabilities and medical needs another resource to use before they fly, so they know what to expect when going through the screening process,” said TSA Administrator John Pistole. “This additional level of personal communication helps ensure that even those who do not travel often are aware of our screening policies before they arrive at the airport.” When a passenger with a disability or medical condition calls TSA Cares, a representative will provide assistance, either with information about screening that is relevant to the passenger’s specific disability or medical condition, or the passenger may be referred to disability experts at TSA. TSA recommends that passengers call approximately 72 hours ahead of travel so that TSA Cares has the opportunity to coordinate checkpoint support with a TSA Customer Service Manager located at the airport when necessary.

^ Not sure how effective this helpline will be. I always read the updates on the TSA's website especially right before I travel and have found that what the TSA says online and how they act in person usually doesn't go together. The TSA needs to train and constantly re-train its people so they stay fresh and be able to treat passengers as people and still get their job done. I have seen only a few who could do both. ^

Demjanjuk Not American

From USA Today:
"U.S. judge denies citizenship bid by Nazi guard Demjanjuk"

Nazi concentration camp guard John Demjanjuk has lost his bid to regain his U.S. citizenship, the Associated Press reports. The 91-year-old retired autoworker from suburban Cleveland was convicted of war crimes by a German court and sentenced to five years in prison. He is free pending appeal. Demjanjuk, who was born in Ukraine and served as a guard at the Sobibor death camp in occupied Poland, argued his citizenship should be reinstated because "a newly discovered document suggested that an incriminating document against him was a Soviet fraud," AP writes. He was stripped of his U.S. citizenship and deported in May 2009 to stand trial.

^ I am so glad that the US has decided to keep its decision to revoke his American citizenship. He is a war criminal and lied on his application. I hope he spends the rest of what little time he has left in a prison hospital (instead of the German nursing home he currently is in.) He helped kill: men, women, children and didn't discriminate between babies or the elderly and should not be shown any favors. ^

Tired Pilots Law

From USA Today:
"FAA rules: Airline pilots must fly shorter shifts, rest more"

Airline pilots would fly shorter shifts and get longer rest periods under new rules the Federal Aviation Administration finalized Wednesday in a landmark effort to reduce potentially dangerous fatigue. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood announced a new "pilot fatigue" rule Wednesday that will determine how much time off pilots have between work periods. The FAA developed the most sweeping changes in pilot rules in 50 years after a Colgan Air crash near Buffalo in February 2009 killed 50 people. "This new rule raises the safety bar to prevent fatigue," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. Existing rules dating to the 1960s were riddled with loopholes. Between overnight shifts of up to 16 hours, the eight hours of rest could include eating, showering and getting to a hotel. Carriers could extend the workday if a pilot was flying an empty plane.
Under the new rules:

•Flight-duty times would range from nine to 14 hours. For the first time, rather than just counting flight time and rest time, flight-duty time would count the time spent flying to the job, which is sometimes called dead-heading, as if the pilot were working.

•Flight-time limits will be eight or nine hours, depending on the time of day and number of flights flown.

•Minimum rest periods will be 10 hours between shifts. The pilot must have an opportunity for eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during that rest period.

• Pilots must have 30 consecutive hours of rest each week, a 25% increase over current standards.

Airlines have two years to meet the standards. The FAA estimated the changes would cost airlines nearly $300 million over 10 years. But Airlines for America, an airlines trade group, estimated it could cost $2 billion more each year. The FAA decided not to apply the rules to cargo pilots because of the costs to that industry, FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta said.

^ These changes do not seem to go far enough and airlines should not be allowed to wait 2 years to implement them. Who knows how many innocent passenger lives will still be in danger during those 2 years? The new rules should deal with commercial as well as cargo pilots and their work hours should include the time it takes to get to their job. If pilots and flight crews are given absolute authority in the air then they should be forced to sleep and relax while on the ground. ^

Child Kept In Bag

From Yahoo News:
"School accused of putting autistic student in bag"

A 9-year-old autistic boy who misbehaved at school was stuffed into a duffel bag and the drawstring pulled tight, according to his mother, who said she found him wiggling inside as a teacher's aide stood by. The mother of fourth-grader Christopher Baker said her son called out to her when she walked up to him in the bag Dec. 14. The case has spurred an online petition calling for the firing of school employees responsible. "He was treated like trash and thrown in the hallway," Chris' mother, Sandra Baker, said Thursday. She did not know how exactly how long he had been in the bag, but probably not more than 20 minutes. Mercer County schools Interim Superintendent Dennis Davis said confidentiality laws forbid him from commenting. State education officials said they were investigating. Chris is a student at Mercer County Intermediate School in Harrodsburg in central Kentucky. The day had barely begun when his family was called to the school because Chris was acting up. He is enrolled in a program for students with special needs. Walking toward his classroom, Baker's mother saw the gym bag. There was a small hole at the top, she said, and she heard a familiar voice. "Momma, is that you?" Chris said, according to his mother. A teacher's aide was there, and Baker demanded that her son be released. At first, the aide struggled to undo the drawstring, but the boy was pulled out of the bag, which had some small balls inside and resembled a green Army duffel bag, Baker said. "When I got him out of the bag, his poor little eyes were as big as half dollars and he was sweating," Baker said. "I tried to talk to him and get his side of the reason they put him in there, and he said it was because he wouldn't do his work." Baker said when school officials called the family to pick him up, they were told he was "jumping off the walls." Days later, at a meeting with school officials, Baker said she was told the boy had smirked at the teacher when he was told to put down a basketball, then threw it across the room. At a meeting with school district officials, the bag was described as a "therapy bag," Baker said, though she wasn't clear exactly what that meant. She said her son would sometimes be asked to roll over a bag filled with balls as a form of therapy, but she didn't know her son was being placed in the bag. She said school officials told her it was not the first time they had put him in the bag. So far, almost 700 people have signed a petition on the website Lydia Brown, an autistic 18-year-old Georgetown University freshman from Boston, said she started it after reading a story about Chris. "That would not be wrong just for an autistic student. That would be wrong to do to anyone," Brown said.

^ This is just plain disgusting and everyone involved in doing this at that school should be fired and prevented from being around children forever. It doesn't matter that he is disabled - it should NEVER be allowed. That fact that he is disabled makes this case even more sick. ^

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Flight Home

The day (yesterday) that we were leaving it snowed – only about 3 inches. We said our good-byes and after having lunch drove the Denver to catch our flight. My sister drove us and came into the airport. There were a lot of people in line, but it moved pretty fast. We had to wait for a female TSA to come and screen my mom – even the male TSA people around us were getting fed-up with waiting so long. We took the train to our terminal.
We pre-boarded (the guy at the gate was not helpful or nice at all.) The head flight attendant and the one doing our section was very nice though. This time we had no delay and it wasn’t bumpy. We arrived in Manchester just after 11 pm and got our bags, took the shuttle to the Economy Lot, got our car, drove an hour to a McDonald’s that I knew was open 24 hours, had dinner there and then drove home – we got in around 2 am.
I am glad we went on the trip, but also glad that we are back. I have a long list of things to do in the next few days. The fact that we got a lot of ice last night and we can’t go anywhere today should help with that list. Hopefully we get everything done before the big Nor’easter they saw we are going to get comes.

My Family

The purpose of the trip to Colorado Springs was to see my sister, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew. I haven’t seen my sister since we went to Iceland last March, my brother since we were last in CO in January 2010, my sister-in-law since Thanksgiving 2010 and my niece and nephew since August 2010. It has been a lot longer for my dad since he was in Iraq.
Seeing everyone was good, but there were numerous issues and conflicts throughout the trip. I have to admit that I was partly to blame for some of them. I guess the hectic past month along with Christmas coming and the trip really got to me and made me more susceptible to a short-fuse. Of course, that doesn’t mean others weren’t at fault too.
While in CO, we ate at many great places – Red Robin, IHOP, Arbys Edleweiss German Restaurant, a Mexican place, etc. Since we chose places we don’t have here in NH it was a nice change. My parents had a date night where they went to the Melting Pot and my sister and me went to a Chicago Pizza Restaurant and Bar and then met up with a friend from when we lived in Germany (I hadn’t seen her in 15 years) and went to another bar.
That Saturday the women baked breads and cookies while the men (except me) went shooting. I hung out and colored with a 3 year old girl that my sister-in-law babysits for – she so well-behaved and fun.
We also had a whole family portrait done. We hit a snag when the first woman who was supposed to do it - something who takes the pictures for my brother’s unit – turned out to be stupid (she said she didn’t realize we were taking the pictures inside and didn’t have the equipment. Who takes family pictures outside in Colorado in December when it is below freezing?) My parents and sister found another person to take the pictures and the husband and wife team turned out to be very nice and too nice pictures. We are just waiting on the CD so we can make copies.
After our pictures were taken we had Sunday Brunch at a local resort. The food was really good. The only issue there was the waiter couldn’t get my drink order (Sierra Mist) right after two tries. We managed to have a good time together despite that minor issue.
One last thing we did as a family was open Christmas presents. The kids were too busy ripping through to see what they got to even notice if they were opening their gifts or not.
All in all it was nice to see my family and to have everyone together for the first time in years.

Colorado Springs

This was my second time in Colorado Springs – both times in winter. I have to say that I don’t really care for the city. It is too spread out – you have to take the highway to get from one side to the other. Also the houses are very small and have no land. I saw more homeless in the city than I did in Manhattan – something you wouldn’t think. The people are also very strange. One minute they are very friendly even to strangers and say “Hello” to you and the next they act as though they march to their own “special” drum. It is very hard to tell how they will act from one minute to the next. Maybe it has something to do with the high altitude that messes with their brains.
I have lived and been to many military towns around the world and Colorado Springs doesn’t have the same feel as all the others – even though they have numerous bases including NORAD – I did keep an eye out to see if I see the Stargate, but I didn’t.
There are many Russians and Russian-speakers in the Springs (as locals call it.) Maybe it is because they are all spies for NORAD or maybe because it is a big training place for the Olympics.
One good thing about the city is that unlike here in NH most places were open 24 hours (here only gas stations and a few fast food places are.)
Despite the 24 hour stores and the mountains surrounding the city I don’t think I would ever want to live in Colorado Springs.

Going To Colorado

On December 14th my parents and I left the house at 4 am. It was very dark and was snowing. We had breakfast at McDonald’s and then headed to the airport. We parked in the Economy Lot – our first time using it – and were picked up right by our car by the shuttle. We had no issues checking-in (I had already checked us in online, but had to d the bags and the chair. Then we went through security.
I usually don’t have any problems with the TSA at Manchester and didn’t this time except that they had 3 lanes opened and all had to go through 1 full-body scanner so we had to wait a long time. It would have been faster if they had only 1 or 2 lanes opened. There was one TSA guy who kept saying that he was sorry for the wait (to my mom and myself.)
We pre-boarded (which was good since we were flying with my dad – usually it is just my mom and me) and got seats close to the door. We had to wait at the gate with the door closed for an hour while they were fixing some bags – or so they said.
The flight was very bumpy the majority of the time. During the 4 ½ hour flight there was only 22 minutes that everyone (including the flight attendants) were allowed up. It was such a relief when we finally landed in Denver.
We got the chair quickly and then had to wait because one of the foot-rests was missing. We then took the train to the terminal and got our bags and met –up with my sister and sister-in-law and drove to Colorado Springs.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On The Go To CO!

I am going with my family to Colorado to visit my brother and sister. I will update this when I get back.

New Canadians Unveiled

From the Globe and Mail:
"Muslim women must show faces when taking citizenship oath"

A requirement for new Canadians to show their faces while taking the oath of citizenship puts the federal government on one side of a simmering debate over how far the state should go to accommodate minorities. Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney announced Monday that Muslim women who wear burkas or niqabs must remove the garments when they are becoming citizens. The decision comes as the Supreme Court of Canada considers whether a woman should be allowed to testify in court with her face covered. And Quebec is debating a bill to ban face coverings for people receiving some government services, and those providing them. Two federal Conservative attempts to ban veiled voting have stalled before becoming law in recent years. Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Mr. Kenney said showing one’s face while taking the oath is a matter of “deep principle” that strikes at Canadian values of openness and equality.

^ This is a step in the right direction for Canada. Hopefully, this will be expanded to include making it illegal to wear the veil in all public places. I have said it before, while many Western countries are starting to ban the veil in public there are several Muslim/Arab countries that do the same. It is not a question of religious discrimination, but of public safety and security. I would like to see the US make the same laws. ^

Presidential Coins

From Yahoo News:
"Presidential dollar coins victims of budget crunch"

Sorry, President Chester Arthur. Nobody wants you. Searching for savings in a tough economy, the White House said on Tuesday that the U.S. Mint would scrap automatic production of millions of dollar coins bearing the image of deceased American presidents at a saving of $50 million a year. "As will shock you all, calls for Chester A. Arthur coins are not big," said Vice President Joe Biden, referring to the country's 21st president, who died in 1886. "I'm not commenting on his presidency, but it just is not very high." The U.S. Treasury estimates there are almost $1.4 billion worth of dollar coins sitting in the vaults of the Federal Reserve, with 1.6 billion more coins scheduled to be minted over the next five years.

^ This was a waste from the very start. The fact that most people had no idea about these coins in the first place shows no one will care that they won't be around anymore. ^

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Today was the season finale. The teams went from Panama to Atlanta. The other two teams thought Marcus and Amani would have an advantage because they live in Atlanta, but in the end they didn't. The teams had to land a plane in a simulator and Ernie and Jeremy did well there (it took Marcus many times.) Then they had to go to "The Dump" where Margaret Mitchell wrote "Gone With The Wind" and use an old typewriter to type their next clue. After that they had to go to a sports stadium and climb a giant map to mark the countries they have travelled on the Race. After the map they had to make it to the finish line. In the end, Cindy and Ernie won. I do not like Cindy (she has done nothing but complain and be snotty the whole time.)Jeremy and Sandy came in 2nd and Marcus and Amani last. It was a good race but didn't end how I would have liked it to. I would have liked to see the snowboarders win since they worked the hardest and stayed the calmest throughout everything.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wreaths Across America

From The Stars and Strips:
"Wreaths Across America: Honoring fallen troops with holiday tradition"

Volunteers converged on Arlington National Cemetery Saturday to lay more than 100,000 wreaths on the graves of fallen servicemembers, The Associated Press reported. According to The Associated Press, the tradition began 20 years ago with little fanfare. Morrill Worcester, owner of Worcester Wreath Co. in Harrington, Maine, and others laid 5,000 wreaths on headstones that first year to give thanks to the nation's veterans. Since then, it has grown into an organization called Wreaths Across America with ceremonies across the country every holiday season.

^ This is a good idea and one more way to show the soliders who risk their lives for us how much we appreciate them. ^

New Holocaust Money

From Yahoo News:
"16,000 Holocaust victims to get German pensions"

After a year of tough negotiations, Germany has agreed to pay pensions to about 16,000 additional Holocaust victims worldwide — mostly survivors who were once starving children in Nazi ghettos, or were forced to live in hiding for fear of death. The agreement announced Monday between the New York-based Claims Conference and the German government is "not about money — it's about Germany's acknowledgment of these people's suffering," said Greg Schneider, the conference's executive vice president. Of the new beneficiaries, 5,000 live in the United States. However, part of the agreement does not immediately cover survivors who were young Jewish children born in 1938 or later. "We will continue to press for greater liberalizations to ensure that no Holocaust survivor is deprived of the recognition that each deserves," Stuart Eizenstat, special negotiator for the conference, said in a statement. Germany will now pay reparation pensions to a total of 66,000 people who survived Nazi death camps and ghettos, or had to hide or live under false identity. Under the new rules, which go into effect Jan. 1, any Jew who spent at least 12 months in a ghetto, in hiding or living under a false identity, is eligible for a monthly pension of 300 euros (about $375) a month. For countries in the former Soviet bloc, that amount is 260 euros. Until now, the minimum time requirement for living under such duress was 18 months. The Germans established more than 1,000 ghettos for Jews while the Nazi leadership in Berlin deliberated the "Final Solution" — a plan to murder all European Jews. Some ghettos existed for only a few days, others for months or years, before residents were either shot in mass graves or deported to death camps. Germany also has agreed to offer pensions to those who are 75 or older and spent three months in ghettos like the one operated in Budapest, Hungary, from November 1944 to January 1945. That provision is expected to affect about 4,500 survivors next year and 3,500 more once they turn 75. In another new development announced this week, anyone who worked in the German-run ghettos during World War II may now receive a one-time payment of 2,000 euros (about $2,600) from the German government.

^ I don't understand why Germany is making it so difficult for Holocaust survivors to get the money they deserve for living through the hell the GERMANS created. Anyone who was alive during the Holocaust (even babies and the elderly) and who were in the ghettos, labor camps, death camps, mass graves, in hiding or fled the Nazis from 1933-1945 for even a day should get money from this fund. ^

A Euro Fix?

From USA Today:
"What's in the new deal to save the euro?"

Twenty-three European Union states agreed Friday to set up a new treaty, giving up crucial powers over their own budgets in an attempt to overcome a crippling debt crisis.

Q: Who's plans to be in it?

A: All 17 countries that use the euro, plus Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Five of those six are likely to eventually adopt the common currency, and Denmark may as well. So it makes sense for them to subscribe to the new rules now.

Q: Who's not in it?

A: The U.K. gave a clear "no," while Hungary, Sweden and the Czech Republic left the door open to sign up at some point if their parliaments want them too.

In the euro zone
Countries that use the euro currency: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

Q: Why did Europe need a new treaty?

A: For the past two years, the countries that share the euro have been rocked by a debt crisis that has recently threatened the survival of the currency. Germany and France in particular argued that only tough rules enshrined in a treaty would convince markets that all countries will be able to repay their debts and a similar crisis will never happen again.

Q: How will that be achieved?

A: Debt brakes in national constitutions: All 23 countries commit to keep their deficits below 0.5% of economic output. That cap can be broken to counteract a recession or in other exceptional circumstances. The European Court of Justice will make sure all states' debt brakes are effective.

— More automatic penalties for deficit sinners. In the past, governments often protected their partners from being punished.

The 27 European Union countries
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

— All states have to tell their partners in advance how much debt they plan to take on through bond sales.

Q: What else did they decide?

A: The eurozone, together with other willing EU states, will give as much as $264 billion to the International Monetary Fund to help it rescue troubled nations.

— The eurozone's permanent bailout fund, the European Stability Mechanism, will take over from the current rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, one year ahead of schedule, in July 2012. Unlike the EFSF, the ESM has paid-in capital, similar to a bank, and is therefore more credible on financial markets.

— The ESM's decision-making process was simplified in emergency situations, allowing struggling countries to get financial help if an 85 percent majority of capital holders agree. That is meant to stop small countries from blocking or slowing down urgent rescues, as has happened in the past.

— The eurozone eased rules that have forced banks and other private investors to take losses when a country gets a bailout from the ESM. The previous push to inflict losses on bondholders has been blamed for exacerbating the crisis.

Q: What did they fail to agree on?

A) Eurozone leaders did not decide to boost the overall firepower of their own bailout funds, which is currently limited to €500 billion. They promised to reconsider that cap in March, shortly before the ESM comes into force.

— They did not agree to more intrusive powers for the European Commission over the fiscal policies of wayward states, as had been demanded by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and some nations. Instead, they promised to "examine swiftly" much more lenient proposals from the Commission.

— They did not allow the bailout funds to directly recapitalize failing banks. That could have prevented countries from taking on more debt when they have to bail out lenders.

Q: Will it work?

A: Stock markets and the euro rose modestly in reaction to the deal, but many details remain to be worked out. Much will depend on whether the stricter fiscal rules can persuade the ECB to unleash massive funds to buy up eurozone bad debt.

^ Hopefully these new rules and guidelines will help save the Euro and the EU. ^

Russian Protestors

From Deutsche Welle:
"Tens of thousands demonstrate against Russia's Putin"

For the first time since Putin rose to power, tens of thousands of Russians are protesting his immense power. Demonstrators braved freezing temperatures to voice their discontent with last weekend's elections. Tens of thousands of Russians took to the streets Saturday to protest last weekend's alleged election fraud and demand an end to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's hold on power. In parliamentary elections last Sunday, Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev's United Russia party won an absolute majority that the opposition claims was exaggerated by ballot stuffing and other manipulation. Police estimated that around 25,000 protesters gathered in Bolotnaya Square, a large open space across the Moscow River from the Kremlin. Organizers and anti-Kremlin lawmakers claimed the number of protesters stood between 50,000 and 80,000, making it the largest protest day the country has seen since Putin came to power in 2000. Additional rallies took place in more than 50 other cities across Russia with at least 7,000 people taking to the streets in Russia's second city St. Petersburg. Organizers also reported 5,000 protesters in the industrial town of Chelyabinsk and up to 4,000 in nearby Yekaterinburg.

^ This is pretty interesting to watch. It is like what happened in 1991 and 1993 (which I was too young to remember.) I have seen small demonstrations - old Communists - but nothing to this scale. For twenty years Russia seems to have been existing rather than living and now ordinary Russians seem to want a change. I don't know if change will happen because of these protests, but hopefully some good will. ^,,15592859,00.html

Thursday, December 8, 2011


This week the teams started in Belgium. The teams had to dress up and find out what character from Tintin they were. Then they flew to Panama. They were given a temporary tattoo that had a clue on it. From there they had to walk between two buildings to get another clue and then had to find their next clue on some dancing women. The snowboarders chose the wrong location. Most of the other teams chose the wrong location as well but one of the taxi drivers called the other taxi drivers and told them the correct location. Jermey and Sandy came in first with Ernie and Cindy in second and Amani and Marcus in third. Andy and Tommy came in last and were eliminated. I really wanted them to win - not only did they win 6 of the legs, but they managed to play the game in an honest, fun way. From the three teams left I would like to see Amani and Marcus win. I don't care for Sandy or Cindy. Next week is the season finale.

Japanese Sorry Canadians

From Yahoo News:
"Japan apologises to Canada for mistreating POWs"

Japan offered a "heartfelt apology" for the systematic mistreatment of Canadian prisoners during World War Two, helping to heal ties between the two nations, Ottawa said on Thursday. Thousands of Allied prisoners were forced by the Japanese Imperial Army to work as slave laborers during the war. Many were tortured or starved and died in captivity. Canada said Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney and a group of veterans received the apology in Tokyo from Toshiyuki Kato, Japan's Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs. "This important gesture is a crucial step in ongoing reconciliation and a significant milestone in the lives of all prisoners of war," Blaney said in a statement. Around 1,600 Canadians were captured in December 1941 after the fall of Hong Kong. "The Canadians were subjected to deliberate and systematic mistreatment at the hands of their captors," the statement said. "The prisoners of war were forced into backbreaking labour in construction sites, mines, shipyards and foundries, and were frequently beaten and starved." Some Allied survivors, angered by what they see as Japan's unwillingness to confront its wartime record, have in the past tried unsuccessfully to sue Tokyo for compensation. In 2005, Japan apologized for the suffering and pain its military inflicted on Dutch prisoners during World War Two. Tokyo made a similar apology to Britain in 1998.

^ I have said this before - Japan hasn't fully admitted and taken blame for all the horrible things the Japanese did during the war. Every now and then they say they are sorry to one group and leave out all the others. Not only does Japan need to admit all their wrong-doings to most of the people in Asia (especially the Chinese and Koreans) but to the Westerns (British, American, French and Dutch) both POWs and civilians. Germany has done a lot over the years to show how sorry they are for what happened during the war while Japan has been allowed to brush it off for the most part. It is good that Japan finally admitted it did bad things to Canadian POWs. ^