Tuesday, January 31, 2012

London's Disabilty App

From the BBC:
"Disability app designed by London terrorism survivor"

A severely injured survivor of the 7/7 bombings has created a smartphone app to help people with disabilities travel around London more easily. Daniel Biddle lost both his legs, spleen and left eye after a bomb exploded on a tube train in July 2005. His Ldn Access app details step-free access, ramps and usable toilet facilities at thousands of venues. Mr Biddle says he created it after finding that his wheelchair had made many venues become inaccessible. "What happened on 7/7 robbed me of the ability to just go anywhere," he said. "I can think of numerous instances where I've stopped somewhere to use the toilet or gone to a restaurant only to find it is impossible. There is such a lack of useful information for people in a wheelchair, those with learning difficulties or people with a visual or hearing impairment."
Venues covered by the program include hotels, theatres, restaurants, pubs and attractions. The app was created with the help of Mr Biddle's friend Tobi Collett. It works by using location-based technology to pinpoint where a user is, providing intuitive icons and simple terminology to make their choices from, breaking down bigger categories such as restaurants into smaller specific ones such as Chinese or Indian. Mr Biddle said: "We made the app very intuitive because someone with dexterity problems, or arthritis in their hands, may not be able to type out long words. It's just a simple push on a simple icon." The app also contains a section devoted to the Olympics, with accessibility information for each venue and nearby places to visit. It also works offline, meaning even being underground on the Tube is no barrier to knowing where it is possible to get off easily. The developers have plans to offer accessibility apps for other UK cities

^ This is a great idea. The more information that the disabled have to make their lives just a little easier is a great thing. London is at the forefront of disability accessibility (the taxis can hold wheelchairs inside) but there is still work that needs to be done. I would like to see the same kind of app made for cities around the world - like New York, DC, etc. It would be even better is local and Federal governments to do more to add the disabled. ^


Canadian Mandatory Voting

From Yahoo Canada:
"Is it time for mandatory voting in Canada?"

The new session of parliament began Monday, with many on the left of the political spectrum spewing old arguments about the 'legitimacy' of the Harper majority.
After all, they argue, only 60 per cent of the population voted in the last election and of those only 40 per cent voted for the Conservatives. So essentially, about 25 per cent of the voting population gave the Conservatives their majority.
Regardless of the fuzzy math, maybe it's time for Canada to consider mandatory voting. In an article published in the Chronicle Herald on Sunday, political science professor Peter McKenna says Canadians have become political dropouts. "If voting is not an integral component of our democratic polity, as would seem to be the case as more and more Canadians choose to forfeit that right, then Canadians will most assuredly get the government that they don't deserve," McKenna, who teaches at the University of Prince Edward Island wrote. McKenna suggests that before it's too late, we need to follow the lead of other countries and introduce mandatory voting in Canada. "Before you dismiss this proposal, remember voting is already mandatory in over 30 countries. Liberal democracies like Australia, Belgium and Switzerland have well-established compulsory voting systems," he wrote. "Australia routinely garners voter participation rates of 95 per cent, which puts us to shame. Citizens there can be fined (about $20) for not voting without a sufficient reason or justification. And if the nominal fine is not paid after several warning letters, offenders could face possible jail time.

^ This is just plain stupid. I guess people are trying to say that the true face of democracy is forcing people to vote. I personally think that everyone should vote and that those that don't have no claim to make any comments (good or bad) about the government, but making people vote and punishing those that don't is not the way - regardless what they do in Australia. Canada (and countries like the US) need to find ways to get the public interested in politics and voting again - all the current political and economical problems are forcing people away the answer is not forcing them to vote, but fix the problems themselves. ^


Universal Card Delayed

From Moscow Times:
"Universal Card Delayed Until at Least 2013"

The universal electronic card demonstrated by President Dmitry Medvedev in the spring of last year is facing delays, with the rollout that was scheduled for this month being pushed to January of 2013. The card, which is supposed to serve as a combination of an electronic ID, driver's license, car insurance certificate, ATM card and migration document, among other possible functions, is the expected result of a project the government estimates will cost as much as 150 billion rubles to 170 billion rubles ($5.2 billion to $5.6 billion) to put in the hands of every citizen.
Limited initial use of the card was to take place beginning in 2012, but the law that set up the project was amended in December to allow for a one-year delay.
The Communications and Press Ministry set up the Universal Electronic Cards company, or UEC, to run the card program. A spokesman for UEC told The Moscow Times that the program will begin to function next year and that this year will be spent organizing the places that will receive applications for the card. Application sites are expected to be set up at post offices, banks, commercial centers and other locations.
A ministry spokesman confirmed that infrastructure for the project is just beginning to be created, and only four out of 83 regions having begun work on it.
The current card distribution plan foresees them being given out in the course of 2013 to those who apply for them. The following year they will be issued to all citizens, unless a person makes a written statement of refusal. There are concerns about the public's willingness to adopt the card. Medvedev said last year that the risk of identity theft was an issue for the universal smart card. The card's official website states that the universal electronic card will be safe, since the card itself does not hold any sensitive information. Such data will, as is done now, be stored in government databases so that even if the card is lost or stolen, there is no risk that sensitive personal information will be lost. The card is simply a faster more convenient way to access this information. This is scant reassurance in a country where classified government databases can be freely purchased online or at electronics markets. Sberbank, who own a 34 percent share in Universal Electronic Cards, says the smart card itself poses no security risk.

^ I don't think this is a very good idea. I can see Russia changing its internal passport from the booklet form it now uses to a credit card-sized document, but I don't think it should have all the other information that the government wants to put on it (such as a driver's license or ATM card.) The government should focus on the basic card first and get that perfect before adding everything else. ^


100,000 US Soliders Dumped

From the BBC:
"US to cut almost 100,000 troops"

The US will cut almost 100,000 troops as part of its plans for a "smaller, leaner" military, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has announced. Unveiling a restructure of the armed forces, Mr Panetta said the US would boost special forces and retain the ability to defeat "any enemy on land". The Pentagon is facing cuts of $487bn (£310bn) over the next 10 years. In five years, the Army will drop from a peak of 570,000 to 490,000, and the marines be cut by 20,000, to 182,000. Leon Panetta admitted this had been tough work, but he called this a strategic turning point, arguing the changes were necessary to meet 21st century challenges. A decade of war has seen ballooning defence budgets. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, it makes sense to take stock and see how best to reconfigure what is still the world's most formidable military. Focus would shift from large-scale conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to areas of key national interest, he said, including a strengthened commitment in Asia. US special forces that were previously committed to Iraq will now be used around the globe, Mr Panetta said. Such elite teams have become a key part of US strategy, killing Osama Bin Laden last year and rescuing hostages this week in Somalia. Mr Panetta said there would be funding for a floating base that would serve special operations forces as well as drone units.

^ I don't see Panetta actually making the military into what he is trying to say it will be. It seems like Communism - good on paper, but not going to happen. Clinton kicked out soldiers from the military in the 1990s and did an awful job - which made us less secure. I get the feeling that Obama is going to do the same here. ^


Friday, January 27, 2012

Norway's Holocaust Apology

From the BBC:
"Norway apologises for deporting Jews during Holocaust'

The Norwegian prime minister has apologised for the role his country played in deporting its own Jews as Europe marks Holocaust Remembrance Day. "Norwegians carried out the arrests, Norwegians drove the trucks and it happened in Norway," Jens Stoltenberg said in a speech. It is believed to be the first time a Norwegian leader has been so explicit about collusion under Nazi occupation. More than a third of Norway's 2,100 Jews were deported to death camps. Others fled to neighbouring Sweden, which remained neutral during World War II. Norway acknowledged its role in the Holocaust in 1998 and paid some $60m (£38m) to Norwegian Jews and Jewish organisations in compensation for property seized. However, the payout fell short of a full apology. Mr Stoltenberg delivered his speech at the dock in the capital Oslo where 532 Jews boarded the cargo ship Donau on 26 November 1942, bound for Nazi camps."Today I feel it is fitting for me to express our deepest apologies that this could happen on Norwegian soil," he said in the speech, translated into English on the prime minister's website. "It is time for us to acknowledge that Norwegian policemen, civil servants and other Norwegians took part in the arrest and deportation of Jews." He added that he was sorry to see that the "ideas that led to the Holocaust [were] still very much alive today". "All over the world we see that individuals and groups are spreading intolerance and fear," he said. Paul Levine, a history professor at Uppsala University in Sweden, likened Norway's role during the war to that of the Vichy regime in Nazi-occupied France. "They implemented their own anti-Jewish laws, used their own manpower, confiscated property and discriminated against Jews before the Germans had demanded it," he told Reuters news agency.

^ I am glad that the government of Norway has finally officially apologized for its role in the Holocaust during the German Occupation. Every country occupied by the Germans during the war had collaborators (whether they were in service to their national government or not) that helped the Germans carry out their plans and policies and so every country occupied (along with Germany itself) is responsibile for the Holocaust in its own way and should admit their guilt, work to make things better for the few survivors still around and officially apoligize. It has been 67 years since the end of the war and this is long overdue. ^


Germans Mark Holocaust Day

From Deutsche Welle:
"Germany marks Holocaust Memorial Day with an appeal not to forget"

Germany marked Holocaust Memorial Day on Friday with a special session of parliament and a call for the nation's citizens never to forget the danger posed by right-wing extremism. The president of the German parliament called on Germans to actively stand up to all forms of right-wing extremism, speaking on the 67th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. "It is these people who set an example and demonstrate courage," Bundestag President Norbert Lammert said in remarks commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Memorial Day falls on the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet forces on January 27, 1945. His comments follow a move to set up a parliamentary inquiry into a series of murders of nine foreign immigrants and a policewoman by an underground neo-Nazi gang. This week, a survey conducted in Germany also found that 20 percent of Germans had latent anti-Semitic feelings. "That is 20 percent too many," said Lammert. In a moving speech in the Bundestag, the prominent Polish-born German literary critic, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, reminded parliament of the systematic torture and organized mass murder of European Jews launched by Germany under Nazi leader, Adolf Hitler. Reich-Ranicki, who is 91 and frail, grew up in a Jewish family and later survived the Nazi purge of the Warsaw ghetto. "They had only one goal; they had only one purpose - death," he said referring to Nazi claims at the time that they were simply resettling Jews. The Germans set up the Warsaw ghetto in November 1940, cramming hundreds of thousands of Jews into the district under appalling conditions. Most of those who survived that fate soon found themselves confronted with another: the transportation to death camps, like Auschwitz and Treblinka. The Nazis finally burned the Warsaw ghetto to the ground in April 1943. Prior to his appearance in the Bundestag, Reich-Ranicki told the Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper that he had mixed feeling about his speech. "I don't know if I can do it, if I am up to the task to talk about the fate of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto. A day never goes by without thinking about it," he said.

^ It is good that Germany continues to officially recognize and remember the Holocaust since the Germans were the ones who planned and carried it out. This year more should be done regarding the government report that states that 1 in 5 Germans are anti-semitic. There are still thousands upon thousands of Germans alive today that were 18 or older in 1945 and helped (either actively or passively) the Nazis to carry out the murder of millions upon millions of innocent of men, women and children. While Germany has done a good amount in the past few years to bring former Nazis to trial more still needs to be done. ^


Holocaust Remembrance Day

From Wikipedia:

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Here is a list of Holocaust Museums around the world.

Museo del Holocausto de Buenos Aires (Holocaust Memorial Museum, Buenos Aires)

The Jewish Museum Holocaust and Research Centre(Melbourne, Victoria)
Sydney Jewish Museum (Sydney, New South Wales)

The Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service
The Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial (Vienna)
Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial,(Mauthausen)

The Pit, a memorial in Minsk

The Jewish Museum of Deportation and the Resistance (Mechelen)

Holocaust victims memorial at São Paulo cemetery (São Paulo)

The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria

The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre (Montreal)
The Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre (Toronto)
The Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre[5] (Vancouver)

The Memorial to the Holocaust of Murdered Serbs and Jews in Jasenovac (Jasenovac)

Holocaust memorial at the site of Klooga concentration camp (Klooga)
Memorial at the site of Kalevi-Liiva (Jägala)

Musée départemental de Résistance et Déportation[6] (Agen)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Charente) (Angoulême)
Musée de la Résistance d’Anterrieux (Anterrieux)
Centre de la résistance et de la déportation du Pays d’Arles (Arles)
The Museum of the Resistance and Deportation (Besançon)
Musée de la Résistance, de la Déportation et de la Libération du Loir-et-Cher(Blois)
Musée de la Résistance de Bondues au Fort Lobau (Nord) (Bondues)
Centre Jean Moulin (Bordeaux)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Bourges et du Cher (Bourges)
Centre National d’Etudes de la Résistance et de la Déportation Edmond Michelet (Brive-la-Gaillarde)
Mémorial de Caen(Caen)
Musée de la Résistance (Castellane)
Centre régional de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Castelnau-le-Lez (Hérault)(Castelnau-le-Lez)
Musée du souvenir de Châlons (Marne) (Châlons-en-Champagne)
Musée de la Résistance, de l’Internement et de la Déportation de Chamalières (Chamalières)
Musée de la Résistance Nationale de Champigny-sur-Marne (Champigny-sur-Marne)
Musée de la Résistance de Châteaubriant-Voves-Rouillé (Châteaubriant)
Mémorial du Vercors (Vassieux-en-Vercors)
Mémorial Charles de Gaulle(Colombey-les-Deux-Églises)
Mémorial de l’internement et de la déportation (Compiègne)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Fargniers)
Musée Départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Forges-les-Eaux (Forges-les-Eaux)
Musée de la Résistance, de la Déportation et de la Seconde Guerre mondiale (Frugières-le-Pin)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de l’Isère (Grenoble)
Maison d’Izieu mémorial des enfants juifs exterminés (Izieu)
Musée départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Loiret) (Lorris)
Centre d'histoire de la résistance et de la déportation (Lyon)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Tarn-et-Garonne) (Montauban)
Musée Bourbonnais de la Résistance Nationale (Allier) (Montluçon)
Musée de l’histoire vivante (Montreuil)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation (Nantua)
Musée de la Résistance Henri Queuille (Corrèze) (Neuvic)
Centre de recherche et d’étude azuréen du Musée de la Résistance Nationale (Nice)
Centre de la mémoire d’Oradour-sur-Glane, village martyr (Oradour-sur-Glane)
Mémorial du Maréchal Leclerc de Hauteclocque et de la Libération de Paris et Musée Jean Moulin (Paris)
Musée de l’Ordre de la Libération(Paris)
Centre de documentation juive contemporaine & Mémorial de la Shoah, (Paris)
Musée de la Résistance (Peyrat-le-Château)
Musée de la reddition de Reims (Reims)
Musée pyrénéen de la Résistance et de la Libération, dans l’Ariège (Rimont)
Centre Historique de la Résistance en Drôme et de la Déportation de Romans (Romans-sur-Isère)
Musée de la Résistance en Morvan (Saint-Brisson)
Mémorial de la Résistance et de la Déportation de la Loire (Saint-Étienne)
Musée de la Résistance bretonne (Saint-Marcel)
Le Centre européen du Résistant déporté au Struthof (Natzwiller)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation(Tarbes)
Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation de Picardie(Tergnier)
Musée Départemental de la Résistance (Thônes (La Balme-de-Thuy))
Centre Régional Résistance et Liberté (Deux-Sèvres) (Thouars)
Musée départemental de la Résistance et de la Déportation(Toulouse)
Musée vauzélien de la Résistance Nationale (Nièvre)(Varennes-Vauzelles)
Musée départemental de la déportation et de l’internement (Varilhes)
Mémorial de la Résistance (Vassieux-en-Vercors)
Musée de la Résistance (Rosine Perrier) (Villargondran)

The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Berlin)
Französische Kapelle des Oflag VI A (Soest)

Holocaust memorial outside of the archaeological site of Kerameikos (Athens)

The Budapest Holocaust Memorial Center (Budapest)

The Ani Ma'amin Holocaust Museum (Jerusalem)
Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority (Jerusalem)
The Forest of the Martyrs (Jerusalem)
The Ghetto Fighters' House (Western Galilee)
Massuah- Institute for Holocaust Studies (Tel-Yizhaq)

Museo della Deportazione (Prato)
Museo della Shoah (Rome)

Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia in Skopje

The Anne Frank House (Amsterdam)
The Hollandsche Schouwburg (Amsterdam)
The Jewish Historical Museum (Amsterdam)

The Auschwitz Jewish Center (Oświęcim)
Radegast railway station (Łódź)

South Africa
The Cape Town Holocaust Centre (Cape Town)
The Durban Holocaust Centre (Durban)
The Johannesburg Holocaust And Genocide Centre(Johannesburg)

The Stockholm Holocaust Monument (Stockholm)

United Kingdom
Beth Shalom Holocaust Centre (Nottinghamshire)
The Imperial War Museum Holocaust Exhibition in London
The Institute of Contemporary History and Wiener Library (London)
The Hyde Park Holocaust memorial, in Hyde Park, London.

United States
The Holocaust Memorial Museum of San Antonio[61](San Antonio)
The Kennesaw State University Museum of History and Holocaust Education(Kennesaw, Georgia)
The William Breman Jewish Heritage & Holocaust Museum(Atlanta)
The Baltimore Holocaust Memorial, (Baltimore)
The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education & Tolerance (Dallas)
The Children's Holocaust Memorial and Paper Clip Project at Whitwell Middle School (Whitwell, Tennessee)
The Cybrary of the Holocaust
The Desert Holocaust Memorial (Palm Desert, California)
The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center,(El Paso)
The Florida Holocaust Museum (St. Petersburg, Florida)
The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center(Philadelphia)
The Holocaust History Project
The Holocaust Memorial Center (Detroit)
The Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach (Miami Beach)
The Holocaust Memorial at California Palace of the Legion of Honor (San Francisco)
The Holocaust and Tolerance Museum (Chandler, Arizona)
Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center (Skokie, Illinois)
The Jewish Foundation for the Righteous
Liberation (Holocaust memorial),New Jersey's Liberty State Park
The Museum of Tolerance (Los Angeles)
The New England Holocaust Memorial (Boston)
The New Mexico Holocaust & Intolerance Museum (Albuquerque)
The Nizkor Project
Oregon Holocaust Memorial (Portland, Oregon)
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (Los Angeles)
The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation at University of Southern California (Los Angeles)
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (Washington, D.C.)
The Virginia Holocaust Museum (Richmond, Virginia)
Museum of Jewish Heritage (New York City)
Holocaust Center of Northern California (San Francisco)
Holocaust Museum Houston (Houston)
Holocaust Memorial for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania)
Holocaust Memorial (Milwaukee)


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Germans Admit Anti-Semitism

From the BBC:
"German anti-Semitism 'deep-rooted' in society"

Anti-Jewish feeling is "significantly" entrenched in German society, according to a report by experts appointed by the Bundestag (parliament). They say the internet has played a key role in spreading Holocaust denial, far-right and extreme Islamist views, according to the DPA news agency. They also speak of "a wider acceptance in mainstream society of day-to-day anti-Jewish tirades and actions". The expert group was set up in 2009 to report regularly on anti-Semitism. The findings of their report were that anti-Jewish sentiment was "based on widespread prejudice, deeply-rooted cliches and also on plain ignorance of Jews and Judaism". Clearly, Germany is a particular case when it comes to anti-Semitism because of its history. Some Jewish groups, though, praise the government for what they see as its unambiguous, loud condemnation. But anti-Semitism remains. One Jewish group in Germany greeted the latest report by saying: "We need new ways of dealing with the past. It is necessary for politicians and the education system in Germany to deal with the National Socialist past." They added that the chanting of far-right slogans at football matches was a regular occurrence. The report's authors put Germany midway in their assessment of other European countries in relation to the spread of anti-Semitism. They see extremely high levels of anti-Jewish sentiment in parts of Poland, Hungary and Portugal. Germany's Jewish population has experienced something of a revival since the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before 1989, the population was below 30,000 but an influx of Jews, mainly from the former Soviet Union, has raised the number to 200,000. Speaking on Friday to mark the anniversary of the 1942 Wannsee conference, when the Nazis' murder of millions of Jews was mapped out, President Christian Wulff pledged that Germany would keep the memory of the Holocaust alive and would never abandon the Jewish people

^ This is not surprising to me in the least after living and travelling around Germany. I'm not saying that every German is an anti-semite, but believe that large majorities (especially in eastern Germany) do not like foreigners and view Jews as foreign. The thing that did surprise me was that the German Government officially admits to the problem. That is the first and best step the country can do if they want to really crack-down on the problem. I hope that the situation improves for everyone - German, Jews and foreigner - within Germany. That won't happen until Germany and the EU fix it's unemployment and financial problems. When people have work and money they tend not to go after groups as scapegoats to their problems (the unemployment in Germany in the 1930s brought the Nazis to power.) ^


Croatia's Yes To EU

From USA Today:
"Croatia says 'yes' to joining European Union"

Croatia's state referendum commission says a majority of Croats have voted in favor of joining the debt-stricken European Union. Officials say that with about 30 percent of the ballot calculated, about 67 percent of those who took part in the referendum Sunday answered "yes" to the question: "Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?" About 32 percent were against, while the rest of the ballots were invalid. About 42 percent of eligible voters took part in the referendum, illustrating voters' apathy toward the 27-nation bloc. Croatia signed an EU accession treaty last year and will become its 28th member in July 2013 after all the bloc's states ratify the deal.

^ I can understand why some Croatians didn't want to join the EU right now since it seems to be imploding - especially the Eurozone (which Croatia would eventually be forced to join) - but it seems the majority want to be in the EU. Croatia will be the second former Yugoslav republic (after Slovenia) to be in the EU. I looked at the results for the different regions and saw that the referendum just passed in the Dubrovnik area. I was there in December 2010 and really liked the people and the area and was a little surprised to see that they didn't really want to be in the EU. Hopefully, when Croatia joins the EU next year things will be better and the country will prosper. ^


Friday, January 20, 2012

Wannsee Conference: 70

From Deutsche Welle:
"German president says remembering Holocaust a 'national duty'"

Germany has marked the 70th anniversary of the Wannsee Conference, where Nazi officials planned the 'Final Solution.' Referring to a recent series of neo-Nazi crimes, President Christian Wulff vowed to fight xenophobia. Dignitaries from around the world gathered on Friday to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Nazi conference that planned the systematic murder of millions of Jews during World War II. Friday's ceremony was held at the villa on the Wannsee lake on the outskirts of Berlin, which is now a Holocaust memorial. It was there that 15 senior Nazi officials adopted the "Final Solution" on January 20, 1942 - a plan approving the organizational details of how to register and transport Jews from across Europe to be killed in concentration camps. President Christian Wulff referred to the plan as the "darkest chapter of German history" and called the memorial site, which opened as a museum in 1992, "a place of German shame." He assured visiting dignitaries, including Israeli minister without portfolio Yossi Peled, that modern Germany would come to the aid of Jews worldwide if they were facing persecution. Referring to the recent discovery of xenophobic crimes in Germany, Wulff promised that hatred towards foreigners would not be allowed to take root.

^ This is a somber anniversary - as most anniversaries dealing with Germany seem to be. It is widely known that the Germans were killing Jews, Gypsies, Gays, the Disabled, Communists and Soviet POWs long before the Wannsee Conference in 1942. I went to Babi Yar in Kiev and saw where the largest mass murder (around 33,000) of Jews in a single day of the Holocaust. At Babi Yar and at other sites throughout Eastern Europe the Germans and local collaborators shot each person. The Germans wanted a faster and "easier" way to kill people without having to shot them at close range. What makes the Wannsee Conference unique and horrific at the same time is that it was the first time in the history of the world that a government in power sat down and decided just how to kill millions upon millions of people in a short amount of time and in a cost-effective way. The result of the Conference is the second part of the Holocaust - the death camps. The idea of herding Jews into ghettos or labor camps and working them to death or shooting them at close range in a ravine was brushed aside as ineffective and the idea of large-scale gas chambers and crematoriums were put in their place. With all the German Government agencies (from the bottom - up) were involved in this process as the Wannsee Conference shows - so there is no doubt in my mind that the ordinary German did not know about the murder of the Jews and other "sub-humans." ^


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wikipedia Editors Speak Out

From Yahoo:
"Wikipedia editors question site's planned blackout"

Can the world live without Wikipedia for a day? The shutdown of one of the Internet's most-visited sites is not sitting well with some of its volunteer editors, who say the protest of anti-piracy legislation could threaten the credibility of their work. "My main concern is that it puts the organization in the role of advocacy, and that's a slippery slope," said editor Robert Lawton, a Michigan computer consultant who would prefer that the encyclopedia stick to being a neutral repository of knowledge. "Before we know it, we're blacked out because we want to save the whales." Wikipedia's English-language site shut down at midnight Eastern Standard Time Tuesday and the organization said it would stay down for 24 hours. Instead of encyclopedia articles, visitors to the site saw a stark black-and-white page with the message: "Imagine a world without free knowledge." It carried a link to information about the two congressional bills and details about how to reach lawmakers. It is the first time the English site has been blacked out. Wikipedia's Italian site came down once briefly in protest to an Internet censorship bill put forward by the Berlusconi government. The bill did not advance. The shutdown adds to a growing body of critics who are speaking out against the legislation. But some editors are so uneasy with the move that they have blacked out their own user profile pages or resigned their administrative rights on the site to protest. Some likened the site's decision to fighting censorship with censorship. One of the site's own "five pillars" of conduct says that Wikipedia "is written from a neutral point of view." The site strives to "avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them." Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales argues that the site can maintain neutrality in content even as it takes public positions on issues. "The encyclopedia will always be neutral. The community need not be, not when the encyclopedia is threatened," he tweeted.

^ I completely agree with the editors since it makes Wikipedia go against its own code of conduct and makes it no longer neutral. I haven't used Wiki at all today and have lived just fine without it. Maybe this little stunt will backfire on Wikipedia and will show people they can get their information from other places - like we did before Wiki. ^


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Betty White @ 90

Today Betty White turns 90. I have to say that I never really watched any of her early work on "Mary Taylor Moore," " The Carol Burnett Show" or any of the game shows she was on. I wasn't born when she was on those and didn't care for the reruns. I did like seeing her on "Mama's Family." I remember my Grandmom watching her on "The Golden Girls."
It seems that lately she has been on everything from SNL to commericals. I like her now more than before. She is pretty funny. I watched the her birthday special on TV yesterday - it was ok, but very rehearsed. After her special was a program about seniors pranking young people - that was very funny.
I hope that she continues being funny for many years.

Costa Concordia

From the BBC:
"Costa Concordia salvage to begin"

Salvage work is expected to begin later on Wednesday on the Costa Concordia, as hopes fade that any more survivors will be found on the striken cruise ship. Rescuers have been through almost all of the ship that remains above the water line and experts believe there is little risk of a major fuel leak. Eleven bodies have been recovered so far and 24 people are missing. The captain of the Italian ship, Francesco Schettino is under house arrest, accused of causing the crash.

^ This gives me one more reason why I never want to go on a cruise. At first it was just because of the confined location, the fear of being left on-shore, having to eat with a bunch of strangers and hearing about all the people who get food poisoning. I don't think I will think of taking a cruise anytime soon. As for the captain he should be charged with abandoning the passengers and his ship, for the deaths and for causing the accident. The crew also need to be investigated and see what they did wrong. ^


Wiki Block

From the BBC:
"Wikipedia joins web blackout in Sopa protest"

Wikipedia plans to take its English-language site offline on Wednesday as part of protests against proposed anti-piracy laws in the US. The site webmaster are opposed to the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) and Protect Intellectual Property Act (Pipa) being debated by Congress. Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, told the BBC: "Proponents of Sopa have characterised the opposition as being people who want to enable piracy or defend piracy. "But that's not really the point. The point is the bill is so over broad and so badly written that it's going to impact all kinds of things that, you know, don't have anything to do with stopping piracy." Sopa's supporters in the House of Representatives say the legislation is designed to stop revenue flowing to "rogue websites". A similar bill, Pipa, is making its way through the US Senate. On Saturday the White House issued a statement that appeared to side with critics of the legislation. It said: "While we believe that online piracy by foreign websites is a serious problem that requires a serious legislative response, we will not support legislation that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global internet." Despite the hint of a presidential veto, Wikipedia said that the English site's administrators had decided to stage its first ever public protest because the bills "would be devastating to the free and open web".

^ Wikipedia may not like these proposed new bills, but it seems pretty dumb for them to force the English-speaking world that uses Wiki to stop using it for a day. There are more effective ways to voice your opinion about these bills and others. I don't think a day without Wikipedia will affect me or those I know, but will probably make some people go stir crazy. I really wish that the people who run Wikipedia had asked the opinions of users before they decided to speak for us. ^


Monday, January 16, 2012

Direct Air Links?

Many countries (including the United States) have dependent territories around the world. I saw a news story on the TV that said the true way for a dependent territory to show its allegiance to the "mother country" in the 21st Century is whether they have direct air travel to the "mother country" or not. So I decided to look up a few and see whether they did or not.
Note: The "mother country" is in bold.

- Christmas Island = Yes
- Cocos Islands = No
- Norfolk island = Yes

- Faroe Islands = Yes
- Greenland = Yes

- Guadeloupe = Yes
- Martinique = Yes
- Mayotte = Yes
- Reunion = Yes
- French Guiana = Yes
- French Polynesia = Yes
- New Caledonia = Yes
- Saint Barthelemy = No
- Saint Martin = No
- Saint Pierre and Miquelon = No
- Wallis and Futuna = No

- Aruba = Yes
- Bonaire = Yes
- Curacao = Yes
- Saba = No
- Sint Eustatius = No
- Sint Maarten = Yes

New Zealand:
- Cook Islands = Yes
- Niue = Yes
- Tokelau = No

United Kingdom:
- Anguilla = No
- Cayman Islands = Yes
- Gibraltar = Yes
- Montserrat = No
- Pitcain Islands = No
- Turks and Caicos Islands = Yes
- Saint Helena = No
- Ascension = Yes
- South Georgia = No
- Bermuda = Yes
- British Virgin Islands = No
- Falkland Islands = Yes
- Akrotiri = No
- Guernsey = Yes
- Jersey = Yes
- Isle of Man = Yes

United States:
- American Samoa = Yes
- Guam = Yes
- Northern Mariana Islands = No
- Puerto Rico = Yes
- US Virgin Islands = Yes

I don't know if you can show your allegiance by having a direct air link or if your geographical location helps to determine whether you have an airport and if that airport can accommodate a large plane needed to fly the distance to the "mother country." Regardless, you would think that if a territory wanted its independence then it could usually vote for it and gain it.

Bilingual Canada: Expensive

From Yahoo Canada:
"Bilingualism costs taxpayers $2.4 billion a year"

Being a bilingual country doesn't come cheap. French language services (and English language services in Quebec), such as education, translation, and bilingual signage and forms cost Canadian taxpayers $2.4 billion a year, according to a new report released by the Fraser Institute. Provincially, Ontario spends the most - $623 million annually — the most among all provinces. New Brunswick has the second largest budget for minority language services, $85 million, followed by Quebec at $50 million. Of the remaining provinces, Alberta spends $33 million on bilingual services ($534.70 per francophone), B.C. spends $23 million ($426.90 per francophone), Nova Scotia spends $18 million ($540.10 per francophone), Manitoba spends $16 million ($410.20 per francophone), Saskatchewan spends $9.65 million ($640.50 per francophone), Prince Edward Island spends $5.1 million ($946.20 per francophone), and Newfoundland and Labrador spends $3.4 million ($1780.30 per francophone). The bulk of the provincial expenditures, 58 per cent, were earmarked for primary and secondary school instruction. The report comes at a time when the proportion of francophones is actually declining throughout Canada.

^ I go back and forth on whether I like bilingualism or not. In the case of Canada, I think it is important to give English-speakers English language services in Quebec and French-speakers French language services throughout the country. The varied French-British history created the country and so each group should be able to communicate in their own language. I think French-speakers should learn English and English-speakers should learn French. In the case of the US I do not support bilingualism and believe that English should be the official Federal language of the country. I do think Americans should learn a foreign language for when we travel or do business overseas, but do not think we should have to within our own country. While Canada and the US seem the same on the surface they are very different and so while I think bilingualism is good in Canada I don't like it in the United States. ^


Danish Queen: 40 Years

From BBC:
"Denmark's Queen Margrethe marks 40 years"

"She's hopelessly old-fashioned and very Danish." The verdict of a local tabloid this week on Queen Margrethe II was not meant unkindly. She is a symbol of what we love about being Danish, the paper said. The queen is known affectionately as Daisy. Now 71, she is an accomplished artist and a heavy smoker. She does not use a mobile phone or the internet declaring herself "very happy" without them.Queen Margrethe remains very popular amongst Danes.But as the queen prepares to celebrate 40 years on the throne on Saturday, she has told the BBC that she is more convinced than ever that hereditary monarchy has a role to play in modern society. "We represent a very long story, and that's the story of our own country," she said. Opinion polls suggest strong support in Denmark for Europe's oldest continuous monarchy, and the Queen has made it clear that she has no intention of stepping down to allow her son, Crown Prince Frederik, to succeed her. "You are handed your job as the old king or queen dies," she said. "It is not a life sentence, but a life of service." In an interview in the Great Hall of the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, Queen Margrethe also spoke of her lasting admiration for Queen Elizabeth, who celebrates 60 years on the British throne in a few months' time. "Right from the start, even before she was queen, she talked about dedicating herself to her nation," she said. "And I felt that very much 40 years ago, that day when I was proclaimed, that I must somehow understand that I must dedicate my life to my nation like she has done. And in that way she has been very important to me." The Danish jubilee will see a weekend of celebrations including religious ceremonies, a gala banquet and a coach ride through the streets of Copenhagen, with an escort by the Royal Danish Hussar Guard Regiment.
But while plenty of royal pageantry will be on display, the queen has also been given credit for making sure the monarchy changes with the times. "We can be very relaxed in our relationship with the Danish people," she said. "And I feel extraordinarily privileged."

^ It seems that in some countries having a monarchy enhances everything within that country. This seems to be the case in Denmark. ^


Friday, January 13, 2012

US-Burma Ambassadors

From the BBC:
"US to exchange ambassadors with Burma"

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that Washington will start the process of exchanging ambassadors with Burma. The announcement came hours after the country's most prominent political dissidents were released from jail. US President Barack Obama described the move as a "substantial step forward". The move is seen as one of the key demands of Western nations before international sanctions can be eased. The US stopped short of lifting them. Mr Obama said he had asked officials to take "additional steps to build confidence" with Burma. "Much more remains to be done to meet the aspirations of the Burmese people, but the United States is committed to continuing our engagement," he said.

^ It seems that Burma wants to finally end its isolation with the international community. First Burma released political prisioners (many held since 1988) and on the surface seems to want to allow for a more liberal government. I hope these changes come about in real terms and not merely on paper. ^


Libya's Money: No Kadhafi

From Yahoo News:
"Libya withdraws notes bearing Kadhafi image"

The central bank of Libya said on Friday it is withdrawing from circulation the 50-dinar note which bears the picture of slain dictator Moamer Kadhafi wearing tinted glasses. The bank's governor Al-Seddiq Omar al-Kabir told reporters that Libyans have until March 15 to hand the note in to banks, and the bills will in turn be forwarded to the central bank. Kabir said the central bank is attempting "to erase the bad traces of the dead tyrant's rule" by removing the note from the monetary system. It will also gradually withdraw the 20-dinar and one-dinar notes. On the 20-dinar bill, Kadhafi is shown standing with several heads of state, including Tunisia's ousted president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. And the one-dinar note has a picture of a smiling Kadhafi wearing a headscarf and with one hand on his left cheek.
"The one- and 20-dinar notes will be phased out because these images remind the Libyans of the time of the dictatorship," the media manager of the central bank, Issam Buajila, told AFP.

^ It makes sense to get rid of the currency that has the old dictator's picture on it. One thing that I am a little confussed about is when it says that "Libyans will have until March 15th to hand the note to banks" but it doesn't say they will get anything in return for handing in the old bills. Hopefully it will be an equal exchange. ^


US: Auf Wiedersehen Europa

From Yahoo News:
"US to withdraw about 7,000 troops from Europe"

The United States plans to withdraw about 7,000 US troops of the 81,000 troops based in Europe, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. In an interview with the Armed Forces Press Service, Panetta said two brigade combat teams, or roughly 7,000 US troops, would be withdrawn from Europe, but rotational units would still maintain strong military presence in the region. The move is part of a 10-year defense strategy that President Barack Obama presented on January 5, giving strategic priority to the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions.

^ What no one in Obama's government is saying about this is "What will happen to the 7,000 soldiers after they leave Germany?" The could be transferred to Asia or the Middle East. They could be sent back to the US for good or they could be discharged from the military. I can understand the first two choices, but not the last. Hopefully, the 7,000 soldiers and their families will be taken care of and continue to have a job once they leave Germany. ^


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Royal Headscarf

From the BBC:
"Dutch Queen Beatrix calls headscarf row 'nonsense'"

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has dismissed as "real nonsense" a domestic political row over her wearing of a headscarf while on a trip to the Gulf. She was reacting to questions in parliament tabled by Geert Wilders's Freedom Party (PVV) which claimed she "legitimises the oppression of women". Queen Beatrix wore a gown and headscarf first on Sunday at a mosque in Abu Dhabi and again on Thursday in Oman.
During Thursday's visit to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the Omani capital, Muscat, the queen wore a red shawl over her hat while Princess Maxima who was accompanying her also had her head covered. Although the queen regularly speaks to the Dutch press at the end of a royal tour, her frank remarks about a domestic political party are being seen as unprecedented.

^ I am all for banning headscarves and things like that in the Western World, but if a Muslim country requires them than that needs to be respected by visitors - such as the Dutch Queen. There are several Muslim countries that ban headscarves and I think that it is a good thing, but if the people in a country that requires them do not stand-up against headscarves then I see no issues with them and if I did then I don't have to travel to that country. ^


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Czech Religious Money

From Yahoo News:
"Czech govt OKs landmark religious compensation law"

Churches were seized, priests jailed or executed and those who were still allowed to lead religious services did so under the watchful eye of the secret police. More than 22 years after the fall of Communism, the Czech government agreed Wednesday to pay billions of dollars in compensation for property seized by the former totalitarian regime. But even in a country where indifference to religion is strong, the compensation plan — to be spread over 30 years — proved to be a win-win situation. The government will no longer have to pay the priests' salaries and religious groups will finally get some compensation after several previous attempts had failed. Under the plan, the country's 17 churches, including Roman Catholic and Protestant, would get 56 percent of their former property now held by the state — estimated at 75 billion koruna ($3.7 billion). They would also get 59 billion koruna ($2.9 billion) in financial compensation paid to them over the next 30 years, and the state will gradually stop covering their expenses over the next 17 years. It all harks back to 1948, when the Communists seized power in the small central European nation then named Czechoslovakia. The Communists confiscated all the property owned by churches and persecuted many priests. Churches were allowed to function only under the state's strict control and supervision and priests' salaries were paid by the state. After the 1989 Velvet Revolution brought in democracy, some churches and monasteries were returned, but the churches have since sought to get back other assets such as farms, woodlands and buildings. Czechoslovakia then split into Slovakia and the Czech Republic in 1993.

^ It seems the Czech Republic is trying to make up for what the Czech Communists did from 1948-1989. Countries in Eastern Europe need to look at their pasts and do more to make up for the mistakes that the Communists did. It has been 20 years and there are still many areas that need to be addressed. Some countries (such as the Czech Republic) are actively working to resolve many of the areas while others (such as Belarus) are trying to forget their past and at the same time keep their authoridarian rule. ^


Monday, January 9, 2012

Poor Bosnia

From the BBC:
"Financial crisis grips Bosnia heritage sites "

Reading rooms in Bosnia-Hercegovina's National Library have opened without heating as a funding crisis grips the divided country's heritage sites. The institution in the capital Sarajevo is unable to meet its utility bills or pay its staff, deputy director Bedita Islamovic told the BBC News website. Other cultural institutions have closed completely as a result of disagreement over who should pay for their upkeep. The Dayton peace agreement which ended the 1992-95 war split the country into two parts, linked by a weak central government. The central government has no ministry of culture and no obligation to provide permanent funding for sites regarded as part of Bosnia-Hercegovina's national heritage. Bosnian Serbs largely oppose giving the central government control over the sites, with their politicians arguing that each of the country's ethnic groups should care for its own heritage. So deep are the continuing divisions that it has taken the sides 14 months to agree on the make-up of a new central government, after elections in October 2010. This week, the Historical Museum closed and the National Gallery shut its doors early in the autumn. The National Museum expects to close piece by piece in coming weeks as its power supply is cut off due to unpaid bills, director Adnan Busuladzic told the Associated Press news agency. Among other things, the National Museum's collection includes the Sarajevo Haggadah, an illuminated manuscript brought to Bosnia by a Jewish family expelled from Spain during the Inquisition and saved from Hitler's forces during World War II. The culture minister of the country's Bosniak-Croat Federation, Salmir Kaplan, reportedly pledged his government would provide funding to cover the unpaid utility bills of the National Museum. However, he admitted this was just a temporary solution, AP says. The Bosnian Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) has a culture ministry of its own.

^ This is sad. The central government of Bosnia is what the international community first notices about the country and to learn that the main places and institutions can't even pay for heat doesn't portray a good image as a united country. It has been 17 years since the end of the Bosnian War and the Croats, Bosniaks and Serbs living in Bosnia need to put their differences aside and work to bring their country into 21st Century Europe. ^


Greek Pedophiles Disabled?

From the BBC:
"Furor in Greece over pedophilia as a disability"

Greek disability groups expressed anger Monday at a government decision to expand a list of state-recognized disability categories to include pedophiles, exhibitionists and kleptomaniacs. The National Confederation of Disabled People called the action "incomprehensible," and said pedophiles are now awarded a higher government disability pay than some people who have received organ transplants. The Labor Ministry said categories added to the expanded list — that also includes pyromaniacs, compulsive gamblers, fetishists and sadomasochists — were included for purposes of medical assessment and used as a gauge for allocating financial assistance. But NCDP leader Yiannis Vardakastanis, who is blind, warned the new list could create new difficulties for disabled Greeks who are already facing benefit cuts due to the country's financial crisis. "What's happened is incomprehensible. I think there is some big mistake. The ministry should have a different policy on disability," Vardakastanis told the Associated Press. "The list contains major changes to disability quotients, which could effectively remove many people from access to benefits." The new list gives pyromaniacs and pedophiles disability pay up to 35 percent, compared to 80 percent for heart transplant recipients. "It's really not serious to grant Peeping Toms a 20-30 percent disability rate, and 10 percent to diabetics, who have insulin shots four or five times a day," said Vardakastanis. Greece has been fighting to avoid bankruptcy since 2009. Public spending on health and welfare programs has been sharply cut under austerity measures imposed as a condition for receiving emergency loans from the International Monetary Fund and other countries using the euro currency.

^ This is just plain stupid. The Greek Government has trouble paying for those who are really, truly disabled (ie the blind, those in wheelchairs, people who had heart attacks, strokes, the deaf, etc) without adding criminals to the mix. ^


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Use Them And Loose Them

From the BBC:
"Obama unveils new strategy for 'leaner' US military"

The US military will become "leaner" while maintaining superiority as it switches focus to the Asia-Pacific, US President Barack Obama has announced. In a rare appearance at the Pentagon, he unveiled a far-reaching defence review under which thousands of troops are expected to be axed. The tide of war was receding and the US must renew its economic power, he said. The strategy is designed to accommodate at least $450bn (£290bn) in Pentagon cuts over the next decade. The defence budget could also lose another $500bn at the end of this year after Congress failed to agree on deficit reduction following a debt-ceiling deal in August. "So yes, our military will be leaner," Mr Obama told reporters, "but the world must know - the United States is going to maintain our military superiority with armed forces that are agile, flexible and ready for the full range of contingencies and threats."

^ Obama has decided to use the "use them and then loose them" attitude with regards to the US military. He had no problem keeping soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan when he came into office and even expanded their numbers and now that we are out of Iraq he thinks he can simply do away with thousands of soldiers who he placed in harm's way because he is finished with them. This is just another example of why every President (male or female) needs to have served in the US military before they go into office - he/she is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces and should know first-hand what the soldiers and their families go through before he/she sends them to fight and possibly die for their country. Maybe then they wouldn't be so quick to do what Clinton did and Obama is doing. The US Government has always treated soldiers and their families as second-class citizens and expected them to pay the ultimate sacrifice and those that survive are tossed away with little benefits. We should treat our veterans and current soldiers with the respect they have earned and deserve and not follow Obama's example of throwing them away with the trash. Hopefully, we will have a new President before these reductions take effect and the new one will have a military background and the common decency to treat veterans and soldiers correctly. ^


Belarus Correction

From Deutsche Well:
"Contrary to reports, Belarus plans no Internet censorship"

Businesses selling goods online to consumers in Belarus will face a number of new regulations effective January 6, but contrary to media reports, Belarus has no plans to ban access to foreign websites. Several media organizations worldwide have picked up the report, claiming that Belarus was planning to curb Internet use and establish a new Digital Iron Curtain. Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko is known for his authoritarian rule. Last year, for instance, he tried to crack down on users of social media networks to organize anti-government protests. His muzzling of the opposition has been condemned by both the United States and the European Union. Keir Giles says that accusations of online censorship in Belarus are "complete fiction"But several observers say the new law will have no impact on how people in Belarus use the Internet. "The law says very specifically what the restrictions are," Giles told Deutsche Welle. "There is no mention whatsoever of not being able to browse foreign websites." Aleksey Ponomarev, a Belarusian IT lawyer, wrote in English on his blog on Wednesday that the new law, which takes effect on Friday, "has not brought any radical changes to the Belarussian online market or heavy limitations of human rights and freedoms. Neither visiting foreign websites is considered a violation nor has any of the foreign websites been blocked." Ponomarev added that Internet service providers will be required to identify users and technical devices providing Internet connectivity, pointing out that "this requirement does not differ from usual worldwide practices of data retention." Another Belarusian lawyer, Sergei Zikratsky, told Deutsche Welle that the new rules will, however, impact businesses with online shops. Under the legislation, businesses selling goods and services online to people in Belarus must be registered in the country. Those that don't register will face fines of around 100 euros ($128) for violating the law. "The sanctions are aimed mostly against Belarusian companies," said Alex Shablovsky, director of Elab Media. Some Belarusian websites hosted in Russia may be forced to come home. Today, many Belarus-based companies rent hosting services from Internet service providers in Russia to save money. With the new law, the government hopes to clamp down on this practice and create better controls for collecting tax revenue from e-commerce services.

^ Apparently the article that I posted a few days ago and which most of the world wrote about as being true was made up by some guy at the Library of Congress. Belarus has enough problems and doesn't need fake new stories to make itself look worse than it already is. I don't really see an issue with forcing Belarussian Internet companies actually being in Belarus. I would like the same for American companies being forced to have a US presence. ^


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dutch Apologize To Jews

From Yahoo News:
"Dutch urged to apologize for Jewish deportations"

Outspoken Dutch lawmaker Geert Wilders called on the government Wednesday to apologize for the country's "passive" response to the mass deportations of Jews by Nazi occupiers during World War II. The move is likely to re-ignite debate about Dutch attitudes to the wartime persecution of the country's Jewish population. Of the 140,000 Jews who lived in the Netherlands before the war, more than 100,000 were deported and murdered. About 30,000 Jews live here now, out of a total population of nearly 17 million. Spokesman Chris Breedveld said the government would carefully study and respond to Wilders' questions. One of the former ministers, Els Borst, says in an interview for the book, "Judging the Netherlands" by Manfred Gerstenfeld, that she believes the response by the Dutch wartime government in exile would have been tougher had Nazis been deporting Catholics or Protestants. Borst, who as health minister was involved in negotiations in the 1990s on reparations for Jews, said wartime prime minister Pieter Sjoerds Gerbrandy and Queen Wilhelmina should have appealed from their administration in exile in London for Dutch people to do more to protect Jews. "The government's stance shows that they, along with many others, saw Jewish Dutch citizens as a special group and thought: 'We have real Dutch people and we have Jewish Dutch people,'" Borst said in an interview, a copy of which author Gerstenfeld emailed to The Associated Press. The Dutch government agreed in 2000 to pay $180 million in restitution to Jews and then-Prime Minister Wim Kok expressed regret for the way the Dutch treated Jews after the war. Ronny Naftaniel, director of one of the Netherlands' main Jewish groups, the Center for Information and Documentation on Israel, said Jews would welcome an apology for the "passive" attitude of the monarchy and government in exile, though his group has not officially called for one. "The Dutch government in exile was terribly passive and the Dutch queen at the time, Wilhelmina, hardly spoke a word about Jewish suffering in the Netherlands," Naftaniel said.

^ I have to agree with Mr. Wilders in this case. The Dutch Government and Queen during the war should have placed emphasis on what was happening to ALL Dutch citizens. You would think that in the 21st Century countries would be willing to admit their World War 2 mistakes as the war ended 67 years ago. While the deaths of the Jews in the Netherlands during the war was caused by the Germans and some Dutch collaborators the fact that the Dutch Government-in-Exile and Queen Wilhelmina stood by and did nothing to stop the deporations and killing or alerting the world to what was happening makes them just as guilty. The Dutch Government and current Queen (Beatrix) owe it to the Dutch Jewish victims and survivors to admit the guilt and work to make sure this dark spot in Dutch history and resolved. ^


Belarus Restricts Internet

From the BBC:
"Belarus puts restrictions on foreign internet sites"

A new law in Belarus will restrict access to foreign websites and force internet clubs and cafes to report users visiting sites registered abroad. The law, which takes effect on Friday, says anyone selling goods or services to Belarus citizens on the web must use the .by Belarusian domain name. That would make it illegal for firms like Amazon or eBay to sell goods to customers in Belarus. Fines for breaking the law range as high as 1m Belarus rubles (£77; $120). The law says people offering internet services to the public - whether at a cafe, club or in their own home - will face fines if their customers visit foreign websites and such visits are not properly recorded and reported.

^ This is just one more step in Belarus tightening its complete control over its people that has been going on since 1994. Instead of fixing its economy and human rights record the Belarussian government simply want to make it harder for ordinary Belorussians to learn the truth from the outside world in the hope that they don't see how awful things are and seek change. This is another example of the strict control that exists in many countries of the former Soviet Union 20 years since its collapse. ^


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

War Horse (2012)

I saw this movie at the theaters yesterday and have to say I really liked it. Even though there wasn't anything surprising in the movie it was still one of those "feel good films." The movie takes place right before and then during World War 1 and follows a horse named Joey from his birth, separation from his mother, training with a farm boy, sale to the British Army, battles in France where he went back and forth with serving in the German and British armies, loosing his best friend to the end of the war.
One scene that I liked was when Joey gets cut in "no-man's land" between the German and British trenches and a British soldier and a German soldier come out to help him. The two soldiers, who were shooting at each other just a few minutes ago and who will shoot at each other again, stop and get to know each other as they free Joey from the barbed wire.
The film shows that anything is possible if you believe and are determined to make it happen.

TSA In 2012

From the Huffington Post:
"12 New Year's Resolutions For The TSA In 2012"

Here are 12 things the TSA should stop doing in 2012.

No more body scans.

The TSA's pricey and controversial body scanners, which are being deployed across the country, are an invasion of privacy and an unacceptable health risk. Many American oppose their use. Isn't it time for the TSA to admit they're a failure and try something else?

Stay off our streets.

The TSA is here for one reason, and one reason alone: To stop another 9/11 from happening. Its expansion to subway stations and other public areas is a costly and unnecessary step that no one asked for. This is the year to end the ill-conceived VIPR program once and for all.

Quit pocketing money.

Harassed air travelers left a lot of loose change at checkpoints -- an estimated $376,480 in 2010. And guess who kept it? That's right, the TSA. But it isn't the agency's money (one Congressman wants to funnel it to the USO, which isn't a bad idea). It's your money. The TSA has no business taking it.

Stop calling screeners officers.

It's a little known fact that TSA employees have zero law enforcement authority and technically shouldn't be called officers. One Congresswoman wants to fix that. What a great idea.

Stop harassing grandma.

It isn't just Lenore Zimmerman, the 4-foot-11, 110-pound, grandmother who alleges she was strip-searched at JFK in late 2011. It's a whole stack of similar cases that have stirred public outrage. Stop frisking the grannies, TSA. You're better than that.

No more special lines.

TSA's new Pre-Check program, which selectively pre-screens certain passengers and lets them move through the security line faster, seems like a move in the right direction. But it isn't. The elite-level frequent fliers join a growing list of others, including members of the military and airport employees, who get special screening privileges. Shouldn't TSA be trying to find the bad guys instead of determining who the bad guys aren't? This process-of-elimination screening is not only expensive, but puts ordinary, law-abiding air travelers at a disadvantage.

End the liquid and gel restrictions.

There's no convincing evidence that our Starbucks lattes are going to blow up our early morning commuter flight. Let's stop this nonsense, which has been going on for way too long and hasn't prevented a single act of airborne terrorism. Let air travelers bring their harmless liquids on board.

Stop the shoe removals.

The TSA now allows kids 12 and under to leave their shoes on. Why not the rest of us? When's the last time the agency caught a terrorist with explosives in his insoles? How about never?

Don't prevent passengers from taking pictures.

Even though the TSA insists that taking snapshots of its screening areas is allowed, its "officers" apparently never got the memo. Here's what happened to Carlos Miller last week when he tried to tape his screening. Puh-leeze!

Stop hiring criminals.

TSA's hiring practices leave a lot to be desired. Its employees have gotten themselves into a whole lotta trouble in 2011, including some very disturbing crimes that leave you wondering: Where did they find these people? Come on.

Don't ignore the public you're trying to protect.

A recent White House website petition comes to mind. It only took about 30,000 verified signatures requesting the Obama administration eliminate the TSA, for Administrator John Pistole to offer a clueless rebuttal that suggests he has virtually no contact with real air travelers. How 'bout spending a little more time at the airport, John?

No more lies.

Time and again in 2011, the TSA has been caught telling lies and half-truths. They're exhaustively documented by Bill Fisher on the TSA News Blog. The scope of the TSA's misinformation is absolutely staggering. It's really amazing that we believe anything the agency tells us anymore, given its record of bending facts to suit its agenda. That needs to end.

As we look ahead to 2012, the TSA is poised to become a part of how we travel, whether we fly, drive, cruise or take the train. But the agency will not make any of these common-sense reforms unless it hears from you.

So if you think this federal agency needs to make a few changes, this is a good time to let your elected representative know about it.

^ I agree with many of these suggestions. The TSA needs to have checks and balances and what their website says is allowed needs to be followed at EVERY airport within the US and not change at a whim. The whole "innocent until proven guilty" has been changed to everyone is guilty until you prove yourself innocent and that is exactly how the TSA treats everyone. I applied, took all the tests, did the interview and was offered a job with the TSA and know how poor their hiring and testing really is. I did not accept the job as I was offered another one so I don't know what training they are given once they are hired, but after travelling around the country from NH to Alaska and in between for the past years and dealing with the TSA in countless airports I can guess what they are taught. It seems odd to me that airport security in other Western countries I have been to (the UK, France, the Netherlands, Germany, etc) in the past 10 years manage to treat passengers as people and yet still keep their skies safe. Maybe the TSA should take a look at those countries and get some hints. ^


Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Euro: 10 Years

From Deutsche Welle:
"Euro cash 'celebrates' tumultuous 10th anniversary"

On January 1, 2002, the euro single currency was introduced in 12 European countries. A decade later, views vary widely on whether the common currency has been a success or a failure. Exactly 10 years ago, the euro was introduced as a common currency in 12 European countries. Starter kits were handed out to people ahead of the euro introduction so that they could become familiar with the new coins. The euro notes and coins were formally launched as a currency in the eurozone on January 1, 2002. Anyone doing business in dollar-based regions or vacationing there, of course, is interested in the strength of the euro, but most people are concerned with its stability. Especially in Germany, the euro was viewed initially as a currency that pushed prices up. And it is still seen so today by many consumers, although the statics speak another language. In the 10 years of the euro, inflation in the eurozone has been lower than it was when the deutschmark was the official currency. Economists largely agree that the euro is also not the cause of the financial problems in several eurozone countries.

^ I remember flying to Russia from Amsterdam on KLM in January 2002 and buying something so I could use Euros for the first time. I have since been in many Eurozone countries and have used in many times without thinking. The Euro is a good idea, but was implemented wrong. There was no real oversight in which countries were ready and stable enough to change currencies (ie Greece, Portugal, Italy, Spain, etc.) Now, 10 years later, what many European leaders had once said was unthinkable - a country leaving the Eurozone - now seems very possible in the near future. It will be interesting to see which countries are forced to leave and which ones leave on their own. A trip to a country that leaves the Eurozone will probably be very cheap for Americans and other non-Euro using countries. It will also be nice for me since I like collecting foreign currencies and there will be new ones for me to collect. ^


New Year's 2012!

From Yahoo News:
"NYC, world ring in 2012, bid adieu to a tough year"

Revelers erupted in cheers amid a confetti-filled celebration in New York's Times Square to welcome in the new year, part of star-studded festivities and glittering fireworks displays around the world to usher in 2012. From New Zealand to New York, the world eagerly welcomed a new year Sunday and hoped for a better future, saying goodbye to a year of hurricanes, tsunamis and economic turmoil that many would rather forget. In New York, hundreds of thousands gathered at the crossroads of the world to witness a crystal ball with more than 30,000 lights that descended at midnight. Lady Gaga and Mayor Michael Bloomberg led the crowd in the final-minute countdown of the famed crystal-paneled ball drop. Revelers in Australia, Asia, Europe and the South Pacific island nation of Samoa, which jumped across the international dateline to be first to celebrate, welcomed 2012 with booming pyrotechnic displays. Fireworks soared and sparked over Moscow's Red Square, crowds on Paris' Champs-Elysées boulevard popped Champagne corks at midnight. But many approached the new year with more relief than joy, as people battered by weather disasters, joblessness and economic uncertainty hoped the stroke of midnight would change their fortunes. Many expressed cautious hope that better times were ahead after a year in which Japan was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami, hurricanes wreaked havoc across the country and a debt crisis devastated Europe's economy. In Sydney, more than 1.5 million people watched the shimmering pyrotechnic display designed around the theme "Time to Dream." In London, some 250,000 people gathered to listen to Big Ben chime at the stroke of midnight.

^ I had a low-key New Year's. Last night I had homemade meatball subs and punch and watched the ball drop in NYC on TV. Today I put away all the Christmas decorations. Hopefully, 2012 will be a great year for my family and me. ^