Monday, January 31, 2011

Sarajevo Days, Sarajevo Nights

This book is about how one woman, Elma Softic, lived in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War and the siege the city was under. I have to say that it was pretty bland and boring to read. I don't know if it is because of the translation or just the content. I had thought that I was reading a book written by a 30 something, educated woman and yet it read as though it was from a child.
To anyone who wants to read a good book on life during the Siege of Sarajevo I would recommend "Zlata's Diary." It was written by a teenager during the war and the author is known as the Anne Frank that lived. While written by a teenager it shows many grown-up experiences and describes in detail how the author lived during the war.

Poland Gaming Around With Past

From Yahoo News:
"Polish board game recalls communist hardship"

You won't get to build hotels or collect rent in a new Polish board game reminiscent of Monopoly. In fact, you may be lucky even to get a pair of shoes. Poland's state-run National Remembrance Institute has created the new game — called "Kolejka," which means queue or line — to help young Poles understand the hardships of life under communism. In the game, players are tasked with buying a number of goods, but a lack of deliveries, shortages and the connections competitors have to communist authorities turn the task into a string of frustrations. "We want to show young people and remind the older ones what hard times these were and what mechanisms were at play," said Karol Madaj, the game's creator. Players try to buy basic goods but food supplies run out before they reach the counter. If a bed is needed, they may be offered stools instead. Players needing the shop's last pair of shoes can get edged out by someone holding a "mother with small child" or "friend in government" card. "We want to show how it was when you lost your chance because someone with high connections jumped the line," said Madaj, a 30-year-old who still remembers spending long hours with his mother in lines. "We may laugh at it today, but it was not funny for them, when they were wasting their lives in lines." Madaj says the game is best played by members of various generations because it evokes emotions in older players who start to talk about their experiences. Poland shed communism in 1989, going on to develop a successful market economy. It joined the European Union in 2004. The gray board, evocative of the mood of communist times, is accompanied by a documentary film and an article by a historian talking about the realities of communism. Some 3,000 games will go on sale Feb. 5.

^ This is a good way to get people to remember (or if they are too young - to learn) about how life was like when the Communists ruled Poland. They should make a similar game of the Nazi occupation of Poland. Other countries should do the same with their histories. Russia could make one on life in the Soviet Union - although Russia would probably glorify everything whereas most other former Soviet Republics would portray the truth. Along with the board game there should be a computer game created so it could reach even more people. While those of us who were too young or not even born yet will never completely understand what it was like to live through those times this is one way to help us get a glimpse. ^

NetFlix And DVDs

From Yahoo News:
"Netflix Is Abandoning DVDs, Customers Who Prefer DVDs"

When Netflix started up more than 10 years ago, its sales pitch was pretty simple: Hey, subscribe to us, and we'll mail you DVDs that you can then mail back to us without worrying about any late fees. But as the rental market moves toward online and on-demand models, Netflix's iconic red envelopes may eventually become as antiquated as VHS tapes. Beefing up their streaming business, Netflix has predicted that in about two years their economics will be geared more toward their "Watch Instantly" service than through physical discs. For that to happen, Netflix will have to nudge their DVD-loyal customers to the new platform. And on Monday, the company learned just how hard that may be. In a seemingly innocent 109-word blog post, Netflix director of product management Jamie Odell announced, "We're removing the 'Add to DVD Queue' option from streaming devices," suggesting that it was being done so that the company "can concentrate on offering you the titles that are available to watch instantly." Granted, the Netflix website still allows DVD queue updating, but this post, dropped on the morning of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, created an immediate firestorm of comments -- most of them very, very angry. "Clearly Netflix wants to send less discs through the mail, and therefore wants to make it more difficult for the user to add to their queue in furtherance of that," wrote "Eldendor." "Horrible idea!" wrote "usrbingeek." "Especially when there are still few titles available for streaming and the titles that you do have, seem to have very narrow license windows." On and on came the complaints, with most responders saying essentially (1) I like having access to DVDs even if I use a PS3 or mobile phone to stream movies on Netflix; and (2) there aren't enough good titles available on "Watch Instantly." "I think this is a totally foolish move on your part. I like to be able to add movies to my DVD queue from my iPhone," commented "b.dsign." "[I]f this means that netflix is going to add more movies to watch instantly i support the change," "Beto" wrote, "but if they are not, then it's just a bad idea." As of yet Netflix hasn't released any response, which, really, is their response. Whether customers like or not, Netflix knows that the future is moving away from physical discs and toward instant access. And, really, none of us who use Netflix should be surprised: Back in November the company announced that they were offering a new lower subscription rate for streaming-only customers while increasing the rate for people who still wanted DVDs. Right now, if you want DVDs from Netflix, the company is less than thrilled with you: They need you to get used to the idea of streaming films and TV shows so that you'll drop the physical disc habit: a craving, ironically, that they themselves created thanks to the ease of their iconic red envelopes. But while Netflix is slowly discouraging the continued interest in DVDs, they face a different challenge even if their business model transformation succeeds. As Slate reported, if Netflix's streaming business takes off the way they think it will, it could prove a serious drain on America's broadband capacity, which is far less nimble than other countries'. Netflix is angering customers right now because the company wants to do away with DVDs: We don't even want to think of a future where Netflix angers the entire Internet community because too many people are streaming old episodes of "Friends" at the same time.

^ Hopefully Netflix won't get rid of DVDs altogether otherwise I will have to stop using them. I have tried to stream movies through them, but my Internet provider is very slow and usually cuts them off. ^

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Holocaust Remembrance Day

From Deutsche Welle:
"German President makes historic speech at Auschwitz "

German President Christian Wulff marked Holocaust Remembrance Day on Thursday with a historic speech at Auschwitz, the site of the largest Nazi death camp during World War II. "We all carry responsibility that such a breach of civilization does not happen again," he said. Wulff was the first German president ever to speak at the Auschwitz commemoration. He also met camp survivors with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski. "Since World War II, across the globe there has not been a single day without war," Wulff said. "This is an appeal to youth to take responsibility for what is happening. Indifference is the worst threat to democracy and liberty." January 27 marks the day when Soviet troops liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1945. Around 1.5 million people were murdered there, the vast majority of them European Jews. The anniversary was declared an international day of remembrance for the six million victims of the Holocaust by a 2005 UN General Assembly resolution. Germany has marked the day since 1996. About 1.5 million people were killed at Auschwitz in Poland Roma Holocaust survivor speaks Official ceremonies took place across Germany. Roma Holocaust survivor Zoni Weisz addressed the country's parliament in Berlin. The speech symbolized an effort by Germany to give more recognition to the non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Weisz, 73, told the Bundestag that Sinti and Roma probably represent the most persecuted ethnic minority in Europe today, and that their genocide during Nazi Germany was a "forgotten Holocaust." "Society has learned little to nothing from this, but rather it has dodged its responsibility to us," he said. "The vast majority [of Roma] have no opportunity, no work, no education and live without regular medical care." Historians estimate that between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti, otherwise known as gypsies, were killed by the Nazis, out of a total population of around one million in Europe before World War II. They were also systematically persecuted, confined to ghettos, deported and subjected to grotesque medical experiments. Weisz said Roma and Sinti are the most persecuted minority in Europe today. Since then, their population has swelled to around 12 million in Europe. Tens of thousands live in Germany, many of them refugees from Bosnia and Kosovo. West Germany did not officially recognize the genocide of Roma and Sinti until 1982. Weisz was born in Holland to an instrument maker and grew up in the eastern town of Zutphen. His family was deported to the east in 1944 when he was 7, but he survived thanks to a policeman who helped him escape. Weisz lived out the rest of the war in hiding, but his parents, sisters and younger brother were all murdered in Auschwitz. He said he was "surprised and honored" when asked to speak to the Bundestag "It is the first time that the fate of the Sinti and Roma of Europe has been placed at the center of the commemorations - finally," said the head of the Council of Sinti and Roma in Germany, Romani Rose. There was also a special commemoration at the eastern German city of Erfurt, where the Topf & Söhne engineering plant, which manufactured crematoria for Nazi death camps, is to be turned into a Holocaust memorial site. "The factory was not a place were people were murdered or tortured, but it was a place where engineers calculated how dead bodies could be burned as quickly and effectively as possible," said the exhibition's leader, Annegret Schüle. Later this year, Germany will inaugurate a national memorial to Sinti and Roma murdered by the Nazis.

^ It is important to remember all the people who were murdered by the Germans during the Holocaust (Jews, Gypsies, Soviet POWs, Slavs, Homosexuals, Freemasons, anti-Nazis, the disabled, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.) ^,,14798859,00.html

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

After Hitler: Recivilizing Germans 1945-1995

The author of this book is German and so the book is already slanted towards the plight of the Germans as victims from the beginning. While the author does state that there can be no excuse for allowing the Holocaust to happen he does make excuses as to why Germans willingly followed Hitler and allowed the World War to happened.
The book does not really show that all Germans were "civilized" after the war. There are many differences between those living in West Germany over those living in East Germany - which would make sense because of the two different ideologies. Once the two Germanys reunited in 1990 the differences between the two groups really became apparent and has lingering effects within Germany to this day.
One item that really got me was how the book ended. The book goes to 1995 (5 years after the country was reunited) and talks about all the anti-foreigner violence and how more and more Germans follow the call "Germany for Germans." I don't see how the book can claim the majority of Germans to be re civilized (since 1945) and in the same note talk about how even ordinary Germans are calling for violence and deportations against foreigners - the majority of whom came legally into the country.
From 1933-1945 the Germans called for a pure Germany and murdered millions of non-Germans. Nowadays the Germans are calling for a Germany for Germans and are using violence and threats to kick non-Germans out. I don't see a difference other than the fact that Germans are not currently using concentration or death camps. I lived in Germany in the 1990s and saw first-hand ordinary Germans use violence against Turks, Kurds and other non-Germans. On the surface Germans today may be considered civilized (and I am sure some are) but the true nature can not be erased even after 60 years. Throughout history Germans have been war-like: the Germanic tribes (called barbarians) that destroyed much of Europe throughout the Middle Ages, the Prussian united Germany of the 1870s, the militaristic Germany of the First World War, Nazi Germany during the Second World War, the dictatorship of East Germany and now the xenophobic and nationalistic Germany of the reunited Germany. History continues to repeat itself.

State Of The Union

From USA Today:
"State of the Union: Fact-checking Obama's speech"

I have seen many media reports from both Democrats and Republicans that say Obama's speech last night was pretty bland, confusing and not realistic. He has too many big-item issues that he expects Congress to address. Of course he added his usual item of saying that if none of this gets done it will be only because of Congress and the Republicans and not because of him. One thing I noticed was that at past State of the Union speeches everyone always stands up, there are cheers and jeers, but at this speech people didn't seem to know when to cheer, when to jeer or when to stand up. All-in-all I think Obama's speech was a complete failure and waste of time. I only hope that Congress can get things done with or without his support.

Bomb At DME

From Moscow Times:
"Blast Kills 34 at Domodedovo"

A powerful explosion tore through the baggage claim area at the international arrivals hall of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Monday, killing at least 34 people and injuring about 170 others in what President Dmitry Medvedev called a terrorist attack. The bomb, equivalent to at least 7 kilograms of TNT, went off at 4:32 p.m., the Investigative Committee said in a statement late Monday. Unidentified officials, quoted by Russian news agencies, differed over whether the bomb was carried by a suicide bomber or went off in a suitcase. Medvedev ordered all Moscow airports, the metro and other public transportation networks to be put on high alert and vowed to find and punish those behind the explosion. “What happened shows all the laws that should have been enforced were far from correctly implemented. We need to examine this,” a solemn-faced Medvedev said in televised remarks on Channel One. He offered his condolences to the families of those killed and to the injured. The president also postponed his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he was supposed to arrive Tuesday evening and speak at a plenary session Wednesday.No one immediately claimed responsibility for the blast. State television showed footage of passengers busily moving inside the airport without any sign of panic. Several passengers confirmed that they saw no panic, even though broken glass littered the floor and injured passengers were being rushed to ambulances. “It’s very bad. It’s 100 percent terrorism,” Ariel, who flew in from Israel, said in an interview after arriving on an airport express train at Paveletsky Station about two hours after the blast. “I think I’m going back to Israel right now.” A YouTube video shot on a cell phone camera (see below) in the smoke-filled arrivals hall showed bodies lying on the floor. Several people in regular clothes, apparently passengers, walked around unrestrained, together with rescue workers and businesslike security officials. A man in a black suit stood with a baggage cart in the hall. Airport personnel had to break down a brick wall to help passengers exit the baggage claim area, RIA-Novosti reported. Planes continued to take off and land after the explosion. Sibir and Transaero, the biggest Russian airlines based at Domodedovo, said Monday evening that no flights had been affected. The last deadly blasts in Moscow occurred March 29 when two female suicide bombers originating from the North Caucasus blew themselves up in the Moscow metro, killing 40 people and wounding 160 others. North Caucasus insurgents later claimed responsibility for the attacks. The insurgents have targeted Moscow in several high-profile terrorist attacks since fall 1999.
But the Domodedovo blast was not necessarily perpetrated by North Caucasus insurgents, said Maxim Agarkov, a retired Interior Ministry officer who has worked in airport security. “The attackers might have targeted a plane heading to Domodedovo, but the bomb went off too late,” he said by telephone. According to the airport’s web site, passengers from flights from Cairo, Ashgabat, Tokyo and Dusseldorf were collecting their baggage at the moment of the blast. Still, an unidentified law enforcement official told Interfax that three North Caucasus natives — suspected rebels living near Moscow — had been put on a national wanted list after Monday’s explosion. The official said investigators had linked the men to two suspected female suicide bombers, one of whom died in a largely unnoticed blast in a Moscow sports club on Dec. 31. No one but the woman died in the explosion. The second woman, a 24-year-old native of Chechnya, was arrested earlier this month in Volgograd on suspicion of illegally transporting explosives. “It is possible that one of these three men blew himself up at Domodedovo,” the official told Interfax.
At Paveletsky Station, some passengers were convinced that the bombing was linked to the restive North Caucasus, where federal forces have fought two wars since 1994.
“I am not surprised,” said Andrei, who spent an hour at the gate waiting to deplane after arriving on a flight from Germany.“What else do you expect after 15 years of civil war?” he said, referring to the military conflict in the North Caucasus. After the attack, the Aeroexpress train offered free rides between the train station and Domodedovo Airport, while sympathetic Twitter users offered free rides to the airport and back. Interfax reported that taxi drivers at the airport had hiked prices to as much as 20,000 rubles ($670) for the 42-kilometer ride into the city. The trip usually costs about 2,500 rubles to the city center. A Domodedovo employee spoke of the confusion and shock that settled over the airport in the moments after the explosion. “At the very beginning we didn’t understand what was happening. When we did, it was already late,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to speak to the media. The exact number of fatalities was unclear Monday night. The Emergency Situations Ministry reported on its web site that at least 34 people were dead and 168 were injured, including 74 who were hospitalized. But the National Anti-Terrorism Committee and Domodedovo Airport’s spokeswoman said at least 35 were dead. The identities and nationalities of the dead were not immediately released. The Emergency Situations Ministry said on its web site that four foreigners had been identified among the injured: Diana Shtotts, 36, of Germany; Suzanna Fialova, 36, of Slovakia; and two Tajik citizens, Saidbek Iskadarov, 42, and Bakhtiyor Gafforiv, 29. Also injured were Romano Rosario of Italy and Frederic Ortis of France, Interfax said, citing the Health and Social Development Ministry. Shortly after the explosion, state television reported that dozens of ambulances were headed to the airport from Moscow and hospitals in the nearby town of Domodedovo. Mayor Sergei Sobyanin and Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov also rushed to the airport, together with investigators from the Federal Security Service, the Interior Ministry and the Investigative Committee.
Security was beefed up at Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo airports. No flights were canceled, but all passengers and luggage were thoroughly searched, passengers said in televised remarks. Passengers are advised to arrive at Moscow airports extra early for their flights in the upcoming days. Airport checks will be stepped up, and police will expand their checks to include the people seeing off passengers and their bags as well, the Federal Air Transport Agency said. U.S. President Barack Obama and European leaders offered their sympathy and support over the bombing.
Domodedovo, which prides itself for being Moscow’s most modern airport, is also its busiest, serving 22 million passengers last year. It was targeted by terrorists in August 2004 when two female suicide bombers from the North Caucasus boarded two planes there after illegally buying tickets from airport staff. The planes were blown up in midair, killing 90 people. A total of 77 airlines offer regular flights to 241 Russian and international destinations from Domodedovo, which is also Russia’s largest hub for hundreds of charter flights, according to the airport’s web site.

^ This is not the first time that terrorists have used Domodedovo. In 2004 two Chechen women bought tickets at the last minute and boarded two different planes and blew them up. You would think that security at DME would have improved since then, but it seems it has not. I have never flown into/out of DME so do not know much about it other than what I read. I do remember flying out of SVE several times and having to wait outside the terminal (even in December) to go through security just to enter the airport. You had to take off your coats, put your bags in X-Ray machines and walk through a metal detector. From what I understand you do not go through that at DME (maybe not even at SVO anymore.) DME is billed as being the most modern Russian airport yet they have been critized not only for its lack of security but also for its lack of leadership and customer service (in how they dealt with passengers several weeks ago when power outages caused days of cancellations.) Putin got involved after that and has done the same after this latest blast. It seems he only gets involved after the fact rather than before. While it is almost impossible to stop terrorist attacks on Metro/Subway systems since they are so vast airports should be much more easier to control who/what enters and leaves. Russia needs to get its security issues under control since they have several high profile international events in the coming years: mainly the Winter Olympics. ^

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Serbia's New Image

From Yahoo News:
"Serbia looks to improve image with peacekeeping"

BELGRADE, Serbia – Not long ago, Serbian troops were notorious for nationalism, aggression and even war crimes. Now they want to be known as international guardians of peace. In the 1990s, under the regime of Slobodan Milosevic, they shelled towns in Croatia and Bosnia and supported Serb rebels when they attacked civilians in those newly independent nations. U.N. peacekeepers were sent to the Balkans to protect people from the Serb-led attacks. Now Serbia's pro-Western government is bent on improving the army's tarnished image. Its primary tactic — participating in overseas peacekeeping missions, turning yesterday's attackers into the protectors of today. At the same army center on the outskirts of Belgrade where troops once trained for the wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo, dozens of local and foreign instructors are teaching soldiers to be guardians of the peace in places like Chad, Cyprus, Lebanon and Somalia.The trainers include advisers from the United States and other members of NATO — the military alliance that bombed Serbia in 1999 to halt its military crackdown on the secessionist province of Kosovo, which has since become an independent nation. Several dozen soldiers from Serbia already are serving in U.N. units in Congo, Chad, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Cyprus and Lebanon. The effort will be eventually expanded to 40-member platoons, to be followed by companies of 180 soldiers and even larger units. "We are the first soldiers from our country. We hope that after this mission the image of Serbia will be better," said Staff Sgt. Alexander Beocanin, part of a seven-man Serb unit serving with the U.N. force on the divided island of Cyprus. He and his colleagues patrol the U.N.-controlled buffer zone separating the Greek Cypriot south from the Turkish Cypriot north. The soldiers' duties involve monitoring and observing the zone and preventing anyone from straying into it. "We have so much experience in war; now we want peace," Beocanin said. Beyond expanding its existing deployments, Serbia also hopes to deploy a battalion to join the 12,500-strong U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon, or UNIFIL, which has monitored the border with Israel for the past 32 years. Peacekeeping represents a marked turnaround for the Serbian military. After the Balkan wars of the 1990s, more than 40 Serbian politicians, generals and other officials were indicted by the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague for war crimes. Dozens more have faced trial either in Serbia or in other countries that once formed the Yugoslav federation. Milosevic's military also sheltered war crimes suspects, including fugitive Gen. Ratko Mladic, who remains at large despite his 1995 indictment for the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica. Milosevic himself was accused of genocide, and died in a prison cell in The Hague, Netherlands, while still on trial. The focus on peacekeeping is part of President Boris Tadic's effort to improve Serbia's international standing. The country's bid to join the European Union recently received a major boost when the bloc agreed to review Serbia's candidacy. Plans for international peacekeeping missions originated in 2003, as part of broad reform of the armed forces. Troop levels were slashed from nearly 100,000 to just 35,000, and a group of young officers was promoted to the senior ranks to replace the generals discredited in Milosevic's wars. Since then the military has established close contacts with the armed forces of Britain, Norway and the United States, which initiated a partnership between the Serbian army and the National Guard of Ohio — home to a large Serbian immigrant community. As a result, the military has become the country's most avid proponent of closer ties with NATO, despite the alliance's bombing of Serbia a decade ago, said Daniel Sunter, editor of Belgrade-based Balkan Intelligence monthly. He noted that this represented a return to the military ties Yugoslavia had with the West during the Cold War, when it was very active in peacekeeping operations in Africa and Asia. In 1956, Yugoslavia contributed a battalion to the first modern U.N. peacekeeping force, which patrolled a buffer zone between the Egyptian and Israeli armies in the Sinai. "It is high time that our country rejoined the international community by sending troops to assist those peoples unfortunate enough to be caught up in conflicts," said Miobor Stosic, who served as a junior officer in the U.N. force in Sinai during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. But it remains unlikely that Serbia will join most of its European neighbors in committing troops to the NATO mission in Afghanistan. "Despite the constant improvement in ties ... membership in NATO still stirs too many passions and is therefore a distant prospect," said Mirjana Vasovic, a lecturer in political science at Belgrade University. Tim Judah, a London-based Balkan analyst and author, said it was important for Serbia to be seen as "a security provider, rather than a security consumer." "The tragedy is that in a way it's back to the future for Serbia, because the Yugoslav military were quite big providers of peacekeeping troops," he said. "It's a modest return to where the country was before."

^ I think this is a very good idea. I visited the Balkans last December (Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro) and heard and saw many of the horrible things the Serbs did during the 1991-1995 wars. While I know they weren't not the only guilty ones they seemed to have done the most damage. Peacekeeping will help their image around the world which could help them join the EU sooner. ^

Mass Graves Search

From BBC News:
"Jewish groups begin hunt for unmarked Holocaust graves"

Jewish organisations are to search for countless unmarked graves of Holocaust victims across Eastern Europe. The groups think that more than two million Jews were rounded up by the German military and shot, with their bodies left in unmarked mass graves. The shootings took place before the Nazis organised mass killings at the gas chambers of death camps. The plan is to memorialise and protect sites in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and Poland. After Hitler invaded Russia, hundreds of thousands of Jews were routinely killed by the advancing army, even before the formal industrial killing in death camps began. In Berlin, Jewish organisations said they would try to identify graves. They said teams would be "driving up and down the back roads of small villages... knocking on doors and asking the elderly to recount what they saw during the war". Last month, researchers made a preliminary inspection of five sites in Ukraine. One of them, where 5,000 Jews were shot and dumped, is now a swamp.
Jan Fahlbusch of the American Jewish Committee, who is in charge of the effort to memorialise the graves, said it was important that the people who live there know what happened in their home villages. "There's a lot of ignorance among the local population and it is important to raise awareness of the crimes of the past," he said.

^ It is about time organizations and governments worked to find these mass graves. While they are looking for the ones the Nazis made I'm sure they will also find many that the Soviets did and will "kill two birds with one stone" as they saying goes. ^

Northeast Snow

From Yahoo News:
"A month into winter, Easterners have had enough"

In Rhode Island, a mayor tells parents of snowbound schoolchildren to "hang in there." Atlanta has blown nearly all the money it set aside to clear the streets. In Connecticut, they're literally praying for winter to end. And at travel agencies, the phones are ringing with callers pining for tropical vacations — when the skies clear up enough to fly out, that is. Just one month into winter, major cities up and down the East Coast have already gotten clobbered with more snow than they usually get all season, a one-storm-after-another barrage that is eating up snow-removal budgets and forcing schools to close. And officially, winter still has two months left. A new half-foot of snow tested the patience of residents in the Hartford area Friday, complicating a morning commute already made arduous by mountainous snowbanks that have not melted since a record-setting snowfall last week. Forecasters are calling for below-zero temperatures in New England over the weekend, followed perhaps by another big snowstorm along the East Coast, maybe even a blizzard. "I'm spending a lot of time praying for spring," said Mark Boughton, mayor of Danbury, Conn., where back-to-back storms have been so bruising that crews haven't even had a chance to take down Christmas lights on Main Street. More than 55 inches of snow has fallen this season on Hartford, which averages 46 inches in an entire winter. New York, which generally sees about 21 inches per winter, has gotten more than 36. Boston has 50 inches so far, compared with the usual 41.5-inch seasonal total. Atlanta, which had its first white Christmas in decades, is reeling from about 6 inches so far this season, compared with the usual 0.3 inches for the whole winter.The culprit is an unpredictable phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation, an interaction of subtropical highs and polar lows that controls the flow of air along the East Coast, said Art DeGaetano, a Cornell University professor who directs the school's climate center. The colder air turns precipitation that would normally fall as rain into snow — even in the South. Georgia officials think their $10 million reserve fund for emergencies is probably close to depleted. Fannin County, in northern Georgia, has lost nine school days and was foiled in a controversial attempt to keep up by holding classes on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. "It's been one heck of a winter," said School Superintendent Mark Henson. The storms have delayed or canceled countless flights at airports throughout the region, most famously during the post-Christmas blizzard in the New York area, where thousands of holiday travelers were stranded for days and the mayor faced a political crisis because of slow cleanup. The nation's largest city burned through its entire snow removal budget of nearly $40 million on that storm, the season's first. It also came on a Sunday, meaning millions of dollars in overtime paid to city workers. The city has had three more snowfalls since then, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has dismissed questions about how it will pay for further cleanup. Streets are cleared first, he says, and the city figures out afterward where it can shift money. In Wethersfield, Conn., the phone at Wethersfield Travel rings steadily with stranded travelers seeking help — and with new customers seeking a sunny respite. "We're hearing from a lot of people who are sick of the snow and say they want to get away fast to somewhere warm," company owner Martha Kirsche said. The season started out with little hint of what was to come. The National Weather Service's official long-range winter forecast back in October amounted to a flip of the coin: The Northeast and Mid-Atlantic had equal chances of being snowier and colder than normal, and warmer and drier than normal. The folks at the New Hampshire-based Old Farmer's Almanac and the Maine-based Farmers' Almanac didn't fare much better, the first predicting colder but less snowy weather for the eastern half of the U.S. and the latter forecasting colder weather and average snowfall. "I got the cold part right," said Peter Geiger, editor of the Farmers' Almanac. It's true that temperatures in much of the East have been 2 to 4 degrees below normal in December and January, DeGaetano said. In Washington, the temperature was 6 to 8 degrees colder than average in December and 2 to 3 degrees colder in January. Still, forecasters say it is too soon to call this winter record-breaking. "We've got a long way to go," said David Stark, a meteorologist with the National Service in Upton, N.Y., noting that New York City's 36 inches is a far cry from the record 75.6 inches that fell in 1995-96. In Buffalo, N.Y., which gets about 93 inches of snow each season, residents yawn at suggestions that this winter is especially harsh. The lakeside city had received about 56 inches by Friday, typical for this time of year. Louisiana native Joe Gardner, 39, started trolling Craigslist ads for a deal on a snowblower once he realized what he faced as a recent transplant to Burlington, Mass. "This foot and a half every other day is getting kind of old," Gardner said Friday. "I had always heard how bad it is, but this is beyond what I expected."
In Providence, R.I., the city called off school Friday, the third snow day of the academic year. Mayor Angel Taveras tweeted a sympathetic message to his constituents: "I know it's hard for parents. Hang in there."

^ In the past 2 weeks we have received 4 feet of snow where I live. The local schools (which are about 20 minutes from my house) even had delays and cancelled one day - something that rarely happens. Now on top of the snow we are getting Arctic Air. Tonight it is supposed to be -10 F (without the windchill) and tomorrow could get to -31 F. I am so sick of the snow and cold, but I should get used to it as I have trips to Iceland and Alaska planned - this is the year of cold-weather destinations. ^

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Zodiac Signs

Apparently there are now new zodiac signs. I have to say that despite what anyone says I was born a Cancer and I will die a Cancer! Aren't there other more important things to worry about then what your sign is? It will make it a lot harder to pick people up at bars because when you ask them "What's your sign?" they may not know what their new sign is.

New Zodiac signs 2011 are:

Capricorn: Jan. 20 – Feb. 16
Aquarius: Feb. 16 – March 11
Pisces: March 11 – April 18
Aries: April 18 – May 13
Taurus: May 13 – June 21
Gemini: June 21 – July 20
Cancer: July 20 – Aug. 10
Leo: Aug. 10 – Sept. 16
Virgo: Sept. 16 – Oct. 30
Libra: Oct. 30 – Nov. 23
Scorpio: Nov. 23 – 29
Ophiuchus: Nov. 29 – Dec. 17
Sagittarius: Dec. 17 – Jan. 20

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Soviet Story (2008)

I recently watched this movie (well it's actually a documentary) and found it to be very interesting and poised many questions. It focuses on the Soviet-Nazi collaboration before 1941. It also shows the similarities between the USSR and Nazi Germany: the concentration camps and the gulags, the forced deportations of whole groups of people, the one-party system (Communist Party and Nazi Party), the dictatorship (Hitler and Stalin), the mass murder of whole groups of people, the forced Germanization and Russification of people, the secret police (Gestapo and NKVD) and many others.
I do not see a difference between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union (except that one lasted 12 years and the other 74.) I do not understand why Soviet symbols are legal why most of the world bans Nazi symbols. Of course I also don't get why the US doesn't ban Nazi, Soviet and Confederate symbols.
Germany has had to fully accept all the evil things that the Germans allowed to happen during the time of Nazi Germany yet Russia does not have to do the same for all the horrible things that the Russians (and other former Soviet nations) allowed to happen during the time of the Soviet Union. Some countries of the former USSR (mostly the Baltics) banned all Soviet symbols and any praise for them, but the vast majority of people and countries continue to twist everything Soviet to the good rather than to the bad. Prime Minister Putin recently said that he wished the Soviet Union could come back as it was because it produced many great things. President Medvedev countered that the USSR should never be brought back because it was a failed, authoritarian system. These two people are 10 years a part and yet have vast differences to the Soviet Union. Hopefully, once the "old" guys are voted old of power the "young" ones will take over and bring about real change and tell the Russians and other former Soviets the complete truth about what the USSR did.
Another issue the film addressed is why the EU, the US and other countries do not try to bring any real, democratic change in Russia or the former USSR. I thought their answer was very interesting.
Everyone (whether they were alive during Nazi times, Soviet times or afterwards) should see this movie because most of the issues addressed are very relevent to today's world.

Kinder Eggs

From Yahoo Canada:
"Woman's candy egg seized at border"

A cross-border kerfuffle over a popular chocolate treat nearly cost a Winnipeg woman a $300 fine and saddled her with a bureaucratic headache. Lind Bird was recently stopped at the U.S. border and selected for a random search of her vehicle. She was warned she could have faced a fine after the customs official found — and seized — her $2 Kinder Surprise egg as illegal contraband.Bird learned U.S. authorities have banned the candy because they come with a plastic toy inside that could, if eaten, choke a small child."It's just a chocolate egg," Bird said. "And they were making a big deal. They said 'if you were caught with this across the border you would get charged a $300 fine,'" she said."It's ridiculous. It's so ridiculous," she added.In Canada, however, officials said the eggs are so difficult to get into there's little chance they could harm anyone. As such, they are legal.The U.S. takes catching illegal Kinder candy seriously, judging by the number of them they've confiscated in the last year. Officials said they've seized more than 25,000 of the treats in 2,000 separate seizures."They have been determined to present … a choking hazard to young children," said Mike Milne, a spokesman for the U.S. department of customs and border protection. Milne said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration supports the Kinder Surprise ban.As trivial as the border seizure may seem, Bird said the U.S. government has sent her a seven-page letter asking her to formally authorize the destruction of her seized Kinder egg."I thought it was a joke. I had to read it twice. But they are serious," she said. The letter states if Bird wishes to contest the seizure, she'll have to pay $250 for it to be stored as the two sides wrangle over it.

^ It is pretty stupid that the US bans Kinder Eggs under a 1930s law. There are so many other things that kids can eat and hurt themselves on. I know that if government officials were given a Kinder Egg the ban would be gone in minutes. I used to have them all the time in Germany and Russia. ^

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Foreigners At Arlington?

From Yahoo News:
"Arlington burial for Vang Pao, chief of secret CIA-backed army?"

I don't think non-Americans should be allowed to be buried at Arlington. It is a national cemetary and is supposed to be for the best and brightest Americans who served (in the military, the government or both.) There are many other ways to show gratitude to foreigners who helped the US, but having them buried at Arlington or any other national cemetary is not one of those ways.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Pacific (2010)

I just got finished watching the last DVD in this mini-series. It took me a while since I had to wait for it through Netflix.
I thought it was pretty realistic in its portrayal of the Pacific Theater. It showed the good, the bad and the ugly. It didn't sugar-coat anything as most war movies do. What I really found interesting is when they compared the European Theater with the Pacific Theater. There is one scene where a taxi guy tells a returning soldier(at the end of the war) that he at least was given leave in Paris while the soldier fighting in the Pacific didn't get that.
I have always been interested in the European Theater and didn't pay much attention to the Pacific. I did know how sadistic the Japanese(with their kamikaze missions, how they treated civiliians and how they treated POWs.) The movie showed that briefly. One aspect that I didn't see was when they were in Okinawa and how the civillians acted. I had read accounts where the civillians there hid in caves and committed mass suicide because of the Japanese propaganda against the Americans.
Another thing that I liked about the movie is how the soldiers adjusted to life at the end of the war. Some went on with their lives while others struggled. The fact that civillians expected the ex-soldiers to simply move-on with their lives without understanding or caring what they had gone through shows that things back in World War 2 were just like present-day. Most people today do not give a thought to the men and women who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and when the soldiers come home no real support is given to them to help them adjust to their new lives. While I have never been in the military I was a military brat and have seen first-hand what happens. Hopefully, this movie will awaken people's eyes to just how hard it is to be a solider and do more to help the soldiers and their families.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

1984 (1984)

I just recently saw this movie. I read the book in high school and have tried for years to see the movie. It was on TV the other night and so I watched it. I have to say that it has to be one of the worst movies I have ever seen. The acting was poor as was the special effects (even when you take into consideration that it was made in the 1980s.)
I really wish someone else would come along and remake the movie more along the lines of the book.

9-11 Bill

From Yahoo News:
"Obama signs Sept. 11 first responders bill"

HONOLULU – President Barack Obama said Sunday he was honored to sign a bill to provide aid to survivors of the Sept. 11 attacks and first responders who became ill working in the ruins at the World Trade Center. "We will never forget the selfless courage demonstrated by the firefighters, police officers and first responders who risked their lives to save others," Obama said in a statement. "I believe this is a critical step for those who continue to bear the physical scars of those attacks."
The James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act was named after a police officer who died of a respiratory disease he contracted during the 9/11 rescue operations. The bill was one of the last measures Congress passed before adjourning in December. Some Republicans tried to block the measure, saying they were concerned with how to pay for the bill. They dropped their opposition after lawmakers struck a compromise to reduce the costs. The $4.2 billion measure will be paid for with a fee on some foreign companies that get U.S. government procurement contracts. "At long last, the President's signature has ended our nine-year struggle to address the 9/11 health crisis. The Zadroga law will save lives and fulfills our moral obligation to care for those who rose to the defense of America in a time of war," said Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y. "This is a great victory for the heroes of September 11th, the firefighters, police officers and construction workers. Justice is finally being served," added Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly hailed the passage of the bill. "The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks were an attack on America by a foreign enemy and addressing its health impacts is a national duty," Bloomberg said. There was no signing ceremony for the bill; Obama signed it privately at the rented oceanfront home in Hawaii where he's staying with his family. White House spokesman Bill Burton said Obama had 10 days to sign the bill after its passage, a window that would have closed by the time the president returned to Washington Tuesday. Because the White House didn't receive the official bill until after Obama departed Washington Dec. 22, Burton said a staff member who was headed to Hawaii after the president carried it here for his signature.

^ It seems that Obama and the old Congress did at least two good things last year: repealing the Don't Ask, Don't Tell ban and this 9-11 bill. ^;_ylt=ApUAjA29

Estonia In Eurozone

From the BBC:
"Estonia becomes 17th member of the euro zone"

Estonia has become the 17th member of the eurozone - the first ex-Soviet state to adopt the EU single currency. The changeover from the kroon to the euro started at midnight (2200 GMT) in the small Baltic nation of 1.3m people. Despite market pressure on the eurozone and the Greek and Irish bail-outs this year, polls suggested most Estonians wanted the euro. Prime Minister Andrus Ansip marked the event by withdrawing euros from a cashpoint. "It is a small step for the eurozone and a big step for Estonia," he said, holding the euro notes. For many Estonians, 20 years after breaking away from the Soviet Union, the euro is proof that they have fully arrived in the West, the BBC's Baltic region correspondent, Damien McGuinness, reports. Estonia joined the EU in 2004 - one of eight former Communist countries that did so, including its Baltic neighbours Latvia and Lithuania. Two other ex-Communist countries - Slovenia and Slovakia - are already in the eurozone. Estonia's government says the euro will attract foreign investors because devaluation is then ruled out. However, poorer Estonians fear that prices will be rounded up, and that food will become even more expensive. And the prospect of having to contribute to bail-outs of richer eurozone countries is hard to stomach, our correspondent reports. In the past year Europe's debt crisis has hit Estonia severely. The tough cuts in state spending, necessary to join the eurozone, have pushed unemployment to more than 16%. To avoid a last-minute rush, Estonians were able to swap kroons for euros commission-free from 1 December, the AFP news agency reports. Kroons will be used in parallel with the euro for the first half of January. Banks will swap Estonians' kroons for euros until the end of 2011 and the central bank will carry on doing so indefinitely. The kroon has been pegged to foreign currencies from the start, first to the deutschmark and, in 2002, to the euro. The rate of 15.65 kroons to one euro has never changed.

^ It doesn't seem very smart to join the Eurozone right now. It is like joining a sinking ship right before it goes under the water. ^

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's 2011

Today is New Year's Day! Last night I did what I usually do - watched the Ball drop on TV - and then went to bed. Today there was nothing on TV and so I watched movies and then went to Carrabba's for dinner. It was a good meal and a good first day of the new year. It is also 1-1-11.