Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Dark Court

From Yahoo:
"Supreme Court upholds Obamacare individual mandate as a tax"

In a victory for President Obama, the Supreme Court decided to uphold his signature health care law's individual mandate in a 5-4 decision, upending speculation after hostile-seeming oral arguments in March that the justices would overturn the law. The mandate has been upheld as a tax, according to SCOTUSblog, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the liberal wing of the court. Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog says Roberts' vote "saved' the Affordable Care Act. Twenty six states sued over the law, arguing that the individual mandate, which requires people to buy health insurance or face a fine starting in 2014, was unconstitutional. Opponents cast the individual mandate as the government forcing Americans to enter a market and buy a product against their will, while the government countered that the law was actually only regulating a market that everyone is already in, since almost everyone will seek health care at some point in his or her life. House Republicans have vowed to repeal the entire law, though it's unlikely the Democratic-controlled Senate would let that happen, and this decision will most likely slow momentum for that move. Though the sweeping, 1,000-page plus law passed more than two years ago, much of it will not go into effect until 2014. That's when states will have to set up their own health insurance exchanges, Medicaid will be expanded by 16 million low-income people, and Americans will have to buy health insurance (for many, with a government subsidy) or pay a penalty of 1 percent of their income to the IRS. Employers who have more than 50 employees and don't offer insurance will also begin to face a penalty. Insurers will no longer be able to turn away people with preexisting conditions, or charge people higher premiums based on their gender or health. Only about 6 percent of the population will actually be required to buy health insurance or face a tax under the mandate, since most people already have coverage or will get it through Medicare, according to the Urban Institute. Many of the more popular provisions of the law have already gone into effect, including a regulation saying insurers have to let children stay on their parents' plans until they are 26 years old, which 2.5 million Americans have already taken advantage of. Insurers can also no longer turn away children with preexisting conditions, and sick uninsured people can buy coverage in high-risk pools set up by the government. Despite this intentional front-loading of consumer friendly, popular provisions of the law, the American public is pretty evenly split on the law's benefit. Slightly more people wanted the Supreme Court to strike down the law than uphold it in a recent poll.

^ This shows that the Supreme Court isn't unbiased as they are supposed to be. It's pretty sad that they decided to keep the provision that forces Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine (or tax or whatever you want to call it.) If people could afford health insurance then they would already have it. This is the one aspect of Obamacare that I absolutely hate. If Obama wants all Americans to have health insurance than he should do what most Western country governments do and pay for it - rather than forcing us to. I wonder what people without health insurance in 2014 and with no "real" job (like a family caregiver - which can be a difficult job where you don't get a paycheck) will do. The new law does nothing to help them although since they don't get an income I guess that also means they won't be taxed/fined 1% by the IRS. This doesn't fix health care in the US at all. It merely forces millions of people onto an already strained and decaying system.  Usually the rats flee a sinking ship, but Obama is forcing the "rats" onto the sinking ship. Health care should be fixed from the ground-up and then once that's done they can worry about everyone having access to it. ^

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

CO Fires

From the BBC:
"Colorado Springs under threat as 32,000 flee Waldo fire"

More than 32,000 people have fled their homes after a raging wildfire threatening the US city of Colorado Springs doubled in size. Traffic and smoke choked the streets as people evacuated the city and the nearby US Air Force Academy. Some 800 firefighters are battling the fire, which is 5% contained, over 24 sq miles (62 sq km). Evacuation orders are in place in much of the city. President Barack Obama is to tour the affected areas on Friday. Just weeks into the annual wildfire season, there are also fires in Utah and Wyoming and Montana.

 About the Wildfire:

  • Started Saturday 23 June, around 12:00
  • Fire origin located in Pike National Forest, Colorado
  • Scorched 15,324 acres
  • Currently 5% contained, expected containment date Monday 16 July
  • Spreading extremely fast
  • Adverse weather conditions

The Waldo Canyon Fire, which began on Saturday, has been fanned towards Colorado Springs by winds of up to 65mph (104km/h). "It was like looking at the worst movie set you could imagine," Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said after surveying the fire from the air on Tuesday. "It's almost surreal. You look at that, and it's like nothing I've seen before." Heavy ash and smoke was billowing from the hillsides west of Colorado Springs and southbound traffic was temporarily closed on Interstate 25, which runs through the city. Fleeing residents covered their faces with T-shirts to breathe through the smoke. "It took us an hour to drive a mile because of the traffic. It was really tense. As we were driving, the ash was falling out of the sky. We couldn't see the street because of the smoke," Colorado Springs resident Hillory Davis, 22, told the BBC. Meanwhile, Richard Brown, the Colorado Springs fire chief, described the blaze as a "firestorm of epic proportions". The city is Colorado's second largest, situated just off the main north-south highway. It is home to the sprawling campus of the US Air Force Academy, the top school for cadets joining the Air Force. On Wednesday afternoon, academy officials said the fire had spread to about 10 acres of the campus. Some 2,100 people were evacuated from base housing overnight. Firefighters from the Air Force and local crews were trying to stop the blaze reaching the academy.  Elsewhere in Colorado, the High Park fire in the west of the state has been burning for weeks and remains barely half contained, although fewer homes are under imminent threat.

^ My sister, brother and his family all live in Colorado Springs. So far, they haven't been told to evacuate, but they can see and smell the smoke everywhere they go. The picture above is from a friend on Facebook who also lives in CO Springs. Hopefully they will be able to get everything contained so no more people have to leave their homes. I don't think Obama should go to the city - the officials there have enough to deal with than worry about him and his Secret Service. Why doesn't he wait until the fires are put out or go to some of the shelters outside the city? I guess I'll be keeping a close watch on the news and on my phone to see what updates there are. ^

Queen And McGuinness

From the BBC:
"Queen and Martin McGuinness shake hands"

The final day of the Queen's two-day visit to Northern Ireland was marked by an historic handshake and a huge party. Her Majesty and former IRA commander Martin McGuinness shook hands for the first time. The meeting between the monarch and Northern Ireland's deputy first minister took place at a charity event in Belfast on Wednesday morning. In the afternoon she attended a Diamond Jubilee party attended by 20,000 in Stormont. The Queen and Mr McGuinness shook hands at a private meeting and later shook hands in public. The private meeting, in a room at the Lyric Theatre, involved a group of seven people, including Irish President Michael D Higgins and Northern Ireland's First Minister Peter Robinson. It is understood Mr McGuinness welcomed both the Queen and the Irish president in Irish. The deputy first minister is said to have commented on the Queen's visit to Dublin last year, and in particular her comments regarding all the victims of the Troubles.

Needless to say it was green. It may be a trivial point, but it spoke volumes.  The image will help Sinn Fein reach out to voters, previously reluctant to support a party linked to the IRA.  But the picture could lose them a small number of party members for whom a meeting with the British head of state is a republican step too far. As for the Queen, it will not be the favourite moment of her 60-year reign, but it is certainly one of the most significant.  Sinn Fein said Mr McGuinness told the Queen that their meeting was a "powerful signal that peace-building requires leadership".Later, as the Queen left to continue her Diamond Jubilee tour of Northern Ireland, the pair shook hands again, this time in public. As they shook hands for a second time, Mr McGuinness wished the Queen well in Irish, which translates as: "Goodbye and God bless." When asked how it was to meet the Queen, Martin McGuinness replied "very nice."

^ It seems that some things have changed since the peace accord in 1998 (at least officially.) Queen Elizabeth 2 is the Queen of Northern Ireland (regardless what some people want) and so needs to show the Irish there that she is there for them whether they are Catholic or Protestant. I don't know much about what the Queen officially said about The Troubles when they were happening, but I hope it was much better than what most MPs in the British Parliament said in statements (basically the Catholics are at fault and nothing will ever change unless they (the British) stop them.) ^

McD's Uniforms

From Yahoo:
"Project McDonald's: Designer 'De-Americanizes' Fast Food Uniform"

Wayne Hemingway has gone where no high fashion designer has gone before: McDonald's. The new look still takes its cue from the kitchen: pickle green and mustard yellow polo shirts at the counter. Mustard-colored skinny ties and belts for managers. Lettuce green pants for customer service assistants. But the condiments cues are the only reminder of the old get-ups. "We've taken some of the Americanism out of the uniforms," the British-born Hemingway told Yahoo! Shine in an interview Monday, just a few weeks before the uniforms are rolled out at four Olympic park restaurants in London.

^ I've seen pictures of the new uniforms and they look really bad. I don't care if they keep the old ones or not, but they shouldn't use these new ones. ^

Montenegro's EU Bid

From Deutsche Welle:
"EU plans to open Montenegro accession talks"

European ministers have given a green light for Montenegro to launch talks to join the European Union. Podgorica has apparently fulfilled demands for progress in the fight against corruption and organized crime.The EU's 27 European affairs ministers meeting in Luxembourg recommended on Tuesday that the bloc start formal negotiations with Montenegro for the Balkan country to join the union. Official approval must still come from EU leaders, who will discuss the subject at a summit on Thursday. However, their approval is considered a formality in the wake of the recommendation. The membership talks would then begin the following day.

^ It doesn't seem like the best time to join the EU, but I guess some of the smaller/poorer countries in Europe not currently in the EU would rather be "in the sinking ship" than outside. I have been to Montenegro - there wasn't much there that I saw - and they already use the Euro so they are already tied-in with the EU should the Euro collapse. ^,,16050371,00.html

Deja Vu Germany

From Russia Today:
"Religious circumcision of kids a crime - German court"

A German court has ruled that parents can’t have their sons circumcised on religious grounds in a move which has angered Muslim and Jewish groups in the country. The court in Cologne decided that a legal guardian’s authority over a child does not allow them to subject them to the procedure, which the court called minor bodily harm, reports The Financial Times Deutschland. The possible ban on circumcision provoked outrage among Jewish and Muslim organizations in Germany, where every year thousands of boys are circumcised in their early years at the request of parents. They regard the ban as a "serious interference in the right to freedom of religion." But none of the organizations so far has commented on the verdict, explaining they first need to study thoroughly the reasoning of the judges.  Some experts however don’t rule out that the right for religiously motivated circumcision will be considered by the Federal Constitutional Court.

^ It seems Germany did the same thing back in the 1930s when they started banning religious circumsision and other "small" acts and then expanded to other areas and we all know how that ended - millions upon millions of innocent people murdered. I'm not saying Germany is about to start another Holocaust, but you can't over-look these little laws that usually turn to much bigger issues. Germany should leave well enough alone and allow boys to get circumcised. Boys here in the US are circumcised everyday and most not for religious reasons. Maybe Germany should focus more on the problems with the Euro and the EU rather than start convtroversy (unless they are trying to bring attention away from the economic problems.)  ^

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sick Get More Time

From the BBC:
"EU court: Workers sick on leave can get extra time off"

Workers who fall sick during their annual leave are entitled to take corresponding paid leave at a later date, the EU's top court has ruled. The European Court of Justice ruling is legally binding throughout the EU. Thursday's ruling was prompted by a Spanish trade union case against a group of department stores. "The right to paid annual leave cannot be interpreted restrictively," the court says. The UK does not have an opt-out in this area of EU labour law. The court in Luxembourg said the EU Working Time Directive grants workers a right to at least four weeks' paid annual leave "even where such leave coincides with periods of sick leave"."Consequently, a worker is entitled to take paid annual leave, which coincides with a period of sick leave, at a later point in time, irrespective of the point at which the incapacity for work arose." According to an earlier ECJ ruling, workers who fall sick before a period of annual leave can also reschedule that leave period so that it does not clash with their sick leave. The UK's opt-out from the Working Time Directive only applies to the directive's clause setting a 48-hour limit on the working week. The UK government says "no-one can opt out of any other part of the directive". The UK and at least 14 other countries use the opt-out, which enables workers voluntarily to work more than 48 hours a week. An EU source told the BBC that the ECJ ruling has full, immediate effect EU-wide, regardless of the type or size of employer. Workers who believe their employer has infringed their right to paid annual leave can seek justice in their national courts. In cases where workers fall sick towards the end of the year, and are unable to take all of their annual leave, they can under EU law carry over their unused leave into the next accounting period. The ECJ has also ruled that the long-term sick have the right to accumulate at least a year of unused annual leave. But the ECJ says the amount is not open-ended and member states can set an upper limit.

^ It seems like a no-brainer, but I guess it's not. Now it's law in every country in the EU. ^

No Army, No Government

From Moscow Times:
"Bill Could Block Army Dodgers From Serving in Government"

Under a bill proposed by a State Duma deputy, those who dodge government service could be blocked from taking government positions. A United Russia deputy wants to introduce a bill to the State Duma that would prevent anyone who has not undergone military service from taking legislative or executive positions in the government. "In a word, it will close the road to public service at the municipal, regional and federal levels of government," the bill's initiator, Defense Committee deputy chairman Franz Klintsevich told Izvestia. The bill is partially aimed at the children of prominent officials, many of whom become officials themselves without undergoing service, Defense Committee member Andrei Krasov said. "Military service, of course, brings about a sense of patriotism in young people. Why should we produce, for example, governors who can only talk about this concept with words? This is a principle of social justice," Krasov said. In Russia, all men are required to undergo military service for one year or serve in an administrative position for three years. Those who cannot serve for medical reasons or who study in a university past the age of 28 are excluded from serving, though many simply ignore their military obligations or avoid service by living abroad. The bill is currently planned to be introduced in the fall session, the committee told Izvestia.

^ I don't know if this is a good thing or not. I know all Russian men are supposed to serve in the military and so this law (if passed) would force more people to actually serve, but it does nothing to fix the problems that occur while serving in the Russian Military (ie low pay, poor housing and food and hazing - called дедовщи́на. )  If those issues were addressed, especially the last one, then maybe more men would serve rather than finding ways to be exempted. I have said it before, I know only one Russian that served in the military as a conscript. All the rest found exemptions or loopholes and got out of it. Russia should switch to an all-volunteer military and end conscription. I do think that those that want to be Prime Minister or President of Russia (or any world leader with a military such as the US President and Vice President) should have military service since they are the Commander-in-Chief. It doesn't seem right for a President to send troops to fight and die for their country when they have no military backyground. ^

S.C's Immigration

From Yahoo:
"Supreme Court upholds key part of Arizona immigration law, strikes down rest"

The Supreme Court upheld a key part of Arizona's tough anti-illegal immigration law in a 5-3 decision on Monday that allows police officers to ask about immigration status during stops. That part of the law, which never went into effect because of court challenges, will now immediately be enforced in Arizona. Other parts of the law, including a provision that made it a state crime for illegal immigrants to seek work, will remain blocked, as the justices affirmed the federal government's supremacy over immigration policy.Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's swing vote, wrote the opinion, and was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas partially dissented, saying the entire law or most of the law should have been upheld.In the opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that the federal government's "power to determine immigration policy is well settled." But he also showed concern for what he described as Arizona's outsize burden in dealing with illegal immigration, seeming to sympathize with the state's decision to butt in on immigration enforcement.

^   I'm glad the Supreme Court upheld this (especially since Obama didn't agree with it.) Hopefully, the Court will do the right thing this Thursday when they announce their stance on health care. ^

Friday, June 22, 2012

Anne's Amsterdam

From Deutsche Welle:
"Amsterdam through Anne Frank's eyes"

Anne Frank left footprints all over Amsterdam. Now the Anne Frank House has developed an app that links the past with the present and offers locals a whole new perspective on their own city.
Since 1960, the Anne Frank Museum has been telling the history of the Holocaust through the personal accounts of the young Jewish girl who hid from the Nazis within its walls and was ultimately murdered in a concentration camp. Now the museum in Amsterdam has released a mobile phone application that shows users the city from Anne's perspective. The museum's digital media manager, Ita Amahorseija, says the aim of the app was to make Anne Frank's story relevant for the people living in Amsterdam today. “What we wanted was to get people to make a connection between the past and present. So when they are standing at central station or near their own house, and they see this picture within the context of the street as it is now, they will realize that this really happened,” Amahorseija said. Anne Frank was one of millions murdered in the Holocaust. She wrote her famous diary while hiding in the Amsterdam house, together with her family, during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. Only Anne's father Otto - and her diary - would survive the Holocaust.
The app superimposes historical photographs on contemporary images The Anne's Amsterdam app aims to capture the history of the Dutch capital by bridging the past with the present, in particular by superimposing contemporary photographs of the city with historical war-time images.With GPS, users navigate their way through Amsterdam on a tour of 30 significant sites that have some connection to Anne Frank: where she lived and went to school, the annex in which her family hid from the Nazis, and the book shop where her father bought her the famous diary, to name a few. Within 100 meters of each site, users can access multimedia information about it. Just across from the museum, for instance, the app shows the location where Jan Gies, a friend and helper of the family, witnessed them being arrested by the Nazis. Users can listen to an interview with Jan Gies talking about his eyewitness accounts, while they stand at the very place it occurred.Amahorseija says the app enables a museum to expand beyond the walls of a museum.While most sites are clustered near the Anne Frank House, visiting all 30 sites in typical Dutch style - on a bicycle - takes around two-and-a-half hours. The site furthest away from the city center is in southern Amsterdam, where Anne lived before her family went into hiding.Harald Krämer, museum communications expert and lecturer at the Zurich School of Arts, says the app's navigational element effectively engages people because the viewer decides which sites to view and in which order. “It's not navigation to just lead someone from one point to another point. There is a personalization with this story, and this contributes to the content,” he said. Though the app can be downloaded for free at the museum, its reliance on GPS makes it more attractive to locals than to international tourists, who would have to pay steep roaming charges. Ruben Vis, director-general of NIK, which represents the Jewish communities in the Netherlands, says the app is an effective tool to help educate Jewish children about their heritage. “Different times need different approaches. The app is a way to communicate to young people about the history of Anne Frank,” said VisThe Anne Frank Museum joins a growing list of museums around the world that are offering mobile apps, including the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Louvre, and the National Gallery in London. Krämer, however, says using an app is not a complete experience in itself but rather "an opener" to get people interested in learning more about history.“The aura of Anne Frank's diary cannot be reproduced. The real presence of the artifact is indispensible,” he said. Krämer encourages visitors to still view the actual diary at the museum and not just rely on the virtual experience.Anne's Amsterdam is currently available in English, Dutch and German, though the Anne Frank Museum says it hopes to add other languages soon. The app was donated to the museum by organizations LBi and Repudo which designed and developed the app respectively. Released last month, the app has already received significant interest, with around 12,000 downloads in the first week alone.

^ This is such a clever and unique way to teach history to people. Everyone knows about Anne Frank, her diary and her death but this will show people her life. I have been to the Anne Frank House and wish they had this app then as I would have liked to see how Amsterdam was during World War 2. This kind of presentation can be used to teach all sorts of historical events and people to people. ^

Monitor No More

From Yahoo:
"Bullied bus monitor thankful for support, pleads for threats to stop"

All bullied bus monitor Karen Klein wanted was an apology. Now she's getting that … and then some. Police say the four boys who tormented the 68-year-old on a school bus in upstate New York earlier this week have taken responsibility for their actions. The students are also saying they're sorry.
The video of the seventh-graders cursing, taunting and physically threatening a crying Klein has become a rallying point against bullying. It has also prompted an overwhelming outpouring of support for the longtime school bus worker. An online campaign to fund a vacation for Klein had grown to more than $500,000 by Friday afternoon, far surpassing the initial $5,000 goal. Max Sidorov, the Toronto man who started the fund two days ago, said he did so partly because he was bullied himself as a child.

^ If you just read this article then you feel bad for the woman, but if you see the video and see that she did nothing then you don't. This is a 68 year old woman whose sole job is to ride the school bus and make sure no one gets bullied and that there are no fights and yet when the middle school students start "bullying" her she does nothing. It is her responsibility to do something (write their names so they can be reported, etc) instead she looks out the window and does nothing. Now she is made out to be some kind of hero, a symbol against bullying. She is not a symbol of anything other than a person who was hired to do a job and when it came time to do it she did nothing. Instead of getting praise she should get a pink slip or at least put in a position where she doesn't deal with any children. What if the kids were bullying another kid? I'm sure she wouldn't have done a thing. She only got money from people because they were bullied and no other reason. I had bus monitors when I lived in Wiesbaden and Darmstadt and they ACTUALLY did their job and stopped fights and bullying and yet they weren't paid (each parent had to do a shift.) How can we teach children that bullying is wrong and that if they see or experience it that they need to do something when this woman (a so-called authority figure) stayed silent and did nothing? She should have put her "big girl pants" on and done her job. Instead she did nothing and like true fashion she is rewarded (I guess that's the new American Way.") See something bad happened, do nothing and you will be rewarded. It should be the other way around. See something, do something and then be praised for your actions. ^

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Military's RR

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Military's new R&R plan doesn’t include leaving Afghanistan"

The U.S. military is rolling out a new rest and recuperation program for troops fighting in Afghanistan. But don’t pack your bags for a nice long break on a sunny beach or a visit home — you won’t be leaving Afghanistan under the “rest-in-place” program. R&R sites are being established within brigade or regional areas of operation, with a range of amenities provided by Morale, Welfare and Recreation. A four-day Special Liberty Pass is the ticket in. “The decentralized approach at the brigade level was chosen because it provides leadership the flexibility to design R&R programs that fit their requirements, yet takes care of servicemembers’ needs for a break close to their unit area,” U.S. Forces Afghanistan spokesman David Lakin wrote in an email to Stripes from Kabul. The only other formal R&R program is the 15-day Non-Chargeable Rest and Recuperation (NCR&R) leave program. To be eligible, servicemembers must be on a minimum 365-day deployment with at least 270 days physically in country. Starting this year, deployments for Army personnel were reduced to nine months so most soldiers are not eligible. Marine infantry battalions are on seven-month deployments.The Special Liberty Pass program is for all servicemembers not authorized for NCR&R.
Through nearly a decade of war, nearly 200,000 troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan traveled to Qatar for Central Command’s Rest and Recuperation Pass Program, or R2P2. There, they found an oasis of amenities: pool tables, rooms full of big screen televisions, swimming pools, miniature golf, a discothèque, trips to a shopping mall and deep sea fishing. But as the Iraq war wound down and the challenges of travel or leave limitations prevented troops in Afghanistan from going, the number of R2P2 participants dwindled, and the program was ended in April of last year. The brigade level facilities won’t have the luxuries that troops enjoyed in Qatar, but Lakin said servicemembers will have access to facilities equipped with “standard” MWR packages and recreation kits, including video games, recreational games such as foosball, televisions and exercise equipment. And, MWR is working to install or upgrade internet café systems, Lakin said. That’s not much more than even small combat outposts generally have: phones, computers and a room for video games.

^ It seems pretty dumb to have RR places in Afghanistan. Soldiers should be able to get out of the war-zone to fully relax (even if they can't go home to their families.) Even during Vietnam soldiers were allowed to go to Thailand, Hawaii, the Philippines, etc, but now they will be confined to Afghanistan where the threat of bombs and attacks will continue while the soldiers "rest." ^

EurAsian Currency?

From Moscow Times:
"Euro Crisis Gives Impetus to Eurasian Common Currency Discussion"
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is calling attention to the introduction of a common currency for the Eurasian Union of former Soviet countries as a hedge against growing volatility in global financial markets.Although he noted that creating such a currency is a long-term project — the Eurasian Union is expected to start functioning in 2015 — he said it's time "to think ahead." The idea of the Eurasian Union was first voiced by then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in October 2011.
In an article in Izvestia, Putin said the Eurasian Union would further integrate existing customs-union members Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. It would be expanded later to include more former Soviet republics, perhaps Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Introducing a single currency for the member states of the Eurasian Union would ease trade and financial relations between the countries, reduce currency exchange expenses and simplify individuals' transfer across the borders, but it's a very long-term prospect, said Alexei Portansky, a professor in the global economy and policy department at the Higher School of Economics.
^ It seems like Russia is trying to do too much too fast by talking about a common currency for a political organization that doesn't even exist yet. You would think that they would see what is happening with the Eurozone in the EU and want to hold-off. I'm not sure that the EurAsian Union will be any stronger than the Commonwealth of Independent States is (and the CIS isn't very strong at all.) ^

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Russia: Visa-Free Macedonia

The Moscow Times:
"Macedonia Relaxes Visa Rules for Russians"

Macedonia is scrapping visa requirements for Russian citizens visiting for less than a year in an effort to boost tourist flows, the Balkan country's prime minister announced Sunday. "In our opinion, this will become the latest step in our efforts to attract Russian tourists to our republic. Macedonia is the cradle of Slavic culture and written language," Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told Itar-Tass in an interview. Macedonia had previously considering canceling visa requirements for Russians visiting for less than six months. Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro only allow 30 days visa-free travel to Russian citizens, while Croatia and Kosovo give 90 days visa-free travel if certain conditions are met.

^ It's interesting to see which countries offer visa-free travel for other countries. Most of the world dosn't require visas for Americans and many western European countries because they want our tourism dollars. The same seems to be true in the Balkans with Russia. With most of the EU part of the Schengen Area Russia has a limited number of countries they can travel to without getting a visa. I guess one thing to consider is that 21 years ago the majority of Russians couldn't leave their country at all and now they have a hand-full of places visa-free (with the possibility of more.) ^

Russia's Codes

From the Moscow Times:
"Russia Launches Color-Coded Terror Alerts"

President Vladimir Putin signed a decree Saturday implementing a color-coded warning system to alert citizens about the threat of a terrorist attack on Russian soil. The new system establishes guidelines to ensure citizens' safety and minimize risks before and after a terrorist attack. Different threat levels will be identified by the colors blue, yellow and red. "In the interests of informing the population in good time about the threat of a terrorist attack and organizing activities to prevent its realization, the following threat levels can be introduced in separate regions of the Russian Federation: blue for an elevated threat level, yellow for a high level and red for a critical level," the Kremlin press service said in a statement. When authorities raise the threat level to red, law enforcement and security personnel will patrol public areas 24 hours a day and listen in on telephone conversations, among other measures. Authorities have been considering introducing the three-level scale for some time. The United States had a similar warning system for almost 10 years.U.S. authorities introduced their five-level, color-coded system in 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, but the system was later dropped in April 2011 after being deemed "unhelpful."

^ It seems that the color-codes don't really work and give a false sense of security to people. It didn't work in the US, but maybe it will for Russia. ^

Obama's Immigration

From the BBC:
"Obama ends young migrant deportations"

US President Barack Obama has announced an immediate end to the deportation of illegal immigrants who came to the US as children, describing the move as "the right thing to do". Those aged between 16 and 30 who have lived in the US for five years could now be eligible for work permits. But Mr Obama's Republican opponent, Mitt Romney, said it was the wrong way to approach the problem. Mr Romney said the issue should be dealt with by legislation, rather than an executive order "that can be reversed by subsequent presidents". The plan, which goes into effect immediately, is expected to affect as many as 800,000 people.

In order to be eligible under the new initiative, illegal immigrants must:

  • have arrived in the US when they were under the age of 16
  • have lived continuously in the US for at least five years
  • be in school, or have graduated from high school or be honourably discharged veterans of the US military
  • have no criminal record
  • be under 30 years old.
^ Obama and Congress should go after their parents and deport them. They are criminals as they entered the country illegally and lived here illegally. This is just a political stunt to get people to vote for him - I hope it backfires. ^

Friday, June 15, 2012

Visa-Free Soon

From Moscow Times:
"Visa Rules Set to Be Eased in Central Asia"

The Central Asian republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are planning to liberalize their visa rules this summer, marking what looks like a trend among former Soviet states. The Kyrgyz parliament approved a bill Thursday that would unilaterally scrap visas for citizens of 44 countries, including almost all European countries and the United States, for stays up to 90 days, according to local media reports.  The bill has yet to be signed by President Almazbek Atambayev.  Tajikistan's lower house of parliament last month approved a bill that would permit visa-free visits by U.S. and EU citizens as well as citizens of some Southeast Asian countries, local media reported.  It was unclear Thursday when the Tajik bill might become law. Kazakhstan, the region's economic powerhouse, is also planning a visa-free regime, but only for tourists who are citizens of countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.  The group's 34 members include most EU countries, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Chile, Turkey, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. President Nursultan Nazarbayev said last month that the Kazakh Foreign Ministry was considering lifting visa requirements for these countries.  While Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have been relatively open to foreigners before, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan rank among the most difficult countries to get into. If the changes become law, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan would join Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia among former Soviet countries that have unilaterally dropped visa requirements for Western visitors.  Full visa-free travel with much of Europe is in place for the three Baltic states — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — which are part of the Schengen border-free zone. These examples contrast with Russia and Belarus, which retain cumbersome invitation and registration requirements for citizens of most Western countries.  Armenia and Azerbaijan still require visas, and Azerbaijan has recently made the process of getting them more difficult and expensive. Talks between Moscow and the EU about abolishing visas have yet to begin. However, a facilitation agreement with the United States is expected to be ratified by the State Duma soon.

^ I think this is a good thing that will help all the countries involved. Americans and Europeans will be able to travel to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan without visas and the three former Soviet Republics will get more tourism and money. Hopefully this trend will extend to all the former Soviet Republics (especially Russia.) I have applied for several Russian visas and it costs a lot of money. You need to get a copy of your passport page and pay to get an official invitation letter from a sponsor in Russia and then have the original mailed to you in the US (which can take several months) and then apply at the Embassy. Then once you are in Russia you have to register your visa at every Russian town you visit and stay 3 days or longer. To register your visa (if you don't stay at a hotel - I have never stayed in a Russian hotel) you have to go with your sponsor to OVIR, fill out the paperwork, then go to a Sberbank and pay the fee, then go back to OVIR and give them the receipt and then go to another office and get them to sign off on everything while making sure your passport and migration card get stamped. In Russia, if you don't carry your passport with you at all times the police can arrest you - and the visa registration can take several days. (It's a "catch-22.) Russia is currently debating an agreement with the US to allow 3 year, multi-entry visas available. White the US Government can just make the change it has to be read and approved by the Russian Duma. I have to say that one reason I went (with my sister and mother) to the Ukraine a few years ago was that we didn't need visas or registration to go there (and I was going to interview for a job.) My mom and I are considering going to Georgia next year with one reason being that we don't need visas. Last year I worked with a Russian tour company to get a trip to Russia planned for my mom and myself, but in the end it became too complicated and expensive (the visa issue came up too.) If Russia stops requiring visas and/or registration I would take my mom there in a heart-beat so she can see all that I experienced when I was living there. ^

War Of 1812: 200 Years

From USA Today:
"War of 1812 bicentennial: USA shrugs as Canada goes all out"

Many Americans aren't that into the War of 1812 — not like Canadians, anyway — so the latter often play the former in re-enactments along the international border here. To grossly generalize: Canadians, whose forebears helped repulse several U.S. invasions in 1812, regard the war that began 200 years ago Monday as a crucible of national identity. For them, its bicentennial is a big deal. Although they are supposed to study the war in high school, many can't recall exactly who fought it (the United States and Britain), why (trade issues, freedom of the sea, westward expansion) or who won (unclear). Congress has declined to create a national bicentennial commission. In New York State, the last two governors have rejected, for financial reasons, proposals to create a state commission. The bicentennial also is being promoted by the U.S. Navy, which traces many traditions to the war and hopes to use it to remind Americans, in a time of military budget cuts, of its own importance. Canadians have their uses for the bicentennial, to which the federal government has committed $28 million. Plans include a new war memorial in Ottawa; more than 100 events, including re-enactments; commemorative stamps and coins; renovation of historic sites; and a phone app for battlefield tours. It's part of an effort by the Conservative Party prime minister, Stephen Harper, to foster a more unified national identity by celebrating Canada's historic roots, including military victories and its British heritage. A poll last year found that while 17% of Canadians say the War of 1812 was the most important war in forming their nation's identity, only 3% of Americans feel that way. More than one of three Americans say there were no significant outcomes from the war — or none they can name. In history, unfortunately, novelty does not guarantee fame. Forced to compete with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, the War of 1812 fights obscurity for several reasons:
•Confusing causes. Was the war fought to stop Britain's seizing of U.S. sailors from U.S. ships to serve in the Royal Navy? Or to end trade restrictions? Or to seize Canada? Or to open the American West to settlement without interference from British-allied Indians? Or all of the above?
•Britain's heart wasn't in it. For the British, preoccupied with war in Europe against Napoleon, 1812 was a sideshow. "They sent their B team," says Maj. John Grodzinski, who teaches at the Royal Military College of Canada. Jim Hill of the Niagara (Ont.) Parks Commission recalls an old saying: "Canadians are sure they won the War of 1812, Americans are pretty sure, and the British never heard of it." British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted as much on his last visit to the White House, joking, "We so much more prefer talking about defeating the French."
•An inconclusive conclusion. The war, which ended for lack of (British) interest and (American) money, "is ignored today because it was a tie," Grossman says. "A narrative that doesn't end definitively is hard to make interesting."
It's easy to forget that the War of 1812 gave America its national anthem, whose lyrics Francis Scott Key wrote after watching the British shelling of Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor. (The melody came from an old English drinking song.) For all its foibles, historians say the war is one to remember for several other reasons:
•The United States was here to stay. Ever since the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781 that ended the Revolutionary War, much of Europe still regarded the United States as an upstart and its democracy an experiment. Like a kid who stands up to a playground bully and gets a bloody nose but makes a point, the United States upheld its national sovereignty by defending itself against British harassment at sea. Moreover, "the war gave Americans a sense of what it meant to be an American," says Denver Brunsman, who will publish a book next year on the impressment issue. "Part of that was to volunteer as free citizens for military or naval service."
•It shaped the American future, economically, diplomatically and militarily. The war killed the idea of America as an agrarian nation with a weak military, static borders and a quasi-isolationist foreign policy. President Jefferson had tried to withdraw the nation from European trade to avoid war, and he was notoriously suspicious of manufacturing and its attendant "wage slavery." The war established that the United States would not expand into Canada and would grow west and south. The defeat of Britain's Creek Indian allies cleared the way for the spread of slave-based cotton planting into Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi and set the stage for the Civil War.
•Canada stayed British. By repulsing the American invasion, the Canadian colony began its march toward self-rule in 1867 and created a pantheon of national heroes.
^ As a dual Canadian-American citizen I don't really think much of the War of 1812. I knew all the key points: the British taking American sailors, the Star Spangled Banner being written, Toronto (then known as York) being burnt, Washington DC being burnt and the Battle of New Orleans happening after peace was declared. What I don't understand is why Canada and Canadians are so proud of the war (since no side really won.) At the time Canada was only a British Colony (Canada didn't get full government powers until the early 1980s when Ottawa no longer needed London's permission to pass laws.) The British started the war (even though the US officially declared it first) and did all of the fighting - there was no "Canadian military" at the time, but a British military with Canadians in it. The only reason I can think of that Canadians are so proud of the War of 1812 is that it stopped any US claims to "Canadian territory." My mom and I are going to Canada for several weeks next month and I have seen lots of programs celebrating the War and the 200 years since it started. I haven't heard anything here in the US. ^

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Miller Auto Group

We wanted to buy a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited and after dealing with another Jeep dealership (that wanted us to do all the work for them) we decided to try Miller Auto Group in Lebanon. My mom and I drove the hour to their dealership and explained exactly what we wanted and that we were not going to budge on the color even if we had to get it elsewhere or order a 2013. The salesman seemed ok, but a little dumb (he kept making "jokes' about how bad he was at math and saying he was only the sales guy.) That should have made us leave right away, but it didn't. Instead, after 3 1/2 hours we left with a signed contract for the exact Jeep we wanted. I went home and called our credit union to get the loan sent. Miller called and said that the car had been "sold" and we went through a day and a half of back-and-forth where they found another Jeep at another dealership, etc. There was even a time when they told us they couldn't find one and we told them to cancel looking for us and that we would order a 2013 (from someplace else.) But in the end, the sales guy said he had found one in New Jersey and it was what we wanted. He even tried to make fun of New Yorkers - for some reason  - and both my mom and I told him we were New Yorkers and he had better choose his words carefully.  I then called the credit union and cancelled the loan. Then a few hours later Miller called and said they found one. We had them fax the new contract to us and my mom looked up the VIN online and saw that it didn't have a black top like we wanted. I called the sales guy right back and told him what we found and he said he "wouldn't do that to us" and that it was exactly what we wanted and would be ready to pick up on Friday afternoon. I called the credit union and told them the loan was back on and they said they would over-night the check so we would get it Friday. My mom called our insurance to put the new Jeep on our policy. We thought everything was all set.
Today at 2 pm I called the sales guy again because he had wanted me to check in and he said it would be all set for pick-up tomorrow (Friday) afternoon. I asked him again about the black top and he said it had one. At 3:45 pm I got a call from some guy I had never spoken to at Miller telling me that they had the car and that it didn't have a black top. We told him we didn't want the car and were cancelling everything with them because it wasn't what we wanted. The guy kept saying he didn't know anything about our case and that we wouldn't find the car we wanted. I let the guy have it and then hung up on him. I called the dealership back and asked for the general manager and when he came on I told him that nearly every person we had dealt with at Miller had lied to us (especially the sales guy) and that because of that they were going to loose a sale as we were going elsewhere to order our 2013 - exactly how we want it. He tried to ask me a question, but I told him he was just there to listen to my complaint about his crappy dealership and staff and hung up.
I would never use the Miller Auto Group ever again. It would be one thing for them to say there weren't any cars out there that we wanted and that we could order a 2013 from them (as we said we wouldn't mind doing.) Instead they kept "beating around the bush" and outright lying to us so I found another dealership and called them to see if we can come in and order a 2013 and he said we could. We may go there tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Anne's Diary At 70

From ABC News:
"Anne Frank Diary 70th Anniversary"

Teenager Anne Frank's diary about the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in the early 1940s has inspired more than just plays and films since her death in a German concentration camp in 1945 at age 15. She started writing it 70 years ago today, June 12, 1942, on her 13th birthday. Her first entry reads, "I hope I will be able to confide everything to you, as I have never been able to confide in anyone, and I hope you will be a great source of comfort and support."   "The Diary of a Young Girl,"was first published in 1947.

^ Today is the 70th anniversary of when Anne Frank started her diary and is also the day which would have been her 83rd birthday. Despite 70 years her diary continues to show people what happens when bad things happen to good people and no one does a thing to stop it. ^

Falklands' Vote

From the BBC:
"Falkland Islands to hold referendum on sovereignty"

The Falkland Islands will hold a referendum on its "political status" in a bid to end the dispute with Argentina over the archipelago's sovereignty. The islands' government made the announcement ahead of the anniversary on marking 30 years since the end of Argentina's 74-day occupation in 1982. It said it wanted to send a firm message to Argentina that islanders want to remain British. The UK prime minister said Britain would support the result of the vote. The referendum will be organised by the Falkland Islands government and will take place in the first half of next year.

^ It's clear that the people of the Falklands will vote to remain part of the UK. They have full-British citizenship and showed their resolve to remain British during the Argentine occupation 30 years ago. ^

Kurdish In Turkey

From Yahoo:
"Turkey to introduce elective Kurdish lessons"

 Turkey on Tuesday announced plans to introduce elective Kurdish language instruction in schools, a step aimed at easing tension that Kurdish minority activists argued didn't go far enough. Kurdish politicians and activists have been aggressively promoting official use of Kurdish in recent years as part of their growing demands for regional autonomy — a goal shared by rebels whose fight has killed tens of thousands of people so far. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has long realized that it can't end the conflict through military measures alone, and has already allowed for Kurdish-language institutes and private Kurdish courses, as well as Kurdish language television broadcasts. Erdogan on Tuesday said his government would allow elective Kurdish-language lessons in lower-level education along with some other languages and dialects. Kurds make up roughly 20 percent of Turkey's 75 million population. Most of them live in the southeast, though many have migrated to Istanbul and other western cities to escape war and poverty in past decades.

^  This is a step in the right direction for Turkey. I like that it doesn't force anyone to learn Kurdish, but gives them the right to learn and use it. ^

US Fighting In Africa

From Russia Today:
"US to deploy more than 3,000 troops to Africa"

All of those troops leaving Afghanistan during the next two years will have to go somewhere, right? The US Army will deploy thousands of soldiers across the continent of Africa during 2013. The Army Times confirms that the US military gave the go-ahead for the mass deployment last month and that roughly 3,000 soldiers will soon be sent overseas, with more troops expected to be dispatched during the duration of the program. Maj. Gen. David R. Hogg, head of US Army Africa, says the initiative is part of a “regionally aligned force concept” that will allow American troops to forge relationships across Africa, where the US has not concentrated its soldiers among civilians to the same degree as other continents. The program will put thousands of American troops in different African cities from anywhere for a few weeks to a few months, where they will learn about unfamiliar cultures and conduct training for threats and missions. The US currently has a substantial military presence across the African continent, but nowhere to the degree that is has in other locales. More than 1,200 soldiers are currently stationed at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and last October US President Barack Obama personally authorized the deployment of 100 troops to Uganda to aid in attempt to oust Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

^ This is one more reason Obama should never have received the Nobel Peace Prize. He continues to send US soldiers to new wars. We do not need to be in Africa at all. We were in Somalia in the 1990s and that didn't turn out so well for us and so we should just stay away and let the African Union, countries in Africa and Europe deal with Africa. Despite my belief that the US shouldn't fight in Africa we are there and I will support the US troops since it is Obama and Congress that start wars. ^

Genocide Memorials

From the BBC:
"The rise of genocide memorials"

 Millions of tourists have walked through the iron gates at Auschwitz bearing the legend Arbeit Macht Frei (work makes you free) to pay their respects.  Last year, a record 1.4 million people visited the site, while Holocaust memorials all over the world are also seeing numbers soar. What compels people to visit sites of mass death, like the 9/11 memorial? At the same time, other sites of massacres or genocide and cemeteries are becoming increasingly popular with tourists. Bosnia, Cambodia and Rwanda, are among the destinations on what has become known as the "genocide tourism" map.

Memorials around the world
  • Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial
  • Kigali Memorial Centre
  • Cambodia's killing fields
  • Auschwitz concentration camp

^ I think it's good for people to visit these kinds of memorials. Although the fact that these places continue to exist shows that we haven't learned much after 1945 with the "Never Again" slogan. ^

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bloody Sunday (2002)

I just watched this movie and have to say that it was really good. It showed all the sides (the Catholic Irish, the British Military and their Protestant Irish helpers.) I have read and learned a lot about what happened on January 30, 1972 in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, but watching this movie really brought it home. It was made in 2002 before the British Government released their second report on what happened during Bloody Sunday (the report was released in June 2010 when I was in Northern Ireland and I heard about it everywhere.) The British report stated (contrary to the first British report made in 1973 that whitewashed their involvement) that the British Government/Military was completely at fault for the deaths of 13 innocent, unarmed people with many others wounded. After the second report was released the British Government officially apologized for the massacre (my words not their's) but has yet to bring the the people responsible to justice. If the British are truly sorry for the killing of innocent people and causing decades of violence then they should do more than words - they should bring charges to every last person who was at Bloody Sunday as well as those that helped cover it up (including taking the medals Queen Elizabeth 2 gave some of them.)
Bloody Sunday was the turning point in The Troubles in Northern Ireland. It turned a peaceful movement for civil rights and equality into a decades-long bloodpath (that continues - just below the surface - today.) Had the British Military not abandoned basic human compassion and morality and  not shot innocent, unarmed people I think The Troubles would have come to an end much sooner than 1998. Instead, the actions of the British Military on Bloody Sunday brought more people towards revenge and violence that otherwise wouldn't have gotten involved. Every British person should watch this movie so they can know the truth about what their country/government did (especially considering that their government in 1972 covered it up and lied to their own people.) Every country has a dark past it is not proud of and this is clearly a dark point in British history.

Danish Marriage

From the BBC:
"Denmark approves same-sex marriage and church weddings"

Denmark has become the latest country to approve same-sex marriage.  The law was passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament, and also covers weddings in the Church of Denmark. Denmark was the first country in the world to recognise civil partnerships for same-sex couples in 1989. However, no further steps were taken under the previous centre-right government, while other countries have passed laws extending marriage to same-sex couples. "This is equality between couples of the same gender and couples of different genders. A major step forward," Danish Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs Manu Sareen said after the vote. The legislation takes effect on 15 June.

^ Good job Denmark! It seems more and more countries are starting to give equal rights and freedoms to gays and lesbians. ^

Toronto Bagless

From the BBC:
"Toronto plastic bag ban surprises Mayor Rob Ford"

Toronto has become the first major city in Canada to opt for an outright ban on the use of plastic bags.
The ban was approved by the city council despite Mayor Rob Ford originally only seeking to overturn an existing five cent levy. Plastic bag bans already exist in Seattle, San Francisco and in Fort McMurray, Alberta. Mr Ford called the move - proposed for vote only during the debate - the "dumbest thing council has done". The five-cent fee will end on 1 July, but the outright ban will not start until 1 January 2013 - allowing stores six months to give out plastic bags free

^  I have to agree with the mayor of Toronto on this one. I wonder what happens in 2013 if someone enters a store carrying a plastic bag. Will they be arrested or fined? I have been to Toronto many times and know the city has much bigger issues than plastic bags. They should focus on the more important items. ^

No Gays For 100 Years

From Russia Today:
"Moscow bans gay pride for century ahead"

Moscow city court has upheld a decision to turn down the LGBT activists’ request for permission to hold gay pride parades for the next 100 years. Earlier, Tverskoy district court ruled lawful the decision of the Moscow municipal government to ban public events that can be qualified as gay parades from March 2012 till May 2112. Nikolay Alekseyev, one of the leaders of the Russian LGBT community and organizer of gay pride events, told reporters that he intended to appeal the decision in the Moscow City Court Presidium, and that if the highest Russian instance also rules against him, to address the European Court of Human Rights.  “They refuse our requests every time, but in Strasbourg they recognize these rulings as unlawful. But time does not stand still, we ask for a new event and again they refuse us,” the activist noted. This year the Russian government started an active campaign against so-called gay propaganda – a special law was approved and signed into force in St. Petersburg, prompting a group of parliamentarians to suggest approving a similar law on a nationwide scale. Two people have already been brought to justice in St. Petersburg for displaying a poster reading “Being gay is normal” in the street near a kindergarten. The bill has been widely criticized by Russia's LGBT and human rights activists as well as international human rights groups. Protest rallies by Russian consulates took place in many countries throughout the world. After the first reading of the legislation Amnesty International urged St. Petersburg’s lawmakers to stop the adoption of the “inhumane” bill. The US State Department has also criticized the document. Many legal experts have declared that the legislation is so vague that it is impossible to distinguish where one’s private life ends and propaganda begins, so anyone can be brought to trial for breaking the law.
^ This is beyond stupid. For any official or agency to declare every gay pride parade illegal for 100 years just shoes how scared these officials are (and I'm sure many are gay themselves and are just trying to cover it up.) It is one thing to delay a permit on a case-by-case basis and another to simply openly discriminate and null all of them. It sometimes seems that for every one step forward Russia goes two steps back. I hope that the Russian officials (from the villages to the Federal) come to their senses and give gay people basic human rights. ^

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Worldwide Jubilee

From Wikipedia:
"Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II"

The Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II is a multinational celebration throughout 2012 marking the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom to the thrones of seven countries upon the death of her father, King George VI, on 6 February 1952. She is today queen regnant of 16 sovereign states, 12 of which were British colonies or Dominions at the start of her reign.  Following the tradition of jubilees past, a Diamond Jubilee medal is being awarded in various countries and holidays and events will be held throughout the Commonwealth. Plans were discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting 2011.

Commonwealth realms


Quentin Bryce, the Governor-General of Australia, announced that the Diamond Jubilee will be celebrated "with a host of national and community events throughout the Commonwealth."[29] In that vein, it was said in late 2011 that the government of Queensland was planning to declare a holiday in June 2012 to mark the jubilee and that Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, would tour the country.[A detachment of the New South Wales Mounted Police represented Australia at the Diamond Jubilee Pageant held at Windsor. The Royal Australian Mint announced in August 2011 that it will be releasing a silver proof 50-cent coin to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. A special ecumenical service to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne was conducted in St James' Church, Sydney. The invited preacher was Cardinal George Pell and the Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir, was the guest of honour. Paying tribute to Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of Australia in the Australian House of Representatives in Canberra on 6 February 2012, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard stated the Queen was a revered figure in Australia.[33] Gillard also announced that she would on 4 June light a beacon atop Parliament House and a street in the parliamentary triangle in Canberra would be renamed Queen Elizabeth Terrace. Meanwhile, Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett announced on 28 May that a new waterfront development in Perth would be named Elizabeth Quay in her honour. By coincidence the Jubilee Weekend coincided with the inaugural Western Australia Day Public Holiday in Western Australia.


Prince Harry toured The Bahamas. There, he attended a reception for youth leaders and met with Governor-General of the Bahamas Sir Arthur Foulkes. The Prince attended an outdoor ceremony where children's schools, clubs, and associations presented themselves and delivered a speech at Government House,[34] where he stated "I stand before you with a deep sense of pride at being asked to convey to you a message of good wishes from The Queen on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee." He also took part in maritime exercises organised by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and toured Harbour Island.


To mark Elizabeth II's 60 years as Barbados' monarch — as Queen of the United Kingdom between 1952 and 1966 and as Queen of Barbados thereafter — the country hosted the Earl and Countess of Wessex between 23 and 24 February.The tour began with Their Royal Highnesses arriving, aboard RFA Fort Rosalie, at the Deep Water Harbour of Bridgetown.At the port, Barbadian military personnel were given inspection.The Earl read to a joint sitting of the Parliament of Barbados a written message from the Queen, in which the monarch stated she has taken note of the level of development Barbados had achieved during its 45 years of independence and called the country a model small state for others around the world. Parliamentary officials responded with thanks to the Queen for her service to the country and Barbadians and invited her to the island to celebrate the 375th anniversary of the Barbadian parliament in 2014. The royal couple opened an exhibit at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, and an official state dinner and reception was held at Government House in the evening.As in other Commonwealth realms, a set of commemorative Diamond Jubilee stamps were released by the Barbados Postal Service.An ecumenical thanksgiving service will also be held at the St. Mary's Anglican Church in Bridgetown on 3 June and a beacon lighting will take place at the Garrison Savannah the following day, where an official Trooping of the Colour will be performed by the Barbados Defence Force and military tattoo performed by the Royal Barbados Police Force. Members of the Barbados Boys Scout Association with high honours were chosen to aid in the actual beacon lighting.


In Belize, the Governor-General-in-Council and the Belize Tourism Board organised a tour of the country by Prince Harry, between 2 and 3 March 2012, as part of the country's celebrations of Elizabeth II's 60th year as monarch of Belize, first as Queen of the United Kingdom and then, after 1981, as Queen of Belize. Harry visited Belmopan and San Ignacio and ceremonies and events had less emphasis on state protocol. In the capital, Harry unveiled a series of commemorative stamps issued by the Belize Postal Service, attended the city's street festival, and dedicated a street as Queen Elizabeth II Boulevard, where he delivered a speech on the sovereign's behalf. The following day, the Prince journeyed to the OAS Adjacency Zone on the Belize-Guatemala border, where he participated in a cultural programme and toured an immigration facility. He also visited Xunantunich and there met children involved with the Belize Special Olympics Programme and presented a canoe to the Ruta Maya Organization in commemoration of the diamond jubilee. Harry further visited the Price Barracks, where he met members of the Belize Coast Guard Service and Belize Defence Force and laid a wreath at the monument to British soldiers killed while on service in Belize.


A Diamond Jubilee Week began on Accession Day (6 February) 2012.[69] That day, the Queen's personal standard for Canada was unfurled in Ottawa, both at the monarch's residence Rideau Hall and on Parliament Hill, as well as at provincial royal residences and legislatures across the country;⁠permission was granted by the Queen to break the usual protocol of flying the banner only where the sovereign is personally present. At noon on the same day, the Peace Tower carillon played a tribute to the Queen. The Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada issued statements commending the Queen for her six decades of "dedicated service to our country, to the Commonwealth and to the world." Also on 6 February, the first of the 60,000 Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medals to be distributed to citizens and permanent residents were handed out; 60 individuals were given theirs personally by the Governor General at Rideau Hall.

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, toured parts of the country in May, making stops in New Brunswick, Ontario, and Saskatchewan.[86] In an editorial he wrote for The Globe and Mail, Charles stated he wanted his activities during the tour to reflect the jubilee's "central theme of service to others" and expressed that he was "returning to Canada in this special Jubilee year, to renew my own pledge of service and to encourage others to consider how they might contribute their own particular talent".


Prince Harry toured Jamaica between 5 and 8 March 2012,[participating in various events marking his grandmother's Diamond Jubilee as Jamaica's queen regnant, first as Queen of the United Kingdom, between 1952 and 1962, and subsequently as Queen of Jamaica (Jamaica will also thus be concurrently celebrating 50 years of independence). During the tour, the Prince partook in military exercises with the Jamaica Defence Force, visited Bustamante Hospital for Children and, in Trelawny Parish, visited Water Square, Falmouth Pier, and the William Knibb Baptist Church, where he paid respect at the William Knibb memorial. The Prince attended an event for the charity Rise Life,[112] ran with Usain Bolt at the latter's training ground at the University of the West Indies, Mona. There, he was also named an Honorary Fellow of the university. A Jamaica Night reception was held at the Royal Caribbean Hotel in Montego Bay and Governor-General of Jamaica Sir Patrick Allen hosted a dinner at King's House as a combined celebration of the Diamond Jubilee and Jamaica's 50th anniversary of independence. The Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, stated the tour was intended to "highlight the country's tourism developments on the North Coast and the important work being done in the area of youth and children".

New Zealand

Sir Jerry Mateparae, the Governor-General of New Zealand, unveiled New Zealand's Diamond Jubilee emblem and announced a full programme would be announced in due course.New Zealand Post and the Reserve Bank of New Zealand announced in January 2012 the release a silver proof dollar coin to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the following month the Ministry for Culture and Heritage added Crown-related entries to Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and an essay on the jubilee to The Governor-General-in-Council also launched, via the Ministry of Health, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Research Grant, "seeking to purchase research projects that transfer knowledge from initiatives with proven effectiveness, into practice in the health sector".
The New Zealand Army Band took part in the Diamond Jubilee Pageant held at Windsor. The Band also took part in the changing of guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace to celebrate the Jubilee.The Prime Minister, John Key, moved a motion in the House of Representatives congratulating the Queen on her Diamond Jubilee on 7 February.Prince Charles, Prince of Wales,and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall will tour New Zealand on behalf of the Queen in November.

Oceanic realms

Other Caribbean and West Indies realms

The Queen's realms throughout the Caribbean and West Indies are planning a number of Diamond Jubilee events. Using RFAFort Rosalie, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, will visit other Caribbean realms, including: Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, and Saint Lucia.[

Saint Kitts and Nevis

Historical re-enactments were put on in Saint Kitts and Nevis for the Earl and Countess of Wessex, who arrived on 3 March 2012.There, the couple met with Governor-General Sir Cuthbert Sebastian, Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, and other dignitaries, watched cultural shows (including the performance of a calypso song about the Queen), and the Earl unveiled a plaque commemorating the Diamond Jubilee and officially designated the Basseterre Valley Park as the Royal Basseterre Valley Park. They also visited Brimstone Hill Fortress National Park and the children's ward of the JNF Hospital and the Children's Home before attending a state dinner and fireworks display at Port Zante.

Saint Lucia

The Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived in Saint Lucia on 21 February 2012 and there participated in Independence Day celebrations and attended receptions held by the Governor-General of Saint Lucia.They also visited the Association of Saint Lucia and the Saint Lucia School of Music.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a Diamond Jubilee Celebrations Committee was established to oversee events staged to mark, between February and June 2012, the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II's accession as queen regnant of the country, from 1952 to 1979 as Queen of the United Kingdom and thereafter as Queen of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. The committee head, former Minister of Culture Rene Baptiste, stated the aim was to "showcase what we have to offer, as well as our loyalty to the Parliament..." The Earl and Countess of Wessex, aboard RFA Fort Rosalie, arrived for their tour of country on 25 February and visited the restored Botanic Gardens St. Vincent and planted a Pink Poui tree, attended an official lunch at Government House, and planted Royal Palms on the Grenadines.

United Kingdom

On 5 January 2010, the Lord President of the Council and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson announced that an extra bank holiday would take place on 5 June 2012.[1][129][135] By moving the Spring Bank Holiday (the last Monday in May) to 4 June, this will result in a four-day holiday in honour of the Diamond Jubilee.[1][136] As national holidays are a devolved matter, Scotland's first minister confirmed that the bank holiday would be held on 5 June in Scotland. Some economists later theorised that the holiday could reduce the country's gross domestic product by 0.5% in the second quarter of the year, though this would be partially offset by increased sales for the hospitality and merchandise sectors.

Many events were staged in London during the bank holiday weekend.[136] The River Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant was held on 3 June. The Diamond Jubilee Concert, with a preceding afternoon picnic in the palace gardens for the 10,000 concert ticket holders,[138][139][140] was held the following day, in front of Buckingham Palace, and featured acts representing each decade of the Queen's 60 year reign. The final day of the official Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations included a morning Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul's Cathedral, attended by the Queen and members of the royal family. Will Todd’s anthem The Call of Wisdom, commissioned especially for this event, was performed by the Diamond Choir made up of about 40 children from all around the UK.[143][144]

Permanent tribute

A stained glass window, paid for by MPs and members of the House of Lords, was unveiled in the Queen's presence at Westminster Hall in March 2012.[159] In addition, a majority of MPs have endorsed a proposal to name the clock tower of Westminster Palace that houses Big Ben, the Elizabeth Tower.[160]

Overseas territories

Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, toured the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in March 2012. On Montserrat, he met participants in the Sailability BVI programme, including Special Olympics medallists, and staff and associates of the Eslyn Henley Ritchie Learning Centre, BVI Technical and Vocational Institute, BVI Services, and the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports.[167]

Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, and Sophie, Countess of Wessex, will visit the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar, between 11–13 June 2012,[168] and Montserrat.[when?][31] The Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation expressed "upset and concern" about the couple's tour of Gibraltar, which Spain claims as Spanish territory.[168]

Other Commonwealth countries

Visits are planned by Princess Anne to Zambia and Mozambique, while the Duke of Gloucester will make official visits to Uganda and Malta. In Asia, Prince Andrew, Duke of York, will visit India, while Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, will make visits to Malaysia and Singapore.

South Africa

 The British Consulate in Cape Town,in conjunction with the Hout Bay and Llandudno Heritage Trust will host a firing of ancient muzzle loading cannons at East Fort in Hout Bay, which once formed part of the multiple defences of the historic Cape of Good Hope.
The Heritage Trust has held firings for numerous events, including previous functions associated with Britain, India, Holland, France and during a visit of a NATO fleet to Cape Town, the most recent being the visit of the Royal Navy frigate HMS Montrose in February 2012.A flotilla from the Royal Cape Yacht Club will sail past the Hildebrand Ristorante and into-the Victoria Basin and the Cape Town Highlanders will march from Ferryman's to Nobel Square. British Consul General Chris Trott will light a beacon, followed by a further six-gun salute and both South African and British national anthems, to mark the 60 years of Queen Elizabeth II's service to her people and the people of the world.

Other countries

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, a British dependent territory and the most populous one until 1997, had The Big Jubilee Lunch on 3 June 2012, organised by the Royal Commonwealth Society in Hong Kong. On 5 June 2012, there will be a service of thanksgiving at the territory's Anglican St. John's Cathedral.

^ Just wanted to show what the other countries and territories of the British Commonwealth did to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. Most of the celebrations centered in London, but Queen Elizabeth is a separate Queen to many countries in the Commonwealth Realms as well as Head of State to dozens of Commonwealth countries. ^