Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week the women kept up their stereotype of being stupid, unorganized and unable to do anything without a man's help. There was a big storm and the guys said they could come seek shelter with them if they needed - which was nice of them. The women won the Reward Challenge - mostly because it was a mental vs a physical challenge and got fishing supplies and a canoe.
The day after the storm the women went over to the men's camp and wanted some fire for them. When the men said they would give it to them in exchange to use the women's canoe the women freaked out and went off on the men. It seems they were just trying to use their "female charms" to get things for free and were insulted when the men didn't want to fall for it.
At the Immunity Challenge the guys came so close to winning, but in the end the women won. The guys had to decide who to vote off. There are two alliances (a group of 4 run by Matt and a group of 5 run by Colton.) Colton runs the group of 5 only because he told everyone he had the idol and was going to use it. At Tribal Colton acted his usual flamboyant self and said he only likes hanging out with the women (but they don't like hanging out with him.) Then Bill started talking and it looked like he was high on something. In the end they voted Matt out (Colton didn't use his idol.) The look on Matt's face was priceless. You could tell he was angry and surprised as he thought he ruled the tribe and the game. I hope that next week either the women loose or Colton or Bill get voted out.

14 Years Divided

From the BBC:
"14 years after deal NI 'still very divided' new report suggests"

Fourteen years after the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland remains "a very divided society," a new report suggests. Peace walls have increased from 22 when the agreement was signed, to a current total of 48 walls, according to the NI Peace Monitoring Report.The policing deal is not secure with a greater drop-out rate for Catholic officers, it says. The report stresses that the assembly is running and violence is down. However, against that, paramilitarism remains an active threat and Northern Ireland society is still very divided in terms of schools and housing, it says. The report, published by the Community Relations Council, said no solution for dealing with Northern Ireland's troubled past had been found. "The opportunity for reasoned discussion about how the past should be handled was lost in the furore surrounding the 2009 report of the Consultative Group on the past, largely because of a clause which suggested a one-off payment to all families who had lost someone in the Troubles regardless of whether that person was seen as a victim or a perpetrator," the report concludes.

^ I was in Northern Ireland for a few days two years ago (I stayed in Belfast and Londonderry/Derry) and saw just how divided the Protestants and catholics remain. Not only do they continue to stay away from each other, but the attacks and bombings continue to a lesser degree. Everyone I met in Northern Ireland stressed that there was peace and everything was fine, but you could tell just by driving around the city that there was an eery quiet on the surface and violence just waiting to come out at the slightest provocation. I don't know how bad it was during The Troubles (1960s-1998) except what I read in books, but when I was there you could see each side trying to "stick it" to the other whether it was through their murals, memorials, monuments or the simple fact of painting their territory (red, white and blue for the Protestants/Unionists or green, white and orange for the Catholics/Republicans.) All sides are guilty of continuing the division and violence. I remember feeling more uneasy when I was in Northern Ireland in June 2010 than I was in Bosnia in December 2010. To me Northern Ireland seemed like a powder keg ready to ignite at a moment's notice. People there can pretend that everything is fine when it's not really, but hopefully this report will help to really create a lasting peace between the two groups. ^

Davy Jones

From the BBC:
"Davy Jones of The Monkees dies aged 66"

Davy Jones, Manchester-born lead singer with 60s band The Monkees, has died aged 66, his publicist has confirmed. He died in his sleep at his home in Florida. His publicist, Deborah Robicheau, said he had a massive heart attack. The band, who included musicians Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork, were famous for hits including Daydream Believer and I'm a Believer. The Monkees were an American pop band, assembled in 1966. Jones was married three times and had four daughters. The Monkees found fame through a successful television series, popular in both the US and the UK, and had four number one albums in a 13-month period. They were famous for their clean-cut image and were marketed as the American answer to The Beatles, notching up nine top 40 hits.

^ I watched "The Monkees" a couple of times on Nick-at-Nite and liked their music - even though they were way before my time. My favorite song is "Cheer-up Sleepy Jean." ^

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Georgia's Olive Branch

From the Georgian Times:
"Georgia to Lift Visa Rules for Russian Citizens"

President Saakashvili said during his annual state of the nation address in the Parliament on February 28, that Georgia would unilaterally remove visa requirements for citizens of the Russian Federation "to give more chance to the peace." In October, 2010 Georgia allowed 90-day visa-free travel for Russian citizens registered as residents of Russia's republics in the North Caucasus, while other Russian citizens are able to obtain the visa upon arrival in Georgia. "While deepening close ties with the West we are at the same time interested in improving relations with Russia. We know it is not easy, but Russia is and will always be our neighbor, which determines our desire to have peace with [Russia], but it can be peace with such Russia, which recognizes and complies with all the international legal norms of relations between two sovereign countries," Saakashvili said. He said that WTO deal with Russia was a good example that "it is possible to reach a result even" with Russia "if you stand firm on your principles." "We welcome economic ties with Russia. So we are ready to give more chance to the peace and we put forth new initiative of lifting visa regime with Russia unilaterally," Saakashvili said. "Let every Russian businessman know that they can come to Georgia, invest in Georgia, make business in Georgia, employ people in Georgia and they will be protected here like any other representative of other countries... Let Russian tourists know that they arrive here at any time," he said, adding that in Georgia no one would "ban them from drinking Georgian wine and Borjomi, which they miss so much". Russia banned import of Georgian wine and mineral waters in 2006.

^ I think this is a step in the right direction for Georgia and Russia. I hope that this step by the Georgian Government will be seen by the Russian Government as an "olive branch" and that the two countries can start working to improve their relationship with each other. Right now the Swiss Embassy represents the two countries and with this current step hopefully Russia and Georgia will be able to open their own embassies with each other once again. Georgia is a small country that wants to become more Westernized (join both NATO and the EU) while Russia wants to regain the power and influence it once had under the Soviet Union - of which Georgia was once apart of. The fact that Russia currently occupies Georgian territory doesn't help matters (the Russians say the two territories are independent countries, but why do citizens in those places gain Russian citizenship and pensions if they are independent?) If the Russians left those two territories and a UN peacekeeping force took their place then I think the threat of another war between Russia and Georgia would be stopped. Like I said above, this step by the Georgians of encouraging not only tourist but business trips from Russia to Georgia is a step in the right direction that hopefully will go beyond visa-free travel to more improved relations. ^

Attacks On NATO

From Yahoo:
"Koran Burning: Can U.S. and Afghan Troops Work Together?"

As the anger over the Koran-burning controversy continued to convulse Afghanistan, another violent incident disrupted how the Kabul government interacts with its Western allies. On Saturday afternoon, a member of the Afghan Interior Ministry opened fire on two U.S. advisers -- a lieut. colonel and a major -- at the ministry's command-and-control center in the capital. The Americans were shot in the back of their heads as they sat at their desks, news reports said. "A countrywide manhunt is under way for the fugitive," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told TIME. Since the news broke, speculation has raged over whether the killer was an insurgent infiltrator or simply motivated by the Koran burnings at the Bagram airfield earlier this week. Sediqi denied the idea of infiltration, saying it is "clear that insurgent groups are not able to have such connections as this. The ministry is very secure, and we have not had any such incidents in the past. It cannot be suggested that he has links with some groups. But we will have to investigate." After reading the initial reports, one Afghanistan-based security expert does not believe the killer was a Taliban plant -- as the militant group has claimed. The growing divide between Afghan soldiers and their mentors has already been stretched to the breaking point after six days of violent and deadly protests over the Koran burning that have left around 30 dead, including four U.S. troops previously killed by Afghan soldiers or men in Afghan-security-force uniforms. The burning of Korans by foreign troops on one side and the killing of foreign troops by Afghan soldiers on the other have pushed the level of alienation between the two sides to what could be an all-time high.

^ It seems that the Afghanis (including those in power) do not want Americans or other Western troops in their country and are doing everything they can to stop whatever progress was made over the past 10 years. What the Afghani government officials need to realize is that without our troops there protecting them the Taliban would get back in power and punish the officials. It seems just like what happened in Iraq. The Iraqis spent all their time trying to hurt and kill Americans and when we left Iraq the violence didn't stop - and in some cases it got worse. I know the Iraqis like to blame Americans for all the problems, but now that we are out they can't. I believe the same would happen in Afghanistan if Americans and the other NATO troops left. There are only two real options I see NATO and the US doing in Afghanistan right now. Either we completely withdraw all forces and support from the country and let the Taliban and Afghani Government fight each other or we stop giving control to the Afghani Government until they can prove they are capable of governing and keeping things secured - which they currently can not do. The fact that an Afghani from the Interior Ministry was able to have a gun and kill the Americans inside the secured building shows that the Afghanis can't protect a thing or allowed the attacks to happen. NATO needs to stand firm and not allow its soldiers or contractors get hurt or killed. ^

Sunday, February 26, 2012


This week the teams had to either boil water using a solar panel (most teams did this one) or move firewood by mule. Then they took an 18 hour bus to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The 2nd bus had an accident and so they came in last. Once in the city the teams had to go to a cattle auction and give the average weight. Most teams had trouble doing the Math (as I would too.) In the end, the clowns were eliminated (which is fine with me since they were pretty creepy.) The combat pilot and his wife came in first place for a second time in a row. It was an ok episode this week although it wasn't very nail-biting.

Friday, February 24, 2012

United Pet Update

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Troops will pay average $350 to ship pets under new United policy"

Military families who are changing duty stations will pay on average $300 to $400 to fly pets back to the U.S. on United Airlines under the policy announced by the airline Wednesday, according to a company spokeswoman. For many servicemembers, the policy will mean an increase over the current $283 flat fee for pets checked as excess baggage, but it is much less than the $1,440 to $3,869 cargo cost that will be charged to all other United passengers beginning next month. Military passengers with pets that weigh less than 10 pounds will pay less than the current flat fee, spokeswoman Mary Ryan wrote to Stars and Stripes in an email response. The airline had planned to charge the full PetSafe cargo fee to servicemembers who make a permanent move back to the U.S. but changed course and announced a special exception earlier this week following thousands of online complaints about the high costs for flying pets. United is a federal contract carrier that services many Pacific routes, so servicemembers traveling on official duty are often booked to fly on the airline at a reduced cost to the military. The cost to transport pets, however, must be paid by the servicemember. The change in fees for pets is part of the airline’s merger with Continental Airlines, which is also contracted with the federal government and already charges the cargo fees for pets.

^ It's good that United finally changed their new pet prices (at least for the US military.)As someone who lived in Germany (twice) on government orders I think pets should be free to transport between the US and their official duty station. The military and their families make very little and usually live paycheck-by-paycheck and even a couple hundred dollars to ship a pet is a lot. With everything the soldiers and their families sacrifice for the country it seems the very least the Government and United could do to show their appreciation. ^

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week the girls continue to be crazy and disorganized. They did an awful job on the reward challenge and so didn't get the tarp. Colton was also acting like one of the crazy girls. He had a break-down when the girls told him he couldn't always come to their camp. He then showed some of the guys that he was given an idol from the girls and they are trying to get one of the main guys sent home.
Like usual, the girls did a bad job on the main challenge. Cat was beyond stupid and was of no help and the guys won. Nina (an ex cop) wanted to send Cat home (and I agree,) but in the end Nina was voted off. The girls' tribe are not going to change until people like Cat are kicked out. In the end, this season has shown stereotypes can be real. Colton is the feminine gay, Nina is a manly ex cop and Cat is the idiot blonde. I am curious to see if this game will change or if the girls will continue to do badly and will be sent home again.

Sunday, February 19, 2012


This was the first show of the season. CBS does an awful job of scheduling since the show is usually postponed due to a football game (this week is was golf.) The teams started in Santa Barbara, CA and had to look in a balloon for their clue and then fly to Santa Barbara, Argentina where they had to jump out of plane. They then had to make a bunch of empanadas. There wasn't much to these challenges, but the teams seemed to have trouble with it.
This season the teams are: border patrol, federal agents, married clowns, golf sisters, twin brothers, cousins, hillbilly friends, dating divorcees, ex Big Brother dating, Jersey friends and combat pilot/wife.
So far the married clowns seem creepy (I mean they are married and clowns,) the border patrol don't seem to be in shape (and they protect our border,) the hillbilly friends are annoying and you can barely understand what they are saying, the woman in the Bi Brother dating is loud and you just want her to shut up, the Jersey friends seem like they are from New Jersey - enough said, the cousins are a little weird, the twin brothers seem ok (as do the federal agents and the combat pilot and wife.)
The combat pilot and wife came in first place and got the Express Pass. The golf sisters came in last (they were pretty stupid and were a few steps away from Phil.)It's an alright start so far. Hopefully, it will get even more interesting and exciting.

No Russian Latvia

From the BBC:
"Latvia rejects making Russian an official language"

Latvians have resoundingly rejected the option of making Russian the country's second official language, results from a referendum indicate.About two-thirds of those registered voted, the election commission said, many more than in previous polls. The referendum, initiated by a Russian speakers' movement, has exposed deep fault-lines in Latvia. Ethnic Russians, who make up about one-third of Latvia's population, have long complained of discrimination. But many ethnic Latvians believe the referendum was an attempt to encroach on the country's independence. Officials said that with more than 90% of votes counted, 75% of votes cast in Saturday's referendum were against the proposal. Turnout was about 69%, which officials say was considerably higher than expected. Learning Latvian was a prerequisite for citizenship in the years after the country split from the Soviet Union two decades ago. But many Russian-speakers resisted, and some 300,000 remain without citizenship, which means they cannot vote in elections, hold public office or work in government institutions, the Associated Press reports.

^ I understand why Latvia (and the other Baltic countries) felt the need to require Latvian (Lithuanian and Estonian) to be the sole national language once these countries regained their independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. What I don't understand is why, 20 years later, Russian can't be used again? All the Baltic countries are now in the European Union and NATO and Estonia even uses the Euro. These organizations will not allow Russia to occupy it a third time. The Russians annexed the Baltics until the Communist Revolution in 1917. From 1917-1939 they were independent and prosperous countries. The Soviets then occupied the Baltics from 1939-1941 and again from 1945-1991 and deported millions of people from the Baltics along with moving millions of ethnic Russians there to force their will on the native people. During the Soviet occupation any non-Russian was discriminated against. Those that learned Russian at least had a chance of gaining some status. After decades of bowing down to the ethnic Russians the USSR collapsed in 1991 and the Baltic states worked to reverse the influence of Russian and the ethnic-Russian population that was forced upon them. The ethnic Russians were turned into "stateless" people who couldn't vote or gain citizenship unless they learned the new national language (of course since Russia was the successor state of the Soviet Union any former Soviet citizen had the right to become a citizen of Russia until 2002 so these "stateless" people could have moved to Russia.) In the 20 years since they regained their independence a lot has changed and the fear of being a minority in their own country has decreased immensely. I believe that Russian should be given a special status in the Baltic states - whether it is an official language or a language of inter-cultural communication as it is in many CIS countries (of which none of the Baltic countries are part of.) The "stateless" people should be given the same rights as other citizens - especially considering that automatic Russian citizenship is no longer available to former Soviets. I also think that the "stateless" should want to learn the language, culture and traditions of the country they live in - otherwise they should move to Russia or someplace else. When I visited the Ukraine (where only Ukrainian in the official language) I used Russian in everything since I didn't speak Ukrainian and they didn't speak English. I do not personally know if that is the same case in the Baltics, but I assume it is to a certain extent especially in the cities and among those in their 30s or older.
There needs to be a balance where the ethnic-Russians embrace their country while at the same time maintain their ethnicity and the Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians learn to accept and stop discriminating against the ethnic Russians living in their country. 20 years is more than enough time for both sides to push aside their historical differences and start working together. ^

Friday, February 17, 2012

More Postal Drama

From Yahoo:
"50-Cent Stamp, Other Postal Changes Coming"

The United States Postal Service may raise the price of first class postage to 50 cents. The U.S. Post Office, facing financial losses of up to $18.2 billion a year by 2015, wants to charge more for postage, more for services, and to suspend Saturday delivery. The 50-cent stamp would represent an 11 percent increase in postal rates. USPS delivers 40 percent of the world's mail. Its revenues exceed $65 billion a year. The service said last week that it lost $3.3 billion last quarter, and that it is forecasting a loss of $14.1 billion for the year ending Sept. 30. Such losses, said the Postal Service in a letter sent last week to Congress, would be "unsustainable" and would cause USPS to become "a burden" to the U.S. taxpayer. The letter called that outcome "highly undesirable." Suspending Saturday delivery would save $2.7 billion a year, the Postal Service says. Raising the cost of first-class postage to 50 cents would increase annual revenues by $1 billion. The last postal increase occurred late last month, when the cost of mailing a first-class letter rose from 44 cents to 45 cents. Rates also rose for packages, for periodicals, and for a wide variety of services. The law limits USPS increases overall to the rate or inflation, or 2.1 percent a year.

^ There is just more drama every other day from the USPS. Why don't they stop drying about all the money they are loosing and get Congress to do something? It is solely up to them (the USPS) and reminding Americans constantly about the problem isn't going to fix a thing. ^

German Resignation

From USA Today:
"German president quits in scandal over favors"

Germany's president resigned Friday in a scandal over favors he allegedly received before becoming head of state, creating a major domestic distraction for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she grapples with Europe's debt crisis. Chritian Wulff announced his resignation a day after the slow-burning affair escalated dramatically with a request by prosecutors for Parliament to lift his immunity from prosecution over his relationship with a film producer in his previous job as governor of Lower Saxony. Those benefits allegedly included paying for a luxury hotel stay in 2007.

^ It seems pointless to have a President that has no other function except to be there. It is one thing to have a Monarch as a symbol to unite a country (especially since the monarch doesn't change because of elections.) Maybe Germany would be better to do away with its Presidency and let the Chancellor take on the same roles. ^

Dropping The Military

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Pentagon lays out significant cuts to U.S. forces in Europe"

It’s official: The Germany-based 170th Infantry Brigade will be inactivated later this year, followed by the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade next year as part of a broad restructuring of the military force structure in Europe that also calls for the inactivation of two U.S. Air Forces in Europe squadrons and the eventual elimination of the Army’s V Corps from Wiesbaden, Germany, according to Pentagon officials. As part of the restructuring, the Army garrisons in Schweinfurt and Bamberg will close no later than 2015, U.S. European Command announced. The 81st Fighter Squadron, an A-10 unit consisting of 525 airmen from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, and the 603rd Air Control Squadron at Aviano Air Base, Italy, consisting of 336 airmen, will be inactivated by 2013. Last month, the Defense Department announced it would be eliminating two heavy brigades in Europe, but that announcement stopped short of naming the specific units. Still, with only two such brigades in Europe, it was no secret that the 170th, based in Baumholder, and 172nd, out of Grafenwöhr and Schweinfurt, were pegged for elimination. In addition, U.S. Army Europe is slated to lose another 2,500 soldiers from small support units over the next five years, military officials said. For the Army, it all adds up to a 25 percent reduction in manpower in Europe. Currently, about 80,000 U.S. troops are based in Europe. The changes outlined by the Pentagon will reduce that number by more than 11,000.

^ This is a follow-up to what I already posted about this move. It is one thing to intelligently reduce troops and make sure they have some place to go, but from what I am reading now and from what I saw when I lived in Germany in the 1990s and Clinton did the same thing it isn't being done in a smart way. I don't know if it is because they are both Democrats and don't care or just aren't qualified because neither served in the military even though they are/were the Commander and Chief. ^

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Survivor: One World

Tonight was the first show of the season. The tribes were separated into men and women and the twist was that both tribes live side-by-side. In the beginning the tribes were told to take whatever they could from a truck and while doing the task a guy went over to the girls' pile and kept stealing things. Then when the girls called the guys out on it the guys acted all high and mighty about it. The guys were able to get a fire pretty quickly while the girls couldn't (any person who goes on "Survivor" after this many seasons and doesn't know how to make a fire is a complete idiot.) In the end one of the girls made an agreement with the guys to make some grass mats in exchange for fire (she did so without asking the other girls.)
During the challenge a girl (Kourtney) didn't listen to Jeff about how she should jump and broke her hand. The guys were given the option of continuing the challenge or simply be declared the winners since the girls were one person short and the guys chose to be declared the winners. That was a pretty low move for the guys since I'm sure they could have easily won.
The girls' tribe went to tribal, but since Kourtney left for medical reasons there was no vote. The girls' tribe doesn't seem very good. They are disorganized and confussed. On the one hand they say they don't need the guys (and can catch chickens themselves) and then at other times they run to the guys (for fire.) The girls really need to step it up if they want to win a challenge since there is no Redemption Island this season.
The guys' tribe seems too arrogant too quickly. It is too early in the game to think you have everything in the bag.

CDN Police Powers

From Yahoo:
"Canada boosts police powers, alarms privacy watchdog"

A new law gives police stronger powers to track what Canadians do online, but raises concern from the privacy watchdog about "warrantless access to personal information." The Conservative government says the draft law it unveiled on Tuesday aims at hunting down pedophiles or other criminals by giving police, the country's spy agency and the Competition Bureau increased access to customer data from Internet service providers. Law enforcers will no longer need a warrant to ask internet providers to hand over "identifying information" such as names, addresses, email addresses, unlisted phone numbers and IP addresses. Ottawa says it is simply modernizing its crime-fighting tools and notes that that similar laws are already in place in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia. The government named the bill "protecting children from internet predators act", framing it as a new tool to end frustrating delays police face when they seek to track suspects' online activities. The opposition New Democrats and other critics say a warrant should be required, otherwise authorities can abuse their new powers and snoop on anyone without any oversight or justification. The opposition is vigorously fighting the bill, but the Conservatives have a majority in the House of Commons, so are likely to get the bill passed in one form or another.

^ It does seem a little extreme for the Canadians to say they want to protect children and yet they can use the new rules on things no related to children. I do see government officials abusing the new rules to settle old scores (the same way I am sure it has happened in the US.) There needs to be more "checks and balances" both in Canada and in other countries that have these kinds of rules on the books. It seems the world is becoming more a place where you are "guilty until you prove yourself innocent" instead of "innocent until proven guilty" that we based our whole society on in the past. ^

Military Pets Cost More

From The Stars and Stripes:
"Shipping pets during PCS could cost nearly $4,000 under new rule"

Many servicemembers flying internationally on official orders could face steep fare increases for pets beginning next month, when a top military-contracted air carrier changes its baggage policies. As part of its merger with Continental Airlines, United Airlines has announced that on March 3 it will drop its current flat rate for pets that are checked as excess baggage and instead require all animals to be shipped as cargo. For those changing duty stations in the Pacific, the change could mean paying about $1,440 to $3,869 to fly with an animal back to the United States, depending on its size. Currently, United charges $283 for most pets, according to estimates provided Tuesday by Continental customer service. United and Continental are both federal contract carriers, so servicemembers traveling on official duty are often booked to fly on the airlines at a reduced cost to the military, but the cost to transport pets must be paid by the servicemember. “This is just going to be devastating and pets are going to be left behind,” predicted Mary Seward-Yamada, owner of Camp Canine Okinawa, a company that specializes in assisting military families with transporting pets between Japan and the U.S. Seward-Yamada said the price increases are going to put the cost of transporting a pet out of reach for lower-ranking servicemembers who do not have the income to spend thousands of dollars on airline tickets for the family pet. The impact in Europe is likely to be minimal, as starting this month, soldiers and their families began using the Defense Department-chartered Patriot Express for flights between Baltimore and Ramstein Air Base, instead of flying into or out of Frankfurt Airport. Patriot Express charges $110 to ship a pet, according to U.S. Army Europe. The Air Force also uses Patriot Express to move airmen relocating to and from Germany, and commercial carriers only when seats are not available on Patriot Express flights, according to officials.

^ If this price increase goes through it will only hurt the soldiers and their families. If the military is forcing them to move overseas on official orders than the government should pay to also ship their pets to their new duty station. ^

Christie Off-Base

From Yahoo:
"NJ gov strongly defends lowering flags for Houston"

Gov. Chris Christie on Wednesday strongly defended his decision to have flags lowered to half-staff on Saturday for Whitney Houston, saying he rejects criticism that she "forfeited the good things that she did" because of her struggles with substance abuse. The Republican governor said his office has been receiving emails and other messages disparaging Houston and attacking his decision to have flags flown at half-staff at state government buildings Saturday, the day of her funeral in the Newark church where she sang in the choir as a child. In online postings, there were two main arguments against the honor for the "I Will Always Love You" singer, who died over the weekend in California at age 48: One was that it should be reserved for members of the military, first responders and elected officials. The other was that it's wrong to honor a drug addict.

^ Christie is way off base on this one. He tries to always act tough and go after anyone who disagrees with him. I think in this instance he is either a closet Houston fan or trying to bring attention away from other major issues affecting his state. While Whitney Houston may have been a good singer with several hits decades ago she is in no way more deserving of flying flags at half-staff than the men and women (from New Jersey) who fought and died. Why doesn't Christie honor their sacrifice instead of a has-been who ruined her own life with drugs and alcohol while her friends and family watched her for years and did little if anything to help her? People - both the public and the government - seem to forget that American soldiers are still fighting and risking their lives in Afghanistan. Just because we left Iraq doesn't mean the other war stopped. We need to do more to honor the soldiers and get our priorities straight. ^

Monday, February 13, 2012

Marriage In Washington

From Yahoo:
"Washington gov signs gay marriage bill into law"

Gov. Chris Gregoire handed gay rights advocates a major victory Monday, signing into law a measure that legalizes same-sex marriage in Washington state, making it the seventh in the nation to allow gay and lesbian couples to wed. It's a historic moment for the state, but same-sex couples can't walk down the aisle just yet. The law takes effect June 7, but opponents on multiple fronts already are preparing to fight. Gay marriage supporters said that while they are ready for a campaign battle, they are allowing themselves to celebrate first. Gay marriage is legal in New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Washington, D.C.

^ I am all for gay marriage if the people in the state or country vote for it. I think Americans should be able to vote for gay marriage in a federal referendum and the results should be binding. ^

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Search (1948)

I just watched this movie and really think it did a great job in showing the plight of the displaced children after World War 2. It is about a young boy from Czechoslovakia (played by Ivan Jandl) who was in a concentration camp and how he searches for his mother (played by Jarmila Novotná) when the war ends - and at the same time how his mother searches for him. The boy doesn't remember anything about the camps and doesn't speak. An American soldier (played by Montgomery Clift) befriends him. The soldier learns from the number tattoo on the boy's arm that he was in Auschwitz and tries to find the boy's mother and nationality by writing the UN Office of Refugees - who write back that his mother was gassed. The soldier then teaches the boy English and wants to take him to the US with him but the boy starts remembering about his mother and the camps and eventually he finds her.
The movie is more about when and where it was filmed then solely about the story lines. It was filmed in Germany (amid the ruins of the bombed cities in the American Zone of Occupation) just 3 years after the war ended. Europe was full of displaced people and there are numerous movies and books dealing with them, but this is one of a few that I have found dealing only with the children who suffered. There is one scene at the beginning of the movie where the children are supposed to get into an ambulance so they can be driven to a better transit camp. The kids try to run away rather than get in and the female American soldier doesn't understand what the problem is until an interpreter tells her that the Germans used ambulances to gas people during the war. She finally convinces the children to get in the ambulance, but during the ride they think they smell gas and escape. The idea that children would have to even worry about being gassed is beyond normal comprehension.
Another fact I learned about the movie is that while it came out in the US in 1948 and in Allied Occupied Austria in 1949 it didn't come out in Germany until 1961. This is one of the movies that every German who was 18 or older in 1945 should have been forced to watch (along with real footage of the death and concentration camps.) It is one thing for a nation to kill men and women during a war and another entirely to target innocent children. This film gives a basic idea of what the children experienced in the war, but more importantly how it still affected their lives once they were free. There is a scene in the movie when an American boy hurts himself when eating soup and runs crying to his mother and she mentions what the little boy from the camps went through. The American boy was a little wimpy while the Czechoslovakian boy survived a death camp. The Germans especially targeted the children because they would grow up and seek revenge for their murdered parents and grandparents and also carry on their race. This movie gave light to a group of innocent people that have mostly been neglected. They lost their childhoods along with their parents, homes, countries and sense of security all because the Germans thought they were the master race and deserved everything. Watching this film, seeing the bombed buildings and then learning about what happened to the children in the camps makes you wish we had punished the Germans more than we did after the war (they got away with so much because the English, French and Americans were more concerned with the growing Soviet threat then the surrendered Germans.) Another scene from the movie has a little girl tell how she worked sorting clothes taken from those that were gassed and how one day she found her mother's blouse and knew she had been gassed. For a movie made in 1948 it is very detailed about the German war crimes and doesn't make excuses or show them (the Germans) as victims as many try to twist history nowadays.

Women In Combat

From Yahoo:
"Restrictions Easing on Women in Combat"

The Pentagon on Thursday will propose rule changes that will allow more women to formally serve in jobs closer to the front lines. Defense officials say as many as 14,000 positions could be opened up, though the restrictions on women serving in infantry combat units will remain in place. The rule change reflects the ongoing reality that in a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, women were already dying in combat with the blurring of the traditional definition of front lines. Nearly 300,000 women have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and 144 of them have died in those conflicts. The rule change is included in a report required by Congress as part of last year's Defense Authorization Bill that has been overdue for months. The new rules likely will not go into effect until the summer if Congress raises no objections to the change. Women will still be barred from serving in infantry combat units, defense officials say, but the changes will formally open up new positions at the combat battalion level that, until now, have been off limits.
The new jobs opening up for female service members will be combat support positions, including communications, intelligence and logistical positions, defense officials add. Typically, these jobs have been made available at the combat brigade level, but not at the lower battalion level, which was deemed too close to combat situation. However, the insurgent nature of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has blurred the line for combat situations. That often meant that all units likely could be exposed to some combat, including units where women were allowed to serve.
The rules to be announced Thursday will apply to all of the military services, but will have the greatest impact on the Army, given the large number of ground combat units it has. A year ago, the Military Leadership Diversity Commission recommended that the military lift the ban on women serving in combat units. The advisory panel of current and retired military officers said that keeping women from serving in combat units was an obstacle to promotions and career advancement.

^ It seems the military continues to discriminate against women even after they were forced to stop discriminating against gays when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed. Women who join the military - especially nowadays - know that they will probably see combat and they are willing to put their lives at risk, just like men, to protect the US. Women should be allowed to serve in any position they are qualified for even if it is on the frontlines. I also think that should there ever be another Draft - which is unlikely - then women should be included in that as well. Women serving fully in the US military is long over-due. ^

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Rude Railroads

From Russia Today:
"Cashiers at railway stations to become polite at push of button"

Moscow's railway stations are installing special buttons at ticket-offices in a bid to make cashiers more polite. When passengers push the button, their conversation with the cashier will be recorded. The recordings can then be used to assess any complaints. Such buttons have already appeared at the Yaroslavl Station. Local staff say the number of complaints has fallen. Cashiers are also currently being enrolled on special programs to teach them how to be more polite. Russian Railways are not the first transport system aiming to improve its customer service. The Moscow Metro is also training its cashiers to be friendlier. The staff have been given instructions telling them how to communicate with customers. Cashiers in the metro, just like those at railway stations, have a particularly bad reputation for being rude.

^ I have used both the Moscow Metro and the Russian Railroads and know exactly what the article means about their bad customer service. Even if there is a long line a cashier will randomly put up a sign that says they are "on break" or "at lunch" and simply leave. This new program is a step in the right direction in combatting poor Russian customer service. People (in any country) will use whatever little authority they are given. In Russia it seems to be more overt in usage. By recording the transactions and, if needed, using those tapes to discipline a cashier on poor service is a great way - along with training - to stop the decades old Soviet/Russian mentality of "I'm better than you because I have power." This program should be expanded to all train stations, metro stations, Post Offices, etc throughout Russia. It has been 20 + years since the Soviet Union collapsed and it's time the Russians learned that without people using the services those with a little power will be without jobs and it's up to the ordinary person to demand they be treated fairly - especially when they are paying for a service. ^

Downsizing Baghdad

From the BBC:
"US to cut Baghdad embassy staff"

The United States is looking to cut the size of its embassy in Iraq - the largest and most expensive US diplomatic mission, officials say. A state department spokeswoman said the objective was to reduce the cost of the embassy, which employs about 2,000 diplomats and 14,000 contractors. The New York Times quoted officials as saying that the US was preparing to cut the number of staff by up to a half. The US military left Iraq in December, eight years after the invasion. On Tuesday, the New York Times reported that the US ambassador to Iraq, James Jeffrey, and other senior state department officials were reconsidering the size and scope of the embassy in Baghdad. It was originally thought that the $750m embassy, which sits inside the heavily-fortified Green Zone, and the huge diplomatic operation, which reportedly costs $6bn a year, were necessary to establish normal relations and help ensure Iraq became a stable democracy. However, diplomats now believe that approach was ill-advised, with many complaining an inability to leave the embassy because of security concerns and Iraqi obstructionism, according to the New York Times. The Iraqi authorities have reportedly made it difficult for supplies to be delivered to the embassy compound and for diplomats to get visas, and have launched a crackdown on security contractors protecting diplomats.

^ It's about time people in the US Government started to wake up. The only reason why we built the most expensive and largest embassy in the world in Baghdad was because we felt obligated to do so - there was and still is no other diplomatic reason to do so. Now that the Iraqis have begun to stretch their muscles (ie not giving American soldiers immunity under SOFA, harassing diplomats and contractors, etc) it is only fitting that we downsize out presence in the country. If the Iraqis think they can rule things in a stable country without us then let them - so far it isn't working and there are more Iraqi bombs killing Iraqis (at least it's no longer Iraqi bombs killing US soldiers.) I have the feeling that the Iraqi Government will eventually officially acknowledge that they need outside help and when they do I hope the US stands firm and refuses. ^

Monday, February 6, 2012

Elizabeth 2: 60 Years On

From Yahoo Canada:
"Canada to mark Queen's Diamond Jubilee in a big way, ties to monarchy run deep"

When Princess Elizabeth succeeded to the British throne in 1952, Canada hailed her as the country's queen even before the declaration was issued in her homeland. Six decades later, royal watchers predict Canadian political and popular celebrations of her Diamond Jubilee will be among the most enthusiastic in the world. Revived political interest in the monarchy, coupled with residual glow from last year's blast of royal star power, has whet the country's appetite for months of festivities honouring one of the longest reigns in the institution's history. Royal commentator Rafal Heydel-Mankoo said Canada's long-standing love for its official head of state will also fan the flames of royal fervour in the coming months. "It's been absolutely remarkable to see this resurgence of support and enthusiasm for the crown," Heydel-Mankoo said in a telephone interview from London. "I think that's a sign of maturity ... A mature nation doesn't tamper with a tried, tested and proved formula which has given Canada stability and good government." Monday marks the 60th anniversary of the Queen's ascension to the British throne, which took place automatically with the death of her father King George VI. Heydel-Mankoo said Canada's privy council hailed her as the new sovereign hours before any other realm, including the United Kingdom. Her official coronation was held 16 months later to allow time for preparations and a period of mourning for the late king. Worldwide celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee will begin on Feb. 6 and continue for four months, culminating in a lavish ceremony in London on the anniversary of the coronation. Members of the royal family will fan out to various commonwealth countries to take part in global festivities. Canada will play host to Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, in May, and will also mark the occasion through smaller local ceremonies in the coming months. The Prince of Wales' visit is the third royal tour of Canada in as many years, following a glamorous nine-day sojourn by Prince William and his wife Kate last summer and a visit from the Queen herself in 2010. Canada's regular presence on royal itineraries, Heydel-Mankoo said, is a clear sign of the country's place in the family's affections. "In three successive years they've had the three biggest-ticket items in the royal family," he said. "I think that's clearly a sign of the regard with which the Canadian people are held."
Royal commentator Richard Berthelsen said Charles' May visit will be a lower-key affair than William and Kate's whirlwind tour, which saw crowds of several thousand strong descend on the newlyweds and shower them with praise. Charles and Camilla lack the novelty and glamour associated with the younger generation, but will have a driving purpose to their agenda, he said. "The Prince of Wales has been here many times since probably about 1970. Those visits to Canada have undergone various stages over the years," Berthelsen said. "It's going to be a tour that will have, in the background, the focus on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee." Such a focus seems appropriate for a monarch who is enjoying the second-longest reign in British history and who has had a front row seat to many seminal Canadian moments of the past half-century. The Queen attended the country's centennial in 1967, appeared at Canada's first Olympic games in Montreal eight years later, and has been present for numerous smaller celebrations over the years, Berthelsen said. Her frequent visits have bred a familiarity that spans many generations, he added. "For a lot of Canadians, I think she is sort of that great aunt figure who is in your family somewhere and who you like to see periodically ... Almost a third of the time the country's been in existence, she's been in this position," he said. Even the monarchy's detractors acknowledge the Queen's reign deserves some acknowledgment. Tom Freda, national director of Citizens for a Canadian Republic, said commemorative ceremonies are entirely appropriate for a woman of such prominence in Canadian cultural and political tradition. But such ceremonies, he argues, should not come with the multimillion-dollar price-tag the federal government has committed to. Ottawa has pledged $7.5 million to help fund four months worth of commemorative activities across the country, starting with flag-raising ceremonies in all provincial capitals on Monday morning. The government will also award 60,000 Canadians jubilee medals for their dedication to community service in the coming weeks.

^ I think that most Canadians respect and see Queen Eizabeth 2 as more of a grandmotherly figure than a Queen. She brings together English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians (with her fluent French.) I do not think Canadians (or other Commonwealth countries) feel the same about Prince Charles or Camilla and should he become King it will probably make more countries - like Canada - seriously think about becoming a republic. Although if Princes Charles lets Prince William become King instead then he will be just as popular a monarch as his Grandmother is today. I don't see Queen Elizabeth giving up the throne while she is alive though so things should be calm for some time. ^

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Canada's Queen: 60 Years

From The Governor-General of Canada:
"Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II/ Jubilé de diamant de Sa Majesté la reine Elizabeth II"

Message from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston,
Governor General of Canada, on the Occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's
Diamond Jubilee

OTTAWA—Today is a very rare occasion seldom witnessed in the history of nations. Sixty years ago, on February 6, 1952, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became Queen of Canada. As the representative of the Queen in Canada, I am deeply honoured, on behalf of all Canadians, to congratulate Her Majesty on her Diamond Jubilee—60 years of dedicated service to the people of all Commonwealth nations. As we mark the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty’s accession to the Throne, we also honour her commitment to service by recognizing Canadians who—like her—have devoted themselves to the well-being of family, community and country. Today’s inaugural presentation ceremony of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal to recipients from across the country marks the beginning of our year-long celebration. Throughout 2012, 60 000 deserving Canadians from a wide range of fields and backgrounds will receive this honour.
Six decades ago, a young Queen began her reign, one focused on duty and service to others. It is my hope that we will use this milestone as an opportunity to strengthen the ties we have with each other and with the Crown, which helps to define our country and what it means to be Canadian.

David Johnston

Message de Son Excellence le très honorable David Johnston, gouverneur général du Canada, à l'occasion du jubilé de diamant de Sa Majesté la reine Elizabeth II

OTTAWA – Aujourd’hui, nous célébrons un événement très rare dans l’histoire des nations. Il y a 60 ans, le 6 février 1952, Sa Majesté la reine Elizabeth II devenait Reine du Canada. À titre de représentant de la Reine au Canada, je suis profondément honoré, au nom de tous les Canadiens, de féliciter Sa Majesté pour son jubilé de diamant — 60 années de dévouement envers les peuples de tous les pays du Commonwealth. En cette célébration du 60e anniversaire de l’accession au trône de Sa Majesté, nous honorons également son sens du devoir et rendons hommage à ceux qui, comme elle, se sont consacrés à l’amélioration du bien-être de leur famille, de leur collectivité et de leur pays. La cérémonie inaugurale de remise de la Médaille du jubilé de diamant de la reine Elizabeth II à des récipiendaires de toutes les régions du pays marque, aujourd’hui, le début d’une année de célébrations. En effet, tout au long de 2012, cette distinction honorifique sera remise à 60 000 Canadiennes et Canadiens méritants issus de divers milieux et champs d’activité. Il y a soixante ans, une jeune reine entamait un règne axé sur le devoir et sur une vie au service des autres. J’espère que cet événement historique nous fournira l’occasion de raffermir les liens entre nous et avec la Couronne, laquelle aide à définir notre pays et à définir ce qu’est être Canadien.

David Johnston

^ It is pretty interesting to see how the different countries of the Commonwealth of Nations (ie Canada, the UK, etc) show their respect to the same woman - Queen Elizabeth 2 - Queen of Canada, Queen of the United Kingdom, etc. She has done a lot for the numerous countries under her power. Besides the UK -where she lives - she has travelled to Canada the most throughout the 6 decades of her rule. I guess that shows Canada's importance to both the Queen and the Commonwealth. ^

Commonwealth Visits

From Wikipedia:
"List of Commonwealth visits made by Queen Elizabeth II"

Below is a list of visits to Commonwealth countries made by Queen Elizabeth II. Since acceding to the throne on 6 February 1952, and simultaneously inheriting from her father the position and title of Head of the Commonwealth, Elizabeth II has travelled to every country within the Commonwealth of Nations, except two of the most recent members, Cameroon and Rwanda. Canada is the most visited country, with 24visits (not including fuel stops).


1952 Kenya; 4–6 February

1953–54 Bermuda; 24–25 November
Jamaica; 25–27 November
Fiji; 17–19 December
Tonga; 19–20 December
New Zealand; 23 December–30 January, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand
Australia; 3 February–1 April, in her capacity of Queen of Australia
Cocos Islands; 5 April
Ceylon; 10–21 April, in her capacity of Queen of Ceylon
Aden; 27 April
Uganda; 28–30 April
Malta; 3–7 May
Gibraltar; 10 May

1956 Nigeria; 28 January–16 February

1957 Canada; 12–16 October, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1959 Canada; 18 June–1 August, in her capacity of Queen of Canada


1961 Cyprus (refuelling); 20 January
India; 21 January–1 February
Pakistan; 1–16 February (12–16 February Former East Pakistan, now Bangladesh)
India; 16–26 February
India; 1–2 March
Ghana; 9–20 November
Sierra Leone; 25 November–1 December, in her capacity of Queen of Sierra Leone.
Gambia; 3–5 December \

1962 Canada; June, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1963 Canada; 30 January–1 February, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
Fiji; 2–3 February
New Zealand; 6–18 February, in her capacity of Queen of the New Zealand.
Australia; 18 February–27 March, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Fiji (refuelling); 28 March
Canada (refuelling); 29 March

1964 Canada; 5–13 October, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1966 Canada (refuelling); 1 February
Barbados; 1 February
Mustique (private visit); 2 February
British Guiana; 4–5 February
Trinidad and Tobago; 7–10 February, in her capacity of Queen of Trinidad and Tobago.
Grenada; 11 February
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; 13 February
Barbados; 14–15 February
Saint Lucia; 16 February
Antigua (private visit); 17 February
Dominica; 18 February
Montserrat; 19 February
Antigua; 20–21 February
Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla; 22 February
British Virgin Islands; 23 February
Turks and Caicos Islands; 25 February
Bahamas; 26–28 February
Conception Island (private visit); 1 March
Jamaica; 3–6 March, in her capacity of Queen of Jamaica.

1967 Canada; 29 June–5 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada
Malta; 14–17 November, in her capacity of Queen of Malta


1970 Canada; 2–3 March, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
Fiji; 4–5 March
Tonga; 7 March
New Zealand; 12–30 March, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Australia; 30 March–3 May, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Fiji (refuelling); 3 May
Canada (refuelling); 3–4 May
Canada; 5–15 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1971 Canada; 3–12 May, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1972 Singapore; 18–20 February
Malaysia; 22–26, 28 February
Brunei; 29 February
Malaysia; 2 March
Singapore; 5 March
Malaysia; 6, 8 March
Maldives; 13–14 March
Seychelles; 19–20 March
Mauritius; 24–26 March, in her capacity of Queen of Mauritius.
Kenya; 26 March

1973 Canada; 25 June–5 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada
Canada (for 2nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 31 July–4 August, in her capacity of Queen of Canada
Canada (refuelling); 15 October
Fiji; 16–17 October, in her capacity of Queen of Fiji
Australia; 17–22 October, in her capacity of Queen of Australia
Singapore (refuelling); 23 October

1974 Canada (refuelling); 27 January
Cook Islands; 28–29 January
New Zealand; 30 January–8 February, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Norfolk Island; 11 February
New Hebrides; 15–16 February
Solomon Islands; 18–21 February
Papua New Guinea; 22–27 February
Australia; 27–28 February, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Singapore (refuelling); 28 February
Singapore (refuelling); 14 March 1974
Singapore (refuelling); 22 March 1974

1975 Bermuda; 16–18 February
Barbados; 18–20 February, in her capacity of Queen of Barbados.
Bahamas; 20–21 February, in her capacity of Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Bermuda (refuelling); 1 March
Jamaica (for 3rd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 26–30 April, in her capacity of Queen of Jamaica.
Hong Kong; 4–7 May

1976 Canada; 13–25 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1977 Western Samoa; 10–11 February
Tonga; 14 February
Fiji; 16–17 February, in her capacity of Queen of Fiji.
New Zealand; 22 February–7 March, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Australia; 7–23 March, in her capacity of Queen of Australia
Papua New Guinea; 23–26 March, in her capacity of Queen of Papua New Guinea
Australia; 26–30 March, in her capacity of Queen of Australia
Canada; 14–19 October, in her capacity of Queen of Canada
Bahamas; 19–20 October, in her capacity of Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Plana Cays and Inagua (private); 22–23 October
British Virgin Islands; 26 October
Antigua (private); 27 October
Antigua 28 October
Mustique (private); 30 October
Barbados; 31 October–2 November, in her capacity of Queen of Barbados.

1978 Canada; 26 July–6 August, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1979 Tanzania; 19–22 July
Malawi; 22–25 July
Botswana; 25–27 July
Zambia (for 5th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 27 July–4 August


1980 Singapore (refuelling); 24 May
Australia; 24–28 May, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Singapore (refuelling); 29 May

1981 Singapore (refuelling); 26 September
Australia (for 6th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 26 September–12 October, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
New Zealand; 12–20 October, , in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Australia; 20–21 October, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Sri Lanka; 21–25 October

1982 Canada; 15–18 April, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
Singapore (refuelling); 5 October
Australia; 5–13 October (Closed the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane on 9 October), in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Papua New Guinea; 13–14 October, in her capacity of Queen of Papua New Guinea.
Solomon Islands; 18 October, in her capacity of Queen of the Solomon Islands.
Nauru; 21 October
Kiribati; 23 October
Tuvalu; 26–27 October, in her capacity of Queen of Tuvalu.
Fiji; 30 October–1 November, in her capacity of Queen of Fiji.

1983 Bermuda (refuelling); 13 February
Jamaica; 13–16 February, in her capacity of Queen of Jamaica
Cayman Islands; 16–17 February
Canada; 8–11 March, in her capacity of Queen of Canada
Cyprus; 9–10 November
Kenya; 10–14 November
Bangladesh; 14–17 November
India (for 7th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 17–26 November

1984 Cyprus; 25–26 March
Canada; 24 September–7 October, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1985 Belize; 9–11 October, in her capacity of Queen of Belize.
Bahamas (for 8th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 11–18 October, in her capacity of Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Inagua (private); 20 October
Saint Kitts and Nevis; 23 October, in her capacity of Queen of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Antigua; 24 October, in her capacity of Queen of Antigua and Barbuda.
Dominica; 25 October
Saint Lucia; 26 October, in her capacity of Queen of Saint Lucia.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; 27 October, in her capacity of Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Barbados; 28–29 October, in her capacity of Queen of Barbados.
Mustique (private); 30 October
Grenada; 31 October, in her capacity of Queen of Grenada.
Trinidad and Tobago; 1–3 November

1986 New Zealand; 22 February–2 March, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand
Australia; 2–13 March, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Hong Kong; 21–23 October

1987 Canada (for 10th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 9–24 October, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
1988 Australia; 19 April–10 May, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
1989 Barbados; 8–11 March, in her capacity of Queen of Barbados.
Singapore; 9–11 October
Malaysia (for 11th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 14–21 October


1990 Singapore (refuelling); 31 January
Australia (refuelling); 1 February
New Zealand; 1–16 February, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Australia (refuelling); 17 February
Singapore (refuelling); 17 February
Canada; 27 June–1 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1991 Kenya (overnight stop); 7 October
Namibia; 8–10 October
Zimbabwe (12th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 10–19 October

1992 Australia; 18–25 February, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Malta; 28–30 May
Canada; 30 June–2 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1993 Cyprus (13th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 18–24 October

1994 Anguilla; 18 February
Dominica; 19 February
Guyana; 19–22 February
Belize; 22–24 February, in her capacity of Queen of Belize.
Cayman Islands; 26–27 February
Jamaica; 1–3 March, in her capacity of Queen of Jamaica.
Bahamas; 6–8 March in her capacity of Queen of the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
Bermuda; 8–10 March
Canada; 13–22 August, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

1995 South Africa; 19–25 March
New Zealand (14th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 30 October–11 November, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.

1997 Canada; 23 June–2 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
Pakistan; 6–12 October
India; 12–18 October

1998 Brunei; 17–20 September
Malaysia; 20–23 September

1999 Ghana; 7–9 November
South Africa (16th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 9–15 November
Mozambique; 15 November


2000 Australia; 17 March–1 April, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.

2002 Jamaica; 18–20 February, in her capacity of Queen of Jamaica.
New Zealand; 22–27 February, in her capacity of Queen of New Zealand.
Australia (17th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 27 February–3 March, in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Canada; 4–15 October in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

2003 Nigeria (18th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 3–6 December

2005 Canada; 17–25 May, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.
Malta (19th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 23–26 November

2006 Australia (Opened the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne on 15 March), in her capacity of Queen of Australia.
Singapore; 16–18 March

2007 Malta; 20–21 November
Uganda (20th Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting); 21–24 November

2009 Bermuda; 24–26 November
Trinidad and Tobago; 26–28 November (21st Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting)


2010 Canada; 28 June-6 July, in her capacity of Queen of Canada.

2011 Australia; (22nd Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting) 19–29 October 2011, in her capacity of Queen of Australia

^ Queen Elizabeth 2 has to be one of the most-travelled monarchs of all time. ^

Black Americans

From Yahoo News:
"Some blacks insist: 'I'm not African-American'"

The labels used to describe Americans of African descent mark the movement of a people from the slave house to the White House. Today, many are resisting this progression by holding on to a name from the past: "black." For this group — some descended from U.S. slaves, some immigrants with a separate history — "African-American" is not the sign of progress hailed when the term was popularized in the late 1980s. Instead, it's a misleading connection to a distant culture. "I prefer to be called black," said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. "How I really feel is, I'm American." "I don't like African-American. It denotes something else to me than who I am," said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. "I can't recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C."

^ I have been using the term "black" for many years now. It just seems and feels weird to say African American. No one calls me Caucasian-American. Hopefully the ultra PC of the 1990s and 2000s is over. ^

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Falklands And Argentina

From Yahoo News:
"Argentines seek peaceful resolution in Falklands"

Despite weeks of overheated rhetoric, there seems to be zero hunger among Argentines for another "military adventure" no matter how much they want to reclaim the islands 300 miles off their southern shores. Every Argentine schoolchild is taught that the British stole the Malvinas, as Argentines call the islands, as well as the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands nearly two centuries ago, claiming along with them a huge expanse of the South Atlantic. But hardly anyone here wants to use force to recover them, least of all President Cristina Fernandez. She has ordered the declassification of the Rattenbach Report, a long-secret analysis of mistakes made as the 1976-83 military junta went to war with Britain in 1982. She said she wants it understood that her campaign to recover Argentine territory will remain one of diplomacy and economic pressure. Argentina's dictatorship invaded to cover up its torture and killing of political opponents and distract people from a devastated economy, Fernandez said. "They couldn't think of anything better to do than send unprepared boys to a suicidal war." A total of 649 Argentines and 257 Britons died in the 74-day war, humiliating the junta and hastening Argentina's return to democracy. Declassifying the report, which described the invasion as a poorly planned "military adventure," will show "it wasn't a decision of the Argentine people, but of a despotic government," Fernandez said. Almost three-fourths of Argentines, cutting across all ages and classes, say recovering the islands is important, and more than two-thirds said they support Fernandez's campaign, according to the Ibarometro polling firm. Nearly 79 percent of those surveyed favor diplomacy or negotiations to resolve the dispute. Fernandez has persuaded her South American allies to close their ports to Falklands-flagged vessels — itself a largely symbolic move because it doesn't include banning the fishing fleet that operates under Falklands government licenses. Fernandez also has suggested she might close air space to the weekly flight by Chile's LAN Air Lines to the islands.

^ The first part of the article makes Argentina out to be the victim and you feel sorry for them, but towards the middle and definately by the end you loose that apologic attitude. Argentina should accept the fact that they won't ever get the Falkland Islands back unless the British decide to give it back to them. No amount of imposed isolation or blockage will force the British to change their stance (just as the war in the 1980s was lost before it started.) If the Argentinian President really believes in a diplomatic solution to the Falklands then she isn't doing a good job so far. ^;_ylv=3

Komen Reversal

From Yahoo News:
"Komen reverses move to cut Planned Parenthood funding"

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation backed down from its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and birth control services, following a massive outcry by supporters of the world's largest breast cancer charity. Komen's decision had thrust the group into America's deeply politicized debate over abortion rights and its apology on Friday may not satisfy the more vocal advocates on either side.

^ Money from the Komen Foundation should only be used for cancer screenings, education and treatment whether it is as Planned Parenthood or anyplace else. It is a cancer charity and should not get involved with anything else. ^

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

US Leaving Afghanistan

From USA Today:
"Panetta: U.S. combat in Afghanistan to end next year"

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says the U.S. and its NATO partners intend to end their combat role in Afghanistan next year, while keeping troops there in a support role through 2014. He told reporters traveling with him to Brussels on Wednesday that this switch from combat to training and advising Afghan forces would take place in mid- to late-2013. Panetta's remarks represented the Obama administration's most explicit portrayal yet of how the military mission in Afghanistan is expected to evolve. Panetta said no decisions have been made on how many U.S. troops would be needed once the combat mission ends. He was headed to Brussels for a NATO meeting to discuss this and other Afghanistan issues with U.S. partner nations.

^ I think Obama is trying too hard to make his lasting legacy one that the American public forgets all the bad programs/laws he created domestically to only remember that he was the one who ended the war in Iraq and soon to be in Afghanistan. It also seems that Pannetta and Obama are trying to scale-down the military way too fast which will leave the US in the same position it was in 1993 when Clinton did the same - unprepared for an attack. ^

Stupid Russian Site

From Yahoo News:
"Russia: A Kremlin Website Launched to Expose 'Stupidity'"

In the eyes of the Russian bureaucracy, having no legs is not enough to qualify for permanent disability. A legless citizen, apart from dealing with cities that are about as wheelchair accessible as an Amazonian rainforest, must stand in line every two years to file a document proving that he has no legs. Otherwise, the state apparently assumes that the limbs have grown back, stopping providing benefits. This absurd piece of red tape comes up repeatedly on the Kremlin's newest website, Russia Without Fools, which was launched over the weekend as a kind of register of bureaucratic inanity, or as President Dmitri Medvedev called it, a "stupidity contest." Apart from offering a rare bit of official self-criticism, the aim of the site is to provide a social steam valve at a time when it is badly needed. In December, Russia saw the biggest protests against the government since the fall of the Soviet Union, and the state has since been rushing to co-opt or placate the opposition. The latest attempt is Russia Without Fools, which gives people a chance to have their gripes heard online instead of taking them to the streets. In the first day of its existence, Jan. 22, the site got more than 135,000 visitors, about as many as attended the December demonstrations in Moscow, and two days later, more than 1,000 of them had posted stories of the government's ineptitude. "We had to plug in the backup servers to deal with the avalanche of stupidity," says Raf Shakirov, the director of the project. "I was like, Wow. We're going to have to hire more people."

^ I think that every country in the world needs one of these sites. This is not just a Russian problem, but a global one. Too many people are allowed to keep their jobs when they have no qualification to complete their work. This gets pushed on the public that has to deal with the unqualified person. It seems that in the past few decades basic common sense has been replaced by stupid people thinking up things and making them official practices. ^