Thursday, September 29, 2011

Winter In Wartime (2008)

This movie (called "Oorlogswinter" in Dutch) is a Dutch film. It's about a 14 year old boy, named Michiel, living in the Netherlands during the last year of the German occupation of World War 2. His father is the mayor of the small village and seems to be collaborating with the Germans. His Uncle comes to stay with them and seems to be in the Dutch Resistance. Michiel comes to help a downed English pilot escape the Germans and make his way back to England.
It is a really good story that is unlike many war movies made around the world. The things you think are true are not always so. One thing that I really liked is that the Dutch speak Dutch, the Germans speak German and the English speak English (so many movies have them all speaking English with British accents even when a Dutch person is speaking to another Dutchmen.) This is how it would have really happened during the war. Of course in the movie there are scenes where a Dutch person speaks in German to a German or speaks English to the English, but that would have been realistic as well since the Dutch are known to learn and speak several languages fluently.
I was really impressed with this movie and would recommend it to others.

Babi Yar: 70 Years

From the BBC:
"Babi Yar massacre: Poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko recollects"

It is 70 years since what is believed to be the biggest single massacre of the Holocaust. On 29 and 30 September 1941, the Nazis took almost 34,000 Jews to the edge of the Babi Yar ravine in Ukraine's capital Kiev and shot them all. The horror of what happened was highlighted 20 years later when Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko wrote a poem entitled Babi Yar. He spoke to BBC World Service. I wrote it in August 1961 in the city of Kiev, and - surprisingly - it was published. I met the writer Anatoly Kuznetsov - he was an eyewitness to what happened in Babi Yar. He told me the story, and I asked him to accompany me to the site. I knew there was no monument at Babi Yar, but I was expecting to see some sign of respect.

Babi Yar Poem: "The wild grasses rustle over Babi Yar. The trees look ominous, like judges. Here all things scream silently, and, baring my head, Slowly I feel myself turning grey. And I myself am one massive, soundless scream Above the thousand thousand buried here. I am each old man here, shot dead. I am every child here, shot dead. Nothing in me shall ever forget!"

But what I saw was absolutely terrible - there were lots of trucks and they were unloading stinking garbage on the tens of thousands of people who were killed. I did not expect that. As soon as I got back to my hotel, I sat down and I began to write - it took probably four or five hours, no more. When I recited Babi Yar for the first time in public, there was an avalanche of silence. I was absolutely shocked - paralysed. And afterwards a very, very little old woman with grey hair and a cane - her cane had been knocking against the stage - she came to me in the dead silence. She said just one sentence, "I was in Babi Yar." She was one of the survivors who crawled from under the mountain of dead bodies. The poem was a criticism of anti-Semitism worldwide, including Soviet anti-Semitism, and was against all kinds of racism.

^ I visited Babi Yar and came to the same conclusion as Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Today there are several memorials there, but it is still not used as it should be. The guide book I had for Kiev said it was still a "lover's lane." I don't see how it can be romantic to be at a place where 33,000 + people were murdered. It has been 70 years since the massacre happened and 50 since Yevtushenko's poem was written and yet it seems that not much has changed (especially in Russia, Ukraine, etc.) People continue to forget what happened or simply don't care. ^

Survivor: SP

This week Brandon did his usual stupid thing and told his tribe he was Russel Hantz's nephew and then he caused fights within the tribe. Had his tribe not won the challenge I think Brandon would have been voted out. He is always picking fights and blaming his religion for all his mistakes and dumb actions.
Semhar and Christine had their challenge on Redemption Island. Semhar must be smoking something because even Jeff was freaked out by her. I'm glad that she lost and is out of the game permanently. She was way to weird.
Ozzy's team lost and went to Tribal where not a whole lot was revealed. They sent "Papa Bear" to Redemption Island.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good-Bye Self-Checkouts

From Yahoo Finance:
"Supermarkets start bagging self-serve checkouts"

When Keith Wearne goes grocery shopping, checking out with a cashier is worth the few extra moments, rather than risking that a self-serve machine might go awry and delay him even more. Most shoppers side with Wearne, studies show. And with that in mind, some grocery store chains nationwide are bagging the do-it-yourself option, once considered the wave of the future, in the name of customer service. Big Y Foods, which has 61 locations in Connecticut and Massachusetts, recently became one of the latest to announce it was phasing out the self-serve lanes. Some other regional chains and major players, including some Albertsons locations, have also reduced their unstaffed lanes and added more clerks to traditional lanes. Market studies cited by the Arlington, Va.-based Food Marketing Institute found only 16 percent of supermarket transactions in 2010 were done at self-checkout lanes in stores that provided the option. That's down from a high of 22 percent three years ago. Overall, people reported being much more satisfied with their supermarket experience when they used traditional cashier-staffed lanes.

^ I have never liked self-checkouts and have always had an issue when using them. I hope that this trend (getting rid of them) continues and expands to other businesses. ^

Saudi Women To Vote

From the BBC:
"Women in Saudi Arabia to vote and run in elections"

Women in Saudi Arabia are to be given the right to vote and run in future municipal elections, King Abdullah has announced. He said they would also have the right to be appointed to the consultative Shura Council. The move was welcomed by activists who have called for greater rights for women in the kingdom, which enforces a strict version of Sunni Islamic law. "Because we refuse to marginalise women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior clerics and others... to involve women in the Shura Council as members, starting from next term," he said. About 10 years ago the king said women should be central to the Saudi economy. Since then, change has been gradual for fear of a religious backlash. Steps have been taken to reduce segregation and give more respect to women. Now, allowing women to stand and vote in municipal elections is a big step towards political reform, even though the municipal councils have very little power.

^ This is a step in the right direction for Saudi Arabia. The only thing I can see as being an issue is that this is that the next election is years away and so a lot can happen between now and then. ^

Full Combat Roles

From the BBC:
"Australia lifts ban on women in military combat roles"

Australia has lifted all restrictions on the roles that women can carry out in its armed forces. Suitably-qualified female soldiers will be able to serve in the special forces and front-line combat units. Defence Minister Stephen Smith said the ban would be lifted immediately but may take up to five years to implement. Critics described the move as premature and a gimmick. Canada, New Zealand and Israel already allow women in all military roles. Australia's military has about 59,000 full-time members, including 1,500 who are serving in Afghanistan. Currently women are eligible for about 93% of roles, including artillery duties.

^ As long as women are held to the same standards as men I don't see why those that qualify can't preform in all fields including in combat. I don't see that happening anytime soon in the US - especially because we just allowed openly gay soldiers to serve, but hopefully one day. ^

Known Nazi Worked

From the BBC:
"Wanted Nazi Walther Rauff 'was West German spy'"

A high-ranking Nazi officer who helped develop a mobile gas chamber became a spy for West Germany after World War II, archives have revealed. Former SS officer Walther Rauff worked for West German intelligence service, the BND, between 1958 and 1962.
Rauff died in Chile in 1984, having evaded trial for war crimes. The charges related to his time as an official of the criminal technical institute of the Reich security main office, which he joined in 1941. As US intelligence later put it, Rauff designed gas vans used to murder Jews and people with disabilities. With German defeat he fled to Chile and changed his name to Enrico Gomez. But the BND traced him and recruited him as spy, ostensibly to go to Cuba to spy on leader Fidel Castro. He was denied entry but still earned more than DM70,000 ($18,000, £11,500) during his time with the service. Publicly he became a wanted man when his wartime role was brought to light but - even after his arrest by Chilean police in 1962 - he was being supported by the BND. Mr Hechelhammer disclosed that the agency was paying his legal bills as he fought extradition. He showed no remorse for his Nazi past, and remained in Chile till his death at the age of 77.

^ What, the German Government actively recruited known Nazis? That is a shock. Of course, this is not surprising in the least. ^

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Tonight was the season premiere. The "smart" Vegas showgirl team lost their passport at a gas station on the way to LAX and out of the blue someone "found" it and gave it to the team at the airport. It was just too coincidental. I think the show found the passport and had the people return it. Unlike past seasons where they end in Asia before flying back to the US this time they started in Taiwan. One of the clues was in Chinese and they had to have it translated. I like the challenge where the teams had to call 1-800 Confucius and memorize a quote. So far there are two pretty dumb teams: the Vegas showgirls and the twin sisters. I also don't really like the snowboarders. There isn't a team that I really like yet (although the engaged couple seem good and not just because they won the first leg of the Race.)The old married couple came in last and have to come in at least 3rd to last to stay in the game as next time there will be a double elimination.

Schengen: Not So Fast Romania And Bulgaria

From Deustche Welle:
"Row over borders threatens to divide Europe"

European Union member states obviously had something different in mind than the proposals served up at Thursday’s meeting of EU interior ministers. Faced with a wave of refugees from North Africa, some governments want to limit the freedom of travel within the visa-free Schengen Area. In response, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom tabled some changes. But in so doing, she largely wants to take away the right of individual states to reinstate temporary border controls, and have any such decisions taken at European level. But the Schengen Agreement is causing other headaches as well. Since their accession to the EU in 2007, Romania and Bulgaria have been pushing to join the border-free travel zone. However, other member countries have prevented this up until now and on Thursday delayed a decision once again. The Romanian and Bulgarian governments insist that they have met the necessary conditions but have seen their accession delayed twice in three months over concerns that their failure to rein in corruption and organized crime would put the 25 other Schengen members at risk. Polish Interior Minister Jerzy Miller, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, also spoke of a lack of trust. He, however, meant a very different kind of trust and feels that Romania and Bulgaria have in a way been let down. "Today, the promise in the accession contract [regarding membership of Romania and Bulgaria in the Schengen Area] has been broken," he said. "And today we are not confident enough to say that we want to act together rather than separately." As a compromise, a two-step plan has been mooted. It foresees air and sea borders opening first, while a decision to open land borders would be delayed to next year. Both Germany and France have voiced support for this solution. But with the interior ministers so far unable to reach agreement, the topic will be discussed again at the next EU summit in mid-October.

^ More trouble in the EU. I have always said that they have become too big for their own good. They allowed too many countries to join the EU too quickly, then they did the same with the Eurozone and now with the Schengen Area. While the EU continues to say that every member-state citizen has freedom of movement and the same rights that is not the case in real-life. Even when Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007 their citizens were allowed to visit the other member-states with an ID card, but they could not live and work there like the other citizens can. Now they are being prevented from joining the Schengen Area. I am a little surprised that Poland has stood up for them joining since it seems no one member-country is. I see vast changes happening in the EU within the near future. I don't think the Euro will remain the currency of the majority of EU countries and the Schengen Area will also be reduced if not eliminated altogether. There was so much promise with the EU, the Euro and the Schengen, but as history as shown us Europe is a vast continent with many different cultures, traditions and politics that don't always mesh well. ^,,15409899,00.html

Putin: Round 2

From USA Today:
"Putin to run for Russian presidency in 2012"

Vladimir Putin on Saturday agreed to run for the Russian presidency in 2012, almost certainly ensuring his return to the office he previously held for eight years and likely foreshadowing more years of strongman rule. His United Russia party also approved his proposal that the current president Dmitry Medvedev take over his Putin's role as prime minister. Putin ruled Russia as president from 2000 to 2008 with a steely command that was widely criticized in the West as a retreat from democracy. Because constitutional changes have extended the presidential term to six years from four, Putin's power is likely to be even more enhanced. If he wins two terms in a row, Putin will have been atop the Russian hierarchy for almost a quarter century.

^ This is no surprise to anyone who has even a basic understanding of Russian history. The Russians (like several other nationalities such as the Germans) need a dictator-like government to rule over them and have since their country was founded. First they had the Czars, then the Soviet Communists (ie Stalin,) then Yeltsin and now Putin. I am only surprised that Putin actually stopped being President when his term limit was up although he did become Prime Minister and still ran things "unofficially." I am sure that Putin will win in 2012 and Russia will continue to be plagued by the problems it has always been. ^

Americans In Iran

From USA Today:
"2 hikers held in Iran head home to U.S."

Two Americans freed from an Iranian prison were believed to be on a flight heading to the United States on Sunday from Oman, the Gulf state that helped mediate their release after more than two years in custody on accusations of spying. Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer were scheduled to arrive home on Sunday, according to Samantha Topping, a spokeswoman for their families. The two were released from Tehran's Evin prison under a $1 million bail deal and arrived in Oman on Wednesday in the first leg of their journey home. There they were reunited with joyful relatives. Iran's Foreign Ministry called their release a gesture of Islamic mercy. Sarah Shourd, who was arrested with the men along the Iran-Iraq border but released a year ago, was also in Oman and returning home with them and their families.

^ These three people are complete idiots and deserve everything they got. Only a moron goes to Iraq as a tourist (especially near the Iranian border.) I think it is disgusting how everyone was going crazy to get them released. It is the same with the people who cross into North Korea and get arrested or those that go to Afghanistan as tourists. If you aren't smart enough to know that you are entering a war zone willingly and not as a soldier then whatever happens to you happens. Now these 2 men and 1 woman are seen as some kind of heroes instead of the complete idiots they truly are. Who knows what "under-the-table" deals the US had to make with Iran to get them out? The State Department should take the passports away from these three and never give them back. ^

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Survivor: SP

This week showed just how crazy Brandon (Russell Hantz's nephew)is. He is one of those "born again Christians" and follows all of their stereotypes. Not only did he want to vote Mikayla out because he thought she was seducing him and he's married, but he also told Coach who he really is. He uses religion as a way to mask his psychopathic tendencies. I really hope they vote him out next.
Coach's team lost the immunity and reward challenge and so went to Tribal (where Brandon showed his true colors again.)Coach also went off on his high horse and in the end Christine was sent to Redemption Island.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gays In World Militaries

Today the United States becomes another country where gay people are openly allowed to serve in the military. Here are some of the other countries (with date it was first allowed)that do the same.

- Albania (2008), Argentina (2009), Australia (1992), Austria, Bahamas (1998), Canada (1992), Colombia (1999), Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece (2005), Ireland (1993), Israel (1993), Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands (1974), New Zealand (1993), Norway (1979), Peru (2009), Philippines (2010), Romania, Russia (2003), Serbia (2010), Slovenia, South Africa (1997), Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (2002), Thailand (2005), United Kingdom (2000), Uruguay (2009.)

The countries that do not allow gays to serve in their militaries are mostly in Africa and Asia. One surprising thing I found was a large portion of Caribbean countries (not dependencies) discriminate against gays in the military.

Netflix Vs Qwikster

From the BBC:
"Netflix splits DVD and streaming service"

Netflix has decided to split its DVD-by-post business from its movie streaming service. The streaming service will keep the name Netflix but the postal DVD rental business will be renamed Qwikster.The announcement comes two months after US firm Netflix bumped up the price of the combined renting and streaming service by 60%. The price hike is thought to be behind the sharp drop in subscriber numbers Netflix has seen. In July, Netflix reported that it had about 25 million subscribers. In an earnings report last week it said it now expected subscribers to number 24 million at the end of September. Netflix boss Reed Hastings took to the company's blog in a bid to calm the ongoing furore by explaining its reasoning behind the changes. He said problems had arisen as Netflix evolved from the DVD rental business that spurred its initial growth to a company in which most of its customers were streaming movies via the web. "...streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently," Mr Hastings wrote. After the split, customers will be charged for each service they use and their bank and credit card statements will show separate payments. In addition, any feedback they give on good or bad movies via one service will not be mirrored on the other.

^ I can only use the Qwikster service since my Satelite Internet doesn't allow streaming. I only hope that the new Qwikster website has all the same features as the old Netflix one and that I don't have to re-create my movie list. ^


From Yahoo News:
"Repeal of gay ban causing few waves in military"

After years of debate and months of final preparations, the military can no longer prevent gays from serving openly in its ranks. Repeal of a 1993 law that allowed gays to serve only so long as they kept their sexual orientation private took effect Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. EDT. Some in Congress still oppose the change, but top Pentagon leaders have certified that it will not undermine the military's ability to recruit or to fight wars. The Army was distributing a business-as-usual statement Tuesday saying simply, "The law is repealed," and reminding soldiers to treat each other fairly. Gay advocacy groups planned a series of celebrations across the country. The head of Pentagon personnel put out a memo to the work force at 12:01 a.m. EDT. "All service members are to treat one another with dignity and respect regardless of sexual orientation," the memo from Clifford Stanley said. In Iraq, a spokesman for U.S forces put out a statement Tuesday morning noting that all troops there had been trained for the change. Pentagon press secretary George Little said Monday that the military is adequately prepared for the end of the current policy, commonly known as "don't ask, don't tell," under which gays can serve as long as they don't openly acknowledge their sexual orientation and commanders are not allowed to ask. For weeks the military services have accepted applications from openly gay recruits, while waiting for repeal to take effect before processing the applications. With the lifting of the ban, the Defense Department will publish revised regulations to reflect the new law allowing gays to serve openly. The revisions, such as eliminating references to banned homosexual service, are in line with policy guidance that was issued by top Pentagon officials in January, after Obama signed the legislation that did away with the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.
The lifting of the 18-year-old ban also brings a halt to all pending investigations, discharges and other administrative proceedings that were begun under the Clinton-era law. Service members who were discharged under the "don't ask, don't tell" law will be allowed to re-enlist, but their applications will not be given priority over those of any others with prior military experience who are seeking to re-enlist.

^ Today the stupid Clinton policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is officially over. It was one of the worst policy's in US military history. It would have been better to simply not allow gays to serve than to have DADT. Finally, we can forget one more stupid aspect of Clinton's term in office and move on. Even if you are against gay marriage you should be for gays serving openly in the military (as marriage is more religious and the military isn't.)The US fighting two wars and having soldiers all over the world has made the US military over-extended so hopefully some of that short-fall will be eased by allowing gays to openly serve. ^

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Palestinian State?

From Yahoo News:
"Q+A: The implications of the Palestinian U.N. drive"

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said on Friday he would request recognition of a fully-fledged Palestinian state at the United Nations when he goes to the world body next week, defying fierce opposition from Israel and the United States. Here are some of the reasons behind the push as well as some of the possible consequences.

Abbas says 20 years of U.S.-led peace talks have got nowhere and wants a vote in the United Nations to bestow the Palestinians with the cherished mantle of statehood. However, he recognizes that negotiations with Israel will still be needed to establish a properly functioning state. Justifying the move, the Palestinians point to the success of a Western-backed, two-year plan to build institutions ready for statehood which they say is now finished.

The Palestinian Authority (PA) says placing their state firmly in the context of territory seized by Israel in the 1967 war will provide clear terms of reference and mean Israel will no longer be able to call the land "disputed." Instead, it will make clear it is occupied. Israel fears this will enable Palestinians to start legal proceedings in the International Criminal Court (ICC) against some 500,000 Israelis who live in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Countries seeking to join the United Nations usually present an application to the U.N. secretary-general, who passes it to the Security Council to assess and vote on. If the 15-nation council approves the membership request, it is passed to the General Assembly for approval. A membership request needs a two-thirds majority, or 129 votes, for approval. A country cannot join the United Nations unless both the Security Council and General Assembly approve its application.

In theory, yes. But Washington has made clear it would veto such a request, meaning it has no chance of success. Even if the Palestinians secured a two-thirds majority of votes in the General Assembly, there is no getting around the need for prior approval of the Security Council.

In addition to applying to become a full U.N. member state, the Palestinians could also seek upgraded observer status as a non-member state. That is what the Vatican has. Such status, U.N. envoys say, could be interpreted as implicit U.N. recognition of Palestinian statehood because the assembly would be acknowledging that the Palestinians control an actual state. The advantage of this option is that it would require only a simple majority of the 193-nation General Assembly, not a two-thirds majority. Abbas said on Friday that more than 126 states already recognize the state of Palestine, meaning he could probably win such a vote with ease.

Besides granting them the all-important title "state," diplomats say it might enable the Palestinians to join the ICC, from which it could pursue legal cases against Israel over the partial blockade of Gaza or the settlements.

There are potential pitfalls. For example, Israel could counter sue the Palestinians in the ICC over missiles fired at it out of Gaza, which is run by the Hamas Islamist group.Some critics have warned of legal consequences for the Palestinians themselves, arguing the move could jeopardize the rights of refugees in the Palestinian diaspora and the status of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Others have dismissed those arguments. Also, the U.N. vote will not change things on the ground in the Palestinian territories -- a reality which could further undermine the standing of the Palestinian leadership when the dust settles. Some Israelis have warned disappointment could fuel anti-Israeli violence and even spark a new Intifada. PA officials have dismissed that prospect.

Israeli officials have suggested a range of possible measures, including limiting travel privileges for Palestinian leaders seeking to exit the West Bank, halting the transfer of crucial tax revenues to the Palestinians and even annexing West Bank settlement blocs to try to sidestep ICC legal action. Some U.S. officials have warned that they might cut their annual aid to the Palestinian Authority, which runs to some $450 million. It is far from clear if they will enact these threats. Depriving the PA of funds, for example, would rapidly push it to financial collapse, which would provoke instability. In the case of bankruptcy, some leading Palestinians argue that the PA should hand over the keys of the big West Bank cities to Israel and tell it to pay for the on-going occupation.

^ The Palestinians should not be allowed to become an independent state until they FIRST stop firing missiles and bombs into Israel. Once those attacks stop then I could see a Palestinian State being created. If you skip that first important step then you are just creating another terrorist country to come into being. Luckily, countries such as the US do not want a Palestinian State right now and so the vote in the UN probably won't go past the Security Council and so will fizzle out. If all UN member countries tell the Palestinians to stop the violence against Israel first and then offer them their own country I think it will do a lot for both causes (the Palestinian and Israeli.) ^

Friday, September 16, 2011

NH Scottish Games

Today my mom and I went to the Scottish Highland Games. I heard about it on the radio last week and looked at their website and thought it would be fun to go to since we went to the same thing in New York and in Virginia. I ordered tickets online and they came in the mail. I also e-mailed the place to see about a wheelchair accessible bus since everyone has to take a shuttle bus to the Games. I was told that there was a special handicapped parking lot and there was also a shuttle bus that could accommodate us.

Today was supposed to be a nice Fall day, but instead it was cold, windy and rainy. At 8 am I dropped the dogs off at the kennel to spend the night (since we planned to spend the whole day at the Games.) Then we had breakfast at McDonald's and drove an hour to the Games. We found the handicapped parking lot and parked. The shuttle bus was there and so we quickly got into line. The bus driver (a woman) was very stupid and not doing a good job loading people on. They were also allowing 5-7 people (non-disabled) go with every disabled person and so the bus got full right when it was our turn to board. No one (neither the 6 parking attendants nor the bus driver) said anything to us. The bus just left. I asked one of the attendants if there was another bus and when that would come and he looked at me as though I was speaking in tongues. He said it was his first day and didn't know anything. I then asked another attendant and he said that today they only had one handicapped bus, but that Saturday and Sunday there would be more - which wouldn't help us. As it took the bus 30 minutes to load I figured another 30 minutes at the site to unload, then 30 minutes to come back and load us and then 30 more minutes to unload us at the Games - 2 hours in the rain for a bus. That is way too long. The parking attendants were beyond stupid - I don't think they had one brain between them. We gave them our tickets and got a refund. We were very p-ed off at how we were being treated.

I was going to call and complaint, but couldn't find the number and so decided to drive to another parking lot and get the number so I could call an official and let them know how badly they treat people.

It turns out that we went to the main parking lot and got the head parking guy. I told him what happened and at first he made excuses (ie "We never had anyone complain before", etc.) When we were about to leave and go home I just decided to open my door and ask the guy for his name. He then asked for mine and where I was coming from. I started saying "New H...", but it came out as "New York." He asked several times: "You drove here from New York today? Today? Today?" I kept saying: "Yes, today. Today. Today." He said that since we had driven so far he would drive us to a close parking spot where we wouldn't need a shuttle bus. So I thanked him and followed his car. Had I told him we lived an hour away I'm sure he wouldn't have cared and done nothing so I don't feel bad for stretching the truth. I do consider that I am FROM New York and just LIVE in New Hampshire.

We went to the Games and since it was raining we went into the closest building. They were having a sheep dog demonstration (like the one we saw in Ireland) and so we went up the stairs (in a wheelchair elevator.) We couldn't see anything and so we went back downstairs and outside - the rain had stopped - and went closer where we could actually see. They also had bagpipers playing. We stayed for some time and then went into a tent to get out of the strong wind. It was the food tent. I got Shepard's Pie (which wasn't that good.)

Neither of us felt like staying any longer. The strong wind, cold, rain and fight with the stupid parking people just didn't make us want to stay. So after all the trouble of getting in we left after 1 - 1 1/2 hours there. On the way home we just made it past the town highway department that was about to close the main road so they could fix it from the storm. I went to the mailbox and saw that we have 2 boxes that I have to drive to the Post Office in the next town to get them. I didn't feel like dealing with anyone else and so will either get them tomorrow morning (when I pick up the dogs) or Monday. I probably would never go back to the Games. The employees have soured any fun experience I could have there. The Scottish Games I went to in New York and Virginia were so much better.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Berlin Border Museum

From Yahoo News:
"Merkel opens memorial at Berlin border crossing"

Chancellor Angela Merkel has opened a permanent exhibition on Germany's Cold War past at what was once one of East Berlin's busiest border crossings. The exhibition is housed in the restored 1960s building where passport and customs checks were carried out at Berlin's Friedrichstrasse station. It was popularly known as the "Traenenpalast," or "Palace of Tears." Merkel grew up in communist East Germany but had western relatives. News agency dapd reported that she recalled Wednesday the atmosphere of intimidation at the border. Merkel said: "I was here very often with my parents and we saw my grandmother off year after year." The exhibition includes items such as photos and a cubicle used for border checks. It aims to illustrate everyday experiences at the border.

^ It's good to make places like this into a museum so those that didn't live through it can learn what happened. Merkel was born in West Germany and her parents moved her to East Germany. If my parents willingly did that to me I would have been furious, but I guess they were/are good Communists and wanted to live in the "people's paradise." There are rumors that one or both of her parents worked for either the East German Government or the Stasi since their life in East Germany was well-above that of the ordinary working class. I don't know if that's true or not, but it would make sense since no one in their right mind would move their family into a totalitarian state unless they were given benefits and guarantees. ^

NH May Allow Incestual Unions

"Panel Calls For Replacing Same-Sex Marriage With Civil Unions"

New Hampshire is considering repealing its gay marriage law and replacing it with civil unions for any unmarried adults, including siblings. A House Judiciary subcommittee voted 3-1 Wednesday to recommend the bill, which still faces a vote by the full committee next month and House in January. The committee voted to recommend killing a second gay marriage repeal bill. The two proposed repeal bills would not affect gay marriages before repeal, but it would stop new same-sex marriages. If the House passes them, the Senate also must vote on them. Gov. John Lynch has repeatedly said he will veto attempts to repeal the law, which he signed in 2009.

^ My first thought about this is the phrase "including siblings." I can not believe that any governmental official in the State or Federal Government would promote brothers and sisters to enter into either marriage or civil unions. That is just plain disgusting. As for them trying to repeal Gay Marriage in New Hampshire I think that every state should have a referendum and vote on whether to allow it or not. Whatever the majority in that state vote should be the law. ^

Survivor: South Pacific

I saw the new season (the 19th) of Survivor last night. They are in Samoa (again.) I guess either someone on their crew is from that area or they got a discount to tape so many shows there. This season they have Ozzy and Coach back. Coach says he won't be so arrogant this season (but it's his 3rd so we will have to wait and see.) Coach and Ozzy were put on different teams and had a one-on-one challenge which Ozzy won.
Coach's team won the Immunity Challenge. The vote was supposed to be between Semhar (a very annoying poet) and Cochran (an annoying law school student) and in the end Semhar got all the votes and was sent to Redemption Island. It didn't matter to me which one of them went.
It is too early in the game for me to have any favorites. I hope the rest of the season has new twists and turns otherwise I may stop watching it.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

TSA's New Child Rules

From Yahoo News:
"DHS: New airport security policy for kids under 13"

Children 12 years old and younger soon will no longer be required to remove their shoes at airport security checkpoints, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told Congress on Tuesday. The policy also includes other ways to screen young children without resorting to a pat-down that involves touching private areas on the body. Napolitano said there may be some exceptions to keep airport security unpredictable. Terrorists have plotted to use children as suicide bombers, and some children still may be required to remove their shoes to keep security random. Many travelers have complained that the TSA does not use common sense when it screens all air travelers the same way, including young children and the elderly. Criticism escalated last year when the government began using a pat-down more invasive than what had been used in the past, one that involves screeners feeling a traveler's genital and breast areas. To reduce the number of pat-downs given to children, screeners will soon be told to send children through metal detectors or the walk-through imaging machines multiple times to capture a clear picture and use more explosive trace detection tools such as hand swabs, according to the TSA.
Not all countries around the world have the same requirements. For instance, countries in the European Union have never required that travelers take off their shoes to go through security at airports,

^ Hopefully this will be the start of the TSA and DHS getting some common sense. ^

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

366 Million World Diabetes

From Yahoo News:
"Diabetes "massive challenge" as cases hit 366 million"

The number of people living with diabetes has soared to 366 million, and the disease kills one person every seven seconds, posing a "massive challenge" to healthcare systems worldwide, experts said on Tuesday. The vast majority of those with the disease have Type 2 -- the kind linked to poor diet, obesity and lack of exercise -- and the problem is spreading as people in the developing world adopt more Western lifestyles. Diabetics have inadequate blood sugar control, which can lead to serious complications like heart disease and stroke, damage to the kidneys or nerves, and to blindness. Worldwide deaths from the disease are now running at 4.6 million a year.
The latest figures, unveiled at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) congress in Lisbon, underline the need for urgent action by governments at a U.N. meeting next week, according to top doctors in the field. The high-level United Nations meeting in New York on September 19-20 -- only the second to focus on disease after one on AIDS in 2001 -- will consider what should be done to counter the growing problem of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), including diabetes. Cash-strapped governments, however, have baulked at finding new money, though the cost of inaction may be even greater, with annual healthcare spending on diabetes alone now put at $465 billion. Many older classes of diabetes drugs are now available as cheap generics, but global drugmakers -- including Sanofi, Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk -- aim to introduce new classes of drugs that could further extend treatment options.
Global sales of diabetes medicines totalled $35 billion last year and could rise to as much as $48 billion by 2015, according to research firm IMS Health, driven by increased prevalence and treatment, especially in countries such as China, India, Mexico and Brazil.

^ It is amazing how many people around the world have diabetes. I knew it was a major problem in the US, but didn't think it was around the whole world. A lot more needs to be done to stop people from getting diabetes (especially type 2) and to make diabetic medicine and support items cheaper. ^

Stasi Need-Not Apply - Just Kidding!

From Deutsche Welle:
"Former Stasi employees to be banned from working at Stasi archive"

The law relating to the records of the State Security Service (Stasi) of the former German Democratic Republic is to be amended, the cultural spokesman for Germany's Free Democratic Party said on Monday. Reiner Deutschmann told the regional daily Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that Germany's governing coalition had agreed to add a clause dictating that former Stasi employees are unable to work for the authority that now administers the files compiled by Communist East Germany's secret police. Under the new law, "anyone who officially or unofficially worked for the Stasi is not allowed to work for the authority," Deutschmann told the paper. It would also retrospectively apply to the 47 former Stasi workers currently working at the archive. According to Mitteldeutsche Zeitung, the federal commissioner of the authority, Roland Jahn, has joined the Christian Democratic Union and FDP in advocating this change to the 1991 Stasi Records Act. Since taking the helm in March, Jahn has questioned the continued employment of former Stasi workers, claiming it undermines the credibility of the authority. After several failed attempts at encouraging the employees to leave voluntarily, Jahn commissioned a report into the legality of their employment by the Berlin lawyer Johannes Weberling. In the report published in July, Weberling recommend a change in the law, with the proviso that the former Stasi employees currently in the agency should be provided with "equivalent jobs [elsewhere] in the federal administration." In his inaugeral speech Jahn demanded the transfer of the former Stasi employees
But the proposed change hasn't been universally welcomed. Wolfgang Thierse, vice-president of the German parliament, told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that he believed that a retrospective change in the law was "legally problematic." Social Democrat Thierse was one of the first inhabitants of the former GDR to take up a high-ranking position in reunified German politics. Green party parliamentarian Wolfgang Wieland also queried the legality of altering the records law to dictate personnel changes.
"You can't retrospectively dissolve an employment relationship," Wieland said. "This is nonsense." "The law is there to determine how the files are administered," he added. The German government already has plans in place for an additional change to the law, allowing investigations into the possible Stasi past of senior public service workers to be extended until 2019. At its peak, the East German secret police force employed around 274,000 people with an estimated 500,000 working as unpaid informers monitoring suspected enemies of the former communist German Democratic Republic.

^ This is so typical-German. One would think it was only common-sense that members of the Stasi and their informers would be barred from working anywhere in government much less their Archives. Instead they allowed them and only now (20+ years later) are they trying to get them moved out of the Archives and find them other jobs. West Germany did the same, basic thing after World War 2 when they allowed former Nazis to work in the open (East Germans did the same to a lesser point, but luckily the Soviets were quick to either deport or kill former Nazis after the war.) It seems the current German Government likes to double-talk. They will say the Nazis and the Stasi were evil and did awful things and yet openly recruit them. The only good thing is that the former Nazis are very old and dying off so they won't be around much longer, but the former Stasi will be around for years. If the German Government really wanted to make amends for what the Nazis and the Stasi did in their name (and which most supported) then they should continue to bring former Nazis and Stasi to trial and not allow them to work in the government. ^,,15381477,00.html

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11: 10 Years: America Remembers

From yahoo News:
"A changed America: Marking 10 years since 9/11"

Relatives of the Sept. 11 dead gathered Sunday at a transformed ground zero, the centerpiece of a day of mourning and remembrance around the nation and world to mark 10 years since the worst terrorist attack on American soil. The relatives — some in solemn, black suits, others in fire department T-shirts — crowded into a space in front of a podium where President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush were to deliver readings as part of the New York ceremony. As the sun rose, an American flag fluttered over six stories of the rising 1 World Trade Center. The sky was clear blue with scattered white clouds and a light breeze, not unlike the Tuesday morning 10 years ago. The site looked utterly different than it had for any other Sept. 11 anniversary: Along with the names in bronze, there were two manmade waterfalls directly on the footprints of the towers, surrounded by dozens of white oak trees. Remembrances around the nation and world were planned to mark a decade of longing for loved ones lost in the attack. Of sending sons, daughters, fathers and mothers off to war in foreign lands. Of redefining what safety means and worrying about another 9/11 — or something even worse. The anniversary revived memories of a September morning when terrorists crashed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and a fourth plane crashed into a field in rural western Pennsylvania. Of heroism and Samaritans and unthinkable fear. And of nearly 3,000 killed at the hands of a global terror network led by Osama bin Laden, himself now dead. People across America planned to gather to pray at cathedrals in their greatest cities and to lay roses before fire stations in their smallest towns. Around the world, many others will do something similar because so much changed for them on that day, too. Bells will toll. Americans will see new memorials in lower Manhattan, rural Pennsylvania and elsewhere, symbols of a resolve to remember and rebuild. But much of the weight of this year's ceremonies lies in what will largely go unspoken. There's the anniversary's role in prompting Americans to consider how the attacks affected them and the larger world and the continuing struggle to understand 9/11's place in the lore of the nation. At the dedication of the Flight 93 National Memorial near the town of Shanksville, Bush and former President Bill Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden joined the families of the 40 passengers and crew aboard the jet who fought back against their hijackers. The passengers and crew gave "the entire country an incalculable gift: They saved the Capitol from attack," an untold amount of lives and denied al-Qaida the symbolic victory of "smashing the center of American government," Clinton said. On Sunday, the focus turns to ceremonies at the Pentagon, just outside Washington, D.C., and in lower Manhattan for the dedication of the national Sept. 11 memorial. Obama planned to attend events at the sites and was to speak at a Sunday evening service at the Kennedy Center. The New York ceremony begins at 8:30 a.m., with a moment of silence 16 minutes later — coinciding with the exact time when the first tower of the trade center was struck by a hijacked jet. And then, one by one, the reading of the names of the 2,977 killed on Sept. 11 — in New York, at the Pentagon and in rural Pennsylvania. And so arrives a Sunday dedicated to remembrance, with hundreds of ceremonies across the country and around the globe — from a memorial Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York to a ceremony featuring nine-stories-tall replicas of the twin towers on a plaza in Paris. But some of the most powerful ceremonies will likely be the smallest and most personal.

^ Today is the 10th anniversary and for many - including myself - it feels just like it did in 2001. Everywhere you look (the TV, Internet, newspapers, etc) they show the same footage over and over again just like 10 years ago. It isn't enough that we had to watch it live back then and then over and over again for weeks after. We all know what happened on 9/11 and all saw the pictures. While I completely agree that we should never forget all those killed or those that personally went through the attacks I think we can do so without the constant footage of the attacks. I visited the Pentagon and the World Trade Center before the attacks and went to Ground Zero afterwards. I would like to go back when the Memorial and Museum are completed. ^

9/11: 10 Years: World Remembers

From Yahoo News:
"Sept 11 anniversary marked worldwide"

An American expatriate in Paris cries over an indelible memory of sadness. Taps echoes from Brussels to Bagram, Afghanistan. An Israeli retiree remembers her daughter: "My world was destroyed. For me, every day is Sept. 11." A decade after 9/11, the day that changed so much for so many people, the world's leaders and citizens paused to reflect Sunday on terror attacks in the U.S. that took nearly 3,000 lives of people from more than 90 countries. Untold millions around the world pored over the memories of shock, sadness and stupefaction where they saw televised images or heard of the attacks 10 years ago — or learned of a friend or relative who had died. "On this day Kyrgyzstan, like all the world, shares the grief of the United States," said President Roza Otunbayeva at a ceremony at a U.S. air base in her central Asian country, which has supported military operations in nearby Afghanistan. "This tragedy consolidated humanity and brought it together in the fight against the common enemy of terrorism." About 500 soldiers gathered at Bagram Air Field near the Afghan capital, Kabul, for a ceremony in front of a piece of World Trade Center rubble. It was briefly interrupted by a reminder of war — when a fighter jet buzzed closely overhead. At NATO's headquarters in Brussels, a French soldier played taps and the flags of 28 alliance states were lowered to half-staff as a tribute to the victims. About 130,000 NATO troops — two-thirds of them Americans — now serve in Afghanistan. More than 2,700 service members have died in that war. For some, the pain of 9/11 never stops. In Malaysia, Pathmawathy Navaratnam woke up Sunday in her suburban Kuala Lumpur home and did what she's done every day for the past decade: wish her son Vijayashanker Paramsothy "Good morning." The 23-year-old financial analyst was killed in the attacks in New York."He is my sunshine. He has lived life to the fullest, but I can't accept that he is not here anymore," Navaratnam said. "I am still living, but I am dead inside." In a forest outside Jerusalem, where a bronze sculpture of the American flag stands in memory of the 9/11 victims, 65-year-old retiree Miriam Avraham remembered her daughter Alona, who was on board United Airlines Flight 175 when the plane plowed into the South Tower. "Sept. 11 is everything," said Avraham, who wore a photograph of her smiling, 30-year-old daughter pinned to her shirt. "My daughter was killed. My world was destroyed. For me, every day is Sept. 11." In Japan, families gathered in Tokyo to pay their respects to 23 Fuji Bank employees who never made it out of their World Trade Center office. A dozen of the workers who died were Japanese. One by one, family members laid flowers in front of an enclosed glass case containing a small section of steel retrieved from ground zero. They clasped their hands and bowed their heads. Sydney resident Rae Tompsett, 81, said she's never felt angry over the murder of her son Stephen Tompsett, 39, a computer engineer who was on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center's north tower when it was hit by a hijacked plane.
"No, not anger," she said. "Sorrow. Sorrow that the people who did this believed they were doing something good." The retired school teacher and her husband Jack, 92, were among more than 1,000 people who packed Sydney's Roman Catholic cathedral St. Marys for a special multi-faith service. Pope Benedict XVI, at an outdoor Mass in Ancona, Italy, prayed for victims and urged the world to resist what he called the "temptation toward hatred" and instead work for solidarity, justice and peace. On a square overlooking the Eiffel Tower in Paris, hundreds turned out for a ceremony at two nine-story scaffolding towers erected as makeshift replicas of the twin towers — with "The French will never forget" written on them. Children released doves in the air to symbolize peace. "Before I came here I was watching some of the old footage, and the feeling just doesn't go away," said Margaret Ware, an American resident of Paris, with tears in her eyes. "The horror of it — the violation — it doesn't go away even after 10 years." In Madrid, about 150 people, some waving American flags, attended a commemorative planting of 10 American oak trees in a park led by Prince Felipe and other dignitaries. Some world leaders appeared determined to fight any oblivion. In a ceremony in Australia's capital, Canberra, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said her country remained committed to the fight against terrorism. "On this day, on behalf of millions of Australians, I can say this: We do not forget. We never forget. United always in remembrance. United always in resolve," she said.

^ This shows that the attacks on 9/11 are not just an attack on America. The world suffered with us and in the aftermath they stood by us. Despite what has happened in the ten years since the attacks it is fitting to see that the spirit from 2001 is still here. ^

9/11: 10 Years: Falling Man

From Yahoo News:
"Photographer behind 9/11 "Falling Man" retraces steps, recalls "unknown soldier""

Richard Drew put down his camera bag and looked up at the colossal skyscraper that seemed to be racing toward the clouds at an accelerated clip.But he had nevertheless returned to retrace his steps for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, when he had watched dozens die through the lens of a Nikon DCS620. On that similarly brilliant morning a decade ago, two planes had crashed into the Twin Towers by the time Drew emerged from the Chambers Street subway stop around a quarter after nine. The 110-story buildings looked like a pair of giant smokestacks spewing plumes of black soot into the crystal blue sky. He began shooting, focusing on the topmost floors. It wasn't long before he realized that some of the people trapped inside -- as many as 200 of them, it was later estimated -- had decided that plunging thousands of feet to their deaths was preferable to burning alive. "There's one. There's another one," he said, recalling the horrific scene with a detached ease. "I just started photographing people as they were falling." One of those people would come to be known as the Falling Man. Though his identity remains unconfirmed, some believe he was Jonathan Briley, a 43-year-old sound engineer who worked in a restaurant on the top floor of the North Tower. The man fell at 9:41, and Drew caught about a dozen frames of his fatal descent. In one of them, the subject soars earthward in a graceful vertical dive -- arms at his sides; left leg bent at the knee. "Although he has not chosen his fate, he appears to have, in his last instants of life, embraced it," wrote Tom Junod in a renowned 2003 Esquire piece that coined the title of the photo, which won a 2001 World Press Photo award and is the subject of a 2006 documentary film. "If he were not falling, he might very well be flying." Newspapers the world over made space for the Falling Man in their Sept. 12, 2001, editions. But the widespread publicity sparked a debate as to whether the image was too gratuitous for public consumption. "To me, it's a real quiet photograph," Drew argued. Unlike fellow AP photographer Nick Ut's Pulitzer-winning 1972 shot of a naked 9-year-old girl fleeing a napalm attack in Vietnam or Drew's famous photos of Bobby Kennedy's bloody dying breaths, "There's no violence in it," he said.

^ I have seen the picture of the Falling Man and it is extremely sad. You can only imagine what the person is thinking as he knows he is going to die. I guess he had a choice to make: either wait for the fire in the World Trade Center to kill him or jump. I don't know what I would do if I was ever in that situation - I just hope I never have to find out. ^;_ylt=Ag4BIzslVvNKUa4auV1xYt_Qc.J_;_ylu=X3oDMTNucWNrMzBl

9/11: 10 Years: My Story

It doesn’t seem like ten years have passed. At times it feels like it was just yesterday. For those of us who had someone personally go through that awful day it is even more horrible. Here is what happened to me and my family on September 11, 2001.
I should start a few days earlier on September 8th. I was at college in Massachusetts and had asked my roommate to go with me to New York City to see my girlfriend one more time before she flew back home to Russia (we had spent the summer working at an overnight camp for the mentally and physically disabled in Upstate New York – our second summer working together.) So my roommate and I drove down to Weehawken, New Jersey and took the ferry to Manhattan. We met up with my girlfriend and spent the day around the city (including taking the Staten Island ferry around the Statue of Liberty.) There is one incident that stands out about the day. We were standing at the entrance of the World Trade Center and were thinking of going in (I had been there numerous times before, but more on that later.) Since we were college kids we had very little money and could either go into the World Trade Center or have lunch. One of us (I forget now who it was) said: “Let’s go have lunch. The Towers will be here next time.” So we had lunch at a pizza place not knowing how eerie that statement would become in just a few days. At the end of the day I said good-bye to my girlfriend who was flying home the next day and my roommate and I left Manhattan and went back to college.
On September 11th I woke up earlier than usual to call my girlfriend and see how her trip back to Russia was (she had left the US on September 9th and with the time difference wouldn’t arrive in Moscow until the next day - September 10th) and then she had to take a train to her home in Yaroslavl. I decided to wait until the 11th to call just to give her some time to relax after her long trip. I was on the phone with her and had the TV on to the “Today Show” when they showed one of the Towers of the World Trade Center on fire. I remember saying right away “Oh, there’s a fire at the World Trade Center……….. No, wait…. It’s a plane!” I thought that it was just a small plane with a student flyer that had an accident. I finished my call with my girlfriend and headed to my first class –which started at 9 am. I went to my Human Geography class where my professor came running in and told us something bad was happening in New York and brought us to another classroom where they had the news on a large screen. That is where I saw the second plane hit the Towers. It was clear to everyone in the classroom that it was terrorism. I left right away and went back to my room and turned on the TV.
As with everyone I was on glued to the TV when I saw that a plane had hit the Pentagon. My dad worked there. In fact I had been visiting him there with my girlfriend a few weeks before. I needed to get my Military ID renewed and so we went in with him. My girlfriend had no problem with the security guards even though she had a Soviet Passport (her short skirt was enough for them) yet they gave me problems even though I had a Military ID. As soon as I saw the explosion at the Pentagon I used my roommate’s calling card and called my dad’s work phone. There was no answer. I then tried calling my mom (she worked right across the river from the Pentagon - in Washington DC), but there was no answer. All I could do was watch what was happening on the TV – by this time the first Tower fell and all the footage was of NYC. Throughout the day I tried calling both of my parents and anyone else I could think of to find out anything. It didn’t help that the news kept reporting about more attacks in Washington DC (that luckily turned out to be false.) I called my sister and she told me that she had spoken to my mom and that she was ok. I had to wait several more hours to learn from her that my dad was also alright and it wasn’t until very late that night that I actually got to talk to my parents. As you can imagine that was such a relief. I will never forget the awful feeling I had for that whole day knowing that my dad was in the Pentagon and my mom in DC and not learning that they were safe for hours.
I did not personally experience the attacks like many others, including my parents did, but what I did go through was enough to make me recall it vividly to this day. I think part of that is that I knew both the Pentagon and the World Trade Center so well. As I already said my dad worked in the Pentagon and I went there several times. My mom also spent time in the World Trade Center. Before she worked in DC she worked in Upstate New York for the Federal Government and had to go down to her department’s office in New York City which was in the World Trade Center for several years (it was moved to the building with the Native American Museum before 9/11.) I would go with my mom to NYC and stay with her in the World Trade Center while she worked. I would even stand in line to get the cheaper Broadway tickets there and we would go see a show after her work.
For me September 11, 2001 was the worst day that could ever happen. I would not wish what I went through on anyone. The idea that so many people in New York and Washington went through much worse still makes me sick. Ten years have passed and while a lot has happened since then (both good and bad) it is still weird to think of a time before the attacks.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Egypt Ending Visas On Arrival

From Yahoo News:
"Egypt to stop issuing tourist visas on arrival"

Egypt is to stop issuing visas to tourists on arrival, a government official said on Friday, although allowances will be made for those travelling in groups. The new regulations have not yet come into effect, and the cabinet is still fine-tuning them, spokesman Mahmud Higazi told AFP. Tourists "will have to apply at embassies and consulates for visas," he said. Tourists from many states, especially Western countries whose nationals contribute the bulk of Egypt's vital tourism revenues, are still allowed to obtain visas on arrival until the new regulations are in place. "We want to regulate entry," said Higazi, adding that he could not say when the new instructions will be passed on to airport officials. "We are asked for visas everywhere and it is our right to ask for visas. No airport in the world would give me a visa on arrival," he said. Higazi said that tourists travelling in groups will be exempt from the new regulations. Tourism to Egypt's beach resorts and ancient sites is a key money earner and source of foreign currency, but it declined after a January and February revolt that overthrew president Hosni Mubarak.

^ It seems that Egypt is doing exactly what it shouldn't be doing. The country relies heavily on tourists from the West to come to their beaches and pyramids. By doing away with Visas on Arrival they are only going to make the tourists go to other countries that offer either Visas on Arrival or require no visas. With that the money will stop and life in Egypt will get even worse for those involved with tourism (tour companies, taxis, hotels, resorts, airports, airlines etc.)When Egypt makes this new policy official I'm sure they will see how much money they are loosing and change it back. ^

9/11: 10 Years: Canada's Help

From The Globe and Mail:
"Obama thanks Harper for Canada's ‘friendship and solidarity’ on 9/11"

U.S. President Barack Obama has written Prime Minister Stephen Harper to thank Canada for its help during the terror attacks a decade ago and for its continuing help in fighting terrorism. The letter was delivered as Mr. Harper formally designated Sept. 11 a National Day of Service to commemorate the attacks. Mr. Obama said Canada came through when it counted after the World Trade Center was taken down by hijacked airliners. “In one of the darkest moments of our history, Canada stood by our side and showed itself to be a true friend,” he wrote. He paid a special tribute to Gander, Nfld., which took in 6,700 airline passengers whose flights were diverted when North American air space was closed. “We remember with gratitude and affection how the people of Canada offered us the comfort of friendship and extraordinary assistance that day and in the following days by opening their airports, homes and hearts to us.” The President also thanked Canada for its solidarity in fight terrorism today. “On this anniversary, we recognize all the gestures of friendship and solidarity shown to us by Canada and its people and give thanks for our continuing special relationship.” Mr. Harper said the national day of service will pay tribute to the victims and to the Canadians and communities who took in stranded travellers when air transport shut down in the wake of the attacks. The Prime Minister, who travels to New York this weekend to take part in commemoration ceremonies, said 9/11 was not only about death and destruction. “It is equally important to recall the incredible acts of courage, sacrifice and kindness by Canadians on and following that infamous day,” he said. Following the attacks, dozens of airliners were forced to land at the nearest airport. Gander, a community of 10,000, has drawn high praise from many Americans for its generosity. Stranded travellers were billeted in homes and schools, fed by local businesses and families and supplied with clothes, medicines and other needs. Mr. Harper said that's a memory to be cherished. “I hope that this national day of service, observed hereafter on Sept. 11, will inspire Canadians to once more show the same kind of compassion to strangers in need, by engaging on that day in charitable activities, fundraisers and community service for worthy causes across the country.” On Sunday, Harper will join a public memorial service in Lower Manhattan, site of the former World Trade Center buildings whose destruction 10 years ago also tore through Western society. “On this day, we will pay tribute to Canadians, Americans and all those who lost their lives nearly 10 years ago in these heinous attacks,” Mr. Harper said in a statement. “As we pay tribute to the victims and their loved ones, we also honour members of the military, law enforcement and intelligence personnel who continue to fight on the front lines against all forms of terrorism.” The evening before, the Prime Minister will meet privately with the families of Canadians killed in the co-ordinated terrorist attacks in Washington and New York. Harper will show his support for those affected by “the senseless and tragic attacks,” said a statement issued by the prime minister's office. “It is a fitting way to pay tribute to the Canadians and others who were lost in 9-11, to show continued support for the families of victims, to honour the sacrifices made by those who served in the rescue efforts, and to turn an infamous date into a day of hope marked by a communal outpouring of warmth and generosity.” Mr. Harper also ordered the flag on the Peace Tower to be lowered to half mast on Sunday.

^ It is really fitting to remember the other countries that not only lost people on 9/11 but also helped Americans stranded when the American borders and airspace were closed. ^

9/11: 10 Years: Bush

From USA Today:
"Bush on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and their aftermath"

A decade after the terrorist attacks that defined his presidency, George W. Bush said he doesn't regret any decisions he made after 9/11, including the war with Iraq and the use of controversial interrogation techniques that some considered torture.

What he remembers most about that day after he learned of the attacks in a Sarasota, Fla., second-grade classroom. "I, of course, remember (White House Chief of Staff Andy Card) whispering in my ear. I remember the faces of the children. … It was a moment of clarity because people were going to watch how I reacted, and I had enough experience with crises to understand that if you're head of an organization, it's important to project calm in the initial stages of a crisis."
•His first thoughts. "The key thing that I tried to do was to say let's gather facts so we know what's happening. The problem that I faced — and the truth of the matter is, many in my administration faced — was during certain moments during the day, there was a fog of war, and the information flow was just really inaccurate. … We needed to take steps to make sure that the attack was a four-plane attack, not a 10-plane attack. We just didn't know. … My mind eventually became focused on finding out who did it and seeking justice, but initially it was respond and prevent."
Watching on TV as thousands of Americans died. "There were moments when I said I'd like to be alone and just thinking through the ramifications and making sure that my thoughts were clear. I prayed for the victims. I prayed for our country. I would see people jump off buildings, and it just was horrific, but I was also determined to lead the country."
•His televised remarks from Florida and Louisiana. "The first two statements were on the fly. I didn't realize I had missed the mark. … I just did the best I could do given the circumstances, but obviously it wasn't the best setting for a president to try to calm the nerves of the country. I wanted to speak from the Oval Office. I wasn't going to address our nation from a bunker. It would have been a huge psychological victory for the people who attacked."
•What he learned about himself. "The job of the president was to say here are the facts, here's what we're dealing with, and deal with them. Not to feel sorry for yourself, or not to say why did it happen under my watch? That's not a leadership trait that is admirable. … I felt like I had the capacity to deal with the crisis, and you don't know until it happens. When I look back on it, I don't feel a sense of being overwhelmed."
•Whether he wishes he had done anything differently. "Not that I can think of. I mean, I think the response, laying out tools so that future presidents can have a better chance to protect the country, it's a legacy that I hope historians will say, 'It's a good legacy: He used tools that he thought were necessary and then he helped work with the Congress to codify them, so future presidents, if they so choose, can use those tools.' "
The night of 9/11, when an erroneous report of an incoming enemy aircraft prompted Secret Service agents to move him and Laura Bush from their bed to the White House's underground bunker. "My mind was just churning over the events, the response, the information that had been given through a variety of National Security Council meetings. … And then just as I was kind of dozing off, (a Secret Service agent said) 'Mr. President,' and off we go. I had the T-shirt on and the running shorts and grabbed Laura, who didn't have her contacts on, grabbed (dog) Barney. We must have been looking like a motley crew as we headed down. … It was almost surreal, these big pneumatic doors as you're heading into the bowels of the White House, guys in black uniforms and guns.

^ This gives good insight on what President Bush did and was thinking during the attacks. No matter what you think of him he did a good job on 9/11. ^

Turkey Leaving The West

From Yahoo News:
"Turkish PM says navy will escort aid ships to Gaza"

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stepped up his belligerent rhetoric against Israel, saying Turkish warships will escort future aid boats leaving its territory for Gaza to prevent a repeat of last year's deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla. Erdogan's comments to Al-Jazeera television Thursday were the first time Turkey has said its navy will use force to protect ships attempting to break Israel's blockade of the coastal Palestinian territory. Turkey had already announced it would increase navy patrols in the eastern Mediterranean in response to Israel's refusal to apologize for the raid. Turkey and Israel have enjoyed close relations that gave Israel a strong defense ally and allowed Turkey to purchase Israeli high-tech military equipment. But relations declined steadily after 2008 over Israel's war in Gaza, with Erdogan repeatedly attacking Israel for the deaths of Palestinians. Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamic movement, has also adopted a more hardline approach toward Israel after a strong election victory in July gave him a third consecutive term in office. The rift with Israel comes as Turkey's yearslong bid to join the European Union has all but faltered and the country has forged closer ties with the Arab and Muslim world.

^ It seems that Turkey is moving away from the Western world and instead moving towards the Muslim world. Turkey should remember that Israel has never lost a war against anyone in the Muslim/Arab world and they will never hesitate to protect themselves if they are ever threatened. Turkey would never win a war against Israel (just like no other Muslim or Arab country has.) Turkey needs to rethink it's foreign policy as well as internal policies if it wants to have a chance to be in the Western World. ^

Thursday, September 8, 2011

70 Years: Leningrad Siege

From Yahoo News:
"St. Petersburg marks 70 years of Leningrad Siege"

Air-raid warnings roared in Russia's second-largest city Thursday as residents commemorated the 70th anniversary of the start of a deadly, 29-month Nazi siege that reduced its population by nearly a million people. Public loudspeakers in St. Petersburg, along with radio and television stations, broadcast the warnings as well as the sounds of a metronome used during the World War II siege to tell residents of the raids and the all-clear announcements. The 872-day-long siege of the city, then known as Leningrad, is one of the darkest moments of Russia's participation in the war. A million city residents are believed to have died — of hunger, bombings and while defending the city's outskirts. Nina Dmitriyeva, 80, was in the city during the whole siege. She says that like most Leningrad residents, she and her mother lived on rations of bread and glue that they used to cook soup. "I remember that it tasted delicious back then," she told The Associated Press in an interview. Dmitriyeva has fond memories of U.S. aid — including canned ham and fish — that began trickling into the city via a perilous route through Lake Ladoga in 1943. "I liked that ham so much, and I've been trying to find ham like it ever since, but I never did," she said. St. Petersburg residents gathered in Nevsky Prospekt, where one building still bears a painted World War II warning telling people to stay off this side of the street during air-raids. Hundreds of people laid flowers under the sign in the pouring rain. Meanwhile, some of the survivors toured schools to tell young people of the terrifying experience. Irina Skripacheva, who was in primary school during the siege, said people grew tired of constant bombings, but that everyone, including children, did their best to stay sane. "Air-raid sirens were driving everyone mad," she said. "But even small children, unaware of what was happening, tried not to cry."

^ Even though 70 years have passed the Siege of Leningrad (Saint Petersburg) is still one of the most talked about topics in Russia. The Soviet Union lost over 25 million people in World War 2 (the Great Patriotic War in Russia) and what happened in Leningrad shows the Russian people the good and bad of war. The bad obviously being that so many people (military and civilians) were killed (by both bombs and starvation.) The good being that those stuck in the city continued (ie theaters, factories, etc) and that the Germans never captured or destroyed the city. I went to St Petersburg once and saw the sign from the war telling people that during an attack that side of the street was more dangerous. I also went to one of the Czarist palaces outside the city (Peterhof)that was occupied and saw pictures of how the Germans destroyed the palace before they fled the Red Army. Seeing the city in person and also the pictures from the war really brings it to life. The memorials about the Siege can be seen throughout Russia. I remember seeing a small, black plague at the Main Train Station in Yaroslavl that talks about how the city helped the evacuees from Leningrad. ^

9/11: 10 Years: Casualities

Deaths (excluding hijackers):

World Trade Center (New York City) 2,606

American Flight 11: 87

United Fight 175: 60

Pentagon (Arlington) 125

American Flight 77: 59

United Flight 93 (Shanksville): 40

Total: 2,977

9/11: 10 Years: Foreign

Country Total fatalities:

Argentina: 4 Australia: 11 Bangladesh: 6 Belarus: 1 Belgium: 1 Brazil: 3 Canada: 24 Chile: 3 China: 3 Côte d'Ivoire: 1
Colombia: 17 Democratic Republic of the Congo: 2 Dominican Republic: 1 El Salvador: 2 Ecuador: 3 Ethiopia: 2 France: 3 Germany: 11 Ghana: 2 Guyana: 3 Haiti: 2 Honduras: 1 India: 41
Indonesia 1 Ireland: 6 Israel: 5 Italy: 10 Jamaica: 16 Japan: 24 Jordan: 2 Lebanon: 3 Lithuania: 1 Malaysia: 3 Mexico: 16 Moldova: 1 Netherlands: 1 New Zealand: 2 Nigeria: 1 Peru: 5 Philippines: 16 Portugal: 5 Poland: 6 Romania: 3 Russia: 1 South Africa: 2 South Korea: 28 Spain: 1 Sweden: 1 Switzerland: 2 Republic of China (Taiwan): 1 Trinidad and Tobago: 14 Ukraine: 1 Uzbekistan: 1 United Kingdom: 66 Bermuda: 1 Venezuela: 1

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Lokomotiv Yaroslavl Crash

From BBC News:
"Russia's Lokomotiv ice hockey team in air disaster"

A chartered jet carrying Russia's major league ice hockey team Lokomotiv has crashed on take-off near the central city of Yaroslavl, with 43 deaths. Two people survived with serious injuries after the disaster, which saw the jet burst into flames shortly after leaving an airport near the city. It appears many of the team were aboard, heading to Belarus for the season's first match. Witnesses saw it burst into flames shortly after taking off from the Tunoshna airport, about 250km (160 miles) north-east of Moscow. Some of the wreckage and bodies fell in the nearby River Tunoshna, a tributary of the Volga. All 11 foreign citizens on board the plane were killed, including the team's Canadian coach, Brad McCrimmon, and Swedish goalie Stefan Liv.
Lokomotiv Yaroslavl
Founded: 1949. Renamed six times before reverting to founding name in 2000
Home city: Yaroslavl; 250km north-east of Moscow
Stadium: Arena 2000, capacity 9,000
Honours: Three-time Russian champions (1997, 2002, 2003)

^ I saw Lokomotiv play in 2002 in Yaroslavl the night they became champions. The husband of my teacher took me and got me in (without tickets.) I am not really into hockey, but when they won it was pretty cool because the whole stadium was going crazy. ^

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

9/11: 10 Years: Canadians

From Yahoo Canada:
"List of Canadians killed in Sept. 11 attacks"

The Sept. 11 attacks killed many Canadians:

- Michael Arczynski
- Garnet (Ace) Bailey
- David Barkway
- Ken Basnicki
- Jane Beatty
- Joseph Collison
- Cynthia Connolly
- Arron Dack
- Frank Joseph Doyle
- Christine Egan
- Michael Egan
- Albert Elmarry
- Meredith Ewart and Peter Feidelberg
- Alexander Filipov
- Ralph Gerhardt
- Stuart Lee
- Mark Ludvigsen
- Bernard Mascarenhas
- Colin McArthur
- Michael Pelletier
- Donald Robson
- Ruffino (Roy) Santos
- Vladimir Tomasevic
- Chantal (Chanti) Vincelli
- Debbie Williams

^ This shows that there were other people - not just Americans - killed on 9/11. ^

9/11: 10 Years: Manhattan

From Yahoo News:
"Lower Manhattan: Rising from the ashes"

A decade after the September 11 attacks enveloped Lower Manhattan in a thick gray dust of pulverized buildings and human remains, the surrounding area has become a trendy neighborhood with a booming population. Although an iconic part of the New York City skyline and a symbol of New York's exuberant commercialism, the World Trade Center's twin towers were never much loved by locals, some of whom saw them as unattractive and out of scale with the surrounding area. Now from the horror and rubble, a new community is growing. The neighborhood, once dominated by bankers who fled after the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange, also is attracting high-profile media companies. Conde Nast, publisher of Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, will move into One World Trade Center when it opens in late 2014 or early 2015. Four new skyscrapers, a memorial and park are due to be completed on the 16-acre (6.5 hectare) site of the attacks by 2015 or 2016, said developer Larry Silverstein. With space and financial constraints curbing new construction elsewhere in Manhattan, Lower Manhattan has become the epicenter of state-of-the-art construction involving some of the world's top architects, including Gehry. A rebuilt and upgraded World Trade Center transportation hub and the new underground Fulton Street Transit Center will connect Lower Manhattan to nearly all areas of the island, as well as to commuters from Long Island and New Jersey. Perhaps the biggest change is a revamped World Trade Center design that corrects that original towers' biggest flaw: a fortress-like design in the heart of downtown.

^ I went to the World Trade Center many times (my mom had to go there for work many times) and I never thought it was a very good looking building - it was just big. I hope that these new buildings were be both big and nice to look at. ^

Cool Americans

From Yahoo Canada:
"The world still thinks Americans are "coolest": poll"

They may be witnessing their global superpower influence decline in the face of challenges from other emerging players on the world stage, but Americans have been voted the world's "coolest nationality" in an international poll. Social networking site ( asked 30,000 people across 15 countries to name the coolest nationality and also found that the Spanish were considered the coolest Europeans, Brazilians the coolest Latin Americans and Belgians the globe's least cool nationality. "We hear a lot in the media about anti-Americanism," says Lloyd Price, Badoo's Director of Marketing. "But we sometimes forget how many people across the world consider Americans seriously cool." Americans, however, are the dudes who invented cool and who still embody it in many fields from music to movies and TV to technology.


1. Americans
2. Brazilians
3. Spanish
4. Italians
5. French
6. British
7. Dutch
8. Mexicans
9. Argentinians
10. Russians


1. Belgians
2. Poles
3. Turks
4. Canadians
5. Germans

^ Go US! I agree that while many people around the world like to talk trash about Americans most of that is due to resentment that they aren't us. We are the world's only super power and have led the world in terms of music, movies, military, inventions, medicine, etc for the past 60 years. Unfortunately, I am also Canadian and so am considered the 4th least coolest just above the Germans - although many Americans pretend they are Canadian when they travel so people don't treat them badly. ^