Monday, November 28, 2011

Stalin's Daughter Dies

From Yahoo News:
"Stalin's daughter Lana Peters dies at 85"

Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's daughter, whose defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author, has died. She was 85. Lana Peters — who was known internationally by her previous name, Svetlana Alliluyeva — died of colon cancer Nov. 22 in Wisconsin, where she lived off and on after becoming a U.S. citizen, Richland County Coroner Mary Turner said Monday. Her defection in 1967 — which she said was partly motivated by the poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, by Soviet authorities — caused an international furor and was a public relations coup for the U.S. But Peters, who left behind two children, said her identity involved more than just switching from one side to the other in the Cold War. She even moved back to the Soviet Union in the 1980s, only to return to the U.S. more than a year later. When she left the Soviet Union in 1966 for India, she planned to leave the ashes of her late third husband, an Indian citizen, and return. Instead, she walked unannounced into the U.S. embassy in New Delhi and asked for political asylum. After a brief stay in Switzerland, she flew to the U.S. Peters carried with her a memoir she had written in 1963 about her life in Russia. "Twenty Letters to a Friend" was published within months of her arrival in the U.S. and became a best-seller. Upon her arrival in New York City in 1967, the 41-year-old said: "I have come here to seek the self-expression that has been denied me for so long in Russia." She said she had come to doubt the communism she was taught growing up and believed there weren't capitalists or communists, just good and bad human beings. She had also found religion and believed "it was impossible to exist without God in one's heart." In the book, she recalled her father, who died in 1953 after ruling the nation for 29 years, as a distant and paranoid man. "He was a very simple man. Very rude. Very cruel," Peters told the Wisconsin State Journal in a rare interview in 2010. "There was nothing in him that was complicated. He was very simple with us. He loved me and he wanted me to be with him and become an educated Marxist." Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin denounced Peters as a "morally unstable" and "sick person." "I switched camps from the Marxists to the capitalists," she recalled in a 2007 interview for the documentary "Svetlana About Svetlana." But she said her identity was far more complex than that and never completely understood. "People say, 'Stalin's daughter, Stalin's daughter,' meaning I'm supposed to walk around with a rifle and shoot the Americans. Or they say, 'No, she came here. She is an American citizen.' That means I'm with a bomb against the others. No, I'm neither one. I'm somewhere in between. That 'somewhere in between' they can't understand." Peters' defection came at a high personal cost. She left two children behind in Russia — Josef and Yekaterina — from previous marriages. Both were upset by her departure, and she was never close to either again. Raised by a nanny with whom she grew close after her mother's death in 1932, Peters was Stalin's only daughter. She had two brothers, Vasili and Jacob. Jacob was captured by the Nazis in 1941 and died in a concentration camp. Vasili died an alcoholic at age 40. Peters graduated from Moscow University in 1949, worked as a teacher and translator and traveled in Moscow's literary circles before leaving the Soviet Union. She was married four times — the last time to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. They were married from 1970 to 1973 and had one daughter. Peters wrote three more books, including "Only One Year," an autobiography published in 1969. Her father's legacy appeared to haunt her throughout her life, though she tried to live outside of the shadow of her father. She denounced his policies, which included sending millions into labor camps, but often said other Communist Party leaders shared the blame. "I wish people could see what I've seen," Lana Parshina, who interviewed Peters for "Svetlana About Svetlana," said Monday. "She was very gracious and she was a great hostess. She was sensitive and could quote poetry and talk about various subjects. She was interested in what was going on in the world." After living in Britain for two years, Peters returned to the Soviet Union with Olga in 1984 at age 58, saying she wanted to be reunited with her children. Her Soviet citizenship was restored, and she denounced her time in the U.S. and Britain, saying she never really had freedom. But more than a year later, she asked for and was given permission to leave after feuding with relatives. She returned to the U.S. and vowed never to go back to Russia. She went into seclusion in the last decades of her life. Her survivors include her daughter Olga, who now goes by Chrese Evans and lives in Portland, Ore. A son, Josef, died in 2008 at age 63 in Moscow, according to media reports in Russia. Yekaterina (born in 1950), who goes by Katya, is a scientist who studies an active volcano in eastern Siberia.

^ I have looked at Russian online newspapers (in both Russian and English) and the only mention of her death was from the BBC - in English and Russian. I remember when I was living in Russia and asked people about those that defected from the Soviet Union and most did not think highly of them. While those of us in the West see them as heroes who escaped a communist dictatorship to many Russians they are still traitors. Stalin's daughter defected twice. I am curious to see how ordinary Russians view her and her defections. I know there are still lots of people in the former USSR who think Stalin was a great man even though they admit he killed millions of people and deported and imprisoned millions more. ^


This week they stayed in Belgium. Since there was no Pit Stop last time they kept on racing. The teams had to drive a mustang at a Ford Testing Center. Then they either had to make a raft and go down a canal or make 18 waffles. After that they had to track some pigeons that were released and get their next clue. The challenges were ok, but not really that interesting. In the end, Andy and Tommy came in first and Bill and Cathi were last and sent home. Cathi was very annoying throughout the Race and I'm not sorry to see her go. I also don't care for Cindy, Jeremy or Sandy. I would like to see Andy and Tommy win - they have done well throughout the Race. Next week they go to Panama where the final three teams will be announced.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reduce Russian Draft

From The Stars and Stripes:
"Medvedev: Russian military to sharply reduce draft"

The Russian military will rely increasingly on volunteer soldiers and sharply reduce the number of draftees, President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday. He said the conscripts' share will be brought down to 10-20 percent in the next five to seven years, with volunteers accounting for the rest. The pledge to reduce Russia's unpopular draft appears to be part of campaigning for Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, in which Medvedev leads the list of the ruling United Russia party, now that he has decided not to run for re-election so that Vladimir Putin can replace him as president. Medvedev's statement also reflects demographical problems that have made it increasingly difficult for the military to get enough draftees. Due to a population decline, the number of Russian men eligible for the draft has dropped, and most avoid it by signing up for college, being excused for health reasons or simply paying bribes. It wasn't immediately clear whether Medvedev was referring to the entire 1-million member military that includes about 220,000 officers, or was talking only about the enlisted men. Medvedev's pledge followed a statement by Gen. Nikolai Makarov, chief of the General Staff of the Russian armed forces, who acknowledged last week that the military was struggling to fill the ranks and was aiming to eventually form an all-volunteer army. He didn't mention a specific time frame. Liberal politicians and military analysts have long urged the Kremlin to abolish the draft, which has been extremely unpopular due to the poor conditions and high crime rates within the ranks, particularly the vicious bullying of young conscripts by older soldiers. The government already has launched a sweeping military reform intended to trim the military and turn it into a more modern force. It also has promised to more than double officers' wages starting Jan. 1 and similarly increase salaries for volunteer soldiers.

^ As with most things in Russia this is going to take a very long time to complete. Out of all the Russians I know I have only met 1 who was in the Soviet/Russian military (he started as a draftee in the Soviet Army and ended in the Russian Army.) The majority of Russian men pay high bribes to get fake medical certificates so they don't have to serve. I don't blame them for doing that especially since the Russian Military is known for its poor conditions and abuse. Hopefully, the draft will be done away with completely sooner rather than later and the abuse and bad conditions will stop. ^

Anne Frank's Apartment

From Yahoo News:
"Anne Frank's apartment open to public for 1 day"

Paying guests are to be given a one-off chance to view the apartment where Jewish diarist Anne Frank lived with her family before they went into hiding from the Nazis during World War II, the housing corporation that owns it said Thursday. Ymere corporation said in a statement that a maximum of 300 people will next month be allowed to wander through the building where Anne lived from 1933 to 1942. The corporation bought the apartment on Merwedeplein, a street in southern Amsterdam, in 2004 and with the help of the Anne Frank Foundation restored it to 1930s style — "the same atmosphere as the Frank family left behind," Ymere said in a statement. A Dutch foundation now uses it for a writer-in-residence program for foreign writers who are oppressed in their home country. On leaving the apartment, the family moved to a small hidden apartment behind a canal house where Anne wrote most of the diary that turned her into a symbol of Jewish suffering during the Holocaust after it was posthumously published. Anne and her family were captured after two years in hiding. She died in a German concentration camp in 1945. The apartment will be opened on Dec. 10 with euro7.50 ($10.00) tickets sold at the nearby Jimmink bookstore. Spokesman Andre Bakker said the group would give preference "to people from the neighborhood."

^ The apartment should be opened more. I know people interested in Anne Frank and her family would want to visit it and the money they would give would help pay for the programs the Anne Frank Foundation does. I have visited the Anne Frank House and thought it was interesting. I would be interested in seeing where she lived before she went into hiding - especially since it is renovated to the way it was when she lived there. ^

USPS Prices Rising - Again!

From Yahoo News:
"Postal prices going up for express, priority mail"

The cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service is raising rates for its more profitable express mail and priority mail shipping next year, part of its efforts to stave off bankruptcy. The new prices, which take effect Jan. 22, include the introduction of a new flat rate of $39.95 for overnight express mail boxes weighing up to 70 pounds that are sent domestically; the flat rate for express letters is being increased separately to $18.95. Previously, prices for the overnight service were $13.25 or higher based on package weight and distance. The prices for priority mail, which promises two-to-three-day delivery, also will increase by an average of 3.1 percent.
The post office said the rate hikes were partly aimed at keeping the ailing agency afloat while maintaining its pricing advantage in the shipping business. Private companies such as UPS and FedEx, which offer similar express shipping services, regularly adjust their prices and have posted modest profits in the sluggish economy.

Among the increases set for Jan. 22:

—Priority mail, small box, $5.35.

—Priority mail, medium box, $11.35.

—Priority mail, large box, $15.45.

—Priority mail, regular envelope, $5.15.

—Priority mail, legal-size and padded envelope, $5.30.

The new prices amount to an across-the-board increase of roughly 5 percent in postal shipping services. They are in addition to a previously announced 1-cent increase in first-class mail to 45 cents, also planned for Jan. 22. The independent Postal Regulatory Commission will review the proposed increases before they take effect.

^ This is just more "make them pay a higher price for less service" from the Post Office. It is clear the USPS has no idea how to run itself and make a profit. Most of the world's Post Offices have found ways to make money in the 21st century so I don't see why the US Post Office can not do the same. ^

Heathrow Gridlock

From Yahoo News:
"Heathrow warns strike will cause 'gridlock'"

Passengers arriving at Heathrow may have to wait up to 12 hours for immigration checks as border staff join next week's strike over pensions, an airport official warned on Friday. Normand Boivin, Heathrow's chief operating officer, told the Daily Telegraph that travellers could even be held on aircrafts while huge immigration queues are cleared by a skeleton staff at the country's busiest airport on Wednesday.
"Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers," Boivin said. "The delays at immigration are likely to be so long that passengers could not be safely accommodated within the terminals and would need to be held on arriving aircraft. "This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations or departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft," he added. As the airport's operator BAA held talks with the UK Border Agency and airlines in a bid to minimise the impact of the industrial action, reports emerged Thursday that the Home Office is roping in border agency staff who are not union members and civil servants from Whitehall to man immigration desks.

^ This is just plain disgusting. The strikers should be ashamed of themselves. The UK Border Agency is a Federal Department and its employees should not be allowed to strike - especially considering not too long ago the same Department at Heathrow was found to have lax policies. Heathrow Airport is one of the worst airports I have ever been to. It is too big and disorganized at every level. They is chaos from fog and snow storms, the company that is supposed to help the disabled are incompentent and rude. Heathrow should be closed down completely and a huge over-haul needs to be done (even if that means firing most of the people.) Heathrow could then hire new people, train them and reopen the airport. Maybe the threat of pink slips will force the airport employees( from the top-down_ to start doing their jobs correctly and start treating passengers as human-beings.) The fact that they always seem to do these types of things around the holidays just show how arrogant the unions and the strikers are. I would love to see all of them on the dole. Maybe then the airport would run more smoothly. ^

Nazi Bell

From Yahoo News:
"German war memorial features Nazi bell"

A German state governor is asking a tiny town to remove a bell adorned with swastikas and Hermann Goering's name from its memorial to Germany's war dead. The bell was donated by Goering himself to the town — which once bore the deputy Nazi leader's name and is now called Tuemlauer-Koog. News magazine Der Spiegel reported Friday the bell, which had hung in the town's belltower, was replaced in 2008 because it was too old to ring anymore and moved to the memorial site. A German tourist recently saw the bell and complained to Schleswig-Holstein governor Peter Harry Carstensen, who asked that it be removed. Area mayor Christian Marwig acknowledges a sign could better explain the bell's significance but says the Nazi past should be acknowledged and not swept under the rug.

^ It is one thing for the Germans to acknowledge what the Nazis did and another to allow their symbols on war memorials. I thought anything related to the Nazis was illegal in Germany? I guess not in all cases. There is a growing trend in Germany to join the Neo-Nazis. That trend won't go away unless the German authorities crack-down on Nazi symbols and organizations that are pro-Nazi. ^

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Today is Thanksgiving. My mom and I were supposed to have driven to Upstate New York to make dinner for my Grandparents and Great-Aunt, but many things came up that made us cancel the trip. When something new came up we managed to find a way around it - we even decided to leave a day early when we heard about the big snow storm that was coming Tuesday night into Wednesday - we got 1 foot of snow. In the end we had to call it off.
I didn't expect much for Thanksgiving (especially after all the problems that started a week before), but we just had our dinner and I have to say it was GREAT! We made: turkey, stuffing, cranberries, mashed potatoes, yams, artichoke and spinach, rolls and pumpkin cheesecake. We have way too much food for two people, but it was such a nice time. I only wish my dad could have been home from Iraq to celebrate with us - he will be home for Christmas.

Last Thanksgiving

From Yahoo News:
"US troops celebrate last Thanksgiving in Iraq"

American troops are marking their last Thanksgiving in Iraq with turkey, stuffing and an incoming rocket alarm. Fewer than 20,000 American troops remain in Iraq at eight bases across the country. All of the forces must be out of Iraq by the end of this year, and American troops have been busily packing up their equipment and heading south. Many of the bases no longer have civilian contractors making meals for them, so the troops have been eating prepackaged meals. At COS Echo in southern Iraq, the soldiers marked the occasion with a special meal including turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. But the noon meal was marred by an alarm signaling incoming fire at the base. It was unclear if anything hit.

^ My dad is still in Iraq and all he got for Thanksgiving was MREs. That is no way for our soldiers to spend a holiday - especially one about giving thanks. You would think the Military and Obama would have made sure that they were given real meals instead of packages that you add water to. All the planners should be ashamed of themselves for doing an awful job and treating American soldiers like this. While Congress, the President and those at the Pentagon sit down for a great meal of turkey with all the trimmings in their safe homes the soliders are away from their families, in a war zone, eating disgusting food from a package. It makes me sick just thinking about it. I'm sure this is not just happening in Iraq, but in Afghanistan and in many others remote places American soldiers are stationed. ^

Poor Soldiers On Thanksgiving

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Troops reach out for help feeding their families at Thanksgiving"

Hundreds of financially strained military families in the Washington area are lining up for turkeys and free groceries this holiday season, depending on the USO to help put food on the table, The Washington Post reported. The organization had to cap its annual “turkeys for troops” giveaway at 1,400 families this year, up from 150 before the economic downturn, a USO spokesman told the Post. The USO has set up food pantries at bases around the U.S. and teamed up with local food banks after seeing a surge in the number of military families seeking assistance in the past year, the Post said. Although military pay has risen faster than private-sector salaries since 9/11, spouses often have trouble finding work, and many servicemembers have found themselves upside-down on mortgages when they were unable to sell their houses after being transferred to new duty stations. Food-stamp use at commissaries has nearly tripled in the past four years.

^ This is the sadest thing I have heard. The idea that families separated on a holiday because their loved one is in a war-zone is one thing and to learn that they can't feed their families is just disgusting. Soldiers, veterans and their families should ALWAYS be taken care of. They are willing to give their lives for our country and should never have to worry about where their next meal will come from. It seems the Government is s willing to start wars, put the soldiers' lives at risk and yet do nothing to help their or their families. Most are too proud to ask for the basic things they need and deserve and they shouldn't have to ask. ^

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Canadia's Visa System

From Yahoo News:
"Canada's visa system badly flawed: watchdog"

Canada could be admitting people who are security threats or carrying serious diseases because of a flawed visa system, a parliamentary watchdog warned on Tuesday.
The report by the auditor general is likely to bolster U.S. critics seeking much tighter controls on the U.S.-Canada border on the grounds that Ottawa is letting in terror suspects and militants who could one day attack the United States. Interim Auditor General John Wiersema said visa and security officials "need to do a much better job of managing the health, safety and security risks" of applicants." Wiersema said officials at the two main departments involved, Citizenship and Immigration and the Border Services Agency, were overworked, ill-trained, poorly supervised and were using outdated methods. "Visa officers are responsible for deciding whether to grant or refuse a visa to enter Canada. The system lacks basic elements to ensure they get the right information to make those decisions," he said in a statement. "We've been reporting some of these problems with visas for 20 years, and I find it disturbing that fundamental weaknesses still exist." In 2010, visa officers processed applications for 1.04 million people seeking temporary residence and 317,000 people seeking permanent residence. Canada, with a population of 34.5 million, is one of the few western nations actively encouraging immigration.

^ I knew about this long before I read this article. It seems Canada allows any Third World national to visit and live in the country while it makes it hard for Americans and other Western nationals to so (well it is easy for them to visit but not live.) I personally dealt with Citizenship Canada and something that should have taken 4 months took 2 years - the woman was a complete moron and lacked even basic skills. Canada should tighten its visa issuance to thoroughly screen and "weed-out" those that pose a security or health risk. I just hope it doesn't become too complicated and expansive like the American visa system. ^

Reagan's Polish Statue

From Yahoo News:
"Walesa unveils statue of Ronald Reagan in Warsaw"

Former Polish president and anti-communist leader Lech Walesa unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan on an elegant Warsaw street on Monday, honoring the late U.S. president for inspiring Poland's toppling of communism. Though Reagan's legacy is mixed in the U.S., across much of central and eastern Europe he is considered the greatest American leader in recent history for challenging the Soviet Union. The moniker he gave it — the "evil empire" — resonated with Poles, who suffered greatly under Moscow-imposed rule. "I wonder whether today's Poland, Europe and world could look the same without president Reagan," Walesa said. "As a participant in those events, I must say that it's inconceivable." The 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) bronze statue depicts a smiling Reagan in a historic moment — as he stood at a podium at Berlin's Brandenburg gate in 1987 and said the famous words, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." It sits across from the U.S. Embassy on Aleje Ujazdowskie, a street lined with embassies and manicured parks in the heart of the capital. Several statues of Reagan have gone up this year, the centennial of Reagan's birth. Most notably, monuments to him have been erected in London and in Budapest, Hungary, and yet another is to be unveiled later this week in the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

^ I think President Reagan did a lot during his time in office. He strengthened US foreign policy and took on the USSR without weapons. He was a great man who deserves to have statues around the world. The last time I went to live in Russia was a few weeks after Reagan died and I remember talking about him with my Russian teacher (a woman in her 60s.) She thought he was a powerful leader who achieved many things - I agree with her. ^

MHT's New Scanners

From Union Leader:
"New-style scanners coming to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport"

Air travelers flying out of the state’s largest airport may be singing a new jingle next month — ‘All I want for Christmas is a full-body scan.’A spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration said this week that at least one new full body scanner is expected to be delivered to Manchester-Boston Regional Airport and installed prior to the end of the year, and likely in place by the Christmas holiday.
The new scanners will be of the next-generation type, which made their debut in late July in Tampa, not the ones that displayed what amounted to naked images of passengers as they passed through, although visible only to TSA agents. This new version presents a generic outline of a human, similar to a crime scene outline. Air travelers are able to view the same outline that the TSA officer sees.

^ I don't have an issue with the new full-body scanners since it is a generic outline of a person and not a complete X-Ray. I have gone through the old full-body scanners in Logan and then had to have a full pat-down because the TSA didn't have a clue what they were doing. Hopefully, at MHT it will be more efficient with better training. ^

Eurasian Union

From BBC news:
"Russia sees union with Belarus and Kazakhstan by 2015"

Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan have agreed to set up a Eurasian economic union, modelled on the EU, with a target date of 2015. The three countries already have a customs union but now aim to go further by removing trade barriers. Their respective presidents signed a deal to create an executive body similar to the European Commission. Earlier this year, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin denied the bloc would re-create the Soviet Union. Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in particular are said to be looking at the project. In a newspaper article last month, Vladimir Putin insisted that there was no talk of reforming the USSR, arguing that it would be naive to copy what had been abandoned in the past. All three countries are still members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, along with eight other nations, including Ukraine.

^ i don't understand why they have to try and form a new union when they are already in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS.) Why can't the countries in the CIS just enhance the powers of that union like the European Union did (it used to be known as the European Community.) I don't think the Eurasian Union or the CIS will be effective or strong. ^

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Canada's New Money

From Yahoo Canada:
"Americans fascinated by new plastic Canadian $100 bill"

Americans have always been fascinated with Canadian money, even though their stores rarely accept it if you're buying anything while visiting across the border. In the land of the greenback, Canada's colourful bills are exotic. So it's no surprise that word Canada was phasing in polymer-based bills got wide play in American media. "This week, our friend to the north introduced the first in its new line of all-plastic notes - a cool $100 bill made out of a single sheet of plastic polymer and tricked out with all kinds of high-tech security features," the Los Angeles Times' technology section enthused. Reports on U.S. news sites usually riffed on the theme that paying with plastic in Canada no longer means using a credit card. The Bank of Canada this week released the plastic $100 bill, the first denomination in the gradual conversion to polymer currency from paper."Demonstrating the powerful connection between money and sex, The Canadian Press wrote last month that "a focus group mistook the depiction of a strand of DNA on the $100 bill for a sex toy, and most people thought the see-through window on the polymer notes was shaped like the contours of a woman's body." Mark Allen pointed out, as most of the news stories did, that Australia was the first country to switch to polymer bills in 1988.

^ I like the different colors of Canada's Dollar. I don't know if the new polymer bills are any good (I would have to see and feel one to make a final decision.) As most of the articles state Canada accepts US Dollars while most American stores do not accept Canada's Dollar. ^


This week they started in Denmark. They had to cite a Hans Christian Anderson poem in a dramatic way in front of a Danish guy who looked like he is a pedophile. Then they went to LegoLand where they had to put together a puzzle while spinning around on a ride. Then they drove to Hamburg, Germany and had to catch a train to Brussels. Ernie and Cindy lost part of their tickets, but decided to stay on the train and hope they didn't get caught - they didn't.
In Brussels they went to the European Parliament building to get a clue and then had to go to some building and perform at bodybuilding. It was a very boring challenge. The judges there are harder on the racers than anywhere else. So far only a few teams finished that challenge. Armani and Marcus came in first place and were told that the race is still going.
I don't really have a favorite team. Cindy cries and whine too much, Cathi is very annoying and Sandy is just plain dumb. I guess that leaves Andy and Tommy as the team I would like see win.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Airline Forces Money

From the BBC:
"Comtel Air cancels Amritsar to Birmingham flights"

An airline accused of asking passengers to pay extra for fuel to fly home has cancelled UK flights at the weekend. A Comtel Air flight from Amritsar to Birmingham was grounded in Vienna on Tuesday by its Spanish carrier Mint Lineas Aereas due to financial issues. Passengers said they were "held to ransom" and asked to pay a total of £23,000 to continue their journey. The Essex-based company was registered with the Air Travel Organisers' Licensing (Atol), run by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) in the UK. The CAA said it would be stepping in to "assist repatriation for all customers", and estimated 200 Skyjet UK customers were currently abroad.

^ This is so weird. I guess it shows that even in the EU (where passengers have more rights than those in the US, Canada or the rest of the world) things can go bad. I hope there are criminal charges brought against everyone involved - from the airline to the ticket agents. It is just one more example of why I have no desire to ever go to India. Everything I read and see show India as a depressing, dirty, corrupt country. ^

US Base In Australia

From Yahoo News:
"Seeking to Contain China, US to Establish Permanent Military Presence Down Under"

President Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Wednesday announced that the US military will begin a permanent presence Down Under — part of a greater Obama administration strategy to contain the rise of China in the Pacific. By mid-2012, a company-sized rotation of Marines, between 200-250, will be stationed at an Australian military base in the Northern territory. That will ramp up to a full force of 2,500 Marine personnel as part of a Marine, Air, Ground Task Force In addition, the US Air Force will be able to use Australian Air Force facilities significantly more than it does now.

^ I don't really understand how us having a base in Australia will stop a Chinese threat in Asia. If the troops we have in South Korea, Japan, Guam, American Samoa, Hawaii and the other places in Asia then how will a group Marines make much of a difference? I think someone just wanted a new base and decided that Australia would be perfect because of the weather and they speak English. ^

German Neo-Nazi Database

From Yahoo News:
"Germany to create far right extremists' register"

Germany will create a national database as a clearing-house for information on far-right extremists amid mounting criticism because its security agencies failed to detect a deadly neo-Nazi terror group for years. Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Wednesday the new database to be used by all federal and state-level intelligence and police agencies will be modeled on a similar registry for Islamic extremists created in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

^ Databases are only good if you use them effectively. If you have a bunch of names with known extremists or terrorists on it and do not do anything with it then it is simply a program wasting government money and not saving lives. Germany should be good at making and using this database. The Nazis used a similar one to keep track of all its citizens (and those living in their occupied countries) as well as Jews and others they wanted to arrest. East Germany also used a similar program to control its citizens. It is a little ironic that a database program perfected by the Nazis is now going to be used to track Neo-Nazis. ^

St Petersburg Against Gays

From Moscow Times:
"St. Pete May Fine Gays Who Are Open"

In a throwback to Soviet times, St. Petersburg legislators have tentatively approved a bill that would impose fines on gays or lesbians who openly profess their sexual orientation. The bill achieves this by outlawing gay pride parades and any other public display or discussion of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, lifestyle that might be observed by minors — curiously equating such acts to promotion of pedophilia, which is a criminal offense. Gay activists denounced the bill as "medieval" and called it a pre-election stunt, while legal experts doubted the bill's legality. But a senior local lawmaker said the main flaw of the bill was that it was not harsh enough. The bill proposes fines of 3,000 to 5,000 rubles ($100 to $160) for individuals and up to 50,000 rubles for organizations engaged in "public activities to promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transsexuality" that might be observed by children, local news agency said. The St. Petersburg bill appeared to be modeled on near-identical legislation passed in the Arkhangelsk region in September. Lawmakers introduced a similar ban in the Ryazan region in 2006. Even if the legislation is half-baked, the issue remains controversial in Russia, where male homosexual relationships were a criminal offense until 1993. In 1999, the Health and Social Development Ministry dropped homosexuality from the federal list of officially recognized illnesses. But most of the populace remains vehemently anti-gay, and politicians and rights groups remain reluctant to stand up for LGBT rights for fear of their own reputations.

^ Russia has numerous problems that need to be addressed yet it's 2nd largest city and former capital decides to go after homosexuals like it is an old Soviet witch-hunt. Why don't they focus on making things easier and better for their citizens instead of discriminating against a group of people. Homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union and then in Russia until 1993 - I guess the Communists were afraid of "catching" it. Russia needs to decide once and for all if they want to join the ranks of the civilized world or go back to the isolation of the USSR. ^

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Survivor: SP

This week Ozzy, Jim and Keith had to hold two poles up for their RI challenge. Ozzy won and Jim and Keith became the first members of the jury. For the main challenge they had to go through a course with a bowl of rice on their head. Sophie won and got immunity. Dawn was voted out and then they had another challenge and Sophie won it again and Whitney was sent to RI. I think next week it will be Cochran and then the game will start getting interesting as it will leave only members from the old tribe together.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

FAA Fines AA

From: Huliq:
"FAA fines American Eagle airline $900,000"

The Federal Aviation Administration has decided to fine the regional airline, American Eagle, a company affiliated with American Airlines, $900,000 for keeping planes on the tarmac last May. The incident caused hundreds of passengers to remain on the planes during a storm. At that time thunderstorms were rolling through the Chicago area. The passengers were kept on the planes for hours while the storms rolled through. According to a story in the Chicago Sun-Times, the FAA appears to be trying to send a warning to other airlines just before the holiday travel season and the winter months come that traditionally have brought about more flight delays. The FAA stated that they have decided to fine American Eagle $900,000 for the incident in May. During the time that the storms were rolling through, the airline stranded about 15 flights. The planes were stranded for over three hours on May 29. On those planes were over 600 passengers. The FAA stated that the airline had to pay $650,000 within 30 days. Of that, as much as $250,000 can be credited on refunds and other compensation already given out to passengers on the flights.

^ This is a good step in the right direction for the FAA. It shows that the 3 hour tarmac waiting rule (4 hours for international flights)is more than just on a piece of paper. A law is only good if it is enforced and it seems the FAA is trying to do that. Whether they are also trying to send a message to the airlines over the holiday season is besides the point. I think the new laws need to also extend to the airports. If an airline is trying desperately (which I doubt many would) to get the passengers off the plane within the 3 or 4 hour time limits and the airport doesn't allow them then the airport should also be fined. There is nothing worse that people stuck on a plane with no food, water or running toilets and there is no excuse for that to happen if the plane is on the ground. The FAA is starting to show the airlines that they can't keep treating us passengers like cattle (like they have been doing for years.) Hopefully other airlines will see this fine and think twice about keeping passengers on the tarmac for longer than 3 or 4 hours. ^

Monday, November 14, 2011


This week they went from Africa to Denmark. Most teams got to Copenhagen at the same time by finding an earlier flight, but Marcus and Armani took the scheduled flight and got there last. The first challenge was to get dressed-up in Renaissance costumes and learn 3 different dances. Then they either had to churn butter or race a rabbit through a course. Most chose to churn the butter. There was a double U-turn there. Ernie and Cindy U-turned Bill and Cathi while Bill and Cathi U-turned Laurence and Zac. Ernie didn't want to U-turn anyone but Cindy made him because she was too slow the last time and didn't get in first place. This time Ernie and Cindy came in first place and Laurence and Zac came in last and were sent home. I am really glad not to have to see Laurence anymore since he was always pretty slow and making dumb mistakes.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today is Veterans' Day and regardless what your political views are, whether you are against the wars or not everyone in the country should take a moment to thank a veteran for their service. Veterans and soldiers do not create the wars (politicians do) but they defend us unquestionably and make it so we can go about our ordinary lives not worrying about our freedom or safety. My grandfather, father and brother are all veterans.
Everyone from our Federal and State Governments to the regular citizen owes everything they have to the men and women who fought and are fighting around the world. And we all need to make sure the veterans, soldiers and their families are taken care of both during their time of service as well as afterwards. People who risk their lives everyday for other people's families while missing key aspects of their own families' lives deserve to come home from war and not have to worry about where they are going to live, how they are going to feed their children, what kind of work they will do or where they will receive the medical care they need.
I hope that everyone would stop and think about the soldiers and veterans more than once or twice a year. Most are too proud to ask for the help they need - and they shouldn't have to. The programs and services should just be there for whenever they need them.


Today is 11-11-11. It is also Veterans' Day as well as my parents' wedding anniversary. Veterans' Day is when we stop to remember all the men and women who are fighting or have fought for our country (including those that are currently in Iraq and Afghanistan.) It seems Obama did little to mark the holiday - which is a disgrace since he is the head of the military and the one who sends soldiers to fight and die. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (which is for Memorial Day as Veterans' Day remembers those that fought and are alive today) He watched a basketball game and made a speech in which he said that all troops are coming home. That is not true since the soldiers in Afghanistan are staying there until at least 2014 and the ones leaving Iraq will probably go to Afghanistan, Kuwait or some other place in the world rather than home. Regardless of how Obama lies the truth is the American military is the strongest and most dedicated in the world and has been throughout its history and we need to remember everything the soldiers did/do for us.

TX: No To Confederate Flag

From USA Today:
"Texas DMV rejects bid to allow Confederate flag on license plates"

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles Board today unanimously rejected a bid to allow the Confederate battle flag on vanity license plates, the Houston Chronicle reports. Gov. Rick Perry, who had appointed all nine members of the board, remained silent on the issue until two weeks ago when he came out against it, saying it's "just a part of history that you don't need to scrape that wound again." Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas NAACP, argued that opponents viewed the flag as a symbol of slavery and hate. "This is the wrong thing to do," Bledsoe told the board, the Chronicle says. "We don't want others to look at Texas with scorn and ridicule and think that we are a bunch of country bumpkins.

^ This is a step in the right direction in making the Confederate flag as well as all Confederate symbols illegal in the US. The Confederacy and its symbols only praise racism, discrimination, violence and anti-American feelings (since the Confederacy left the United States.) ^

Quebeckers Want Maple Leaf

From The Globe and Mail:
"Quebec town waves the flag for Canada’s Maple Leaf"

When crowds of Quebeckers rally around a flag, it’s typically to wave the province’s cherished fleur-de-lis. But residents of one small Quebec town have been galvanized by a battle over the Canadian Maple Leaf. More than 100 residents packed the council chambers this week in Saint-Denis-de-Brompton, pop. 3,200, to demand the town’s mayor restore the Canadian flag that was removed from the chamber. The flag was taken down shortly after Claude Boucher, a former Parti Québécois MNA, was elected mayor in 2009. After a failed effort to get it restored last year, residents began a grassroots movement that grew into a stormy gathering at the town council’s room on Monday night. So many showed up that crowds spilled into the hallway and outdoors. Flags are potent political symbols in Quebec and it’s rare to see emotional displays over Canada’s. Polls suggest that while voters in the province still identify themselves as Quebeckers first, a majority are proud of Canadian symbols like the flag, the anthem and the army. “As far as I know Quebec hasn’t separated yet. I ask that the mayor respect that,” said Mr. Larochelle, speaking in the community 145 kilometres east of Montreal.

^ I think this shows how French Quebeckers are finally starting to realize that Quebec needs Canada just as much as Canada needs Quebec. If Quebec ever officially leaves Canada - which is unlikely in the near-future as most polls show support for remaining within Canada - then the Canadian flag would not be required to be flown, but as long as Quebec is part of Canada then it should fly alongside the Quebec Provincial flag. It seems that some people (in this case the mayor of the town) just likes to cause trouble over senseless issues rather than bring attention to real problems that need to be fixed (like unemployment, education, health care, etc.) ^

Brits Leaving Germany

From Yahoo News:
"British troops to start leaving Germany in January"

Britain has announced that it will begin withdrawing its 20,000 troops stationed in Germany next January, in plans that will end Britain's military presence there by 2020. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) revealed a calendar for withdrawal of troops from Germany, Britain's largest military deployment abroad, where troops have been posted since 1945. In October 2010, the government announced plans to repatriate half of the troops in Germany by 2015 and the remaining 10,000 by 2020. Britain, the US and France have kept troops in western Germany since the end of the Second World War. It was an important base for the NATO allies during the Cold War years. Figures from the German government show there are currently 66,000 US army personnel in Germany, including 56,000 soldiers. France keeps 3,800 staff in the country, of which 3,600 are soldiers.

^ It is a little odd that since Germany was given full control of its territory by France, the UK, Russia and the US in 1994 there are still so many French, British and American troops stationed there (especially considering that all the countries bordering Germany - except Switzerland) are now part of both NATO and the EU.^

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Malta Story (1953)

This is a pretty good movie about what happened in Malta during World War 2. It shows how the ordinary Maltese and the British suffered and survived constant bombing and the treat of invasion from Italy and Germany. Of course there is a love story woven in as well.
Even though Malta is a small nation of a few islands it played a key role during the war. It was so important to the British that they didn't just give it up and allow it to be occupied like they did the British Channel Islands.
During the Second Great Siege of Malta (June 1940-November 1942) Malta was bombed a total of 3,340 times - more than England during the Blitz. Not only was the island bombed constantly day and night, but it was also starved (German and Italian planes destroyed any convoy of supplies destined for Malta.) In 1942 when it looked liked all was lost and Malta would be invaded the British and Americans took huge risks that turned the tide of the war and lifted the siege. In April 1942, King George VI awarded Malta the George Cross to honor the sacrifices and determination of the Maltese. The George Cross is such an important award for the Maltese that they kept it on their flag even when they gained their Independence from England and became a Republic in the 1970s.
I remember when I was in Malta and everywhere we went heard about the war (especially how it impacted Malta.) I was a teenager at the time and didn't really care, but now find it very interesting and would like to go back and learn more.

Russian In The EU

From Russia Today:
"‘Russian should have status of working language in EU’"

Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, has suggested holding a referendum in European countries on granting Russian the status of a working language within the EU. The country’s ruling party United Russia supported the idea. “Starting from April 1, 2012 a new rule comes into force in the EU, according to which EU citizens can initiate a referendum through the European Commission,” explained Rogozin during a meeting with representatives of the United Russia party. Technically, in order to submit the initiative to the European Parliament, it is necessary to collect 1 million signatures, he added. Dmitry Rogozin is also a leader the Congress of Russian Communities (CRC) public organization. It is a moderate nationalist project aimed at protecting the rights and interest of ethnic Russians and Russian citizens both within the country and abroad, as well as promoting Russian culture. He believes that if Russian is officially recognized as a working language in Europe, this will help to settle a number of problems faced by the Russian-speaking population abroad, in the Baltic states in particular. “The language is power,” he added. “This means that this powerful national and political factor should be taken into account.” United Russia has already pledged support to the initiative. According to Yury Shuvalov from the United Russia presidium, they are already working on a long-term strategy together with the CRC. And some other proposals forwarded by the Congress of Russian Communities are likely to become part of this strategy. Among others, they suggest introducing “a Russian ID card” fort ethnic Russians from the CIS and Baltic states. The document would grant those non-citizens some privileges on the territory of Russia as compared to other foreigners. Another suggestion is to create a program aimed at bringing back to Russia highly-qualified professionals who settled abroad following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

^ I don't see Russian becoming a working language within the EU. The EU already has too many languages that they have to translate to/from. There may be a good size minority of ethnic Russians in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, but they don't have much political clout since the USSR collapsed. Even though Russian was a mandatory subject throughout Eastern Europe from the 1940s-1990s not many people nowadays want to use it. I have met many Eastern Europeans who would rather use the few basic words they knew in English rather than use Russian (even though then we could fully understand each other.) It was a matter of principle. Many people still have strong anti-Soviet/Russian feelings over the Soviet Union/Russia taking over the iron Curtain and forcing its power over others. ^

Survivor: SP

This week the old Savaii tribe went after Cochran for going to the other tribe. Coach and his tribe are treating Cochran like a hero. I think once the other old Savaii are gone Cochran will be the next to go. Cochran is acting very cocky and that is just dumb - he should be thinking of the game and what's ahead. They had two immunity challenges this week. The first one Jim won. When it was clear that Ozzy would be voted out Jim said that he would give Ozzy his immunity. Then at Tribal, right after Jim gave his speech about playing an honorable game he went back on his word and kept immunity for himself so Ozzy was sent to RI. They then had a second immunity challenge. This time Cochran and the old Upolu didn't participate and instead ate muffins. Only Jim, Whitney and Dawn did the challenge - which Whitney won. There was a second Tribal and Jim was sent to RI.

Nation-wide EMS Test

From Yahoo News:
"Emergency Alert System: Why US is doing first national test now"

Today at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Wednesday Americans watching television or listening to the radio will see and hear a familiar sounding message: "This is a test of the Emergency Alert System. This is only a test...." This 30-second audio tone and message will sound like emergency test messages that local television and radio stations have broadcast for nearly 50 years. But Wednesday's test will be the first time the federal Emergency Alert System – a last resort means for the president to address the country in a national emergency – has been tested on a national basis. There are 14,000-plus broadcast television and radio stations, as well as 10,000-plus cable television systems in the EAS. The purpose of the test Wednesday, federal officials say, is to put that old system through its paces – to allow FEMA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "to assess how well the Emergency Alert System would perform its primary function: alerting the public about a national emergency."

^ I was watching TV at 2 pm today and when the EMS Test first started it was playing Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi." Not the most fitting song to announce a disaster to the nation. Apparently this test today didn't go as well as it should have. Many stations around the country either didn't do the test or didn't do it at 2 pm like they were supposed. I doubt that the EMS System will improve after today's results are analyzed. If something does happen people shouldn't rely solely on the EMS System or anyone but themselves. ^

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

New Catholic Translations

From Yahoo News:
"American Catholics prep for new Mass translation"

Each Sunday for decades, Roman Catholic priests have offered the blessing — "Lord be with you." And each Sunday, parishioners would respond, "And also with you." Until this month. Come Nov. 27, the response will be, "And with your spirit." And so will begin a small revolution in a tradition-rich faith. At the end of the month, parishes in English-speaking countries will begin to use a new translation of the Roman Missal, the ritual text of prayers and instructions for celebrating Mass. International committees of specialists worked under a Vatican directive to hew close to the Latin, sparking often bitter protests by English speakers over phrasing and readability. After years of revisions negotiated by bishops' conferences and the Holy See, dioceses are preparing anxious clergy and parishioners for the rollout, one of the biggest changes in Catholic worship in generations. The biggest challenge will be for priests, who must learn intricate new speaking parts — often late in their years of service to the church. At an Archdiocese of Newark training at St. Peter the Apostle Church in River Edge, many clergy had just received a final published copy of the Missal, a thick hardcover bound in red, accompanied by an equally dense study guide. Earlier drafts had been available for orientation sessions that have been ongoing for months nationwide Many clergy are upset by the new language, calling it awkward and hard to understand. The Rev. Tom Iwanowski, pastor of St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church in Oradell and New Milford, N.J., turned to the section of the new missal that calls funeral rites, "the fraternal offices of burial."

^ You would think the Catholic Church has more pressing matters (child molestation cases, shortage of priests, low attendance, etc) than changing prayers and responses to poor English that no one would use in everyday life. ^

Greek Crisis

From Yahoo News:
"An Idiot’s Guide to the Greek Debt Crisis"

Why is Greece in debt?

Like any state (or person, for that matter) it spent more money than it took in. Traditionally, but especially after switching over to the euro, the Greek government paid out huge amounts of cash it simply did not have. To compound this, the retirement age there is low by modern Western standards, and benefits are generous. Public sector employees are well paid.

Sounds good, right?

The problem is that Greece is also infamous for mass tax evasion. That means severely limited revenue. So when the money ran out, Athens turned to European banks for loans. Soon, the government was borrowing billions and those debts, like subprime mortgages in the United States, were often repackaged and sold off around the Continent. Everyone, especially banks in France and Germany, wanted a piece. Now they have it.

Why does Europe — indeed, the world — care so much about Greece’s debts?

One of the perceived perks when Europe got together on a single currency (Greeks, for instance, gave up the drachma for the euro) was that a strong Europe could prop up an individual state in a time of need. But what’s happened is that Europe itself has become too weak, in the aftermath of the global financial meltdown, to bite the bullet on a country like Greece. A default would shatter otherwise monetarily strong countries like Germany. The Germans, like the Americans, would be left with a host of “too big to fail” banks ready to do just that.

What kind of deal has the EU offered the Greeks?

There have been a few already, and certainly a handful more are in the works, but it boils down to this: European banks will take 50 cents for every dollar owed to them by the Greek government. In exchange, Greece must impose what many have described as a crushing austerity. That means no more early retirement, reduced pay for public workers (the ones who manage to keep their jobs), large-scale cuts to social programs, and a staggered repayment of the reduced debt.

Why did Prime Minister Papandreou originally call for a referendum?

As you might imagine, “austerity” is a dirty word in large parts of Greece. Many people there believe the country is being unfairly affected by reckless spending and subsequent cutbacks by the government. Papandreou, one assumes, didn’t want to be the guy everyone* blamed for taking the EU deal. So he proposed a vote. A referendum. This seriously worried the rest of Europe, as stock markets cratered on fears that Greek voters would spike the bailout. The PM’s decision was scrapped after foreign leaders (and some influential Greek politicians) put pressure on his governing coalition, which might still break any minute now.

Why are the Greeks so reluctant to take the bailout?

Pete Morici, a professor at the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland and former chief economist at the U.S. International Trade Commission, explained it rather well in his latest column: “[In exchange for] aid from richer EU governments, Greeks must accept draconian austerity measures,” he wrote. “These would further drive up unemployment, and shrink Greece’s economy and tax base at an alarming pace, placing in jeopardy eventual repayment of Athens’ remaining debt. … As currently constituted, a single currency may serve the One Europe designs of France and Germany, but make Greece and the other Mediterranean states nothing more than the victims of a northern conquest.” Greeks who oppose the deal — and even many who support it only as a means of staying a member of the EU — don’t want to end up like an American post-grad, forever in debt to the banks that provided college loans.

What would happen if Greece defaulted on its foreign debt?

The first thing you would notice is a massive drop in stock markets from the U.S. to Japan, and all across Europe. It is extremely important to understand that what happens in Greece will be seen as the way forward for a number of other countries — Spain, Portugal and Ireland, to name a few. Some believe Italy could follow suit. Default by the Greeks would likely mean other sovereign states to follow. Strictly within Greece, it wouldn’t be as bad. Relatively speaking. They would drop the euro and return to the drachma, which would, in turn, be severely devalued. Not great news for Greek tourists planning on a trip abroad anytime soon, but very good news for exports, which would become extremely cheap, like those coming out of China or other, smaller developing markets. Outside of Greece, it would be a big mess. German banks, and maybe French too, would need massive bailouts. The prospect of those defaults in other debt-ridden countries (see above) could cause a run on the banks. Even more money would leave the market. And when money leaves the market, demand drops. When demand drops, economies crater.

What would happens if Greece accepts the EU deal?

Now that Greek PM George Papandreou has called off the referendum on the deal — a vote would have been very close as polls indicate the Greeks are very closely split on the EU proposal — this is the most likely outcome. Greece would see its debt cut in half and be made to enforce the tough austerity discussed before. Expect riots. Banks around Europe would take a “haircut” but remain, for the moment at least, solvent. Greece would pay over time, but most of the money right now would come out of a fund sponsored by the stronger state economies from Europe and the IMF. In short, everyone would relax, safe in the knowledge that the global financial system we’ve all come to know and, well — the system we’ve come to know would keep on spinning for at least another day.

^ I have said it many times before - the EU has expanded way too quickly and now its coming back to haunt them. Not only did the EU allow just any European country to join without really checking their problems, but they did the same with the countries joining the Euro. The EU should never have let Greece (and several other countries - like Italy) to join the Euro. It is clear to anyone with half a brain that when a country's currency (in this case the Drachma) is fixed at 340 Drachma to 1 Euro there is something wrong. It shows that the country involved doesn't have good economic practices and that allowing them into a common currency union will only bring down the common currency and all the countries within - which is exactly what Greece is doing to the EU and the Euro. I think Greece will leave the Euro - despite all the EU leaders saying they won't - and then I see other countries doing the same. The Eurozone is is just like Communism - good on paper, but bad in practice. Hopefully, when countries start leaving the Eurozone it will make travelling over there cheaper for Americans. I would be on the next plane. ^

Monday, November 7, 2011

Good (2008)

I just watched this movie and have to say that despite it's title it was pretty bad. The summary said it was about a man (played by Viggo Mortensen) who has to come to terms with the prospect of euthanasia and treatment against the Jews in Nazi Germany. In reality, the guy was a big looser from the beginning to the end. He was a push-over who never thought for himself and helped the Nazis justify what they were doing. The film only mentions euthanasia one time in a cemetery scene after the guy's mother died of a terminal illness. As for the treatment of the Jews, the guy has a close Jewish friend who begs him to help (as the guy is in the SS) and when he eventually decides to help his friend it comes too late. The movie ends with the guy in a concentration camp looking for his Jewish friend and seeing the true horror of what the Nazis were doing. I guess I expected a lot more from this film which it sadly didn't deliver.

Soviet Parade: 70 Years

From Yahoo News:
"Russia marks anniversary of 1941 military parade"

Thousands of Russian soldiers and military cadets marched across Red Square on Monday to mark the 70th anniversary of a historic World War II parade. The show honored the participants of the Nov. 7, 1941 parade, who afterward headed to the frontline to defend Moscow from invading Nazi forces. Monday's parade involved about 6,000 people — many of them dressed in World War II-era uniforms — and featured T-34 tanks and other historic weapons. Veterans watched the event, which included a combat imitation exercise and artillery crews getting ready for combat. During Soviet times, military parades were held annually on Nov. 7, a holiday commemorating the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Russia abolished the Nov. 7 holiday in 2005, but many older Russians still celebrate it and the Communist Party continues to hold its traditional parade.

^ It is good to remember those that protect and die for their country. In November 1941 the Germans were at the gates of Moscow and could have overran the city which then would open-up the rest of the country to be occupied. On Nov. 7th (The Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution -годовщины Великой Октябрьской социалистической революции)the soldiers had a parade on Red Square and then headed right to the front lines and fought the Nazis. This helped turn the tide in the Battle for Moscow as well as World War 2 in general. Regardless, that the Soviet Union no longer exists the sacrifices that happened during the war and those that fought in it should always be remembered. ^

USPS Village Post Offices

From Yahoo News:
"USPS revising plan for "Village Post Offices""

The financially troubled U.S. Postal Service has determined that its plan to replace money-losing offices with retailers contracted to offer basic services will not work in many rural communities. The world's largest mail carrier hoped the plan, announced in July as part of a series of cost-cutting moves to combat recent losses, would save hundreds of millions of dollars. The agency set an eventual goal of 2,000 "Village Post Offices," but it has fewer than 10 fully operating. It is now looking at ways to operate some rural post offices more cheaply rather than closing them.
"When you get west of the Mississippi, it's more prevalent that you don't have stores in these communities, you have nothing in these communities. It's pretty much just the post office," Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe told Reuters in an interview.The Postal Service still plans to establish new Village Post Offices, but the lack of potential retail partners could allow some post offices to remain open. Thirty Alaska sites were removed from the list when the agency decided they were needed to maintain service. "We found out there were no roads to get there," Donahoe said. Six Village Post Offices are operating now, and one opens next week. Four retailers are finalizing their agreements, and about 30 others are in various stages of the contract process, according to a Postal Service spokesman.

^ At least the USPS is trying to listen to communities' needs and do something that both will serve the community, the people and the USPS. Hopefully, they will continue on this path and get everything fixed. ^

Canada's Super Visa

From Yahoo Canada:
"Canada introduces new 'super visa' for families"

Canadian officials on Friday announced a new two-year, multi-entry "super visa" for parents and grandparents of immigrants settled in Canada. The move came after wait times for sponsorship of "family class" applications had grown to an unwieldy seven years or longer. The multiple-entry "Parent and Grandparent Super Visa" will be valid for up to 10 years, officials said, and allow applicants to remain in Canada for 24 months before needing seek visa renewal. The new visas will begin on December 1 and the will be issued, "on average, within eight weeks of the application," officials said.

^ This is good, but I wish the Canadian Government would focus on fixing the backlog on Canadian citizens getting services FIRST - before they help non-citizens. It took me 2 years to get a document from the Canadian Government. ^

Sunday, November 6, 2011


This week they stayed in Malawi. The teams had to take a crowded bus to another town and then ride a bike (with a passenger on it) to an address and then back to the starting point. Marcus and Armani had to do a puzzle of the Malawi flag because they came in last the week before. Jennifer didn't bring her clue and so didn't know what to do. Eventually she decided just to go back to where she started. Then the teams had to either take a canoe around a lake or carry 4 people (on their backs) along with branches, a chair, fan and some other items. All the teams - except Marcus and Armani - did the canoe. Marcus is the only one who is tall and strong enough to do that challenge. The teams could then U-Turn another team (it was a Double U-Turn.) None of the teams used it except for Laurence and Zac. Laurence is very stupid and has been since the beginning. Even though they saw Marcus and Armani pass them after getting their clue and not U-Turning anyone Laurence decided to U-Turn them which was just a waste. I really wish Laurence would be kicked out.
Cindy and Ernie used their Fast Forward pass to skip these challenges and were running head-to-head with Andy and Tommy. In the end Cindy gave up and Andy and Tommy came in first - Cindy and Ernie came in second. In the end Jennifer and Justin came in last and were sent home. Jennifer was upset, but not mad like she usually is because it was her fault. Had it been her brother's she would have gone crazy.
Next week they go to Denmark.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Andy Rooney

From Yahoo News:
"Former '60 Minutes' commentator Andy Rooney dies"

Andy Rooney so dreaded the day he had to end his signature "60 Minutes" commentaries about life's large and small absurdities that he kept going until he was 92 years old. Even then, he said he wasn't retiring. Writers never retire. But his life after the end of "A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney" was short: He died Friday night, according to CBS, only a month after delivering his 1,097th and final televised commentary. Rooney had gone to the hospital for an undisclosed surgery, but major complications developed and he never recovered. Rooney talked on "60 Minutes" about what was in the news, and his opinions occasionally got him in trouble. But he was just as likely to discuss the old clothes in his closet, why air travel had become unpleasant and why banks needed to have important-sounding names. "Words cannot adequately express Andy's contribution to the world of journalism and the impact he made — as a colleague and a friend — upon everybody at CBS," said Leslie Moonves, CBS Corp. president and CEO. Andrew Aitken Rooney was born on Jan. 14, 1919, in Albany, N.Y., and worked as a copy boy on the Albany Knickerbocker News while in high school. College at Colgate University was cut short by World War II, when Rooney worked for Stars and Stripes. Rooney and his wife, Marguerite, were married for 62 years before she died of heart failure in 2004. They had four children and lived in New York, with homes in Rowayton, Conn., and upstate New York.

^ Even though he was a bitter-old man (from when I can first remember) he did seem to always say what other people were thinking and too afraid to say out loud. ^

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Survivor: SP

This week Ozzy won the RI challenge against Christine. She left the game and Ozzy joined a merged tribe. Cochran tried to pretend that he was a double agent, but the other tribe saw right through it. Ozzy's performance wasn't convincing either. Coach talked to Cochran to get him to vote with his tribe. Cochran didn't like the way Ozzy or his old tribe treated him and so he had no issue voting with the other tribe. Ozzy and Sophie won immunity so they couldn't be voted off. Ozzy played his hidden idol for Whitney - which was pretty dumb - and it came down to Keith and Richard. There was little doubt that Cochran would go to the other side and in the end he did and Keith was sent to RI. It was a real shock to Ozzy and his tribe and Cochran turned right around and said "I swapped. I'll explain." what an idiot since everyone now knew what he did. It was a little funny that Brandon told Cochran to stay near him so he could protect him against his old tribe. It will be interesting to see how the game now plays out since Cochran really isn't needed by Coach's tribe and Ozzy's would never take him back.

Stranded Air Passengers

From Yahoo Canada:
"JetBlue flight sits on tarmac for seven hours. Will anyone be fined?"

The tale of a JetBlue flight stranded on a runway outside Hartford, Conn., for more than seven hours Saturday could be a fresh test of new federal rules that fine airlines for tarmac delays of longer than three hours. JetBlue Flight 504 was one of several flights that reportedly sat on runways for hours after they were diverted from landing at New York-area airports because of a combination of events, including the Northeast snowstorm and equipment failures. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is investigating. Now, the airline industry and passenger's rights groups will be watching to see how the Department of Transportation applies its new rules about tarmac delays. “They’ll be watching what the DOT decides to do, who is at fault, is someone is fined, and how much,” says Andrew Compart, senior editor for Aviation Week. Tarmac delays are the bane of the airline industry, creating hardships for passengers and bad publicity for the airlines. A high-profile incident in February 2007, involving a JetBlue plane that sat on the tarmac for 11 hours at John F. Kennedy International Airport, led to new federal rules in April 2010. Among other things, the rules penalize airlines up to $27,500 per passenger for domestic-bound planes that sit on the tarmac longer than three hours without allowing the passengers to exit.There are signs that the rules are having an impact. Tarmac delays of more than 3 hours declined 97 percent in the first 12 months of the rule, according to the US Government Accountability Office. But critics say that the rules are not enforced strictly enough, and that airports – which are often a primary cause of the delays – are not held accountable. “The DOT has never authorized the maximum fines" since the new rules, says Kate Hanni, a spokesperson with Flights Rights, a consumer advocacy group in Napa, Calif. "Nothing ever happens.” Even if the airlines were forced to pay hefty fines, the money is not directed the passengers.

^ This should never have happened. In this incident I blame not only Jet Blue, but also the Hartford Airport and think both should be held responsible for the 7 hour ordeal. I also think that the passengers directly affected should be given compensation as well. The new rules also need to be strictly enforced otherwise they are pointless to have. Hopefully the DOT will do the right thing and protect the passengers rather than the airlines or the airport. ^

Teaching Khmer Crimes

From Deutsche Welle:
"Survivors teach Khmer Rouge history to Cambodia's teachers"

Cambodia adopted a standard curriculum to help students learn about the atrocities committed by the Khmer Rouge. To make sure the message gets across, victims of the regime's crimes tell their stories to teachers. Dozens of men and women crowd under the whirl of ceiling fans in a shaded schoolhouse on a sweltering afternoon in the Cambodian countryside. They lean forward in their seats, straining to catch Tang Khim’s barely audible voice. "They accused me of being a spy," she said, almost in a whisper. "They wanted to kill me." It's been more than three decades since the brutal Khmer Rouge regime swept to power and devastated the country. But today, the teachers at this rural school have become students for the day as survivors like Tang Khim give them lessons about the Khmer Rouge. Teachers often don't know the whole Khmer Rouge story The ideology of the ultra-Maoist Khmer Rouge despised the educated. So when the Khmer Rouge took control of Cambodia in 1975, teachers were among the first groups of people they targeted. Artists, musicians, doctors, engineers were also all seen as part of the hated bourgeoisie. There are no exact figures on the number of people killed under the Khmer Rouge's regime but most estimates fall between 1 million and 2 million people. Those who were not outright executed usually died of starvation or disease. Modern Cambodia has begun to rely on its educators to teach the country about that tumultuous period. Before they can teach the history, however, many of the teachers must learn it themselves. "It was difficult to teach the students about the Khmer Rouge, because we didn't know this story clearly," said Wan Preung, a history teacher. In his mid-50s, he's old enough to remember the constant hunger and fear living under the Khmer Rouge. But for much of the last three decades since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, teaching history was a dicey subject, and the Khmer Rouge years warranted only a brief mention in the school curriculum. Former Khmer Rouge leaders, including second in command Nuon Chea, have been charged for crimes against humanity. Many of Cambodia's leaders are former mid-level Khmer Rouge soldiers, who defected and then defeated the regime with the help of Vietnam. The facts about how the Khmer Rouge came to power and what they did were clouded for years by the Cold War politics that followed the regime's collapse. Peace only came to Cambodia when the remnants of the Khmer Rouge surrendered in the 1990s, and by then the country seemed eager to forget the past.
But things are slowly changing. After years of delay, a United Nations-backed war crimes tribunal has started prosecuting a handful of former Khmer Rouge leaders. In 2009, Cambodia's Education Ministry approved the first-ever Khmer Rouge history textbook. It's now a part of the school curriculum. Vanthan Peoudara, the deputy director of the Documentation Center of Cambodia, which promotes the preservation of Khmer Rouge history. With the government, the group conducts training sessions for teachers nationwide. "History is very important to be shared with other people, especially the young generation, who haven't been through the Khmer Rouge regime," Peoudara said. "We want them to understand what happened to this country and how to prevent such atrocities from happening again." A notorious prison is now a museum showing the crimes of the Khmer Rouge. Teachers meet Khmer Rouge survivors like Tang Khim and also come face-to-face with former Khmer Rouge members. Andrew Cayley, a prosecutor with the Khmer Rouge tribunal, which is in the early stages of a trial against four former leaders, also provides information to the teachers. "In the cases of the court, we don’t have the time to address every single crime that happened in the country," Cayley told the teachers. "Your role as teachers, telling your students about what happened during that period, is incredibly important. The court can’t tell the whole story." The teachers listened politely. Sa Rom waited until Cayley has finished then he stood up and asked a question, "Why is the court only prosecuting a handful of senior Khmer Rouge leaders when there were many others who carried out the killings?" Cayley explained that the court is mandated to try only senior leaders, or those judged to be most responsible for the crimes under international law. Outside the schoolroom, Sa Rom explained his question's importance. "The other people, they worked for the Khmer Rouge. They worked for Pol Pot," he said. "They also killed people, just like the leaders did." The memories are still vivid for Sa Rom, who was a child when the Khmer Rouge came to power. He said he remembers toiling in the fields; the years of backbreaking labor. "My sister lost her children, lost her husband, lost her in-laws," he said. "After 1979, she went back to her home, and it was only her. Her whole family was destroyed." Sa Rom said he's happy the government has endorsed an official Khmer Rouge history for schools. But what he really needs to get the message across to his students, he said, are videos. For many young students these days only seeing is believing. "Some of the students, especially the young ones, don't believe," Sa Rom said. "They ask me, 'Why didn’t you fight back? They were only a few of them, and many of us. Why didn't you fight back?'" Tang Khim is one of the many people who suffered under the Khmer Rouge After the session is over, Tang Khim, the woman who was raped by a Khmer Rouge soldier, sits outside in the shade and said that for the longest time, some people didn't believe her when she spoke about the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. The disbelief frustrated her so much that she eventually stopped talking about what happened altogether. "I used to tell them. But they didn’t believe," she said. "They would talk back. 'Oh, if Pol Pot really did this, nobody would be alive today.'"
Tang Khim said she hopes young Cambodians will realize the truth about their country's history, now that that history has started to be taught in schools - and taught to teachers themselves.

^ Cambodians need to fully accept what happened during the reign of the Khmer Rouge in order to come to terms with the crimes and eventually move on as a society. Germany has done that after the Holocaust and World War 2, but many countries (like Russia and the former USSR) have not. A country to try to hide it's dark past, but no real change will come about until it takes full responsibility for the events. I have seen the movie "The Killing Fields" about what the Khmer Rouge did. Of course I don't know the whole story, but am interested in learning more. ^,,15504980,00.html

Occupy Wealth

From Yahoo News:
"NYC arrest records: Many Occupy Wall Street protesters live in luxury"

Many “Occupy Wall Street” protesters arrested in New York City “occupy” more luxurious homes than their “99 percent” rhetoric might suggest, a Daily Caller investigation has found. For each of the 984 Occupy Wall Street protesters arrested in New York City between September 18 and October 15, police collected and filed an information sheet recording the arrestee’s name, age, sex, criminal charge, home address and — in most cases — race. The Daily Caller has obtained all of this information from a source in the New York City government. Among addresses for which information is available, single-family homes listed on those police intake forms have a median value of $305,000 — a far higher number than the $185,400 median value of owner-occupied housing units in the United States. Some of the homes where “Occupy” arrestees reside, viewed through Google Maps and the Multiple Listing Service real estate database, are the definition of opulence. The median monthly rent for those living in apartments whose information is readily available is $1,850. Of the 984 protesters arrested, at least 797 are white. The median age of “Occupy” protesters taken into custody is 27 years.

^ I knew this whole "movement" was a sham. These protesters claim to be the 99% and are fighting against the 1% wealthy and now we learn the facts are that most are the 1% wealthy. I think these are people with too much time on their hands who want their 15 minutes of fame. The whole Occupy group has no set goals or demands. It would be one thing if they had a united statement and things they wanted to see done in order for them to claim victory, but I haven't seen any such thing throughout the country and the world. ^

Childfree Friends

From Shine Yahoo:
"10 Things Not To Say to Your Childfree Friends"

1. "When will you finally have kids?"
Once you have offspring, you want your friends to share the experience. But please don't loudly ask this question across the table at Thanksgiving dinner or at a baby shower. Although many people are happy to be childfree or waiting, the situation may be more complicated. A friend could be facing infertility, in the agonizing position of having a spouse who doesn't want children, or otherwise in a complex struggle over the issue. Bring it up privately with close friends, or wait for them to share with you.

2. "We always wanted to have a family."
If you use the expression "have a family" to mean "have children," you inadvertently send a message that people without kids are... family-less. Family comes in many forms: significant others, parents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, neighbors -- happily, the list goes on!

3. "I only invited other parents."
Having children is the norm, and people who are childfree can sometimes feel isolated or excluded. So invite us to birthday parties! Sure, there are some people who just don't like kids and have no desire to spend an afternoon surrounded by them. They can decline the invitation, and the rest of us will cheer when the birthday boy takes his first bite of cupcake.

4. "Are you hung-over?"
If you had kids when you were on the younger side, you may have transitioned abruptly from staying out bar-hopping to night feedings and Yo Gabba Gabba -- and years later, you may assume that we're still acting like our crazy twentysomething selves. But just because we don't have kids doesn't mean we aren't growing up.

5. "You're so lucky you get to sleep in/shop/travel."
We understand that you give up a lot to be the amazing parent you are -- and we do appreciate our extra cash and free time, and god, yes, the sleep. But too many offhand comments like this make us feel like you assume the reason we don't have children is that we're lazy, selfish, or shallow. The decision is never that simple.

6. "This must be birth control for you."
Parents often make this joke when their kid is being loud or persistent, and we understand it's because you're worried the situation is bugging the hell out of everyone around you. Don't stress -- a good friend understands that your kid is going to have a meltdown once in a while. We can take it. And, of course, a crying toddler is not actually a tipping point in our decision to have kids. We're not that shortsighted.

7. "Your dog/cat/parakeet is your baby."
Pets are a huge part of many people's lives, whether or not those people have children. But it feels like a consolation prize when you put it like this. That said, ask about my cat; I'm happy to pull up my latest photo of her adorableness.

8. "I can't die; I'm a mom."
During a recent brief terrorism scare in New York City, a friend said to me, "I have to get out -- I can't die; I'm a mom." We know you have someone depending on you in an unprecedented way, but there are people who love and depend on us, too.

9. "I'm sorry it's taken forever for me to call/email/text you back."
Don't start every correspondence with an apology. Your life is insane and letting us know you want to make time for us is appreciated. But don't stress so much: My life is busy too, and more often than not, I didn't even notice a lag.

10. "You wouldn't understand."
We know there are many things about parenting you will turn to your mom friends to talk about. And, honestly, with anyone other than a close friend, that's probably best -- I lose interest fast when someone I don't know well talks too much about their kids. But when we're real friends, don't let our relationship fade because you're afraid of boring us with parenting stuff. Just like we used to listen to you talk about your ex, we want to hear about what's important in your life now. And we hope you'll do the same for us.

^ I agree with these items. Parents should not discard their friends because they have children. On the other hand, people without kids shouldn't discard their friends that do either. ^