Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Hunger Games (2012)

I saw this movie yesterday with my mom. Up until a few weeks ago I had never heard of the books or the movie, but once I did it seemed pretty interesting. That's why I wanted to see it in the theater rather than waiting for it on Netflix. We didn't want to fight the crowds of people last weekend - it's opening weekend - so we waited until yesterday. The theater only had about 10-12 people in it - we went at the first showing at 4 pm when people would still be at work and school.
I liked the movie and thought it had a very good storyline. It is about a future world where the Central Government in the "Capital" has everything from power to food and the outside "Districts" supply both children and supplies to the Capital. The main character, Katniss (played by Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to fight in annual "Hunger Games" instead of her younger sister - where a boy and girl from each District fight to the death until there is one winner. Also chosen from her District is Peeta (played by Josh Hutcherson) who has had a crush on Katniss.
The two are thrust into life in the Capital (whose own children don't fight in the Hunger Games, but watch it on TV) where everyone has everything they could ever want. I won't say how the movie ends, but it's not how you expect. I knew they already started a sequel to this movie - which is odd since the first hadn't even come out yet. The movie does leave off at a good spot for the next to take over. I am now planning on reading the books and seeing how it compares to the movie. I am also curious to see how the next movie is.

Orphanage Reform

From the Moscow Times:
"Russia Struggles to Reform Soviet-Era Orphanages"

Twenty years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, about 371,700 children are growing up in state institutions, according to figures that the Russian government presented to the United Nations in 2011. Russia’s orphan population is as large as that of some of its provincial cities. And along with other former communist countries, it has one of the highest rates in the world. Only 30 percent of these “orphans” have no parents. Many fall into the system when their parents, often fighting a losing battle with alcohol or drugs, are denied their parental rights or give up their child. Almost half in this “orphan city” have disabilities or special needs, and their parents are encouraged to send them to an institution. In 2006, then-President Vladimir Putin ordered officials to cut the number of children living in institutions, delivering a speech that evoked unease about population decline and foreigners adopting Russian children. As Putin prepares to return to the presidency, the birth rate has started to creep up, but the number of children in institutions remains stubbornly high. Children with Down syndrome are still being dismissed as ineducable, and their parents are advised to hand them over to an institution, said Sergei Koloskov, founder of the Down Syndrome Association, which he started in 1993 after refusing to give up his daughter. “There are practically no alternatives for disabled children,” he said. Disabled children have scarcely been included in the deinstitutionalization effort and are far less likely to be adopted.

^ I have never visited a Russian orphanage, but did visit an instution for disabled children in Yaroslavl. My Russian teacher didn't want me to go and even encouraged me to forget the idea as she was scared to go into the building. Nevertheless I wanted to see it for myself and so went. I toured the run-down building and met some of the children. Most had mild mental retardation (I was told those with severe disabilities go to other institutions in Siberia.) Some of the children had parents or grandparents, but very few ever had visitors. The woman I spoke to there said that it is in the Russian nature to view the disabled as a curse and to place them in State instutions and forget about them - out of sight out of mind. I found that very disgusting. When I told the woman that I had worked at an overnight summer camp for the mentally and physically disabled for 4 summers she just couldn't believe that the disabled were allowed outside the institution - even for a week at camp. I found it very disgusting the way these children were treated (I never saw any abuse or anything like that when I was there, but the idea that because they were disabled and discarded made me upset.)
The system needs to be fixed from the top-down. The disabled need to be in separate group homes according to their disbaility and level of understanding and taught to the best of their ability. The orphans (and Russians should note that an orphan is a child up to 18 years old that has NO PARENTS!) should be put in an orphanage and given the same education as children in public school, The children with parents that can't keep them should be put in their own group home and also taught the same as in public school. The whole idea is to treat them like the human-beings they are and to get them ready for when they are adults, leave the group homes and can contribute to society in a positive way. Right now it seems the Russians are simply throwing all of them together and giving them the bare basics and hoping the problem just disappears - that hasn't worked in the part 20+ years since the Soviet Union collapsed and it's not going to change until the Russian Government and people work to make the conditions better for these children. ^

Russian Gay Bill

From the Moscow Times:
"National Anti-Gay Bill Submitted to Duma"

A controversial bill banning the "promotion of homosexuality" to minors was introduced into the State Duma on Thursday, two weeks after similar legislation came into force in St. Petersburg. Novosibirsk regional lawmakers submitted the bill, which calls for fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,500) for promoting a gay lifestyle in the media and through "public activities that promote homosexuality as normal behavior." The bill will stir fears in the gay community about an increase in discrimination and a crackdown on every manifestation of homosexuality — from gay-pride events to the arts and media.

^ This is a step back in the wrong direction for Russia. If the national bill passes it will only create a witch-hunt against homosexuals and make Russia once step closer to being the dictatorship it was under the USSR - where homosexuality was illegal. I don't understand how the local, oblast or Federal Russian governments can say homosexuality is legal and then fine and/or arrest people for being gay. Either it is legal and you accept it or it's not - you can't have it both ways. Hopefully the national bill will not pass and the regional ones will be struck down by the Russian Supreme Court. ^

Friday, March 30, 2012

Canadian Penny - Bye!

From Yahoo Canada:
"Penny to disappear from coinage system, minting to end by fall: budget"

There may still be pennies from heaven, but they won't be coming from the mint much longer. The humble one-cent piece is set to disappear from Canadian pockets, a victim of inflation. Thursday's federal budget said the Royal Canadian Mint will strike the last of the little coins this fall. The budget says the cost of minting a penny has risen to 1.6 cents or $11 million a year. Its purchasing power has fallen to a 20th of its original value. "The penny is a currency without any currency in Canada," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said at a news conference. Pennies will still be legal tender, but as they slowly vanish from circulation, prices will have to be rounded up or down. If the customer has the pennies, they can use them. Payments with debit or credit cards, or cheques, can also be to the penny. But if the customer is paying cash and doesn't have the pennies, the total will go up or down to the nearest nickel. For example, $1.02 will become $1 and $1.03 will be $1.05.

^ I do not like carrying any change. Even with the penny disappearing it still leaves the $1 and $2 coins in Canada. One thing I remember from growing up in New York is always getting Canadian pennies in my change (although stores always checked when you tried to reuse them.) I used to think it was a Canadian conspiracy to infiltrate their money into our currency. I also remember the military bases in Germany using the "Swedish Rounding System" they would round down if it was 1 or 2 cents and round up if it was 3 or 4 cents. It was annoying if you had to pay the extra penny for no reason. Then when I was in Russia (and in several other European countries) if they didn't have pennies or kopecks they would give you some really cheap and disgusting candy to "make up" for the missing coins. I didn't like that either. I guess in the end the Canadian penny is going to disappear and it really won't affect me - unless I am in Canada. I just hope the US doesn't try (again) to do away with the American penny. ^

Canadian Budget

From BBC:
"Canada budget raises pensions benefit age"

The eligibility age for Canada's Old Age Security (OAS) benefits will rise to 67 from 65 starting in 2023, as part of the government's new budget. The budget outlines C$5.2bn (£3.3bn) in cuts, with reductions across defence, health care and agriculture. The change to the OAS will not affect Canadians who are currently above the age of 54. The benefit is worth C$6,000 a year and the age change will also apply to a supplemental programme. While the move has been explained as a way to deal with increasing costs of the benefit to the government because of the baby boomer generation, most boomers will not be affected by the increase.

^ I'm not sure if this is a good thing or not, but the one thing I do like about it is that they "grandfathered-in" people who are 54 and older so it won't affect them. Regardless if the budget is good or not this one provision is the right choice. ^

Military Guardian Angels

From USA Today:
"New security for U.S. troops in Afghanistan"

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan have assigned "guardian angels" — troops that watch over their comrades even as they sleep — and have ordered a series of other increased security measures to protect troops against possible attacks by rogue Afghans. The added protections are part of a directive issued in recent weeks by Marine Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to guard against insider threats, according to a senior military official. And they come in the wake of a spike in attacks on U.S. and coalition forces by Afghans, including the point-blank shooting deaths of two U.S. advisers in Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior.
In several Afghan ministries, Americans are now allowed to carry weapons. And they have been instructed to rearrange their office desks there to face the door, so they can see who is coming in, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe the internal directive.

^ This seems to be a good strategy (they are in a war zone afterall and people want to kill them.) I'm surprised it has taken so long to implement. ^

Thursday, March 29, 2012

West Pays For East

From Deutsche Welle:
"Western German cities want to end solidarity pact"

More than 20 years after reunification, a number of western German municipalities want to end their solidarity pledge to the East. Their argument: finances in many cities in the West are much worse off than in the East. Many towns and cities in the Ruhr Valley, once a bustling center of the coal and steel industries, face similar problems. Where riches once flowed, the unemployment rate now hovers around 20 percent in some areas, a figure nearly three times that of the country-wide average. Cities are rushing to close theaters, youth institutions and swimming pools, while still facing uncertainty about how to make interest payments, not to mention tackle the debts themselves. The Ruhr region cities of Oberhausen and Dortmund owe nearly 2 billion euros each, the highest debts in western Germany. "We just don't know what to do," said Oberhausen Mayor Klaus Wehling, of the Social Democrats (SPD). Together with fellow mayors throughout the region, he is sounding alarms and demanding an end to so-called solidarity programs with the states that once belonged to the communist German Democratic Republic (GDR). The legislation on solidarity packages requires German cities and districts in the West to pay sums of around 10 billion euros annually to the East. The goal of the funds, which go foremost for expansions and repairs on streets and train tracks, is to balance out the infrastructure and living conditions between the once-divided regions of the country. The original solidarity pact was reached in 1995. When figures showed in 2004 that the economic output of the former East was far from the levels in its western counterpart, the federal government reached an agreement with states and localities to extend the pact until 2019, resulting in a volume of 156 billion euros. That's money that many districts in the West desperately need, said Jörg Stüdemann, Dortmund's city manager, who called the solidarity pact an "absurd system." Stüdemann added that his city is only able to live up to its part of the pact by taking out loans. "For us, the pact is not at an end in 2019. We're going to be paying off these loans for decades," he explained. "We need to have a political discussion about the finances of cities and districts, including in the Ruhr Valley. Many swimming pools are already closed, and streets are not being repaired. Where are we heading with all of this?" The numbers speak for themselves. While a number of western German communities add to their debts each year, district coffers in the former East are overflowing. Germany's Federal Statistics Office reported that in 2010, the balance sheets of eastern German municipalities were in the black by 393 million euros. The eastern city of Jena announced recently that it hopes to be completely debt-free by 2025.

It does seem a little dumb that 21 years since the two Germanys were reunited that the western states are still supporting the eastern states. Back in the 1990s it was desperately needed to bring the two countries to the same standards, but if that hasn't been done by now then the money hasn't been used wisely. There are countries in Europe that were worse off than the former East Germany (ie Estonia which was part of the Soviet Union or Croatia which was part of Yugoslavia and then devastated by war) and yet they have managed to pull themselves out of their troubled, bankrupted past and thrive inspite all the economical problems around them. ^,,15837300,00.html

Papers! Papers!

From Deutsche Welle:
"Police get right to stop 'foreign-looking' travelers"

While much of Europe has done away with passport checks, German police received judiciary approval to demand official ID of "foreign-looking" people. Human rights groups call the ruling discriminatory and illegal. Passengers on trains travelling from Germany to France don't have to show their passports to cross the border, but a ruling from a German administrative court this week allows police to require "foreign-looking" passengers traveling on German trains to produce identification papers regardless of whether they are under suspicion of any wrongdoing. The court said police had authority to check people's identity and residency status based on their appearance to fight illegal immigration. The ruling added that such checks were permitted only on rail lines that could be used to provide illegal entry to Germany or lead to breaches of Germany's Aliens Act.

^ This has the feeling of the old war movies where the Germans walk into a place and demand everyone's ID Card shouting "Papers! Papers!" then they arrest and deport the people to camps. I'm not saying that they are now going to open concentration camps, but the identify checks do have that war feeling to them. What's strange to me is that the police can do this because under German law you are required to have either a German ID Card or a Passport, but do not have to carry it with you at all times. So how can the police arrest you for not showing them your identity document when you are not required by law to carry them? Unlike Russia, where you are required to carry your ID with you at all times and the police have the right to stop you whenever they want and can arrest you if you don't have the right documents - although I wish someone had told me that as I never carried my passport when I was in Yaroslavl, but luckily I did in Moscow as I was stopped (I only had it with me because you needed it to travel by train.)It seems that the Germans either need to change the law and not allow the police to check documents on trains - or elsewhere - or change the law saying you don't have to carry your documents with you since the one cancels out the other. ^,,15846180,00.html

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week was pretty annoying. They were in one merged tribe and were split in two for the Reward Challenge. Leif messed the challenge for his tribe at the very beginning and his group lost. The other group got pizza and beer. Then during the Immunity Challenge they have to balance balls until they fell and Troyzan won (he also found the hidden idol.)
Jonas and Tarzan had a fight. Jonas was always the quiet follower whereas Tarzan is the weird, forgetful, creepy person (he's a plastic surgeon - I would never let him work on me.)
At Tribal, Jonas went off on a stupid speech in which he dug his own elimination. I would have liked to see Tarzan sent home as he is beyond creepy (he kept telling people the brown in his underwear was sand.) Right now I would like to see Troyzan win.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


This week they went from Germany to Baku, Azerbaijan. I used to think it would be cool to visit all the former Soviet Republics, but after seeing this episode I'm not too sure. There was a Fast Forward that the Combat Pilot and his wife finished (usually I think the wife is stupid in the challenges, but this time I thought it was the husband.) Since they finished they got in First Place. The other teams had to go under water and swim their way out and then either go through a car full of apples or clean oil off a hairy man. The oil challenge was pretty gross - I would have done the apples. In the end the two New Yorkers came in last and went home. Next time they go to Africa.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Facebook Password Fight

From Yahoo:
"Facebook warns employers not to demand passwords"

Facebook is warning employers not to demand the passwords of job applicants, saying that it's an invasion of privacy that opens companies to legal liabilities. The social networking company is also threatening legal action against those who violate its long-standing policy against sharing passwords. An Associated Press story this week documented cases of job applicants who are being asked, at the interview table, to reveal their Facebook passwords so their prospective employers can check their backgrounds. In a post on Friday, Facebook's chief privacy of policy officer cautioned that if an employer discovers that a job applicant is a member of a protected group, the employer may open itself up to claims of discrimination if it doesn't hire that person. "As a user, you shouldn't be forced to share your private information and communications just to get a job," wrote Erin Egan. "And as the friend of a user, you shouldn't have to worry that your private information or communications will be revealed to someone you don't know and didn't intend to share with just because that user is looking for a job." Not sharing passwords is a basic tenet of online conduct. Aside from the privacy concerns, Facebook considers the practice a security risk. Facebook spokesman Andrew Noyes said that the company doesn't think employers should be asking applicants for their passwords because "we don't think it's the right thing to do."

^ I'm glad that Facebook is speaking out against this. It is not only stupid, but also illegal. I would never give an employer the password to my private/personal (non work-related) e-mail or social network. If companies want to check someone's background then they can do what has been done for decades and do a background check. People should be able to keep their social and private lives separate from their work life. I can understand if a company says you can't check your sites on company time, but to force you to give them your password is just wrong. ^

Obamacare + 2

From Yahoo:
"Obama’s health care law passed 2 years ago, but where are we now?"

It seems like President Barack Obama's controversial health care reform law has been fodder for Republican swipes and grievances for ages. And it sort of has. Wednesday marks the two-year anniversary of the House narrowly squeezing through health care reform, which the Supreme Court will begin reviewing next week before deciding on its legality sometime this summer. The law was quickly challenged by states' attorneys general, while congressional Republicans vowed to "repeal and replace" it. The new regulation also galvanized the tea party movement, which was credited with changing the political landscape and driving home a Republican-swinging 2010 midterm election. But since then, the public demonstrations have quieted, in part because the most controversial aspects of the law will not go into effect until 2014. The popular consumer-protection parts of the law were intentionally front-loaded.

Already in effect

- Insurance companies have already submitted to new rules, which will prevent them from setting a "lifetime limit" on benefits for any of their paying customers. They can't refuse to cover children who have preexisting conditions or kick off kids from their parents' plans until they reach 26 years old.

- Seniors who reached the Medicare part D prescription coverage gap received extra money for drugs, small businesses that insure their employees qualified for new tax credits, and about 50,000 adults with preexisting conditions who have been denied coverage in the past joined a new high-risk pool created by the law. (And by 2014, insurance companies won't be able to deny coverage to sick adults.)

What's coming this year

- By this coming August, insurance plans must offer contraception to women without a co-pay. It's part of a list of preventative services, like cholesterol screening, that the law says must be given without cost sharing.

- One of the most popular components of the health care law (according to a Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll) is set to go into effect this fall, when health care plans will have to publish a uniform, easy-to-understand description of their benefits so that customers can comparison-shop.

- But all the major provisions roll out in 2014, when Medicaid will be expanded to cover most low-income people (defined as a family of four making $30,657 or less each year) under 65. Employers of more than 50 people will be fined if they don't provide health insurance to their employees, while people who don't qualify for the expanded Medicaid but aren't offered insurance from their job can buy from state insurance exchanges. People who are living at up to 400 percent of the federal poverty level will receive subsidies or tax cuts to buy insurance from the exchanges.

- Insurance companies won't be allowed to turn down anyone who is already sick, and won't be allowed to charge higher premiums based on a customer's gender. The law also sets guidelines for what insurance plans must cover and imposes new fees on the industry.

- The very last change is a tax on "luxury" health care plans that will go into effect in 2018. Insurers that offer plans costing $10,200 or more will face the tax.

^ The main item that I still do not think is right (or constitutional) is the part that says that every American will have to have health insurance or be fined. It is one thing for Obama to say that every American has to have health insurance and then does what most Western countries do and pay for it using government funds, but to force everyone to have it and then punish them with fines is just plain stupid. If people who don't have health insurance could afford to pay for it then I think they would and giving them a fine doesn't help the situation. I hope the Supreme Court turns down at least this part of Obamacare, but since most of them are ultra-liberals I don't think they will. That leaves two other chances: for Congress to repeal it or for a new President to be elected this November and repeal it (I hope Congress repeals it before November and then we get a new President.) ^

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Survivor: OW

This was a great week. Karma really came back and got Colton to the point that he was forced to leave the game. If it had been any other player (except Alicia) I would feel sorry for them having to leave because of medical reasons, but not in this case. In the beginning of the episode Colton and Alicia were being really nasty to Christina (going a little too over-board) and now Colton is gone and Alicia is scared. Colton is such an arrogant prick that even when he could of given his idol to someone he liked to help them in the game he decided to keep it as a souvenir.
Before all the Colton drama there was a reward challenge where the "Greek Gods" won and got to have all the ice cream they wanted.
For Tribal both tribes had to appear where they learned they had merged. It would have been nice if they could have waited for Alicia to be voted out, but they didn't. Now that they are 6 men and 6 women it will be interesting to see what alliances will be renewed and which will be created.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Canada's Foreign Marriage

From Yahoo Canada:
"Foreign spouses face tighter rules in Canada"

If a foreign spouse's marriage in Canada does not last two years, he or she could be deported, according to a proposed new federal rule. The Conservatives believe a two-year probationary period for foreign spouses would prevent men and women from getting away with immigration fraud by marrying Canadians just to get into the country. The Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration enforced one new regulation March 2 that says a foreign spouse who ditches her new husband must wait five years after entering Canada before sponsoring a new partner. The two-year probation is not yet in effect. It is open to public input until the beginning of April, and the ministry said it expects to have the regulation in place at the end of the summer.

^ I don't see a problem with this. The US has the same 2 year period for the Green Card and it seems to work. ^

Israeli Gas Masks

From Jerusalem Post:
"Gas mask distribution is coming to an end"

Despite concern that Israel could come under a chemical attack due to the growing instability in Syria, the IDF Home Front Command will suspend distribution of gas masks at the end of the month due to a government refusal to allocate funds necessary to continue their production. By the end of March, a little over 4 million Israelis will have received new gas masks under the IDF’s distribution program which began in 2006 with the collection of the public’s old gas masks. The remaining 40 percent of Israel’s population will not have masks. Behind the shortage is a disagreement between the Defense Ministry and the Treasury over where the funding for the continued refurbishment and distribution of the masks will come from. The Defense Ministry has asked for a budget supplement while the Treasury has argued that the money should come from the regular defense budget.

^ This is unbelievable. I usually agree with Israel, but in this case I don't. The fact that the Israeli Government will stop giving out gas masks to its citizens because of a disagreement on which agency will pay for it. The threat of a biological or chemical attack from any number of Arab/Muslim countries on Israel is real and it would seem stupid if people are needlessly put at risk because they don't have gas masks. If I lived in Israel and couldn't get a free gas mask I would buy one myself and for my family to make sure we were covered - not giving gas masks will hurt those most at risk - the elderly, young and disabled as the others are in the military and would be called to defend the country if there was an attack. ^


Last night there were some issues with the TiVo and it didn't tape half the show. I saw that they went to Germany and had to choose either making a gingerbread house or style a beard. The beard challenge is just creepy. I wouldn't have done it. That's where the tape stopped. It started back with the Border Patrol getting first place again. I know the Southern Guys had to do a Speed Bump because they were in last place last week, but don't know what they had to do. I do know they finished because they came in 6th place. The Southern Cousins were last and sent home. They were starting to get annoying so it was nice that they left when they did. I still want either the Border Patrol or the Combat Pilot and Wife winning. Next week my TiVo should be all set to tape the whole show. The teams go to Azerbaijan which should be good.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Shake Hands With The Devil (1959)

I just watched this film (for Saint Patrick's Day) and thought it was really good. It deals with an American (played by Don Murray) of Irish descent who is in Dublin in 1921 studying to become a doctor when he is thrown into the Irish War for Independence against the British and briefly touches on the arguments for/against the Irish-Anglo Treaty that divided Ireland into the Free State (a British Dominion) and Northern Ireland (owned by London) which led to the Irish Civil War.
The movie also has James Cagney as Murray's Professor and leader of an IRA unit. I haven't seen many movies with him in it, but he does a good acting job in this one. Glynis Johns (the mother from the "Mary Poppins" movie) also does a really good job.
It shows the awful things the Black and Tans (sent by the British to beat Irish resistance) did to the Irish - which brought more ordinary Irish to the fight against British rule. The movie also shows the dilemma faced by those that want their freedom yet don't believe in violence (as Murray's character does.)

Canadian Border Politness

From Yahoo Canada:
"Americans praise Canadian Border Services agents’ politeness, courtesy"

Canada's legendary reputation for politeness apparently extends to our border guards.
American visitors entering through the Detroit-Windsor portal have contrasted the way they're treated by Canada Border Services agents compared with their U.S. Customs and Border Protection cousins. Detroit resident Anthony Holt, another frequent visitor, said there's a more "customer-friendly" attitude from Canadian border agents. "I don't think it takes anything away from what they do here," he said. "But my preference is, I'm much more comfortable, as a customer, coming to this side [of the border]." The praise comes as three women filed lawsuits against U.S. border officials for their treatment at the Windsor-Detroit crossing. The Canadian Press reported they allege they were sexually molested while being searched during a shopping trip to the U.S. The Canadians' reputation for politeness isn't accidental, said Ace Essex, president of the Customs and Immigration Union's Local 16. Agents are instructed to deal courteously with visitors while maintaining border security, he said.

^ I have dealt with both the Canadian Border Patrol as well as the American Border Patrol and agree that the Canadians tend to be more polite, helpful and nice. Of course now I have to enter Canada using my Canadian Passport and enter the US using my American Passport so I will see if that makes any difference - I don't think it will. The American Border Patrol tends to view everyone (except illegals coming in from Mexico it seems) as guilty until they prove themselves innocent - even Americans while the Canadians seem to treat everyone as innocent until proven guilty. The American Border Patrol can do their job effectively while at the same time showing people respect and politeness - I have seen it around the world and just just in Canada. ^

Canada's Russian Warning

From Yahoo Canada:
"Canada warns gay travellers of Russian law banning 'homosexual propaganda'"

Canada is warning gay and lesbian travellers bound for Russia's historic St. Petersburg to be wary after the city enacted a new law banning what it calls homosexual propaganda. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has told the House of Commons he is deeply concerned by the legislation, which he says runs counter to core Canadian values of freedom of speech, human rights and the rule of law. The warning comes after the governor of St. Petersburg signed a law that makes it a criminal offence to publicize acts of sodomy, bisexualism or lesbianism. St. Petersburg is the fourth Russian city to be enact such a law. Baird said Canada has lodged an official protest, as well as warning travellers. "Canada's ambassador has written to the Russian government to express our deep concern and, yes, we have at his request, put a travel advisory on our website," Baird said. Canada's new travel advisory has been amended to read: "Homosexuality is legal, though some still strongly disapprove of it. Canadians are advised to avoid displaying affection in public, as homosexuals can be targets of violence." The advisory states that the new law prohibits "propagandizing homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality among minors, and prohibiting public actions propagandizing pedophilia."

^ I still don't understand why St. Petersburg (or any Russian town/city) would make a law like this - especially since homosexuality has been legal in Russia since 1993. ^

Nazi Death Camp Guard Dead

From Yahoo:
"John Demjanjuk, convicted death camp guard, dies"

John Demjanjuk, a retired U.S. autoworker who was convicted of being a guard at the Nazis' Sobibor death camp despite steadfastly maintaining over three decades of legal battles that he had been mistaken for someone else, died Saturday, his son told The Associated Press. He was 91. Demjanjuk, convicted in May of 28,060 counts of being an accessory to murder and sentenced to five years in prison, died a free man in a nursing home in the southern Bavarian town of Bad Feilnbach. He had been released pending his appeal. His conviction helped set new German legal precedent, being the first time someone was convicted solely on the basis of serving as a camp guard, with no evidence of being involved in a specific killing. Presiding Judge Ralph Alt said the evidence showed Demjanjuk was a piece of the Nazis' "machinery of destruction."

^ I'm glad he is dead and only wish he was in prison at the time instead of a nursing home. The Germans let him free pending his appeal and I'm sure his age, but it is very clear that he was a guard at the Death Camp and so is guilty of helping to murder thousands upon thousands of innocent men, women and children. I hope the US doesn't allow his body back into the country- and since he was deported from here I don't think they will. His body should be burned just like his victims' were. I was surprised when the Germans actually did their job and convicted him since they tend to "over-look" or even help former Nazis and collaborators. It has only been in the past few years that the grandchildren who had nothing to do with the war have come into positions of importance and are now really starting to make ammends for the deeds of their ancestors. Of course by now most former Nazis and collaborators are either dead or in their 90s-100s (but no matter how old they should still be caught and tried.) The Nazis didn't exempt the elderly when they pushed people into the death pits or the gas chambers. This story is done and we won't have to hear any more lies from him or his family since he is now with his old guard buddies in Hell. ^

Friday, March 16, 2012

NH Mud Season

From the Union Leader:
"No getting around it, mud is a seasonal mess"

Many southern and central New Hampshire communities are dealing with one of the worst mud seasons in years, according to at least one road agent. Travel on affected dirt roads has become difficult, and in some cases, impossible. Residents along some muddy roads are frustrated and concerned about their safety. This week in Tilton and Meredith, drivers found themselves stuck in thick mud, but found that some towing companies wouldn't come to the rescue because of fear their tow trucks would get stuck. In Gilmanton, five school buses have had to be pulled from deep road mud in the past week. Tuesday night, an injured girl was unreachable by ambulance on Griffin Road because the road to her house could not support rescue vehicles, according to Bill Smith Jr., a neighbor of the girl's family. One bus carrying Gilmanton students was hopelessly stuck in the mud for almost four hours on Loon Pond Road Thursday morning, as the students sat and waited for help. “It's a nightmare,” said resident Lisa Crossman, whose daughter was on the bus. “It's very upsetting that the roads are so terrible, and it's put our children's safety in jeopardy.” Towns with dirt roads in southern New Hampshire have been dealing with mud season for a couple of weeks. Temple Road Agent Timothy Fiske said he's had to close some roads because of mud season, which seems to be already coming to an end in southern New Hampshire, he said. Towns in central New Hampshire are likely seeing the worst of mud season now. Many northern towns report no mud problems yet. Fiske said this year's muddy mud season is due to the up-and-down temperatures the state has experienced this winter. Unusually warm temperatures and sunshine have melted sections of frozen dirt while shaded sections have remained solid. As temperatures warmed recently, frozen sections have begun melting, mixing with the warmer dirt, he said.

^ The title is wrong. There is a way to get around Mud Season. It's called not using dirt roads throughout most of the state. When dirt gets wet (from melted snow or rain) it causes mud. I never heard of Mud Season until I moved here 3 years ago - I guess because all the other places I lived in were smart enough to pave the roads. All the roads around my house are dirt (and now mud) and just driving down to my mailbox everyday is a challenge. I have more problems driving in a little mud than I do in 1-2 feet of snow. When I finally get to the paved roads I never have any problems driving. There is no reason in the 2nd decade of the 21st Century that NH should have a huge problem several times a year during Mud Season. All they need to do is start paving the roads - it will cost a little more in the beginning, but in the end would be better for all. ^

Elderly Keep Shoes On

From Yahoo:
"TSA to elderly passengers: Let’s try keeping your shoes on"

One cause of delays at airports could soon be eased: The Transportation Security Administration announced on Wednesday that it will begin testing a program next week that would allow passengers 75 and older to keep their shoes and light jackets on as they pass through security. The TSA will begin testing the program at Chicago's O'Hare, Denver International, Orlando International and Portland (Ore.) International airports on Monday. Older passengers may still be subject to normal screening procedures if the full-body scanners detect any anomalies, the TSA said.
Last year, the TSA instituted a similar program to reduce the time spent getting children 12 and under through security. The new program—which the TSA hopes reduces the number of pat-downs conducted on the elderly—is part of a broader initiative to target riskier passengers and speed up check-ins. If the program proves successful, the TSA said it would consider expanding it.

^ It seems that the TSA is slowly beginning to use their heads when it comes to airport security. First they change their rules about kids 12 and under and now are expanding it to people 75 and older. This makes complete sense if it is standard in EVERY US airport (I remember flying across the country when it wasn't mandatory to take your shoes off at every airport and if you took your shoes off without being asked they would yell at you and if you didn't take them off you would get yelled at.) Having it across the US does away with that chaos. I can see allowing children and the elderly to keep their shoes on and their light jackets and only search them if the metal detector or the full-body scanner shows something. It does seem a little weird to me that everyone who goes through a full-body scanner still has to take off their shoes and belts - doesn't the scanner go underneath clothes? This is a start in the right direction. I just hope the TSA doesn't mess up implementing and expanding the program throughout the country. ^

Drums Along The Mohawk (1939)

I recently re-watched this movie and have to say that it is pretty good. Even though it was made in 1939 since it is in color it doesn't feel like an old movie - like a black-and-white movie does. It has many good actors (like Henry Fonda and Claudette Colbert) that help bring about the portrayal of frontier life in New York State during the American Revolution. The frontier people not only have to leave civilization and start new lives where they have to make everything themselves, but they also have to fight the Indians (there is no such thing as Native Americans since no group is native to this continent. There are only immigrants who came earlier than later immigrants and Indians came from Asia across the Bering Straight) and the British. This movie is one of those "feel good" movies that actually has a good plot and good fighting scenes. It shows people (including those of today) how the frontier was rough, but how the people living there were tough and overcame so much.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week the tribes changed with Colton and the weaker people on one and all the stronger people on the other. The stronger team won the reward (big surprise) and also the immunity challenge. As usual, Colton was annoying and trying to run the game and his tribe lets him. He decided he wanted Monica out even though she was the only one on her tribe to make a basket in the immunity challenge. I really wish they would vote Colton out as he isn't strong in the challenges or even smart in playing the game. I have the feeling the stronger tribe will continue to win all the challenges and force the weaker one to vote itself out. That doesn't make much of a game or TV show (knowing exactly what is going to happen.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Time (2011)

I just saw this movie and really liked it. Not only does it have a good cast (Justin Timberlake, Alex Pettyfer and Amanda Seyfried) but the storyline really makes you stop and think. The idea that everyone has a timeline that they can see and tell when they are going to die (or "time out" as the movie calls it) but the way the rich and powerful openly exploit the poor for their time draws parallels to today's society. I don't think I would want to live in a society like that, but it really makes you question things. The poor have to struggle everyday just to survive while the rich don't have to worry about their timeline, but can't really live because they are afraid to be killed for their time. The rich walk around slowly (because they aren't afraid of where their next minute would come from) but they also had lots of bodyguards around them for fear of theft. Justin Timberlake's character is poor and strives to better the lives of the people around him while Amanda Seyfried's character is rich and yet she doesn't start "living" until she leaves the security of her "time zone" and has to start thinking about where the extra minutes and hours will come from. The two become a Bonnie and Clyde mixed with Robin Hood where they steal (or take back) time from the rich and distribute it amongts the poor. The end of the movie leaves it open for a sequel - which I wouldn't mind seeing.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Commonwealth Day

From the Governor-General of Canada:
"Commonwealth Day"

Message from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada,
on the Occasion of Commonwealth Day

OTTAWA— The roots of Commonwealth Day are firmly planted in Canadian soil: in 1894, the Royal Colonial Society suggested ‘Empire Day’ be celebrated across the country. This national occasion was so well-received, other countries took up the banner. In 1975, it was again Canada that proposed a “simultaneously observed Commonwealth Day”—a proposal enthusiastically embraced by all Commonwealth countries. Fifty-four member nations throughout the world now observe Commonwealth Day. The theme for 2012, Connecting Cultures, is about sharing our traditions and customs with one another. In a world where our means of communication have become lightning-fast, humanity must learn to see beyond borders and beneath the veneer of appearance to discover how much we truly have in common. In keeping with this theme, it is fitting that 2012 also marks the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne. As the head of the Commonwealth, she has served its member nations with dignity and grace for 60 years. It gives me great pleasure to join with all Canadians in celebrating this Commonwealth Day; I wish all of you good health, prosperity and peace.

David Johnston

^ This shows Canada's committment to Queen Elizabeth 2 and to the British. I do not see that going away as long as she reigns. ^

Queen's Comonwealth Speech

From the Commonwealth Secretariat:
"A message from HM Queen Elizabeth II, Head of the Commonwealth"

One of the great benefits of today’s technology-based world is the range of opportunities it offers to understand and appreciate how others live: we can see, hear and enter into the experience of people in communities and circumstances far removed from our own. A remarkable insight we gain from such windows on the world is that, however different outward appearances may be, we share a great deal in common.
Our circumstances and surroundings may vary enormously, for example in the food we eat and the clothes we wear, but we share one humanity, and this draws us all together. The joys of celebration and sympathy of sadness may be expressed differently but they are felt in the same way the world over. How we express our identities reveals both a rich diversity and many common threads. Through the creative genius of artists – whether they be writers, actors, film-makers, dancers or musicians – we can see both the range of our cultures and the elements of our shared humanity. “Connecting Cultures”, our Commonwealth theme this year, encourages us to consider the special opportunities we have, as members of this unique gathering of nations, to celebrate an extraordinary cultural tapestry that reflects our many individual and collective identities. The Commonwealth treasures and respects this wealth of diversity. Connecting cultures is more, however, than observing others and the ways in which they express themselves. This year, our Commonwealth focus seeks to explore how we can share and strengthen the bond of Commonwealth citizenship we already enjoy by using our cultural connections to help bring us even closer together, as family and friends across the globe. To support this theme, a special song has been composed for the Commonwealth, ‘Stronger as One’. There are any number of ways in which that single piece of music alone can be played or sung anywhere in the Commonwealth. And by sharing the same music with our own personal interpretations and contributions, the wonderful human attribute of imagination is nourished, and we gain insights of understanding and appreciation of others. The Commonwealth offers a pathway for this greater understanding and the opportunity to expand upon our shared experiences in a wider world. A world in which paths to mutual respect and common cause may also be explored and which can draw us together, stronger and better than before.

12 March 2012

^ Today is Commonwealth Day and although most people throughout the Commonwealth of Nations have no idea it is a holiday or what it is celebrating I think it is an important day. The fact that Queen Elizabeth 2 is Head of State of 54 countries as well as being Queen of 16 countries (including Canada.) All of these countries (except two) were colonized by the British and when they achieved their independence they chose to keep some of their ties. ^

Crazy American

From Yahoo:
"Rant on American Airlines Flight Ends With Flight Attendant in Hospital"

An American Airlines flight headed from Dallas-Fort Worth to Chicago returned to the gate just prior to take off this morning when a female flight attendant began making inflammatory remarks over the public address system. Greg Lozano, a passenger on the flight, told ABC News "The last thing she said [before they took the mic from her] was 'hey pilot, I'm not going to be responsible for your crash.'" Passengers intervened and restrained the flight attendant before Dallas airport police boarded the flight. The Dallas Morning News reports passengers said police escorted the flight attendant, kicking and screaming, to one of several police cars that surrounded the plane on the tarmac. The airline is treating the incident as a medical issue. A source tells ABC News that in addition to the remarks about the plane crashing, the flight attendant may have referenced 9/11 and American Airlines' union issues. Officials at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport tell ABC News they are not pursuing any charges at this time. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants has also issued a statement: "There was an unfortunate but non-violent confrontation involving a flight attendant aboard an aircraft preparing for takeoff this morning at DFW.

^ I see so many problems with all the people (except the passengers) involved in this. First is the crazy flight attendant who threatened a terrorist attack when she said she wanted the plane to blow up. The second is where were the other flight crew during all of this? The fact that the flight attendent had to be stopped by the passengers shows the crew did nothing. Third, the Dallas Airport for saying they aren't going to charge her with anything (if a passenger had done the same they would get terrorism charges put on them.) Fourth, American Airlines for trying to make it seem like this is solely a medical issue and not treating it as the threatening incident involving one of their crew as it really was. And fifth, to the Flight Attendants Association for also down-playing the seriousness of what the women did. All of this people/organizations seem to be down-playing the incident so they won't be held responsible for allowing a crazy flight attendant on-board. For ten years the Government, airports and airlines have portrayed flight attendents as "first responders" in the air. In fact they continue to be waitresses/waiters in the sky who now have more power then they should. They are treated as Gods and like to use that power (or I should say abuse.) Another fact people tend to ignore is that whenever there was an attempted attack in the air (ie the Shoe Bomber, the Underwear Bomber, etc) it was up to the passengers themselves to restrain the attacker and only when things were safe did the flight crew take over. It is like me putting out a fire and then the fire department coming over and taking credit for putting it out. Air travel in the US continues to be plagued with problems even after ten years. Most people see the band-aids the government, TSA, airlines and airports put out to disguise the deeper problems. While I hope there is never another attack or incident in air (or on the ground) it wouldn't surprise me if it did happen and if the passengers were the ones who were forced to do everything to save the day - once again. ^

Sunday, March 11, 2012


This week they flew to Italy. All the teams (except the Southern Guys) made it on the same flight. There was a Fast Forward - landing a small helicopter on a landing pad on someone's head - which the Border Patrol guys did and so came in first place where they won $5,000 each. The other teams had to rappel to get their clue and then either clean a dirty statue or taste different salamis. Only two teams (the Big Brother and the Southern Cousins did the salami one.) After that they had to go to a Car Museum and then go to the building on their 2 Euro Cent coin. The Big Brother team was very stupid, annoying and Rachel was such a drama queen and kept saying she wanted to quit the Race (I wish she would.)
I would like to see Rachel's team and the Southern Guys sent home. The Southern Guys came in last this leg and was spared elimination (the Border Patrol team gave one of the Southern Guys $5,000 to help with his daughter's illness. I thought that was really nice.)As of right now I think the Border Patrol team will win the overall Race. I would like to see the Combat Pilot and his wife win (if they can stop fighting all the time.)Next week they go to Germany and the snow.

Friday, March 9, 2012

US Passport Day

From US State Department:
"Passport Day in the USA: Saturday March 10, 2012"

On Saturday, March 10 only, apply for your U.S. passport at a Regional Passport Agency without an appointment. You will be able to apply for standard processing (4-6 weeks) or pay an additional $60 for expedited processing (2-3 weeks, door-to-door). Passport Day in the USA events are being held at Regional Passport Agencies and many Passport Acceptance Facilities across the country in communities like yours. If you’ve been waiting to get your passport, this is the time!

^ With the US Government requiring Americans to have passports to enter or leave the country (which I think is a stupid law) the number of passports has risen in the past few years. I only found out about National Passport Day by looking at the State Department's website on a whim. You would think the Government would advertise this program a little more (at Post Offices, etc.) I already have my passport so I'm all set. ^

New Munich Nazi Center

From Deutsche Welle:
"Munich gets a new Nazi documentation center"

With the city's dark past, Munich's Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism is long overdue. The new building's foundation stone has now been laid at the former site of the Nazi party headquarters. "Barlow Palace" is almost unknown today in Munich, despite its unique role in the city's history. From 1931 until it was destroyed in the Second World War, the National Socialist party had its headquarters there. In the 1950s, the bombed-out remains of what was known as the "Brown House" during Nazi occupation were cleared away. Since 2011, building work has been underway at the site, with the aim of creating the Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism. The center will give a detailed history of the Nazi regime, from the very place where the crimes and terror were once organized. Munich played a central role in the beginnings and rise to popularity of Nazism. It was here that the National Socialist party was founded, the party headquarters were here and it was also the scene of the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923 when Adolf Hitler unsuccessfully tried to seize power. Hitler himself called Munich the "capital" of his movement and tried to design the city in accordance with his aesthetic vision. When it opens in 2014, the new center will set out to examine the reasons and circumstances that lead to the Nazi rise of power in Munich. In addition, techniques of propaganda and terror, the persecution of non-conformists and the uprisings against the Nazis will also be documented. The building will have four levels, with over 1,000 square meters (10,800 square feet) of display space.

^ As the article states it is long overdue. I'm glad that it is finally on track to open in two years and that it teaches about Nazism and the effects on the world both during the war as well as today. ^,,15799814,00.html

Canada's Drug Shortage

From the BBC:
"Canada faces nationwide injectable drug shortage"

Canada faces a national shortage of key surgical drugs after a fire at a major manufacturing plant halted production. Some 90% of injectable drugs used in Canada are reportedly made by the firm. Hospitals have agreed to share drugs and are putting together contingency plans, but experts say plugging the supply gaps could take months. Healthcare workers say stricter government regulation is needed to stop drug shortages from developing into crises that could put patients at risk. Health officials in Canadian provinces have criticised the government's policy of making it voluntary for drug makers to warn of upcoming shortages, the Globe and Mail newspaper reports. The fire broke out at Sandoz's Boucherville plant in the Canadian province of Quebec at about 12:30 (17:30 GMT) on Sunday afternoon. The drug manufacturer has said that production, which was temporarily suspended in the wake of the fire, will resume next week. But healthcare practitioners, including HealthPro Canada, a bulk buyer that supplies medicines to a consortium of 255 Canadian hospitals, say it could be difficult to find alternative manufacturers for the drugs. It is reported that it could take six months to a year for new inventory to become available.

^ I guess this is a good example of why you should never have a monopoly. Because of a fire in one factory the whole country of Canada will now experience a shortage of drugs. Patients in Canada could now face pain or even death because of this. I know there are drug shortages in other countries (like cancer drugs in the US) and think this should be a wake-up call for all countries to have a Plan B, C, D, etc. ^

New Vet Center

"Veterans Services Center To Relocate To Hooksett"

A nearly 80-year-old, cramped veterans services center in Manchester is being relocated to a larger, newer space in Hooksett after significant safety concerns. The new center will have more than double the space and will feature new areas for physical therapy, educational services and group meetings.
Manchester VA Center and others to help secure the site's relocation.

^ Anything that will give better service to veterans and their families is a great thing. Hopefully, the center will open soon. ^

Kiribati Disappearing?

From USA Today:
"Pacific nation may move entire population to Fiji"

Fearing that climate change could wipe out their entire Pacific archipelago, the leaders of Kiribati are considering an unusual backup plan: moving the populace to Fiji. Kiribati President Anote Tong told the Associated Press on Friday that his Cabinet this week endorsed a plan to buy nearly 6,000 acres on Fiji's main island, Viti Levu. He said the fertile land, being sold by a church group for about $9.6 million, could be insurance for Kiribati's entire population of 103,000, though he hopes it will never be necessary for everyone to leave. "We would hope not to put everyone on one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it," Tong said. "It wouldn't be for me, personally, but would apply more to a younger generation. For them, moving won't be a matter of choice. It's basically going to be a matter of survival." Fiji, home to about 850,000 people, is about 1,400 miles south of Kiribati. But just what people there think about potentially providing a home for thousands of their neighbors remains unclear. Tong said he's awaiting full parliamentary approval for the land purchase, which he expects in April, before discussing the plan formally with Fijian officials. Sharon Smith-Johns, a spokeswoman for the Fijian government, said several agencies are studying Kiribati's plans and the government will release a formal statement next week. Kiribati, which was known as the Gilbert Islands when it was a British colony, has been an independent nation since 1979.

^ This is the second time in a few months that Kiribati has been in the news (and for such a small country that is a lot.) Last time it was because Kiribati moved across the International Dateline in order to be closer to Australia and New Zealand and now because it could disappear altogether. It is a good idea to start planning for the possibility now so if it happens you have something in place. ^

A week or two ago we ordered some light bulbs from When we were ordering it we were given the option of USPS or FedEx. Since we have had problems with FedEx in the past (they once opened the door and walked right into our house without permission among other incidents) we chose USPS. decided to ship our order by FedEx anyways. Of course that is when the problems started. Yesterday at 7:50 am FedEx called us and asked if our road was passable and we said it was. I even went into town, did some errands and saw a large propane truck on the road. At 5 pm FedEx called and said they couldn't make it to our house because of the road - which is just ridiculous. They then asked if we could drive somewhere and meet them (we said "no" since the whole purpose of ordering online and having it sent to your house is you don't have to go anywhere and pick it up. We called and told them that FedEx wouldn't deliver to us and how we had checked we wanted USPS in the first place. said they would complain to FedEx tomorrow (today) and if they don't deliver it then a new order would be shipped by USPS (which it should have been in the first place.) We just called and learned that they were given a bunch of stupid excuses from FedEx and so they cancelled the order and are going to reship it today by USPS. So now, we have to wait until next week, drive to our mailbox and if the package is too big, drive to the Post Office in town (23 minutes each way) and pick it up ourselves. It would be one thing to have to do that before and FedEx messed up our order, but now we have to wait longer, get it ourselves and be inconvenienced Has shipped the order the way we asked for it to be sent we could have had the order without any hassles and now not only did we have to deal with but also FedEx. Both of them are at fault and we should get something for their incompetence. There is no such thing as Customer Service anymore, but what companies need to realize is that without repeat customers their businesses won't make money. I do not plan on using every again and as always will try hard to not use FedEx (sometimes we aren't given a choice.)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Survivor: OW

I thought the women were the only stupid ones in this game, but today showed me that the men are just as dumb (if not more so.) The women won the reward challenge and go their tarp. Then during the imminuity challenge the men beat the women - it was such an easy win that even Jeff commented on how badly the women had done. Back at the men's camp Colton (and his stupid thinking) came up with the idea to give their immunity to the women and go to Tribal to vote out Bill - all because Colton doesn't like Bill. Some how all the men agreed to go to Tribal (where Bill thought they were voting out Leif because he betrayed his alliance.) The look on Jeff's face when he saw the men entering instead of the women was priceless. He couldn't believe it.
At Tribal, Colton did his usual and showed that he fits every bad gay stereotype. He said a bunch of stupid things (like how he's from a rich family in small-town Alabama and has a mammy - or a Black woman his family pays.) I was surpised that his tribe didn't blind-side him and vote him out after that - but the old, creepy guy (Tarzan) stood-up from him and mentioned something about race. In the end, Bill was voted out.
Colton is the kind of guy that gives people against gay marriage or gays in general a reason for their beliefs. Not only is he extremely stupid, arrogant and annoying, but doesn't stop and think about the bigger picture. I also like how he says he's a Republican and doesn't believe in hand-outs (I wonder if he believes in gay marriage?) I onyl hope that this stupid move will hurt Colton in the end and let him and others know just how stupid he really is and how dumb they (the men) were to follow him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Disrespecting Veterans

From The Globe and Mail:
"Veterans review board abusive and demeaning, ex-soldiers say"

They once referred to her as “the little woman” and suggested the post traumatic stress she’d suffered as a peacekeeper in the Bosnia war meant she couldn’t handle the rigours of service. “It was so patronizing, it was unreal,” Rhoni Speed of Ottawa said of her 2008 appearance before a panel of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the independent agency where ex-soldiers turn to fight for benefits. The word “respect” repeatedly bounced off the walls in the House of Commons on Monday as MPs debated an opposition motion to halt possible cuts at Veterans Affairs Canada. But Ms. Speed said there’s not much respect when the doors of the hearing room are closed. She related her 1990s experience as a reservist intelligence photographer in the war-torn Medak region, where Canadian troops fought a violent battle with Croatian forces and uncovered a massacre of Serbian civilians. There was little appreciation, however, from the two civilians who sat in judgment of her claim. “The whole feeling throughout was I was a little woman and I couldn’t deal with life,” said Ms. Speed, who finally was granted a disability benefit in 2010 after several appeals. “It was easier in Bosnia than it was here.” It wasn’t the seemingly endless bureaucratic process that got her down as much as it was the snide, often disrespectful comments that rained down from a board that was supposed to provide an impartial but sympathetic hearing. It’s a complaint heard over and over from ex-soldiers, many of whom loathe the quasi-judicial agency which they’ve described as a dumping ground for appointed, partisan hacks. Liam Stackwood, a former master corporal, military police officer and amateur body-builder from Comox, B.C., was once told by one adjudicator that “if he wasn’t so fat” he wouldn’t have back problems. That was despite the fact he was injured on a mission in the Golan Heights. Current and ex-members of the appointed board, who asked that their names not be used, said questioning of claimants sometimes can be tough and clearly stressful. But they blamed both Veterans Affairs and National Defence for sloppy paper trails that make decisions tough to call. An advocate for ex-soldiers, Mike Blais, said he’s fielded hundreds of calls and emails from disgruntled veterans in the last year, many of whom either didn’t know they could complain or were afraid to open their mouths on the chance they’d jeopardize their case. A spokeswoman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney said the board is expected to show manners. “The Veterans Review and Appeal Board is an arms-length, quasi-judicial organization comprised of qualified individuals,” Codie Taylor said in a written statement. “Minister Blaney expects departmental officials and board members to treat veterans and their families with the respect they deserve.”

^ I believe the soldiers and veterans are being treated badly by this commission. It seems just like the sort of way these types of commissions (whether in Canada, the US or other countries) treat those that put their lives at risk to protect their country. It seems like a universal concept to look-down on soldiers and their families during and after their military service and yet the commissions get to enjoy the freedoms that the soldiers fought for. The Canadian Government needs to do a complete overall of the Veterans Review Board. No soldier should have to be treated with disrespect or as a criminal especially by the Government that they served for. ^

Turkish Somali Flights

From the BBC:
"Somalia: Turkish Airlines begins flights to Mogadishu"

The first major commercial airline in more than 20 years has landed at Mogadishu airport in war-torn Somalia. Turkish Airlines says it is the start of a regular service to the Somali capital, the first by an international carrier from outside East Africa. Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bosdag was on board the flight, which was welcomed by the Somali president. The twice-weekly flights should make travel easier for Somali businessmen and members of the large diaspora. Somalia has not had a functioning central government for more than two decades and has been riven by factional fighting. Islamist militants were pushed out of the capital by Africa Union and government forces last August - although they have continued to stage attacks in the city.

^ I don't see this as a major step in the chaos that is Somalia. For over two decades there has been no central government and two areas in the north have declared their separation from the rest of the country and have been prosperous for years. Kenya and Ethiopia have troops inside Somalia fighting the Islamists and control small portions of the country. The capital has only been free of the Islamists for 7 months and that situation could change again. I am curious to know how many Somalis and Turks will travel on Turkish Airlines since I don't think it is many. ^

Iceland's Canadian Dollar?

From Yahoo:
"Canadian ambassador stirs currency debate in Iceland"

Canada's ambassador to Iceland stirred up controversy over the future of the North Atlantic island's currency at the weekend, saying the nation of 320,000 would be welcome to start talks on adopting the Canadian dollar. After Iceland's financial collapse in 2008, there has been much political discussion over whether to stick with the krona or adopt another currency to help bring stability to the economy.
Having already begun talks on joining the European Union, the country is widely expected to adopt the euro, although opposition to EU accession is growing. Ambassador Alan Bones told Icelandic national broadcaster RUV on Friday that the Canadian government was willing to hold talks with Iceland on whether to adopt the loonie if Icelanders wanted to. Iceland has not said it wants to adopt the euro, but future membership of the EU would make that the most likely outcome. However, about 60 percent of Icelanders are now against joining the 27-member European bloc, according to a recent Capacent Gallup poll. Furthermore, some economists argue that Iceland's economy is not in synch with the euro zone and that ECB monetary policy would therefore not help give Iceland a more stable economy. They say the Canadian dollar would be more suitable than the euro because Canada's economy is more resource-based, much like that of Iceland, where the biggest exports are aluminum, fish and minerals. Trade with Canada, however, is minimal. A Gallup poll in June last year showed 30 percent of Icelanders were in favor of adopting the loonie, with 38 percent against.
^ It seems a little odd that Iceland would consider using the Canadian Dollar instead of the US Dollar, the British Pound or the Danish Krona (since Iceland was part of Denmark until 1944.) I can understand why Iceland is hesitant to join the EU and the Euro since the EU is in a big economic and political crisis. When I went to Iceland last March we had to go out of our way to get and use Icelandic Krona (I wanted some for my collection.) We used our credit card everywhere from taxis to small shops, but it was still weird to hear the price quoted in the thousands - like we were in Germany in the 1920s. I don't know how much help and stability the Canadian Dollar will give to Iceland since the two countries have little trade with each other. I can see Iceland using the British Pound, US Dollar or Danish Krona before the Canadian Dollar. ^;_ylt=AiVI1KiJyro.0YkSAUdGjEdvaA8F;_ylu=X3oDMTNlNDBscTl

Sunday, March 4, 2012

NH Disabled Help

From the Union Leader:
"More money for elderly and disabled in NH"

New Hampshire will get $26.5 million over three years to support elderly and disabled individuals in the community instead of in institutions, federal officials said Friday. It is the first grant to a state under the Balancing Incentive Program, which will provide a total of $3 billion to states under the Affordable Care Act. “We are absolutely committed to consumer-directed care,” Nancy Rollins, associate commissioner for N.H. Department of Health and Human Services, said in a conference call. She said the program offers the possibility that “all consumers and their caregivers will have the supports they need in order to live in their community.” The funds can be used for services such as personal care, respite care, transportation, enhanced family care, care coordination, and general services and support needed to assist people in their own homes, if possible, or in the community outside an institutional setting.

^ It is always good to give more aid to the disabled (regardless of what state they are in.) I'm glad that New Hampshire is receiving the money and only hope that they use it fairly. ^


This week they went to Paraguay. The teams then had to either stack watermelons in a pyramid or put strings in an harp. Most of the teams started with the watermelons (except for the twins) and then moved to the harp when their watermelons fell. After that challenge they then had to dance around with a glass bottle full of water. The Border Patrol came in first place. The Combat Pilot dropped all his bottles and so him and his wife had to wait 2 hours until they could check-in (which moved them from second place to sixth.) In the end the twin brothers (Elliot and Andrew came in last.) Next week I would like to see either the Big Brother team or the Divorcees because both of those teams have very stupid and annoying women on it. One thing I thought was funny is that the Divorcees said they couldn't quit the watermelon challenge because it would show they are quiters - the fact that they are Divorcees shows that they are. Next week they finally leave South America and head to Europe.

Friday, March 2, 2012

MD Marriage

From the BBC:
"Maryland gay marriage bill signed into law"

The governor of the US state of Maryland has signed legislation legalising gay marriage, making it the eighth US state to adopt the measure. The law, passed by state lawmakers in February, takes effect in January 2013. The move comes weeks after gay marriage was legalised in Washington state, but vetoed by the governor in New Jersey. "Religious freedom was the very reason for our state's founding and at the heart of religious freedom is the freedom of individual conscience," Governor Martin O'Malley said just before signing the bill. The seven other US states that have already legalised same-sex marriage are Iowa, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Washington, as well as the District of Columbia.

^ It seems more and more people are starting to accept the idea of gays getting married and are encouraging their state officials to make it legal (as was the case here in Maryland.) I don't want to "beat a dead horse" but I have said before I am in favor of gay marriage, but think there should either be state referendums or a federal referendum where the citizens vote directly whether it should be legal or not. ^

St Pete Against Gays

From Moscow Times:
"St. Petersburg Enacts Limits on Gays"

Local lawmakers in St. Petersburg, on a third and final reading, passed a controversial law Wednesday that introduces fines for promoting gay and lesbian relationships in the presence of minors and advocating pedophilia, Interfax reported.
Critics say the law effectively bans gay-pride parades and other public displays or discussion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender sexual orientations. The law stipulates a 5,000 ruble ($170) fine for individual violators, a 50,000 ruble fine for officials and up to 500,000 rubles from legal entities that break the law. The legislation has provoked outcry from gay-rights advocates in Russia and around the world, even while other city legislatures in Russia announced they would consider adopting similar measures.

^ Talk about a step in the wrong direction. When most civilized countries around the world are giving homosexuals equal rights, civil partnerships and even marriages it seems there are still some (in this case Saint Petersburg, Russia) that want to go back to the old days of discrimination. Regardless, if you are for gay marriage or not it should be a world-wide view and law that you can't discriminate against someone gay. St Petersburg is doing just that. I don't know what the government officials there are so afraid of - maybe they are in the closet and afraid of being found out or they are afraid they could be turned gay. Either way it is a pretty dumb law. Hopefully, it will be over-turned. ^

Military Service Licenses

From USA Today:
"States consider adding military service to driver's licenses"

State lawmakers across the U.S. are crafting legislation that would add military service to veterans' driver's licenses so they will not have to carry official discharge papers to prove their service. It's a shortcut that legislators say could come in handy, from securing state veterans' claims, to simply getting a military discount at a hotel or retailer.More and more servicemembers are returning home from overseas, and they need a more efficient way to prove eligibility for benefits that doesn't involve lugging around discharge papers, according to Jerry Boden, chief of staff for the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs. "You wouldn't have to fumble through and pull out a piece of paper," said David Mills, 41, of Salisbury, Md., a former U.S. Marine infantryman and Desert Storm veteran. "Going for a discount, or just showing that you have served in the military, it's an asset. It's like being a donor on the back of your driver's license. If it's there, it's great." "It should have been done years ago," said Garlitz, a retired Air Force master sergeant who served during the Vietnam War. A dozen states passed laws in 2011 adding a veteran designation to driver's licenses, according to Boden: Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. States pursuing legislation this year include Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina, Boden said.

^ This is a good idea (as long as it is optional.)It will make things much easier for veterans to receive both benefits and discounts. This should have been done a long time ago. I only wish all 50 States would make this available. ^