Saturday, June 25, 2011

Going To Alaska

I am going to Boston tomorrow to start my vacation to Alaska. And no I'm not going by cruise. It is a private tour that will include planes, trains, boats and buses. I don't know when or if I will write while I am gone, but definitely will when I get back in just under 2 weeks. For those wondering I will be celebrating my birthday (a big one) on this trip.

Gilad Shalit: 5 Years On

From Yahoo News:
"Israel marks five years since capture of soldier"

Parents of an Israeli soldier snatched by Palestinians five years ago chained themselves to railings near the home of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday to protest their son's continued captivity. Sergeant Gilad Shalit's parents Noam and Aviva, his brother Yoel and Yoel's girlfriend Yaara Winkler used a length of chain and a padlock to attach themselves to the railings of a building metres (yards) from Netanyahu's official residence. "We are a family already in captivity for five years; we'll stay here as long as necessary," Noam Shalit told journalists. The group was quickly ringed by members of Netanyahu's security detail, but there was no immediate attempt to move them. The action took place close to the pavement protest tent where Shalit's parents and supporters have spent the past year. Earlier Saturday, French Ambassador Christophe Bigot gave Aviva and Noam Shalit a letter from French President Nicolas Sarkozy to Gilad, who also holds French nationality, saying "France will never abandon you." Sarkozy's letter, addressed "Dear Gilad" and seen by AFP, said the French president does not accept "the isolation which your jailers have imposed upon you for five years, in violation of all the norms of international law and the most basic principles of humanity." "You are spending the years of your youth in the most extreme solitude," Sarkozy wrote. "This situation is outrageous. Nothing could justify it." "It is time for those responsible for your captivity to take the decision to cease this endless, unacceptable and revolting imprisonment." Bigot told reporters France was doing everything possible to win Shalit's freedom but that he could not give details.
In Gaza City, Hamas organised a ceremony of its own. Its supporters erected a fake jail cell and had someone dress up as Shalit in an Israeli army uniform. A cake with five flowers, to indicate the five years of his captivity, was placed in front of him. A loudspeaker played a recording of Shalit pleading with Netanyahu to free him. It was taken from a video -- the last proof he was alive -- that was released in October 2009. A banner said: "The Red Cross asked for the release of Shalit, but we are asking the Red Cross if it has heard of the 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails." On Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said "the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms his continued detention, and joins other governments and international organisations around the world in calling on Hamas to release him immediately." UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for Shalit's "immediate release," and asked Hamas "to protect his life, treat him humanely, prove that he is alive and allow the Shalit family to have contact with their son."

^ For anyone who thinks that the Palestinians deserve their own state when the government they elected into power (Hamas) is a terrorist group that kidnaps people they should go and talk to Shalit's family and hear what they have to say. I'm sure that after doing so they will quickly change their mind. ^

NY Allows Marriage

From the BBC:
"New York state approves gay marriage"

New York has become the sixth and most populous US state to allow same-sex marriage.
The Republican-controlled state senate voted 33-29 for a bill that had earlier been approved by the lower house, which has a Democratic majority. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly signed the bill into law. Gay weddings are expected to start within 30 days. It has become a contentious social issue ahead of next year's presidential and congressional elections."New York has finally torn down the barrier that prevented same-sex couples from exercising the freedom to marry and from receiving the fundamental protections that so many couples and families take for granted," Mr Cuomo said in a statement. He kept his promise to sign the bill as soon as he received it after the Senate vote - rather than wait the usual 10 days. Gay rights activists said the approval of the bill was a key victory for them, in what is seen as the birthplace of the US gay rights movement. "It's about time. I want to get married. I want the same rights as anyone else," 36-year-old student Caroline Jaeger told Reuters news agency.
Places where gay marriage is legal in the US:
New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Washington DC.

^ I think it is good that New York is now the 6th state to allow gay marriage. I only wish the state (along with the other 6 and DC) allowed the voters to decide in each place. I think then it would hold more meaning if the majority of a state's residents vote for gay marriage. It is odd that I have lived in 3 of the 6 states that allow gay marriage. I don't think there is any connection though. ^

Friday, June 24, 2011

Good People In An Evil Time

This book is written by Svelana Broz (the granddaughter of the former leader of Yugoslavia, Josip Broz Tito.) It deals with her interviews during and after the Bosnian War. One aspect that I like about the book is that it has people from all sides (Croats, Serbs and Muslims) and is spread throughout the country of Bosnia. While Svetlana Broz was born in Belgrade (Serbia) and she moved to Sarajevo (Bosnia) you do not get the sense that she is pro-Serbian or pro-Bosnian.
It was a very interesting read and shows how people who did not want the war dealt with it when it came to them. Sometimes they were treated well and other times they were not. One item that I found mentioned throughout the book by the Croats, Serbs and Bosnians is that when a massacre or looting did happen it was mostly done by people from another region and not the locals.
Last December I went to Mostar for the day and was helped several times by the locals. I do not know if I was in the "Croatian" side or the "Bosnian" side. All I know is that we were near the Old Bridge. I also don't know if we were helped my Croats or Muslims or both. Unlike Serbians, Croatians and Bosnians who can tell by the way a person speaks or by their name I can't. Plus I don't really care who helped me. The fact that several different people helped me without me having to ask and without us being able to speak the same language is all I need to know.
People should read this book because it gives an insight on how ordinary people live during wartime. Of course no one really knows how they would act in such a situation it is still thought-provoking.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

70 Years: Barbarossa

From Deutsche Welle:
"Germany's WWII offensive against Russia, 70 years later"

June 22 marks the 70th anniversary of the start of Germany's offensive against the Soviet Union in World War II. To examine the historical significance of this, Deutsche Welle spoke with Wolfram Wette, a professor of history at the University of Freiburg.

DW: What was the objective of the military offensive "Operation Barbarossa," which began on June 22, 1941?
Wolfram Wette: The objective was to conquer the Soviet Union, to decimate its population, to exploit the land - in order to colonize the country with Germans in the distant future. So it was a war for the capture of "Lebensraum," or "living space," in the East. They wanted to colonize the Soviet Union up to the Ural Mountains in order to create an self-sufficient, strongly protected Greater German Reich from the Atlantic to the Urals.
Was it then a racially motivated campaign of annihilation?
This aspect belongs directly to that aim, and is inseparably linked with the war in Russia. Hitler was convinced that Russia was dominated by "Jewish-Bolsheviks." And of course you could conquer this area and be able to use it for German purposes once you eliminate this establishment. The plans were made based on a speech by Hitler on March 30, 1941, given before 250 generals commanding the Eastern Army.There he said very clearly that it was a war of annihilation in which no prisoners would be taken. Hitler said the Red Army soldier should not be considered a comrade protected by the rules of war. In practice, this meant that of the 5.7 million captured Red Army soldiers, more than 3 million perished in German camps.
Even decades after the Second World War, Germany has tried very little to talk about these terrible deeds, to push them aside. Why has the invasion of the Soviet Union been such a non-issue for so long?
After 1945, the army elite very systematically spread the legend of the clean and professional Wehrmacht. And in doing that, they placed all of the responsibility for the crimes that took place in the East on the SS. They said they did the dirty work. And we conducted a war in accordance with human rights. This legend of the clean Wehrmacht was very gladly accepted by all who served. Even the small soldier said, "I fought for a clean military, not for a band of criminals." So there was a collective exoneration, a collective excuse that carried on for decades. And it took a long time until the historical research was able to create cracks in the body of the legend.
And how does that look on the Russian side?
Naturally very different. The Soviet Union was a victor in the Second World War. Stalin was exalted by the people at the time of capitulation as someone who mobilized the country, who held together the huge Red Army, who brought weapons production up to speed - which in the end resulted in victory. So everything concentrated positively on the personality of Stalin - with the consequence that all of the crimes of Stalin were repressed. The victory of the Soviet Union at that time was something that welded the country together, that stabilized it and that made it possible for it to become a world power for a half century. In this respect, the German aggression against the USSR turned out to be a stabilizing factor for communist domination - even though it was intended to end Bolshevik rule.
It's quite astounding to see that Russian people today hardly feel any hate toward Germans. No one looks at the other as an enemy. The Germans could not hope for a better situation. A large learning process has taken place in the last few decades in Russia as well.

^ I agree with most of these answers. The one thing I have an issue with is at the very end where he says the Russians and former Soviets do not harbor any ill will towards the Germans. I remember my language school director inviting an old German (a student from eastern Germany) to give a speech on Victory Day - May 9th - it was all a farce and everyone there booed him until he left the stage. He was giving a speech (in fluent Russian) about how far the Russians and Germans have come and how much they can continue to grow. He was too young to have fought in the war and grew up in Soviet occupied East Germany. I don't see why people place blame on those who were either too young or not even born yet when there are still thousands alive today that were 18 or older and are to blame. ^,,15154398,00.html

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Russian City Discriminates

From Moscow Times:
"Disabled Face Escalator Ban in St. Petersburg Metro"

Yevgenia Gurova, a 21-year-old student, is seething after St. Petersburg authorities banned her from entering or exiting metro stations with escalators. That means she is only allowed access to the seven city metro stations with stairs. The other 57 stations are off-limits."If they think that the stairs are safer, they are wrong," Gurova said by telephone Tuesday. Gurova, who was banned from entering the metro in her wheelchair twice late last week, brought the ban into the spotlight over the weekend by complaining to St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko. "They should find other, more appropriate ways to deal with the problem," Gurova said. The problem she is referring to is a recent series of accidents in which people in wheelchairs tumbled down the escalators, a metro spokeswoman said by telephone, without elaborating on the accidents. The ban is not new, but metro staff began enforcing it after the accidents for the safety of people in wheelchairs, she said, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. The ban draws new attention to the difficulties encountered by disabled people in Russia, where access to public facilities is limited or nonexistent. Gurova asked Matviyenko to take action on the issue without delay and "cancel the illegal order." Matviyenko has not replied to Gurova's appeal, but her deputy, Yury Molchanov, has ordered St. Petersburg metro head Vladimir Garyugin to initiate a tender for equipment that would allow wheelchair users to safely enter and leave the stations, the city government said in an e-mailed statement. The statement said new stations would be equipped with ramps for wheelchairs, but no mention was made about lifting the ban. City ombudsman Alexei Kozyrev lamented the ban, and Public Chamber member Yelena Nikolayeva called it a "worldwide shame" and "direct violation of federal laws," RIA-Novosti reported.
Federal legislation obliges local authorities to provide the disabled unimpeded access to public facilities. However, failure to do so carries small fines of up to 3,000 rubles ($110) for individual officials and 30,000 rubles for state bodies.
There are 235 escalators in the St. Petersburg metro's 64 stations, but none have elevators for the disabled, according to the metro's web site. Russia's infrastructure for wheelchair users is virtually nonexistent, even in big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, which effectively confines many to their homes. But the Moscow metro does not ban people in wheelchairs from using escalators at their own risk, metro spokeswoman Svetlana Tsaryova told The Moscow Times. She refused to comment on how safe it is. Moreover, Moscow metro rules explicitly oblige workers to cater to passengers in wheelchairs — unlike the metro rules in St. Petersburg. That does not mean, however, that traversing the Moscow metro in a wheelchair is easy. Of the 182 stations, only a handful of recently built ones are equipped with elevators and ramps for wheelchairs. The majority of stations, built in Soviet times, do not have such facilities, and their construction does not allow them to be adapted for wheelchair use, Tsaryova said.

^ Saint Petersburg is openly discriminating against the disabled despite Russian laws forbidding it. It is the 2nd largest city in the country and one of the main showcases for foreigners to see Russia. The Federal Russian Government should step in and not only make laws making it illegal to discriminate against the disabled, but also enforce the laws and penalties. They should do what the mayor of Sochi did - he made every public official go around the city in wheelchairs so they can see firsthand how hard it is for the disabled on a daily basis. ^

Airline Dissatisfication

From Yahoo News:
"Airline passengers fed up with service except for Southwest"

Saddled with added fees and higher fares, travelers are fed up with paying more and getting less from major airlines, survey results released on Tuesday showed. With the exception of Southwest, the no-frills airline where bags fly free, major airlines fail to satisfy leisure travelers and disappoint business travelers even more, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index. "There's been a bubbling discontent for airlines for some time, but the situation has worsened slightly from a year ago," said ACSI managing director David VanAmburg. Travelers cited poor service, higher prices and fees for baggage and other services as the main causes of their discontent, it said. Passenger satisfaction with airlines dropped by 1.5 percent to a score of 65 on ACSI's 100 point scale. Scores have generally hovered in the mid-to-low 60s for the last decade. Southwest continues to reap top customer service ratings -- and a score of 81 -- in part because it has not taken anything away from customers and then offered it back for a fee, said VanAmbur "Now it's the Deltas and Uniteds and Americans that have to act like Southwest has for years," said VanAmburg of Southwest's minimalist service model. Behind Southwest, Continental scored 64, American 63, United and US Airways tied at 61 and Delta dropped to 56 on the ACSI scale. Surveys from 2,000 customers put airlines at the bottom of the heap of some four dozen industries tracked by ACSI, alongside newspapers. Business passengers reported being the least satisfied. "We're seeing a greater discontent among business travelers simply because they are putting themselves out there more to be let down by the airlines or an experience," said VanAmburg. Recent mergers, known to have a detrimental affect on satisfaction, pose added pressure, he said. Delta Air Lines plunged to the bottom of all the airlines for customer satisfaction one year after completing its Northwest acquisition, ACSI reported. The fate of United, which absorbed Continental, and Southwest, which acquired AirTran, remained uncertain, it said.

^ This is no surprise to me. I am flying (not on any of these airlines) next week and hope that I can say that the airline I am using for the first time - Alaska Airlines - did a great job. ^

Sunday, June 19, 2011


This week they had to use some kind of chocolate candy in their dish. Jyll won that challenge and got to pick her team for the next one. She choose an all girl team (leaving Penny out.) Then Robert Irvine and Duff came to say they had to make desserts for 150 + people.
The all-girl team were very annoying. Not one of them took charge and their food was nasty. The guy/Penny team was a mess in the kitchen, but their food was the best and they won the challenge.
Alicia was sent home. I am so glad because she was very annoying and always crying. The fact that she messed up on her cupcakes (when she did that for a living) was the icing on the cake.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Canada Post Strike

From The Canada Post Website:
"Lockout at Canada Post – What It Means To Customers"

Mail Deposit and Delivery:
■All mail processing plants and letter carrier depots are closed and all facilities have been secured. No new mail will be accepted. Large volume mailers cannot deposit or receive mail.
■Mail Delivery is suspended to all addresses served by letter carriers represented by the CUPW (Urban). Some mail delivery will continue over the first few days of the lockout to clear mail remaining in the system in suburban and rural areas where delivery employees are represented by a different bargaining unit.
■Street Letter Boxes, mail slots on Community Mail Boxes, and other Canada Post mail-receiving equipment have been cleared and sealed to prevent mail from being deposited.
■Through a previous agreement, Canada Post and CUPW will ensure that a number of socio-economic cheques will be delivered on June 20. Please visit for more information.

Post Offices:
■All post offices staffed by CUPW members are closed.
■Post Offices located in suburban and rural areas staffed by members of the Canadian Postmasters and Assistants (CPAA) continue to be open but cannot accept new mail.
■Authorized Dealer Post Offices are also open but cannot accept new mail. Some Dealer Post Offices may be operating at reduced hours.
■Post Offices that remain open offer limited products such as MoneyGram and Money Orders but no new mail will be accepted. Many open Post Offices will also have parcels and other mail items delivered prior to the lockout available for customers to pick up.

Electronic Services:
■Canada Post’s website,, is fully operational and offers up-to-date information on the labour situation.
■The Electronic Shipping Tools and Online Business Centre are operational, but some functions may be limited.
■epost is fully operational and remains a recommended tool for consumers to use for important communications and to receive statements and effect payments to many financial institutions, utilities, and retailers.

Service Guarantees:
■Effective immediately, all service guarantees are suspended, pending resolution of the labour situation. Check product terms and conditions on for more information.

■Canada Post cannot predict how long the current labour situation will last.
■We apologize to our customers for the inconvenience this situation is causing. We are making every attempt to reach a settlement and resume normal operations as soon as possible.

^ This is completely unprofessional for a government agency (regardless of which country it is in) to do. I really hope the ordinary Canadians show there disgust with Canada Post and the union and send their mail by FedEx, UPS or another company. Then the only thing those strikers would receive is a pink slip. ^

Monday, June 13, 2011

Karol: The Pope, The Man (2006)

This is the sequel to "Karol: A Man Who Became Pope" and tells the story of Pope John Paul 2's reign as the leader of the Catholic Church. This movie is just as good as the first. Piotr Adamczyk did another good job playing the Pope in this film. Everyone should see the first movie and the second so that they can understand what a truly great man Pope John Paul 2 was.

Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (2005)

I watched this movie the other day and really liked it. It tells the story of Karol Wojtyla (who later became Pope John Paul 2) through his experiences during World War 2, becoming a priest and then life in post-war Communist Poland. Piotr Adamczyk plays Karol and did a really good job. It is a good movie that shows people that even before he became Pope Karol Wojtyla was a great man who suffered like everyone else and yet came out even better for it.
The movie came out just after Pope John Paul 2 died (in fact it's release date was moved because of his death.)It is too bad that the Pope couldn't have lived to see the movie and his portrayal. I think he would have liked it.


Last night I watched the show. This week two people were sent home. For the first challenge they had to make a pizza (it was a little annoying how Giada says pizza - she always talks like she is trying way to hard.) Unfortunately, Penny won the challenge. Juba was sent home.
The second challenge they had to make a difficult dish easier for home-cooks. Since Penny won the first challenge she chose the groups for the second one. Not only did they have to cook, but they had to do it in front of Anne Burrell, Scott Conant and Pat and Gina Neely. There were three teams and so three winners: Whitney, Mary Beth and Justin B. Katy was sent home.
Last week the judges said that Penny was trashy rather than sexy (as she claimed) and this week she continued her nastiness. The judges liked her "Middle Eastern Mother" concept. I didn't see that. All I saw was that she continues to be a trashy witch. While I don't have any favorite to win right now I know that I want Penny sent home.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stupid People

Two weeks ago I got the idea to try and overlook the countless idiots and stupid people I seem to meet on a daily basis. Well, I tried and that failed. While I do not start out being mean or nasty to people (at least before I meet them) I will no longer back-down if they start it. Of course like anything you need to "pick your battles" and while I won't back-down in a challenge I will continue to gauge the intensity of how I deal with idiots and adjust it accordingly.
I should say that I spent 4 summers working at an overnight camp for the mentally and physically disabled and have found them to be some of the smartest and nicest people I have ever met. The stupid people I am referring to here have no medical issue as to why they are idiots - they just are.
Not all situations are life-threatening and here's where the "picking your battles" comes into play. There are those people I have personally dealt with in the medical field and at public institutions that believe they have complete authority and final say over you. Those are the people I will continuously be on guard for and stand up to. In the case of the medical field it can be (and has been in the past) a case of either life or death or quality of life issue. In the case of public institutions it can be (and again has been in the past) a case of discrimination. Both of these are very important and should never be allowed.
There are those people who believe you should have a "positive attitude" and treat everyone nicely and good things will come out of that. While I respect their beliefs and hope it works for them I have found the opposite to be true for me. I have found that when I am ready for a fight (not physically, but mentally) then things usually turn out ok. It is when I go in to a place (especially one I have dealt with before) thinking that nothing bad will happen and it does. That may seem strange for some people, but I have found it to be true - in my case - and have tried it throughout the world.
I am not saying that I don't sometimes over-react to things because I know I do and have. Sometimes a situation or person just gets on my last nerve and I lash verbally out. In those cases I usually think about what happened afterwards and see my mistakes and what I should have done. Sometimes I even ask others how they thought I handled the situation and hear what they say - whether I agree with their assessment or not.
One thing that really gets me is dealing with a hypocrite. Those people tend to be the "holier than thous" that say one thing and do something else - hence the term hypocrite. I know who I am and do not sugar-coat it. People may like me or not, but in the end I usually do as I say and I say as I do. With me you get what you see unlike the many others that bounce all over the place.
In the end there will always be stupid people in the world. By acknowledging that fact people can decide how they want to deal with them. I have acknowledged that fact and, as you can see from above, am working to horn my skills when dealing with them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Jeep (Update)

Here is an update on the accident that happened over the Easter weekend. The garage in Troy, NY (H and V Collision Center) was the first place that we took the Jeep to. We had to get a rental car and go back to NH. 10 days later the garage said the car was ready and so we drove back to NY. When we looked at the Jeep I noticed the front license plate holder was still missing and told the guy that. At first he said that he didn't know if we lived in a state where you had to have a license plate in both the front and the back. I told him it didn't matter which state I lived in since when we bought the Jeep from a Jeep dealer it had a license plate holder. He then showed me a picture of the holder on his computer and I said that was what we wanted. Since we were going back to NH I asked him to mail the holder to us there.
When we got back home I tried the 4WD and it didn't work. I called my insurance company and told them about it. They gave me the name and address of a garage in Concord, NH that they work with and I brought the Jeep there. We had to get another rental car. The repairs took a week and we picked up the car last Friday. On a side note: the NY garage forgot to mail the license plate holder and I called them. First the guy said that Jeep didn't make them and when I wouldn't accept his excuses he finally found one. The thing they sent to me was just a bar and not the rectangular holder. I called my insurance company again (which was always a hassle since the guy never picked up the phone or get back to me for several days)and he had th 2nd garage put one on.
We took the Jeep home and noticed that the 4WD still didn't work. This time the lever wouldn't go down and was making all sorts of noises. I called the 2nd garage and they said they had a 3rd garage in Concord do the work. We took the car in today and waited about 1 1/2 hours. They gave us the keys back and said they changed a switch (although they didn't say anything about the lever.) We drove home and I tried the 4WD several times and each time everything worked. It has passed the first test and I will continue to check the 4WD off and on over the next few days just to make sure. We live on a mountain road that requires 4WD for 6 months out of the year.
So, after 3 garages over 1 month the Jeep seems to be finally done. Hopefully I can put all this behind me and have nothing new happen.

The Next Food Network Star

Last night the new season started. As of right now I do not have particular favorites. It seems that all the guys look exactly the same. There are a few people who stand out (whether for good or bad.) First there is Howie. He is on the radio and it's clear that he is only on the show to get noticed and move to TV (since he admitted and the judges agreed that he wasn't a good cook.)He also let another person do all his cooking for him - which she was stupid to do since she didn't get her dish done - and then he denied getting any help. Then there is Penny whose concept is bringing sexy back. The judges said that her concept made her trashy. She seems to be the nasty one in the whole group. There's Alicia who is from Missouri and talks with a funny accent. It would be one thing is she just had a bad, thick Southern accent, but she is trying to hide her Southern accent and so it comes out like she is a man acting like a woman (with a really deep voice.)Justin B may be a good cook, but he looks like a gelfling. Then there's Vic who I have seen on the show "Challenge" many times. He wasn't able to plate any of his dishes. Lastly, there is Orchid who won both challenges and is the judges favorite, so far.
Howie is the first person to be sent home. I am really glad that one of the people I do not like is no longer there.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ambush (1999)

This is a Finnish movie (called "Rukajärven tie" in Finnish) about the Continuation War between Finland and the Soviet Union from 1941-1944. It is about a Finnish soldier (played by Peter Franzén) and his financee (played by his real wife, Irina Björklund.) The soldier believes his fiancee is killed by the Soviets in an ambush and he goes on a special mission with his troops. In the end, his fiancee survives (she was captured by the Soviets and it is alluded to that she was raped) and the two see each other again.
The movie is pretty good. I had learned a little about the Winter War and the Continuation War fought between the Finns and the Soviets, but had never seen a movie about it.
There were a few comical scenes in the film. The main one that the troops ride around the war on their bikes. That is so hysterical to me. I had always heard people make fun of the Poles fighting German tanks on horseback and now I learn the Finns were fighting the Soviets on bikes (I wonder if they were Schwinns.)

Friday, June 3, 2011

US Finally Looking For Dead

From Yahoo News:
US to search for war dead in Philippines

MANILA (AFP) – The United States won permission Friday to search for the remains of American troops who were killed or went missing while fighting Japanese World War II occupation forces in the Philippines. Under the agreement, Joint Prisoner-of-War and Missing-in-Action Accounting Command teams from Hawaii would make short, periodic trips to try, with local help, to find the remains of the fallen, ambassador Harry Thomas said. "Sadly, for over 65 years, many of those Americans who fought alongside Filipinos and gave their lives to liberate the Philippines in World War II have never been accounted for, as their remains have never been found," Thomas said. "Thanks to this new undertaking... we now have an opportunity to address this. We are grateful for this cooperation which will eventually bring closure to so many families," Thomas said in a statement. Neither side explained why it had taken so long to reach an agreement. "The (agreement) honours the shared sacrifices made by the armed forces of both countries that stood together side by side to defend freedom during World War II," the Philippine foreign department said in a statement. The two governments did not say how many US soldiers went missing in the Philippines during the war. The remains of 17,202 other American servicemen, most of whom lost their lives in operations in New Guinea and the Philippines, are interred at a 152-acre (62-hectare) gated cemetery in Manila.

^ There is absolutely no excuse why it has taken 60 + years for this to happen (except for the lack of concern on the part of the two governments.)The US should have done more to find and identify their dead so they could honor them correctly since they died serving their country. The Filipino's should have done more to help since the soldiers died defending them from the Japanese. ^

Sobibor Closed

From Yahoo News:
"Sobibor exhibition hall closed for lack of funds"

WARSAW, Poland – An exhibition hall at the former Nazi death camp of Sobibor has been closed because of a lack of funds, a Polish official said Friday. The memorial site's spokesman, Marek Bem, also said guided tours at the site have been discontinued. Bem said talks are now under way with the Culture Ministry to secure financing that would allow the exhibition hall to reopen next year. He said the problems arise from the fact that Sobibor is funded by the local government rather than the central government, like other Holocaust sites. Experts believe at least 167,000 people were killed at the camp. Sobibor is in a remote part of the country and receives relatively few visitors. Very little remains at Sobibor, which was destroyed by the Nazis. An outdoor memorial mound of ashes, plaques and stone monuments to the victims remain accessible to visitors. John Demjanjuk, a former Ohio autoworker, was convicted May 12 of 28,060 counts of accessory to murder after a Munich court found he served as a guard at Sobibor. He was sentenced to five years in prison, but was immediately released pending his appeal, which could take as much as two years, after the court ruled he was not a flight risk.

^ This is a complete disgrace! Even if there is nothing left of the death camp it is still the site where thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children were murdered. It is a historical site that needs to be preserved. I think that Germany should pay to preserve and run all the death and concentration camps as they are the ones who started the war, created the camps and killed millions upon millions of people. It is not enough that they pay the survivors, but if they are truely sorry for what they did (or what their parents or grandparents did) then the least they can do is pay for the preservation of the camps so future generations will know what happened during the war. If I was Poland I would hand Germany the bill. ^

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Red Baron (2008)

I saw this movie yesterday and wasn't really impressed with it. It is a German movie (about the famous World War 1 flying ace, Manfred von Richthofen known as the Red Baron) and yet the whole thing was in English. There is just something off-putting when you hear a group of real German actors talking to each other in what is supposed to be German and yet they all have British accents and say things like "Bloody good." I know that not the whole cast was German, but still it didn't have a good flow to it.
I don't know much about the Red Baron so can't really compare the actor who played him here to the real life one, but in the movie he seems very arrogant.
One aspect of the movie that I found was thrown in the viewer's face several times was the fact that there was a Jewish pilot. His plane had the Star of David on it and at the end the director said that there were many Jewish pilots in the German Air Force in World War 1.
During World War 1 there was no open, official discrimination of Jews in Germany so the fact that the pilot was Jewish would not have mattered. It only came up once the Nazis took control in 1933 and officially discriminated against the Jews (although those Jewish veterans of World War 1 who fought for Germany or the Austro-Hungarian Empire were given special exemptions at the beginning.) It seems the German director was trying too hard to show that the Germans did not always hate the Jews and his attempt was just too much.
I think that had the film been either completely in German or as in the case of several of more current movies (like "Dresden") where those portraying Germans speak German and those portraying the British speak English, etc it would have been more realistic and much, much better.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Sarajevo Siege Museum

From Yahoo News:
"Sarajevo to store memories of Mladic siege in museum"

Twenty years on from the siege of Sarajevo, artists in the Bosnian capital are planning a museum to commemorate the 44-month atrocity for which Ratko Mladic faces a war crimes court this week. Artists groups are putting together an ambitious project to build and open a museum to mark the 20th anniversary of the start of the siege in May next year, and city authorities have donated a vacant lot for that purpose. Since the end of Bosnia's 1992-1995 war the priority has been given over to rebuilding a ruined city, where 10,000 people were killed. Now Bosnian artists say it is time to remember the horrors, but also celebrate Sarajevo's unique spirit. "It will not show the city as a victim, but rather as a place where a spirit defeated terror," said Suada Kapic, one of the artists who launched the project. Dino Mustafic, a theatre director and head of the museum project, said "the Sarajevo siege museum will be a house of survival. "It will be a testimony on the spirit of a town that experienced difficult moments in history, but that managed to miraculously renew itself," he told AFP. Audiovisual exhibits and objects from the dark days of the siege will serve as a reminder. The collection will also include some 1,400 wartime interviews with Sarajevans. Sarajevo's 350,000 inhabitants lived for 44 months under constant shelling and sniper fire from Bosnian Serb forces under Mladic, without water, electricity or heating. An underground tunnel, dug in 1933, enabled some food and arms to be brought into the capital. Some 10,000 civilians, including 1,500 children, died during the siege. When space in the city cemetery ran out people were buried in a neighbouring football field. "For everything I do, I'm inspired by the siege experience since it marked me completely," said artist Sejla Kameric, just 14-year-old when the siege began in April 1992. Now, she is one of the artists involved with setting up the siege museum she refers to as a testament to human resilience. "The siege marked me since I was there for that four years, it is a part of me and most of my works are linked with the war, the wartime experience and experience of a life in a besieged town," Sejla Kameric told AFP. Her latest work in a feature length film about her experiences during the siege called "1395 Days without Red". The arrest and Mladic future trial make the establishment of a siege museum all the more pressing, said Mustafic. "Mladic's arrest is extremely important for the future of this region since it is important that everyone faces the facts from the 1990s," he said. "We live in a difficult time where people try to relativise historical facts." Among the exhibits will be the 1993 Sarajevo Survival Guide, a tongue-in-cheek manual with tips for surviving the dark days of the siege.
"Sleeping is entirely conditioned by the arrival of water and electricity. If they appear at the same time, the shock is complete. The race against time starts -- in order to use both in the best possible way," the guide reads. "We were following the break up of a civilisation and the establishment of a new one," said Kapic, who edited the guide. The siege -- the longest such blockade in post-World War II Europe -- lasted until November 1995. Mladic, now 69, was arrested in Serbia last week and extradited into the custody of the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague to await trial on charges of genocide and war crimes after almost 16 years on the run. As well as the siege of Sarajevo, he is chiefly accused of masterminding the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of about 8,000 Muslim men and boys, Europe's worst atrocity since World War II.

^ It is a great idea to open a museum on one of the longest sieges in modern history so that people do not forget what happened and to teach those that don't know much about the Bosnian War. I hope that the museum will have things from all sides (the Bosniaks and the Serbs) to give the whole picture. Ever since I went to Croatia, Montenegro and Bosnia (Mostar) last December I have been reading as much as I can about the wars in the former Yugoslavia. I had a basic understanding of what happened, but now have an even better picture from all sides involved. If I ever go to Sarajevo I would like to visit this museum. ^