Monday, April 30, 2012

English To English

From Yahoo:
"An American guide to British English for the London Olympics"

In 1882, Oscar Wilde wrote about Great Britain: "We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language." That still rings true today. So if you're one of the estimated 250,000 Americans going to the Olympics Games in London this summer, you might want to pack a dictionary.

For English-to-English translations.

For example, "The lorry driver taking kit to the football pitch was so knackered he pulled into the lay-by near the petrol station for a quick kip," means this in the United States, according to the Associated Press:  The truck driver delivering uniforms to the soccer field was so tired he pulled into the rest area near the gas station for a nap.

The differences are endless, from pronunciation and punctuation to spelling and slang. So here is a beginners guide to the differences between British English and American English.
When watching sports (that would be sport in England, singular not plural):
  • Track and field is called "athletics."
  • At the Olympics, you will likely spend a lot of time in line. But don't call it that. The preferred term is "queue."
  • "Torrid" has the opposite meaning for sports in England. In the U.S., if a sprinter runs a "torrid race," it means they captured gold. In Britain, it means they made it to the finish line during the medal ceremony.
  • The most obvious difference is football. Only in America does it require shoulder pads. Everywhere else it means soccer, which is played on a "pitch", not a field. The players wear "shirts" and "boots" not uniforms and cleats. Uniforms are called "kits."
More clothing caveats:
  • Be careful with the word "pants," because in Britain they refer to underwear. Go with "trousers" instead. Pants can also mean bad, such as "that game was pants."
  • At night, you may wear a "jumper," another word for sweater. And your jacket will be called an "anorak." Be warned -- "anorak" may also mean a geeky or obsessive person.

When you're eating:
  • If you are served a biscuit, it will be a scone, not a cookie. Pudding means any and all desserts, not just the jiggly kind. They may also be called "afters." Be careful of blood pudding or black putting, because that is a sausage. Same goes for bangers and mash — the first of which also means sausage. If someone is cooking bangers on the "barbie" it is not a sacrificial use of the doll. It's another way of saying barbecue.
A "bitter" refers to beer. And your bitter is served on a "beer mat" another way of saying coaster. And you shouldn't be serving "cider" to children, since the British version generally contains more alcohol than most beers.
When it comes to appetizers and entrees, it's all mixed up. In England -- and the rest of Europe -- the entree is the appetizer, not the main course.

  • The word "cracker" moves beyond food across the pond, meaning a very good thing. "That race was a cracker!" Or it can be an adjective: "That gymnast gave a cracking floor routine."
  • When you're ready to pay in a restaurant, ask for the bill, not the check (or cheque as it's spelled…)

Everyday life …
  • To get around London, you will board the "tube," meaning the subway. The tube has "carriages" not cars, and when you board one, you will be warned to "mind the gap," the space between the carriage and the platform.
  • If someone excuses themselves to go to the bathroom, they mean that literally — they are going to take a bath. To use a restroom, ask for the "loo."
  • Expect to see a lot more of the letter "u" on signs. Instead of color, it's colour; harbor is harbour — the letter must have dropped in the Atlantic on the way over. And er is transposed to re as in centre, theatre.
  • Get ready to do some math to tell time in the afternoon, because it will be in what Americans refer to as "military time" or a 24-hour clock.
  • More math. If the subject of your weight comes up, tread carefully. The British use the word "stone" for their weight. A stone is 14 pounds.
  • If someone says to turn around "anti-clockwise" it doesn't mean they are against clocks. It means counter-clockwise.
^ I have been to the UK dozens of times and still find it pretty hard to understand some people. Sometimes it is easier for me to understand a Russian speaking in Russian than a Brit speaking English. ^

Tornado Shelters

From USA Today:
"More families building tornado shelters for their homes"

When deadly twisters chewed through the South and Midwest in 2011, thousands of people in the killers' paths had nowhere to hide. Now many of those families are taking an unusual extra step to be ready next time: adding tornado shelters to their homes.A year after the storms, sales of small residential shelters known as safe rooms are surging across much of the nation, especially in hard-hit communities such as Montgomery and Tuscaloosa in Alabama and in Joplin, Mo., where twisters laid waste to entire neighborhoods. Manufacturers can barely keep up with demand, and some states are offering grants and other financial incentives to help pay for the added protection and peace of mind. Tom Cook didn't need convincing. When a 2008 tornado barreled toward his home in rural southwest Missouri, Cook, his wife and their teenage daughter sought refuge in a bathroom. It wasn't enough. His wife was killed. Cook moved to nearby Joplin to rebuild, never imaging he would confront another monster twister. But he had a safe room installed in the garage just in case.
On May 22, Cook and his daughter huddled inside the small steel enclosure while an EF-5 tornado roared outside. They emerged unharmed, although the new house was gone. Generations ago, homes across America's Tornado Alley often came equipped with storm cellars, usually a small concrete bunker buried in the backyard. Although some of those remain, they are largely relics of a bygone era. And basements are less common than they used to be, leaving many people with no refuge except maybe a bathtub or a room deep inside the house. The renewed interest in shelters was stirred by last year's staggering death toll — 358 killed in the South and 161 dead in Joplin. So far this year, more than 60 people have perished in U.S. twisters. Safe rooms feature thick steel walls and doors that can withstand winds up to 250 mph. They are typically windowless, with no light fixtures and no electricity — just a small, reinforced place to ride out the storm. Costs generally range from $3,500 to $6,000. Sizes vary, but most hold only a few people. They can be bolted to the floor of a garage or custom-fitted to squeeze into a small space, even a closet. Some are so small occupants have to crawl inside. A few are buried in the yard like the old storm shelters of the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Missouri's choice spotlights a debate in states seeking better tornado protection: Is disaster aid better spent on safe rooms in individual homes or on larger public shelters designed to protect hundreds or thousands of people? The downside of public shelters is getting there. Even with improvements in twister prediction, venturing out into a rapidly brewing storm is perilous.
^ I  will never understand why homes and apartments (especially in Tornado Alley) do not have some sort of protection. Every apartment building should have a common basement area where residents can go. I think tornado shelters make more sense than building town shelters. Town shelters are good for hurricanes and  power outages, but not for earthquakes or tornadoes - which give little to no warning. When I lived in Virginia our house had no basement and several times we had to hide in a small hallway during a tornado warning - a tornado hit a few months away once. The Federal and State Governments should give tax breaks or grant money to every home and business that wants to install a tornado shelter. ^

Loony Machines

From Yahoo Canada:
"New lighter loonies, toonies causing headaches for vending and parking machines"

If you're having trouble getting a vending machine or parking meter to accept your shiny new loonie, don't kick the machine, blame the high-tech coin.The Royal Canadian Mint's new generation of loonies and toonies apparently are getting spit out regularly by coin-operated devices. The coins, issued this month, use multi-ply steel technology that makes them cheaper to produce and provides more security features. But they also weigh slightly less than the older alloy coins and often get rejected by vending machines and parking meters. The Toronto Parking Authority estimates that at about $345 per machine, it will cost about $1 million to upgrade almost 3,000 machines to accept the new coins, the Star reported. Calgary's Parking Authority is already spending about $30,000 to recalibrate its 770 parking machines.Vending machine operators are also bracing for an added cost to modify their equipment."I don't know if the new coins will fit in our machines," Simo Caffe owner Jessica Seguin told the Calgary Herald. "If they don't fit, it will cost $300 to $600 per machine to upgrade the coin mechanism." The mint has been using the multi-ply steel technology in smaller coins for about a decade, causing headaches for the vending industry."And later in the year we will have to reprogram again for the new $20 polymer bills," he said. The Bank of Canada began issuing the new plasticized currency last year, starting with $100 and $50 notes, with the more common $20 coming this fall and $10 and $5 bills next year. Like the coins, the new plastic currency is being touted as more durable and less vulnerable to counterfeiting. But users have reported the bills tear easily once they're creased or nicked and can melt if exposed to heat. The mint is defending its new coins. Spokesman Alex Reeves said the shift to coins that can be more easily read by vending machines has actually made life easier. But the mint is already preparing an alternative to coins and small bank notes for so-called micro-transactions. The MintChip would be a form of secure digital currency that would allow people to transfer value from one chip to another and via devices such as smartphones.

You would think that the Bank of Canada and/or the Mint would give either tax benefits or some other form of compensation to the vending machine companies and city, provincial governments to help ff-set the costs incurred by the new currency. ^


This week they stayed in India (again the things they showed  made the place look overcrowded and dirty.) The teams had to go to a temple and get their first clue. There was a Fast Forward which Rachel and Dave couldn't do as they had already done when before so they went on to spinning coconut husks into thread. Big Brother went to the Fast Forward, but when they found out they had to shave their heads Rachel wouldn't do it. She said she spent $500 on extensions and her hair was the one thing that made her beautiful - I don't think with or without hair she looks good. So they went to do the other challenges with everyone else. The Border Patrol kept complaining that no one was doing the Fast Forward - but they forgot they didn't either. After the thread challenge the teams had to choose between dressing an elephant up and then cleaning up after it or boxing Ginger. Most chose to do the elephant challenge (except for the Border Patrol.) The Hillbillies were last and had to do a Speed Bump (painting a Tiger's face on a stomach) and then they did the Fast Forward - which didn't matter much to one of them as he had no hair to begin with. In the end, they were sent home and Rachel and Dave came in first place for the 6th time. Next week is the 2 hour Season Finale and they go to Japan and then Hawaii. I really hope that Rachel and Dave win. I wouldn't even mind the two Divorcees winning - anyone but the Border Patrol or Big Brother.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Disabled Children Denied

From Russia Today:
"Mother Claims Aquarium Rejected Tour Group of Autistic Children"

The mother of an autistic child claimed Friday that a Moscow aquarium refused to allow a tour group of autistic children on the grounds that "visitors do not like to see disabled people." Yana Waldberg wrote about the incident on her Facebook page Friday, and the news spread through social networks Saturday. News site reported Saturday that it had confirmed the information with Waldberg in an interview. Earlier this year, a school for autistic children sought to organize a tour for students of an aquarium in the RIO shopping mall in Moscow, Waldberg wrote. When a teacher called the aquarium to confirm the details of the excursion, she mentioned that the students were autistic, after which an aquarium employee asked to consult with the director.  The director said the groups could not come, since, Waldberg quoted him as saying, "visitors do not like to see disabled people — it makes them feel pity. That's not acceptable." He offered to let the groups come on a day when the aquarium would be closed to normal visitors for cleaning. Facebook users reposting the message expressed outrage over the story, and some suggested boycotting the aquarium. "SHAME!!! Children should be loved!" wrote user Natalia Piluy. In a separate incident earlier this week, a media firestorm erupted over a case in which airline Vladivostok Air refused to allow a disabled teen to board a plane due to confusion over whether her condition permitted her to fly. The Maritime Transportation Prosecutor's office said it was investigating the incident. A 2011 Prosecutor General's Office report submitted to the Federation Council said buildings and transportation facilities in Russia are poorly equipped for the disabled, Interfax reported Saturday. The report also said medications critical to disabled people's health are not made available to them quickly enough and said there are not enough such medications.

^ The issue of the treatment of the disabled in Russia will continue until the Russian people (and Government) work to end the stereotypes and focus on the disabled as people rather than something needing to be hidden from sight. The director of the aquarium summed what I have personally found to be the general view of the Russian people towards the disabled: "Visitors do not like to see disabled people — it makes them feel pity. That's not acceptable." I find that comment and the belief behind it to be completely disgusting and old-of-date. It is the second decade of the 21st Century and these kinds of thoughts should have been extinguished long ago. If Russia wants to make a good name for itself in the modern world than it needs to tackle many of the old taboos - from the USSR to the disabled. ^

Russia's Strategy

From Stratfor:
"Russia's Strategy"

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 reversed a process that had been under way since the Russian Empire's emergence in the 17th century. It was ultimately to incorporate four general elements: Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus and Siberia. The St. Petersburg-Moscow axis was its core, and Russia, Belorussia and Ukraine were its center of gravity. The borders were always dynamic, mostly expanding but periodically contracting as the international situation warranted. At its farthest extent, from 1945 to 1989, it reached central Germany, dominating the lands it seized in World War II. The Russian Empire was never at peace. As with many empires, there were always parts of it putting up (sometimes violent) resistance and parts that bordering powers coveted -- as well as parts of other nations that Russia coveted.
The Russian Empire subverted the assumption that political and military power requires a strong economy: It was never prosperous, but it was frequently powerful. The Russians defeated Napoleon and Hitler and confronted the far wealthier Americans for more than four decades in the Cold War, in spite of having a less developed or less advanced economy. Its economic weakness certainly did undermine its military power at times, but to understand Russia, it is important to begin by understanding that the relationship between military and economic power is not a simple one.
Economy and Security
There are many reasons for Russia's economic dysfunction, but the first explanation, if not the full explanation, is geography and transportation. The Russians and Ukrainians have some of the finest farmland in the world, comparable to that of the American Midwest. The difference is transportation, the ability to move the harvest to the rest of the empire and its far away population centers. Where the United States has the Mississippi-Missouri-Ohio river system that integrates the area between the Rockies and the Appalachians, Russia's rivers do not provide an integrated highway to Russia, and given distances and lack of alternative modes of transport, Russian railways were never able to sustain consistent, bulk agricultural transport.
This is not to say that there wasn't integration in the empire's economy and that this didn't serve as a factor binding it together. It is to say that the lack of economic integration, and weakness in agricultural transport in particular, dramatically limited prosperity in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. At the same time, the relative underdevelopment of the empire and union made it impossible for them to successfully compete with Western Europe. Therefore, there was an economic motivation within the constituent parts of the empire and the union to integrate with each other. There could be synergies on a lower level of development among these nations.
Economics was one factor that bound the Russian Empire and Soviet Union together. Another was the military and security apparatus. The Russian security apparatus in particular played a significant role in holding first the empire and then the union together; in many ways, it was the most modern and efficient institution they had. Whatever temptations the constituent republics might have had to leave the empire or union, these were systematically repressed by internal security forces detecting and destroying opposition to the center. It could be put this way: The army created the empire. Its alignment of economic interests was the weak force holding it together, and the security apparatus was the strong force. If the empire and union were to survive, they would need economic relations ordered in such a way that some regions were put at a disadvantage, others at an advantage. That could happen only if the state were powerful enough to impose this reality. Since the state itself was limited in most dimensions, the security apparatus substituted for it. When the security apparatus failed, as it did at the end of World War I or in 1989-1991, the regime could not survive. When it did succeed, it held it all together.
In the Russian Empire, the economic force and the security force were supplemented by an overarching ideology: that of the Russian Orthodox Church, which provided a rationale for the system. The state security apparatus worked with the church and against dissident elements in other religions in the empire. In the Soviet Union, the religious ideology was supplemented with the secular ideology of Marxism-Leninism. The Soviet Union used its security apparatus to attempt a transformation of the economy and to crush opposition to the high cost of this transformation. In some sense, Marxism-Leninism was a more efficient ideology, since Russian Orthodoxy created religious differentials while Marxism-Leninism was hostile to all religions and at least theoretically indifferent to the many ethnicities and nations.
The fall of the Soviet Union really began with a crisis in the economy that created a crisis in the security force, the KGB. It was Yuri Andropov, the head of the KGB, who first began to understand the degree to which the Soviet Union's economy was failing under the growing corruption of the Brezhnev years and the cost of defense spending. The KGB understood two things. The first was that Russia had to restructure (Perestroika) or collapse. The second was that the traditional insularity of the Soviet Union had to be shifted and the Soviets had to open themselves to Western technology and methods (Glasnost). Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was a reformer, but he was a communist trying to reform the system to save the party. He was proceeding from the KGB model. His and Andropov's gamble was that the Soviet Union could survive and open to the West without collapsing and that it could trade geopolitical interests, such as domination of Eastern Europe, for economic relations without shattering the Soviet Union. They lost the bet.
The Soviet Collapse
The 1990s was a catastrophic period for the former Soviet Union. Except for a few regions, the collapse of the Soviet state and the security apparatus led to chaos, and privatization turned into theft. Not surprisingly, the most sophisticated and well-organized portion of the Soviet apparatus, the KGB, played a major role in the kleptocracy and retained, more than other institutions, its institutional identity. Over time, its control over the economy revived informally, until one of its representatives, Vladimir Putin, emerged as the leader of the state.
Putin developed three principles. The first was that the security system was the heart of the state. The second was that Moscow was the heart of Russia. The third was that Russia was the heart of the former Soviet Union. These principles were not suddenly imposed. The power of the KGB, renamed the FSB and SVR, slowly moved from a system of informal domination through kleptocracy to a more systematic domination of the state apparatus by the security services, reinstituting the old model. Putin took control of regional governments by appointing governors and controlling industry outside of Moscow. Most important, he cautiously moved Russia back to first among equals in the former Soviet Union.
Putin came to power on the heels of the Kosovo war. Russia had insisted that the West not go to war with Serbia, what was left of the former Yugoslavia. Russia was ignored, and its lack of influence left President Boris Yeltsin humiliated. But it was the Orange Revolution in Ukraine that convinced Putin that the United States intended to break Russia if someone like Yeltsin led it. Ukraine is economically and geographically essential to Russian national security, and Putin saw the attempt to create a pro-Western government that wanted to join NATO as Washington, using CIA-funded nongovernmental organizations pushing for regime change, attempted to permanently weaken Russia. Once the Orange Revolution succeeded, Putin moved to rectify the situation.
The first step was to make it clear that Russia had regained a substantial part of its power and was willing to use it. The second step was to demonstrate that American guarantees were worthless. The Russo-Georgian War of 2008 achieved both ends. The Russians had carried out an offensive operation and the Americans, bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, could not respond. The lesson was not only for Georgia (which, similar to Ukraine, had also sought NATO membership). It was also for Ukraine and all other countries in the former Soviet Union, demonstrating that Russia was again going to be the heart of Eurasia. Indeed, one of Putin's latest projects is the Eurasian Union, tying together Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, a large economic and military part of the former Soviet Union. Add to this Ukraine and the former Soviet Union emerges even more.
Remaking the Union
For Russia, the recreation of a union is a strategic necessity. As Putin put it, the fall of the Soviet Union was a geopolitical catastrophe. Russia needs the economic integration, particularly given the new economic strategy of post-Soviet Russia, which is the export of raw materials, particularly energy. Aligning with states such as Kazakhstan in energy and Ukraine in grain provides Moscow with leverage in the rest of the world, particularly in Europe. As important, it provides strategic depth. The rest of the world knows that an invasion of Russia is inconceivable. The Russians can conceive of it. They remember that Germany in 1932 was crippled. By 1938 it was overwhelmingly powerful. Six years is not very long, and while such an evolution is unlikely now, from the Russian point of view, it must be taken seriously in the long run -- planning for the worst and hoping for the best.
Therefore, the heart of Russian strategy, after resurrecting state power in Russia, is to create a system of relationships within the former Soviet Union that will provide economic alignment and strategic depth but not give Russia an unsustainable obligation to underwrite the other nations' domestic policies. Unlike the Russian Empire or Soviet Union, Putin's strategy is to take advantage of relationships on a roughly mutual basis without undertaking responsibility for the other nations.
In achieving this goal, the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a godsend. Until 9/11, the United States had been deeply involved in peeling off parts of the former Soviet Union such as the Baltics and integrating them into Western systems. With 9/11, the United States became obsessed with the jihadist wars, giving Russia a window of opportunity to stabilize itself and to increase its regional power.
As the United States extracts itself from Afghanistan, Russia has to be concerned that Washington will supplement its focus on China with a renewed focus on Russia. The possible end of these conflicts is not in Russia's interest. Therefore, one piece of Russian external strategy is to increase the likelihood of prolonged U.S. obsession with Iran. Currently, for example, Russia and Iran are the only major countries supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al Assad. Russia wants to see a pro-Iranian Syria -- not because it is in Moscow's long-term interests but because, in the short run, anything that absorbs the United States will relieve possible pressure on Russia and give more time for reordering the former Soviet Union.
The crisis in Europe is similarly beneficial to Russia. The unease that Germany has with the European Union has not yet matured into a break, and it may never. However, Germany's unease means that it is looking for other partners, in part to ease the strain on Germany and in part to create options. Germany depends on Russian energy exports, and while that might decrease in coming years, Russia is dealing with the immediate future. Germany is looking for other potential economic partners and, most important at a time when Europe is undergoing extreme strain, Germany does not want to get caught in an American attempt to redraw Russian borders. The ballistic missile defense system is not significant, in the sense that it does not threaten Russia, but the U.S. presence in the region is worrisome to Moscow. For Russia, recruiting Germany to the view that the United States is a destabilizing force would be a tremendous achievement.
Other issues are side issues. China and Russia have issues, but China cannot pose a significant threat to core Russian interests unless it chooses to invade maritime Russia, which it won't. There are economic and political issues, of course, but China is not at the heart of Russia's strategic concerns.
For Russia, the overwhelming strategic concern is dominating the former Soviet Union without becoming its patron. Ukraine is the key missing element, and a long, complex political and economic game is under way. The second game is in Central Asia, where Russia is systematically asserting its strength. The third is in the Baltics, where it has not yet made a move. And there is the endless conflict in the northern Caucasus that always opens the door for reasserting Russian power in the south. Russia's foreign policy is built around the need to buy time for it to complete its evolution.
To do this, the Russians must keep the United States distracted, and the Russian strategy in the Middle East serves that purpose. The second part is to secure the West by drawing Germany into a mutually beneficial economic relationship while not generating major resistance in Poland or an American presence there. Whether this can be achieved depends as much on Iran as it does on Russia.
Russia has come far from where Yeltsin took it. The security forces are again the heart of the state. Moscow dominates Russia. Russia is moving to dominate the former Soviet Union. Its main adversary, the United States, is distracted, and Europe is weak and divided. Of course, Russia is economically dysfunctional, but that has been the case for centuries and does not mean it will always be weak. For the moment, Russia is content to be strong in what it calls the near abroad, or the former Soviet Union. Having come this far, it is not trying to solve insoluble problems.

^ I think this article is very well-written and has many good points. It brings together the 20 + years since the USSR collapsed and does so in an easy-to-read way. ^

Amazon's Taxes

From USA Today:
"Amazon strikes deal to collect Texas sales tax"

Come July, Texans will start paying state sales tax at The agreement between the shopping gargantuan and Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was announced today, ending the state's two-year effort to collect $269 million for uncollected sales taxes from 2005 to 2009, the Austin Statesman says. Amazon has fought Texas, California and other cash-hungry states that want the online retailer to collect sales taxes that residents would otherwise pay at a physical store. As a result of the deal, which could add hundreds of millions of dollars to the state's coffers, Amazon will move forward with plans to create 2,500 jobs in Texas and make $200 million in capital investments over the next four years. More than a dozen states have enacted legislation or rules to force online retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases, and similar legislation is pending in 10 states.

^ I think Amazon and other companies like it are selling out the American people when they agree to these types of agreements with States. I don not think that any online transaction should have sales tax added to it or collected. I am ok with sales tax for things bought in a regular store, but anything bought/sold online should be exempt. I do think that instead of a sales tax every state should have a VAT so you know just how much you are paying for something rather than have to add a certain percentage to the total. I live in a state that only has sales tax on prepared food, gas and alcohol, but have lived in many states that did. I use Amazon and other companies to buy things online and will continue to do so despite this agreement. ^

Canadian Nazi

From Russia Today:
"Canadian beekeeper must face trial for Nazi crimes – rights activists"

One of the most wanted alleged Nazi criminals recently found living quietly in Canada - 91-year-old Vladimir Katriuk - must face trial, says Alla Gerber, the head of the Russian fund Holocaust.
Earlier this week, Canadian media reported that Ukrainian-born Katriuk was found living with his wife on a small farm, keeping bees and selling honey in rural Qu├ębec, not far from Montreal.
The man was ranked fourth on the list of top-10 suspected Nazi criminals by the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The move followed a new study – based partly on Soviet declassified documents – alleging that Katriuk was an active participant in a massacre in the Belarusian village of Khatyn during the WW2. The paper states that on March 22, 1943, villagers of the German occupied village were herded into a barn which was then set on fire. Katriuk “reportedly sat behind the stationary machine gun, firing rounds at anyone attempting to escape the flames,” Canada’s ‘National Post’ cited. Jewish rights activists urged Ottawa to reopen the case against Katriuk and strip him of Canadian citizenship. The alleged Nazi criminal emigrated to Canada from Ukraine in 1951. In 1999, the Federal Court ruled Katriuk had been a Nazi collaborator in the past, but found there was no evidence he had participated in atrocities. In 2007, the Cabinet decided not to revoke his citizenship. As the old story takes a new twist, the Canadian government reportedly promised to re-examine the case.  Katriuk denies any involvement in war crimes. Memorial, one of leading Russian rights organizations, agrees, saying that crimes against humanity have no period of limitation and if Katriuk is really guilty of shooting civilians, he must face court, despite his advanced age.

^ I agree with Memorial that war crimes have no statute of limitations. The Canadian Government needs to act on this case right away and strip him of his Canadian citizenship and deport him to Europe where he should be tried for his crimes. I have said this before and I will say it again - just because a criminal isn't caught until they are old doesn't mean they shouldn't get punished for what they did. The Nazis - and their collaborators - murdered everyone from babies to the elderly without thinking twice about what they were doing. The same "consideration" should be given to the elderly criminals now. ^

Secret Service Changes

From USA Today:
"Secret Service tightens its conduct policy"

In the aftermath of a prostitute scandal that has tarnished the elite agency's reputation, the Secret Service announced on Friday that it has issued a new conduct policy for its agents travelling abroad. Agents are now prohibited from drinking once the president or government protectee arrives in country or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms, according to a summary of the rules provided by Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary. The announcement of the new policy comes as the agency attempts to improve a badly damaged reputation after agents—members of an advance team scouting out Cartagena, Colombia ahead of President Obama's visit earlier this month-- were found to have brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. Nine Secret Service officials were ousted from their jobs after the Colombia incident, and the agency is now also reviewing similar allegations against agents in San Salvador prior to a visit by Obama in 2011. The Defense Department is also investigating a dozen military service members on the advance team that face similar allegations.

The new rules also stipulate:

  • The State Department's Regional Security Officer will work with advance teams to provide intensified country-specific briefings upon arrival in a foreign country. The ambassador of the country will establish areas and establishments that agents are prohibited from frequenting.
  • Before the president or protectee arrives, alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts and drinking is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.
  • Patronization of non-reputable establishments is prohibited.

^ This is just plain sad that these common sense rules would need to be made official. The Secret Service Agents and the Military that were involved in this should get "the book thrown at them." They were in the country on official business - whether Obama was there or not - and didn't act as good representatives of the US Government. I remember living in Germany and watching stupid "commercials" on AFN - the only English channel we had  - saying that we were ambassadors of the US and needed to act to a higher standing every minute (and I was only a teenager.) The Secret Service deserves the ridicule and disgust that this case (and others that are currently surfacing from other places - like El Salvador.) Even though not all agents acted inappropriately it still shows the whole organization in a bad light. You would think that with the public outcry over this scandal and the new rules that things like this would not happen again, but I'm sure they will. ^

No Pot To Foreigners

From USA Today:
"Dutch court upholds ban on foreigners buying 'pot'"

A Dutch judge has upheld a government plan to prevent foreigners from buying marijuana in coffee shops in the Netherlands by turning them into private clubs for Dutch citizens only.
The decision to uphold the new "weed pass" plan represents the biggest rollback in years to the traditional Dutch tolerance of marijuana use, the Associated Press says. The plan, which would also limit memberships to 2,000 Dutch citizens per shop, will take effect May 1 in the southern provinces and spread to the rest of the country, including Amsterdam, next year. The conservative Dutch government sought to crack down on "drug tourists" who drive over the border from Belgium and Germany to buy a large amount of marijuana and take it home to resell. That argument, however, has drawn criticisim from coffee shop owners, particularly in Amsterdam, where public order and traffic issue is virtually non-existent.

^  This measure doesn't really faze me one way or the other as I don't go to Amsterdam or the Netherlands in general to get pot. The thing I think it weird about this ban is that only 2,000 Dutch citizens per shop will get the card needed to buy pot. That seems a little dumb to me. It is one thing to ban foreigners, but to restrict your own people seems to cross a line. ^

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week it was up to Troyzan to win immunity so he could stay in the game. Kim won the Reward Challenge and took Chelsea and Alicia (which made Kat really mad.) Troyzan used that to show how Kim is running everything, but as usual Kat was her dumb self and didn't do anything. One thing that was funny was watching the tribe try to catch a very slow pig that was around their camp - they never did get it. For the Immunity Challenge they had to slide down a Slip-n-Slide and toss rings on hooks. Kim won. Troyzan tried desperately to get Tarzan, Christina and Kat to his plan - well not so much Christina as they were going to out her name down, but she didn't know that and said she wouldn't vote for him. At Tribal, it was pretty clear that Troyzan was going home. The vote was between Christina and Troyzan and in the end Troyzan was sent home. I would really like Kim to go home next. I still would like to see Chelsea win.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Mexicans Leaving US

From USA Today:
"More Mexicans returning home, fewer immigrating to U.S."
Mexican immigration to the United States is on the brink of a historic reversal: More Mexicans may be going back to Mexico than coming in, according to a Pew Hispanic Center report Monday. Sponsored LinksThe influx of Mexicans, which has dominated U.S. immigration patterns for four decades, began to tumble in 2006 and 2007 as the housing bust and recession created a dearth of jobs. At the same time, the number of Mexicans returning to their native country along with their U.S.-born children soared. Stricter border enforcement, more deportations and tough state immigration laws such as the Arizona statute being challenged before the Supreme Court on Wednesday probably also contributed to the shift, says Jeffrey Passel, lead author of the report. The study analyzed data from censuses and a variety of other sources in both countries. "There was a suspicion that people were going back" but results of the Mexican census confirmed it, he says. "They point to a fairly large number of people going back to Mexico." From 2005 to 2010, 1.4 million Mexicans came to the USA— down by more than half from the 3 million who came from 1995 to 2000. From 2005 to 2010 , the number of Mexicans who moved from the USA to Mexico rose to 1.4 million, roughly double the number who had done so 10 years before. Passel says the data suggest that the return flow to Mexico probably surpassed the incoming flow in the last two years. He attributes some of the changes to lower fertility rates in Mexico (an average of 2.4 children in 2009, compared with 7.3 in 1960) and improving social conditions there. According to the report, a growing share of illegal immigrants who are sent home say they won't come back to the USA: 29% in 2010, compared with 7% in 2005. Mexican flows are key to the immigration debate because 58% of the 11.2 million immigrants here illegally are Mexican. Just over half of all Mexican immigrants in the USA are here illegally.

^ I fail to see the importance of this trend - especially when dealing with the 58% of Mexican illegals the article talks about. I am all for allowing more legal Mexicans into the US if they want to come, but any illegal (whether Mexican, Russian, Japanese, etc) should be deported. With the poor economy it is forcing Americans to start doing the jobs that used to be done by illegals and this article stating that the illegals are returning to their host country is good since that opens up more jobs for Americans and legally-documented immigrants. ^

Monday, April 23, 2012


This week they left Africa and went to India. The teams had to do a Bollywood dance (which was pretty boring.) I don't care for Bollywood music or films. JJ had trouble doing the dance and kept complaining, but Mark had the most trouble and almost quit the Game over it. He looked like he was going to pass-out from the heat and dancing. In the end he finished the challenge.
After the dancing the teams either had to drive a motorized rickshaw around a course or play cricket. Both challenges seemed pretty dumb. In the end Rachel and Dave came in first place for the 5th time and Bopper and Mark came in last - they were not sent home, but have to do a Speed Bump next time (which they have had to do in the past.)
As with other seasons they went to India and it just shows why you shouldn't go there. It is beyond fithy and crowded. I have no desire to ever go there - so I guess I could never be on TAR.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Frustrating Travel

From Yahoo:
"10 Most Frustrating Air Travel Rules & Regulations"

Some air travel rules come across as confusing, frustrating, or even worthy of a Liz Lemon-style meltdown. Here are ten edicts that raise eyebrows and blood pressures.
In January 2012, the Department of Transportation launched several airline regulations with a strong consumer-protection bent. Passengers heaved a sigh of relief, as the new parameters require airlines to limit tarmac delays and to quickly notify travelers of schedule changes or flight cancellations. Still, some air travel rules come across as confusing, frustrating, or even worthy of a Liz Lemon–style meltdown. Here are ten edicts that raise eyebrows and blood pressures.

1. The Federal Aviation Administration still bans the use of electronic devices, including e-readers and smartphones, during takeoff and landing. Switching iPads or smartphones to "airplane mode" doesn’t fly, even though their frequencies don’t interfere with a plane's signals. Crews want them stowed; Beth Blair, a writer and flight attendant, explains, “little devices can turn into projectiles if something goes wrong.” But wouldn’t you rather be hit by a Kindle than, say, a Freedom hardcover? There’s a glimmer of hope that this rule may change, though. In March, the FAA indicated that it plans safety tests for some personal electronic devices, including e-readers and tablets but not cell phones or smartphones."

2. Despite tantalizing rumors that travelers would soon be able to keep their shoes on at security checkpoints, you still have to shuck off your footwear for scanning. Unless, that is, you've hit your 75th birthday or are eligible for PreCheck. In March, the Transportation Security Administration started testing modified security checks for people age 75 and up, letting them keep on shoes and lightweight jackets and sweaters. Other fliers, meanwhile, can sail through security with their shoes on and laptops and liquids in their bags, if they've been accepted to the PreCheck program either as an elite mileage member or by shelling out for government-approved enrollment.

3. The TSA’s 3-1-1 rule dictates that not only must liquids, gels, and aerosols measure 3.4 ounces (100ml) or less to pass security, their containers must also fit those petite dimensions. If you have a larger container with just an ounce of liquid inside, it can get discarded. Snacks often fall prey to this policy; even cupcakes have been jettisoned for questionable amounts of frosting.

4. Gel shoe inserts are not allowed through security—but you can wear a gel-filled bra through the scanner. According to Daniel Feldman of Profoot, most shoe inserts include 200 grams total of resin or polyurethane gel. By comparison, some bras plump up with similar amounts of silicone. So while you might make like Charlize Theron and strap nearly half a pound of silicone to your chest, you’ll need foam, not gel, for your feet.

5. With the DOT’s new rules in place, domestic flights have a three-hour tarmac delay limit. If you’re stuck on the ground, the crew must legally provide water, food, and bathroom and medical-care access. But whether you can actually get out of your seat remains up to the captains. They decide whether it’s safe enough to move around the cabin, so you might still find yourself buckled in for the duration.

6. The TSA’s Secure Flight requirements crack down on any discrepancy between the name on your boarding pass and on your government-issued ID. If a boarding pass skips your middle name, for instance, or abbreviates your first name, airline or TSA staff may pull you aside to fill out certification of identity forms and go through extra security screenings. Debuting a newlywed family name? Better have a copy of your marriage license handy.

7. Airlines are enforcing carry-on weight limits, even if bags are within the required size. Each airline sets its own limit; some are as low as 15 pounds. George Hobica of sees agents using luggage scales at boarding gates. Heavy bags will be checked, so passengers risk being separated from valuables and necessary personal items. "It can be very fraught," Hobica says, "you really have to check."

8. If you’re bringing back a snow globe for Great-Aunt Zelda or Nephew Charlie, be sure to pack it in your checked luggage. No matter how small, those innocent-looking souvenirs are still on the TSA’s list of potentially dangerous carry-on items. Even if the snow globe is in its original packaging with documentation, it will get confiscated.

9. Sports equipment protocol is a bit of a riddle wrapped in an enigma inside a golf bag. Ski poles, golf clubs, pool cues, and lacrosse sticks must be checked. On the other hand, you are allowed to carry on hand weights and ice skates…despite the skates’ blades. Golfers should be especially careful to clean their equipment, since a bomb-sniffing dog might pick up fertilizer traces from a green.

10. Reward mileage programs are notoriously shifting sands, but Delta’s SkyMiles set a stringent new penalty standard. As of August 2011, SkyMiles members who change or cancel an awards flight within 72 hours or less of departure forfeit that award. The ticket is nonrefundable and nontransferable in that last-minute timeframe.

^ I knew about all of these rules. I agree with the 3 hour delay rule for domestice flights and 4 hours for international flights, but wish it was enforced (I also think the passengers involved deserve a portion of the fine.)As for keeping shoes on. I don't think that is necessary unless you go through the metal detector or full-body scanner and something shows up. I have been to many international airports - travelling back to the US - and have been allowed to keep my shoes on and the flights had no issues. I think it is just the TSA's way to keep more control over people rather than really improving security. I also don't think the rules about IDs and Passports is very smart. If I buy a ticket online and then months later when I am actually flying I decide to use my driver's licenese rather than a passport or other id then it should be allowed. I believe the TSA and airlines should be smart enough to see a person't name (with or without their middle name or intial) and their bithdays and figure out right away that it is the correct person. As for the liquid rule I am fine with the 3-1-1 but think it's funny that the TSA's website says you can have 3.4 oz or 100 ml of liquid, but when you get to the airport they only allow you to have 3.0 oz. I also believe that the TSA scanners decide at a whim what they will and will not allow through. I once had aspirin taken away from me (with no liquids) and believe the scanner just had a headache and wanted some. The same with cupcakes and other items. I wish more and more ordinary people would question the TSA's policies (in a non-violent way) because that is the only way some of these dumb policies will be changed. ^

Schengen Questions

From the BBC:
"Q&A: Schengen Agreement"

The Schengen Agreement abolished internal borders, enabling passport-free movement between a large number of European countries. Schengen is now under review because in 2011 there were surges in illegal migration from Africa and Asia, via Italy and Greece in particular.

There are 25 countries in Schengen.

Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain implemented the agreement in 1995. They were followed by Italy and Austria in 1997, Greece in 2000, and Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland in 2001. (Norway and Iceland are not in the EU.) Nine more EU countries joined in 2007, after the EU's eastward enlargement in 2004. They are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Switzerland, which is not in the EU, implemented the agreement in December 2008.

Are other countries going to remove them too?

Andorra, Liechtenstein and San Marino are not part of Schengen, but they no longer have checks at their borders. There is no date yet for Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, or for Bulgaria and Romania, which joined in 2007.

Which EU countries are not party to the Schengen agreement?

The UK and the Irish Republic have opted out. The UK wants to maintain its own borders, and Dublin prefers to preserve its free movement arrangement with the UK - called the Common Travel Area - rather than join Schengen. The UK and Irish Republic began taking part in some aspects of the Schengen agreement, such as the Schengen Information System (SIS), from 2000 and 2002 respectively.

What else, apart from removal of internal borders, does Schengen involve?

The main feature is the creation of a single external border, and a single set of rules for policing the border. Among the other measures are:

- Common rules on asylum;
- Hot pursuit - police have the right to chase suspected criminals across borders;
- Separation in airports of people travelling within the Schengen area from other passengers;
- Common list of countries whose nationals require visas;
- Creation of the Schengen Information System (SIS), which allows police stations and consulates to access a shared database of wanted or undesirable people and stolen objects;
- Joint efforts to fight drug-related crime.

In what circumstances can countries reimpose border controls?

Under article 2.2 of the treaty, signatories may reinstate border controls for a short period, if this is necessary for "public policy or national security" reasons.
The clause says "contracting parties [Schengen states] may, after consulting the other contracting parties, decide that for a limited period national border checks appropriate to the situation shall be carried out at internal borders". They can do so if necessary immediately, and then inform the other Schengen members. France did this around the 60th anniversary of D-Day in June 2004 and after the bomb attacks on London in 2005. Portugal and Germany have reimposed border controls for major sporting events, such as the Fifa World Cup.

What problems have arisen with Schengen?

The "Arab Spring" uprisings in North Africa in 2011 created tensions between France and Italy over Schengen. In mid-April 2011 France shut its borders to trains carrying African migrants from Italy - a move that was legal under Schengen, according to the European Commission. Earlier Italy had granted six-month residence permits to more than 20,000 of the migrants, most of them Tunisians, who had arrived on Italian soil since 1 January 2011. Italy accused France of violating Schengen, and both countries called for the Schengen rules on internal border controls to be modified.

The European Commission is amending the rules to address this, focusing on:

Guidelines on matters such as the issuing of travel documents and residence permits, so that Schengen countries interpret the rules in the same way
An improved Schengen "evaluation mechanism", including fact-finding missions, to deal with deficiencies in a country's border controls before a crisis arises
A centralised EU-level mechanism to allow countries to reimpose border controls in exceptional circumstances, applying commonly agreed standards.
France's President Nicolas Sarkozy, campaigning for re-election, has warned that he is ready to suspend France's membership of Schengen if the EU fails to plug leaks on its external borders in 2012.

Greece's land border with Turkey became a particular problem in 2011. The EU sent 175 Frontex border guards to help police the border in late 2010, and they will stay there in 2012. Frontex, an agency set up to help control the EU's external borders, says more than 55,000 illegal migrants were detected in Greece's Evros border region in 2011. That was a 17% increase compared with 2010. It is the main entry point into the EU for migrants from Asia. A further challenge to Schengen in 2011 came from Denmark, which announced that it would reinstate control booths on its borders, to do random checks of cars and passports. But the plan was later shelved by the Social Democrats, who replaced the centre-right coalition in September 2011. The centre-right government in the Netherlands has installed video surveillance cameras on its borders with Belgium and Germany - and insists they are allowed under Schengen. The cameras, introduced in January 2012, are to help tackle organised crime, the government says.

How are non-EU citizens affected?

A Schengen visa is necessary to travel to a Schengen country or within the area. The price of a short-stay visa is 60 euros (£53) and for some Europeans that means a substantial extra cost. Belarusians had been used to paying only five euros for a trip to neighbouring Lithuania. The visa costs 35 euros for Russians, Ukrainians and citizens of non-EU Balkan states, under visa facilitation agreements. The EU has lifted the short-stay visa requirement for citizens of Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia who have biometric passports. These Balkan nations all hope to join the EU. Kosovo is excluded from the arrangement. Citizens of Croatia, set to join the EU in mid-2013, can travel to nearby Italy, Hungary and Slovenia with just an ID card but still need passports to enter other Schengen states.

Why is it called the Schengen Agreement?

This is the name of the town in Luxembourg, where it was signed in 1985. Actually, the signing itself took place on a boat in the middle of the Moselle river, which forms the border between Luxembourg and Germany. The Convention applying the Schengen Agreement took another five years to negotiate and there was a further time-lag before the convention was implemented.

Is Schengen an EU initiative?

It began as an attempt to give practical meaning to the European Union's longstanding goal of ensuring "free movement of persons". However, while all countries agreed that there should be no border checks on EU nationals, they could not agree whether non-EU nationals should enjoy the same privileges when travelling inside the EU. As a result, the Schengen agreement was originally signed outside the auspices of the EU (by France, Germany and the Benelux countries). It was incorporated into the framework of the EU as part of the Amsterdam Treaty in 1997. That means the agreement can be modified under the EU's normal legislative process.

What is the Schengen Information System?

The SIS enables police forces across Europe to share data on law enforcement. It can cover stolen cars, court proceedings and missing persons. The enormous SIS database, in the French city of Strasbourg, is due to become even larger with the introduction of SIS II. That would enable police to link information such as alerts involving a missing child and a stolen car. The UK says it will only sign up to SIS II once it is happy the system works alongside the Police National Computer.

^ As with most of the policies and organizations of the EU the Schengen Agreement is coming under fire with countries wanting more control over their borders (both internal and external.) I think the current Schengen Agreement will undergo a drastic change very soon. There are just too many issues and problems that have gone on long enough and need to be fixed. ^

Queen's Birthday

From the BBC:
"Queen's 86th birthday marked with gun salutes"

Soldiers have carried out gun salutes across the UK to mark the Queen's 86th birthday. Dozens of cannons fired into the air at the Tower of London, Hyde Park, York's Museum Gardens, Portsmouth Harbour, Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. The Queen spent the day celebrating privately at Windsor Castle, where she often spends weekends. The ceremonies come in the year of June's Diamond Jubilee, which will mark the monarch's 60 years on the throne. Her official birthday is celebrated in that month. Large crowds watched the gunfire, with more than 1,000 observing the 41 gun salute in Hyde Park. Some 80 Irish draft horses were used to pull six World War I-era guns into position.

^ It seems this is the year for Queen Elizabeth 2. I don't think she has been more popular around the world as she is right now. ^

Friday, April 20, 2012

Recording Holocaust History

From USA Today:
"Historians race clock to collect Holocaust survivor stories"

Zvi Shefel recalled the day the German army arrived at his Polish town of Slonim in the summer of 1942. The soldiers immediately began mass exterminations and eventually killed more than 25,000 Jews, including his mother, father and sister. There is nothing in that town that Shefel, 86, can find about his family, he said while attending the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial Thursday for the "Day of Remembrance" commemoration of the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi genocide of World War II. "I've visited all the archives in Belarus to find the names of people, but they weren't there because the archives of Slonim were burned by the Germans when they retreated — but we have to keep the memory of what happened in order to never forget," he said. The annual remembrance was observed in Poland and other nations as well, and it took on special meaning this year to historians who are trying urgently to collect the remaining testimonies of eyewitnesses as their numbers dwindle. One survivor dies in Israel every hour, according to the Foundation for the Benefit of Holocaust Survivors in Israel, a non-profit group based in Tel Aviv that helps care for needy survivors. Today, there are 198,000 survivors in Israel; 88% are 75 or older. Israel's Yad Vashem memorial contains the largest archive in the world of historic material related to the Holocaust — or Shoah, as it is known in Hebrew — and it has been intensifying its campaign to record the accounts of survivors. Teams of historians have been dispatched to interview elderly survivors in their homes and collect artifacts. Since its establishment in 1953, Yad Vashem, an Israeli governmental authority, has collected 400,000 photographs, recorded roughly 110,000 victims' video testimonies and amassed 138 million pages of documents on the Nazis' genocide of Jews in Europe. It was after the Holocaust that the United Nations approved in 1947 what many Jews had sought for decades: a permanent homeland in what is now modern Israel. On Thursday, thousands of young people from Israel, the USA and other nations marched between the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau to honor the millions of Jewish dead. Despite the immense scholarship on the Holocaust, many unknowns remain, including the identities of roughly one-third of the Jewish victims. In 1955, Israel began creating a page of testimony for each victim, and by 2004, Yad Vashem had 3 million names when it first uploaded the names database to the Internet. Survivors have since added pictures and scanned letters to the victims' individual pages in what have become "virtual tombstones." At the end of last year, 4.1 million names had been recovered, Wroclawski said. "We are trying to find them by name, which is an expression of an individual's identity. The Nazis tried to exterminate not only the people but every memory of the individual and strip away their humanity and any memory of them," Wroclawski said.

^ Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel (most of the world remembers the Holocaust in January when Auschwitz was liberated whereas Israel remembers the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.) I think it is very important to record the stories of each survivor that is living now - I was shocked to learn that a survivor dies everyday in Israel. Each Holocaust survivor experienced different things and has a unique story to tell that helps piece together the Holocaust as a whole. I also think it is important to try and name the victims - even if there is no grave. Most of the latter part has only been going on the past 20 years since Communism in Eastern Europe and the Iron Curtain fell. Even though the Holocaust happened over 60 years ago it is still a very relevent part of our current history. Even though many survivors are dying everyday there are still many grandparents and great-parents alive that continue to shape their family's lives.
I remember the first time I "officially" learned about the Holocaust. I was in 7th grade in Germany and we read "The Diary of Anne Frank." She was around my age and I was living in the same country she was born in (and would later die in) and the same one that started World War 2 and the Holocaust. Of course I have a very different view - after working at the Holocaust Museum and learning more first-hand - than I did back then, but what I really remember is that after reading about Anne Frank the Holocaust wasn't just about milions upon millions of people. There was a face, a name and a story. I think that by identifying the victims more stories will be written that will continue to put pictures and faces together so people today will be able to understand the Holocaust better - in a more humanistic way rather than a scholarally approach. ^

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Survivor: OW

This week Troyzan was on the outs and all 7 wanted to send him home. For the Reward Challenge they did an auction and most spent their money on dumb things (like Leif buying a protein shake.) Troyzan bought something that would help him in the Immunity Challenge - which he really needed to win - and he did. I know that everyone was against Troyzan, but he went a little crazy once he won and kept throwing it into everyone's face. He still needs a few of them if he doesn't win the next challenge.
At Tribal, Troyzan tried to get Christine, Tarzan, Alicia and Leif to vote with him to get Kim out (I can't stand Kim and hope she will be out soon,)but as uaual the plan didn't work and Leif was kicked out. Leif did absolutely nothing in the game except tell others about plans and hide under the radar. Now, Troyzan has to win immunity again or get others to vote with him if he wants to stay in the game. I would like to see either Troyzan or Chelsea win.

Dick Clark

From Yahoo:
"Dick Clark, Entertainment Icon Nicknamed 'America's Oldest Teenager,' Dies at 82"

Dick Clark, the music industry maverick, longtime TV host and powerhouse producer who changed the way we listened to pop music with "American Bandstand," and whose trademark "Rockin' Eve" became a fixture of New Year's celebrations, died today at the age of 82. Clark's agent Paul Shefrin said in statement that the veteran host died this morning following a "massive heart attack." Born in Mount Vernon, N.Y., on Nov. 30, 1929, Richard Wagstaff Clark began his lifelong career in show business began before he was even out of high school. Clark landed a gig as a DJ at WFIL in Philadelphia in 1952, spinning records for a show he called "Dick Clark's Caravan of Music." There he broke into the big time, hosting Bandstand, an afternoon dance show for teenagers. Within five years, the whole country was watching. ABC took the show national, and "American Bandstand" was born. When Dick Clark moved to Hollywood in 1963, "American Bandstand" moved with him. He started Dick Clark Productions, and began cranking out one hit show after another; his name became synonymous with everything from the $25,000 "Pyramid" to "TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes" to the "American Music Awards." In 1972, Dick Clark became synonymous with one of the biggest nights of the year. "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" on ABC became a Dec. 31 tradition, with Clark hosting the festivities for more than three decades, introducing th entertainment acts and, of course, counting down to midnight as the ball dropped in New York's Times Square. But the traditional celebration saw a temporary stop in 2004, when Clark suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed and struggling to speak. Regis Philbin stepped in. But by the next New Year's Eve, Dick Clark was back, his speech still impaired. But that didn't stop him: he returned each year, and recently he was joined by Ryan Seacrest. Clark, whose eternally youthful look earned him the nickname "America's Oldest Teenager", is survived by his three children and his third wife, Keri Wigton, married to him since 1977. He credited his appearance to good genes, once saying "if you want to stay young looking, pick your parents very carefully." Now, America's Oldest Teenager is gone, leaving his indelible mark on generations of fans, and helping change rock 'n' roll and TV forever. His signature sign-off was always "For now, Dick Clark … so long," said with a salute. Today, generations of Americans are saluting back.

^ I never watched "American Bandstand" but did watch his New Year's Specials. They were good. It seems he did a lot for music and TV. ^

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Worst US Connections

From Yahoo Travel:
"America's worst airports for connections"

Few phrases strike dread in the hearts of travelers like “connecting flight.” Flying to a destination on more than one plane increases the odds of delay and a missed connection. Some U.S. airports have more late or missed connections than others, depending in part on which airlines use them and where they’re located. Some airlines are notoriously unreliable, and some airports are in cities that take regular beatings from bad weather. These airports become notorious for delayed connections. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics ranked the 10 U.S. airports with the worst records for on-time arrivals in 2011. The bureau also provides data for on-time departures. Its survey covers 29 major airports, defined as serving at least 1 percent of total passengers boarding domestic flights in one year, so small airports weren’t included.

10. Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport
Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood International Airport is in Broward County, Fla., about 20 miles north of Miami. According to the bureau, 78.88 percent of flights landed at the terminal on time. This means that passengers on 21.12 percent of the flights that landed there had to make a mad dash through the terminal if they had a connection to catch. Most of them didn’t have to worry, though, since 19.74 percent of flights from the airport didn’t take off on time either.
9. Washington Dulles International Airport
Washington Dulles International Airport is in Dulles, Va., 25 miles west of the nation’s capital. In 2011, the airport served over 23 million passengers, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, but 21.39 percent of the flights arrived later than they were supposed to, making connections needlessly stressful, while 20.19 percent of flights experienced delayed departures, leading to lots of huffing and fuming in the waiting area.
8. Ronald Reagan Washington National
The airport in Arlington County, Va., processes fewer passengers than nearby Dulles, with just over 18.8 million people passing through it in 2011, according to the airports authority. Still, 22.28 percent of flights landing there did so later than they were supposed to, while 17.59 percent left late.
7. Philadelphia International
Philadelphia International Airport served almost 31 million passengers in 2010, and is the 12th busiest in the world in terms of traffic movements, according to a 2011 report from the Airports Council International. With that kind of activity, it’s easy to see why the airport would encounter lots of delays. In 2011, delays affected 23.84 percent of incoming flights and 21.1 percent getting off ground.
6. O'Hare International Airport
Chicago’s O'Hare International Airport suffers from something of an identity crisis. On the one hand, it was voted “Best Airport in North America” for four consecutive years by Global Traveler magazine, from 2004 to 2007. On the other hand, fully 24.52 percent of flights landing there did so behind schedule, and it had the third-worst record for departures in 2011, with delays at 25.6 percent.
5. John F. Kennedy International Airport
At New York’s Kennedy International, 24.66 percent of all flights landed there late in 2011, and 22.49 left late. But unreliability is only one factor leading some to consider it to be one of the worst in which to make a connection., the website of the traveler’s guide book series, included it in its “10 Worst Airport Terminals” feature published in January. It called the airport’s Terminal 3 “the worst single airport terminal in America,” and cited “an utter lack of food and shopping options…hallways that could have been designed by M.C. Escher” and “a sense that the cleaning crew gave up in despair a while ago.”
4. Logan International Airport
Boston’s Logan International Airport, the largest airport in New England, had a banner year in 2011, when almost 29 million passengers used it. Unfortunately, a whopping 26.35 percent of flights didn’t get there when they were supposed to, and 21.11 had takeoff delays.
3. LaGuardia Airport
Together with Kennedy International and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International, New York's LaGuardia is part of the largest airport system in the United States, and the second largest in the world after London. With that much traffic at the airport and the others in its vicinity, it’s not surprising there are frequent delays. Accordingly, 27.82 percent of flights arrived late and 22.49 percent left late. LaGuardia was also ranked the worst major airport in the U.S. by the Zagat Survey in 2010, and in January, Frommer’s singled out the airport’s U.S. Airways terminal as “dull and sad.”
2. San Francisco International Airport
San Francisco International Airport is the second-largest airport in California after Los Angeles International Airport. The terminal is easily accessible from various points in the Bay Area via mass transit, and the airport operates AirTrain, a completely automated train system connecting the terminals. Inside the airport, the atmosphere is decidedly less pleasant. One is statistically likely to see at least a few impatient passengers waiting for delayed flights to land, as these account for 28.62 percent of all arrivals. As for departures, 23.72 percent took off later than scheduled.
1. Newark Liberty International Airport
When it comes to on-time arrivals, Newark Liberty International Airport has the worst record of any U.S. airport. A whopping one in three flights — 33.28 percent — arrived late. It also has the worst record for on-time departures, with 27.03 percent taking off later than scheduled. According to an August 2011 article on the “Consumer Reports” website, the two most chronically delayed flights in the U.S. both originate from Newark. Both flights go to Atlanta during rush hour, both flights have an average delay of one hour and 21 minutes, and both flights are delayed between 50 percent and 60 percent of the time. Frommer’s was also unkind in its assessment of the airport itself in January, particularly Terminal B. “The airport idiotically puts security before individual piers in Terminals A and B, which means that rather than have a whole terminal's food and shopping to entertain you, you're stuck out on a single pier,” the article said.

^ I have been to eight of these ten airports (all but LaGuardia and Fort Lauderdale) and have had connections in those eight. I have to agree with this list that they are pretty bad (although I would have thought LAX would have been included as well.) This just adds to already high list of reasons flying in the US is bad (the TSA, airlines, delays, airports, flight attendants, terrorism, etc.) I doubt that anything will come of this list. ^

Israel's Travel Woe

From Yahoo:
"Israel nabs fly-in activists at airport"

Israel detained dozens of international activists as they landed at its main airport on Sunday, preventing them from entering the country to participate in a planned solidarity mission with Palestinians in the West Bank. Israel said the activists, part of an umbrella group called "Welcome to Palestine," were provocateurs who posed a security threat. But organizers said the event, meant to draw attention to Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinians, was nonviolent, and they accused Israel of using heavy-handed tactics to stamp out legitimate protest. By early evening, the Interior Ministry said a total of 49 people had been stopped at the airport, most on flights from France, but also from Spain, Switzerland, Canada, Italy and Portugal. At least 12 were placed on flights back home, while arrangements were being made to expel the others.

^ Good job Israel! I think what they did was justified. These so-called activists did not want to accomplish anything of importance, but merely cause trouble. Israel had a good comment in response to the "activists'" claim of human rights abuse. Israel said that they should go to Syria or Iran and try the same tactics there. Unlike Israel, who would only deport them, Syria and Iran wouldn't hesitate to put them to death. Also, the "activists" forget that the Palestinians voted in a terrorist government that openly calls for the destruction of Israel and sends suicide bombers and missiles into Israel regularally. Let the "activists" try to put a good spin on why the Palestinians kill innocent men, women and children. Also the fact that Arba countries like Egypt and Jordan treat the Palestinians living in their countries as third-class citizens and yet no one seems to care about that. These "activists" just need to learn the facts and do something more productive with their lives. Israel has every right (as does other nations) to protect itself and in this case they are merely protecting themselves. ^

Monday, April 16, 2012


This week the teams stayed in Tanzania. The teams got to take a quick safari ride and saw lots of animals (I won't mind going on that) and then had to get their clue at the Hillary Clington booth. Then they either had to fix a bike or fill containers with water. Most teams chose the bikes (mostly because the wait for the water was 80 people long.) There was a double U-turn where the Border Patrol U-turned Big Brother and Big Brother U-turned the Divorcees. The Border Patrol (especially JJ) got mad because the Combat Pilot and his wife didn't U-turn Big Brother. JJ went on and on about the whole thing - a little too long. The Female Agents had to do an extra challenge (since they came in last the week before.) They had to arrange some artwork in the right order. All the teams then had to get honey from bees. The Hillbillies came in first place with the Combat Pilot and his wife in second. The Female Agents came in last and were home. Next week they go to India (big surprise as they always go there.)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Titanic: 100 Years

From USA Today:
"Events around the world mark 100 years since Titanic tragedy"

From Titanic's birthplace in a Belfast shipyard to its resting place in the North Atlantic, thousands were gathering Saturday to remember the cruise ship that embarked on its maiden voyage as an icon of Edwardian luxury but became, in a few dark hours 100 years ago, an enduring emblem of tragedy. The ship was traveling from England to New York, carrying everyone from plutocrats to penniless emigrants, when it struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on April 14, 1912. It sank at 2:20 a.m. on April 15, with the loss of more than 1,500 of the 2,208 passengers and crew.
In Belfast, Northern Ireland, where Titanic was built — pride of the Harland & Wolff shipyard — thousands will attend a choral requiem at the Anglican St. Anne's Cathedral or a nationally televised concert at the city's Waterfront Hall on Saturday. At the cathedral, the performance of composer Philip Hammond's The Requiem for the Lost Souls of the Titanic will be followed by a torch-lit procession to the Titanic Memorial in the grounds of Belfast city hall. In the ship's departure port of Southampton, England, an orchestra will play composer Gavin Bryars' work The Sinking of the Titanic, and a commemoration is planned in Halifax, Nova Scotia, where more than 100 victims of the tragedy are buried. Venues in Las Vegas, San Diego, Houston and even Singapore are hosting Titanic exhibitions that include artifacts recovered from the site of the wreck. Among them: bottles of perfume, porcelain dishes, even a 17-foot piece of hull. The centenary of the disaster has been marked with a global outpouring of commemoration and commerce. Events have ranged from the opening of a glossy new tourist attraction telling the ship's story in Belfast to a 3-D rerelease of James Cameron's 1997 romantic weepie Titanic, which awakened a new generation's interest in the disaster.

^ It seems that even though 100 years have passed since the Titanic sank it still manages to hold a place in people's minds. One thing that should not be overlooked are the innocent men, women and children that were killed that day. These innocent people died because a hand-full of arrogant men (from the owner of the White Star Line, Bruce Ismay, to the captain, Edward Smith, to the crew and other people that actively stopped/blocked passengers from getting to the boats - especially since there were so few lifeboats.)All those people are to blame (along with the iceberg) for the deaths of the 1,514. Those people are not heroes, but murderers and their names should be taken off all memorials and plagues honoring the innocent victims of the tragedy.
Another thing I do not understand is why Belfast is embracing the fact that they built the "unsinkable" ship that sunk. If anything they should be embarrassed. They should not glorify the work their ancestors did since it helped to sink the ship once the iceberg hit it. I guess it is because there is so little for Belfast to remember that isn't full of tragedy (from the Titanic to the Troubles.) I was in Belfast two years ago and you can still feel the religious tensions everywhere - even though on the surface everyone claims everything is fine and that's all in the past.
For the past week or so I have seen a bunch of different documentaries and movies about the Titanic. Some of them were really interesting (like "Nazi Titanic" about the making of the movie "Titanic" in Nazi Germany - I saw the movie from Netflix a few years ago and reread my entry I wrote about it.)I have no desire to watch the 1997 "Titanic" that is re-released in 3D. I saw it enough times when it first came out. It was a good movie, but I don't care for the 3D hype.
I'm not really sure why people (including myself) are still so interested about the Titanic after 100 years. Maybe it's because it was the first largest ship, billed as unsinkable and had so many people that died needlessly - if they had gone slower and had enough lifeboats.
Of course I will never know how I would have acted if I was on the Titanic and it was sinking. Would I fight my way on a lifeboat and take the spot a woman or child could have had? Would I have jumped in the freezing water and tried to survive or would I have stayed in my cabin knowing that it was hopeless and the end? I would like to think I would have helped others (especially women and children) after I had my family safely on a lifeboat, but as I said there is no way to know how you would react to a situation until it happens (and I hope it never comes to that.) ^