Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sandy And Pets

From USA Today:
"Pet owners get help with evacuation"

Pets are so far surviving Sandy, with hundreds of animals safe in shelters and rescue workers standing by to help pets in trouble. Even hotels that are usually not animal-friendly are waiving restrictions and allowing pets to stay during the disaster. "It is so important that people evacuate with their pets," said Tim Rickey, senior director of the ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team. "If your home isn't safe for you, it's not safe for your pet. Once you evacuate you never know when you will be back." All of New York City's 76 evacuation shelters welcome pets. So far shelters in New York City and Long Island are housing nearly 400 animals, according to the ASPCA.  The Humane Society has been tweeting locations of all the animal-friendly shelters in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. New York City made evacuations a little easier on owners by accepting pets on the subway, taxis and trains.
"It's not that common in other cities," Rickey says. "It's a progressive step for New York to recognize that public transportation is a primary mode of transportation for people who are going to emergency shelters."

^ It's important for government officials to realize that if people have to evacuate they need to also being their pets. Most pet-owners would rather stay home than leave without their pets. I'm glad that NYC realizes this and is allowing them to be evacuated too. ^

Sandy In NH

From WMUR:
"New Hampshire cleaning up after Sandy"



New Hampshire began cleaning up Tuesday from powerful storm Sandy, which killed one man in Lincoln, left hundreds of thousands Granite Staters without power and littered roads with debris. Gov. John Lynch said the first priority for all residents should be safety. Officials said Sandy's intense winds brought down trees, blocking roads and pulling down power lines One death was blamed on the storm. Officials said a man putting in a basement foundation in Lincoln on Tuesday morning was killed when a hillside collapsed, trapping him under a toppled stone wall. The basement was flooded by the heavy rains, and the man was trying to pump out the basement A man was critically injured when a tree fell on a vehicle in Windham. Authorities urged residents to avoid downed lines and assume they were live. Debris should be removed by experts. State officials said there are 32 state roads and about 200 municipal roads closed because of the storm. Most of the closures were related to downed trees and wires. More than 165,000 people in the state were without power, down from a peak of about 211,000 at the height of the storm. Authorities said they expect to have almost all power restored by the end of the week. The most serious outages were in Hillsborough, Rockingham and Strafford counties.

^ We were told to expect strong winds, heavy rain, flooding, power outages and the possibility of snow. Where I live (on a mountain) we got the strong winds - the picture above shows bark ripped off a tree because of the winds - and light rain. The lights flickered off/on for a few minutes, but stayed on the whole night. Our Satelitle Internet went out for literally 3 minutes and then came back on. I did have to pick up some branches around the yard and driveway, but that was all the "damage." The local school closed at noon yesterday and was 2 hours delayed today. There was one road in town that was closed because of a tree that fell. All in all, Sandy very little to my area (which is odd since our power goes out even with less than an inch of rain.) We were completely prepared (generator, gas in the car, food, water, everything put away, etc) as we usually are and I think that is why we got very little. Had we not been prepared I'm sure it would have been worse. Don't think I'm complaining that Sandy was mostly all talk for our area - I'm just mentioning what we were told to expect and what we actually got. ^

http://www.wmur.com/weather/New-Hampshire-cleaning-up-after-Sandy/-/9859398/17190802/-/11ekogtz/-/index.html

Sandy In Canada

From Yahoo Canada:
"Sandy strikes in Canada too, far from storm's center"

More than 100,000 Canadians were still without power on Tuesday after the huge storm Sandy toppled trees and power lines in Canada's most populous provinces, killed one person, and halted units at an Ontario refinery. But Canada was far from the center of the storm and the impact was tiny compared to the vast outages and widespread flooding seen in the U.S. East Coast on Monday and Tuesday. The weakened storm is expected bring rain to Eastern Canada and Quebec on Tuesday and into Wednesday. One woman was killed when she was struck by a sign in a Toronto shopping mall parking lot on Monday night, when Ontario officials had warned people to stay inside. By late morning on Tuesday, power had been restored to nearly half of the 60,000 Toronto residents who lost electricity. But the local utility said some people might be without power until Thursday evening. At least 150,000 Canadians lost power during the worst of the storm. The Toronto Stock Exchange was open for trading on Tuesday, making it a North American island of equity trading for the second successive day, with U.S. stock markets again closed. Air Canada, WestJet Airlines, Porter Airlines canceled dozens of flights, most of them to cities in the east of the United States. On the St Lawrence Seaway, a critical freight waterway shared by Canada and the United States, some vessels chose to anchor due to high winds, and 12 were delayed as of Tuesday morning, said Andrew Bogora, spokesman for the St Lawrence Seaway Management Corp. The Seaway remained open.
             
^ While most of the attention was focused on the US it should be noted that Canada was hit and parts of the country are still getting hit (or soon will be.) ^

http://news.yahoo.com/sandy-leaves-145-000-canadians-without-power-one-123947671--sector.html;_

Sandy Around The US

From Yahoo:
"A state-by-state look at the East Coast superstorm"


The massive storm that started out as Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast and morphed into a huge and problematic system, putting more than 7.6 million homes and businesses in the dark and causing at least 20 deaths in the U.S. Here's a snapshot of what is happening, state by state.
 
 
CAROLINAS
North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue expanded a state of emergency to western North Carolina, which could see a foot of snow. A woman who was pulled from the Atlantic after abandoning a tall ship died. Power outages: 6,600.

CONNECTICUT
The Long Island Sound flooded roads as the storm toppled trees and power lines Two people died, including an Easton firefighter who was killed when a tree fell on his truck. Power outages: More than 615,000.

DELAWARE
Nearly all residents of flood-prone coastal communities in Kent County heeded calls to evacuate. The Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach resort communities were flooded. Power outages: More than 45,000.

ILLINOIS
High wind warnings and a lakeshore flood warning are in effect Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago. City officials said Lake Shore Drive is expected to remain open.

KENTUCKY
A winter storm warning is in effect for three southeastern counties until Wednesday. In some areas, winds could gust up to 50 mph through Tuesday.

MAINE
Wind gusts topped 60 mph, shutting down the port of Portland and knocking out power to homes and businesses. Power outages: More than 86,000.

MARYLAND
Floodwaters swamped touristy Ocean City. In western Maryland, snow tied up traffic. Two people were killed, including a man who died when a tree fell on a house in Pasadena. Power outages: 290,000.

MASSACHUSETTS
Strong winds and heavy surf led to mandatory evacuations in sections of coastal Dartmouth and Fall River and voluntary evacuations in other coastal communities. Power outages: More than 300,000.

MICHIGAN
High winds knocked out power to at least 60,000 homes and businesses.

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Politicians canceled visits to the presidential swing state on Monday. Power outages: 179,000.

NEW JERSEY
The center of the storm came ashore Monday evening near Atlantic City, which was cut off from the mainland by the storm surge along with other barrier islands, stranding residents who ignored warnings to evacuate. Hundreds of people were being evacuated after a levee broke in the northern New Jersey town of Moonachie. At least three deaths were reported. Power outages: More than 2.3 million.

NEW YORK
A record storm surge that was higher than predicted along with high winds damaged the electrical system and plunged millions of people into darkness. Utilities say it could be up to a week before power is fully restored. A fire burned 50 houses in one flooded section of Queens. There were seven storm-related deaths. Power outages: More than 1.8 million.

OHIO
The Cleveland area and northeast Ohio were being slammed with rain and high winds. Snow was reported in some parts south of Cleveland and south of Columbus. Power outages: More than 250,000.

PENNSYLVANIA
Wind and flooding closing more than 200 bridges and roads. Four people died, including an 8-year-old boy who was killed when a tree limb fell on him. Power outages: 1.2 million.

RHODE ISLAND
Howling winds and storm surges forced mandatory and voluntary evacuations in low-lying and coastal communities. Providence's hurricane barrier performed well in one of its biggest tests. Power outages: 115,000.

TENNESSEE
Snow expected in higher elevations, where a freeze warning has been issued. High winds expected in many areas.

VERMONT
Winds knocked down trees and power lines, and schools were closed. Power outages: More than 10,000.

VIRGINIA
Utilities brought in crews to help restore power after high winds and snow. A curfew was ordered Monday on Chincoteague Island. Power outages: More than 131,000.

WASHINGTON, D.C.
Federal and local governments will remain closed Tuesday along with the courts, public schools and the Metro system that serves 1.2 million weekday customers. Widespread cancellations are expected at the region's three major airports. Power outages: 25,000.

WEST VIRGINIA
Some areas are buried under more than a foot of snow. A woman was killed in a traffic crash. Power outages: More than 128,000.

WISCONSIN
A village along Lake Michigan suggested residents evacuate Tuesday morning because of the possibility of dangerously high waves and flooding.

^ It looks like Sandy hit DC and NYC the worst. ^


http://news.yahoo.com/state-state-look-east-coast-superstorm-111025193.html


Sunday, October 28, 2012

World Airport Smoking

From Smoking Transist:

The following airports have Smoking Lounges:   

Albania (Tirana), Armenia (Yerevan), Austria (Vienna), Azerbaijan (Baku), Bahamas (Nassau), Bahrain, Bangladesh (Dhaka), Belgium (Brussels), Bhutan, Bulgaria (Burgas, Sofia), Cambodia (Phnom Penh), Chile (Santiago), China (Beijing-Capital, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai), Costa Rica (San Jose), Cuba (Havana), Cyprus (Paphos), Czech Republic (Prague), Dominican Republic (Santo Domingo), Egypt (Cairo), Estonia (Tallinn), Finland (Helsinki-Vantaa), Switzerland (EuroAirport, Geneva, Zurich) France (Nice, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Paris-Orly), Georgia (Tbilisi), Germany (Dusseldorf-Weeze, Dusseldorf-International, Frankfurt-International, Munich, Hamburg, Nuremberg, Stuttgart), Greece (Athens), Iceland (Keflavik), India (Mumbai, Delhi), Indonesia (Bali, Jakarta), Iran (Tehran), Iraq (Baghdad), Ireland (Dublin, Shannon), Israel (Tel Aviv, Ovda), Italy (Milan, Rome, Venice), Japan (Tokyo-Narita, Osaka), Kazakhstan (Almaty, Astana), Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan (Bishkek), Lebanon (Beirut), Lithuania (Vilnius), Luxembourg, Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur), Malta, Mexico (Mexico City), Mongolia (Ulaan Baatar) Morocco (Casablanca), Netherlands (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Maarten), New Zealand (Auckland), Pakistan (Karachi), Peru (Lima), Philippines (Manila), Poland (Warsaw), Portugal (Lisbon), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (Irkutsk, Moscow-Sheremetuevo, Moscow-Domodedovo, Moscow-Vnukovo, St. Petersburg), Serbia (Belgrade), Kosovo (Pristina), Singapore, Slovenia (Ljubjana), South Africa (Cape Town, Johannesburg), South Korea (Seoul), Spain (Barcelona), Sweden (Stockholm-Arlanda), Taiwan (Taipei), Thailand (Bangkok), Ukraine (Kiev-Boryspil), United Arab Emirates (Dubai), United Kingdom (Belfast-International, Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester), Uzbekistan (Tashkent), Vietnam (DaNang, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh), Zimbabwe (Harare).

The following airports openly discriminate against smokers and have no Smoking Lounge past the secured area and instead force smokers outside:

Australia (Canberra, Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Sydney), Barbados, Belgium (Brussels-Charleroi), Belize (Belize City), Brazil (Rio de Janeiro), Brunei, Croatia (Zagreb), Cyprus (Larnaca), Denmark (Copenhagen), France (Marseille), Germany (Berlin-Schonefeld, Cologne), Hungary (Budapest), Jamaica (Kingston), Latvia (Riga), Macedonia (Skopje), Mexico (Cancun), Moldova (Chisinau), Montenegro (Podgorica), New Zealand (Christchurch, Wellington), Norway (Oslo, Bergen), Poland (Krakow), Spain (Madrid) Turkmenistan (Ashgabat), United Kingdom (Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast-City, Glasgow-International, London-Gatwik, London-Stansted, London-Heathrow).
http://www.smokingtransit.com/

CDN Airport Smoking

From Smoking Transit:

There is only one airport in Canada that has a Smoking Lounge:   

Gander

The following airports openly discriminate against smokers and have no Smoking Lounge past the secured area and instead force smokers outside:

(Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Kelowna, Kenora, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Saskatoon, St. John’s, Toronto-Pearson, Vancouver, Victoria (BC), Windsor (ON), Winnipeg)
 
 

US Airport Smoking


It has become the “trendy” thing in recent years for public places around the globe to openly discriminate against smokers and not allow them to light up. While I fully support the view that non-smokers (and I should say I don’t smoke) should not be forced to inhale smoke I also fully support the view that smokers should be allowed to smoke in a comfortable manner. I found an interesting site called Smoking Transit  ( http://www.smokingtransit.com) that helps smokers learn which airports have smoking lounges past the secured area and their location within the terminal. This is a big help considering that many people at airports aren’t from that area and have usually come from a long flight and have a layover. Not having to leave the airport and then go back through security helps make the flying experience just a little easier and more comfortable.

Here are the airports in the United States that have Smoking Lounges:

1.       Cincinnati

2.       Dallas Fort Worth

3.       Denver

4.       Atlanta

5.       Las Vegas

6.       Los Angeles

7.       Manchester (NH)

8.       Memphis

9.       Miami

10.   Nashville

11.   Oklahoma City

12.   Washington National

13.   Salt Lake City

14.   Tampa

15.   Washington Dulles

The above airports care about smokers’ rights and trying to do what they can to make flying a little better for everyone. If I have a choice I would choose one of the above airports to travel from/to since they consider the little things for passengers.

The following airports openly discriminate against smokers and have no Smoking Lounge past the secured area and instead force smokers outside:   
(Anchorage, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago-Midway, Chicago -OHare, Cleveland, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Milwaukee, Houston- Bush, Honolulu, New York -JFK, Orange County (CA), Kahului, Kansas City, Orlando- Kissimmee, Kona, New York- La Guardia, St Louis, Little Rock, Boston, Long Beach, Long Island, Minneapolis, Newark, Oakland, Ontario (CA) Palm Beach, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland (OR), Orlando, San Francisco, San Jose (CA), Seattle, White Plains, Houston-Hobby, San Jose (PR).

Sandy Preparations

From Yahoo:
"Superstorm could impact 60 million people in US; coastal residents told to get out of the way"

Forget distinctions like tropical storm or hurricane. Don't get fixated on a particular track. Wherever it hits, the rare behemoth storm inexorably gathering in the eastern U.S. will afflict a third of the country with sheets of rain, high winds and heavy snow, say officials who warned millions in coastal areas to get out of the way. "We're looking at impact of greater than 50 to 60 million people," said Louis Uccellini, head of environmental prediction for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As Hurricane Sandy barrelled north from the Caribbean — where it left nearly five dozen dead — to meet two other powerful winter storms, experts said it didn't matter how strong the storm was when it hit land: The rare hybrid storm that follows will cause havoc over 800 miles from the East Coast to the Great Lakes. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency Saturday as hundreds of coastal residents started moving inland and the state was set to close its casinos. Governors from North Carolina, where heavy rain was expected Sunday, to Connecticut declared states of emergency. Delaware ordered mandatory evacuations for coastal communities by 8 p.m. Sunday. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to prepare to shut the city's subways, buses and suburban trains by Sunday, but delayed making a final decision. The city shut the subways down before last year's Hurricane Irene, and a Columbia University study predicted that an Irene surge just 1 foot higher would have paralyzed lower Manhattan. Up and down the Eastern Seaboard and far inland, officials urged residents and businesses to prepare in big ways and little. On Saturday evening, Amtrak began cancelling train service to parts of the East Coast, including between Washington, D.C., and New York. Airlines started moving planes out of East Coast airports to avoid damage and adding flights out of New York and Washington on Sunday in preparation for flight cancellations on Monday.

^ Every media outlet has been talking about Sandy for the past several days and they all say the same thing: it is the biggest storm we have seen in decades and they aren't sure where it is going to make landfill. My local news said that as of right now we will only get light rain and wind from Sandy, but if she makes landfall 23 miles more north than we can expect drenching rain, gusty winds and maybe even heavy snow. This time last year (on October 30th) we got 1 1/2 feet of snow so we are used to big, odd October storms. Either way we are as prepared as can possibly be and try and stay that way throughout the year so we don't have to worry too much about a specific storm (rain or snow.) ^



http://news.yahoo.com/superstorm-could-impact-60-million-people-us-coastal-064340262.html

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Body Scanner Changes

From Yahoo:
"Government replaces body scanners at some airports"

The federal government is quietly removing full-body X-ray scanners from seven major airports and replacing them with a different type of machine that produces a cartoon-like outline instead of the naked images that have been compared to a virtual strip search. The Transportation Security Administration says it is making the switch in technology to speed up lines at crowded airports, not to ease passenger privacy concerns. But civil liberties groups hope the change signals that the equipment will eventually go to the scrap heap. "Hopefully this represents the beginning of a phase-out of the X-ray-type scanners, which are more privacy intrusive and continue to be surrounded by health questions," said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert at the American Civil Liberties Union. The machines will not be retired. They are being moved to smaller airports while Congress presses the TSA to adopt stronger privacy safeguards on all of its imaging equipment. The machines are being pulled out of New York's LaGuardia and Kennedy airports, Chicago's O'Hare, Los Angeles International and Boston Logan, as well as airports in Charlotte, N.C., and Orlando, Fla. Some of the backscatter scanners have gone to airports in Mesa, Ariz., Key West, Fla., and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
The switch is being made as the TSA is under political pressure. Legislation approved in February gave the agency until June to get rid of the X-ray scanners or upgrade them with software that produces only a generic outline of the human form, not a blurry naked image. The agency, however, has the authority to grant itself extensions, and the current deadline is now May 31.

^ The TSA is constantly in the news (mostly for what they do wrong) and now they are saying they are moving these scanners because of the wanting to help passengers and not the Congressional deadline - which the TSA should not be allowed to extend by itself.) Hopefully, the newer scanners will make it to every US airport (big and small) soon so that it can both move lines faster and help passenger's privacy. ^


http://news.yahoo.com/government-replaces-body-scanners-airports-211658277.html

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Dubrovka Theater: 10 Years

From the Moscow Times:
"Dubrovka's Former Hostages Seek Justice 10 Years On"

As Russia prepares to commemorate one of its darkest anniversaries — the Dubrovka Theater raid that claimed 130 lives — former hostages and their families are continuing to fight for truth and compensation.  As the 10th anniversary approaches, former hostages have been recalling the horror of the three-day siege in the media, and tough questions are being asked that might force the authorities to re-open this Pandora's box. Hundreds of people are expected to gather Friday to lay flowers near the entrance of the Dubrovka Theater, where 40 armed Chechen militants barged onto the stage during a musical and took 916 hostages on Oct. 23, 2002.  Yet for many former hostages and the relatives of those who died in the carnage, the anniversary does not offer any closure. Although the authorities paid compensation to most of the victims, as ruled by the European Court of Human Rights in 2011, three have been refused payments of 40,000 euros ($52,000) each on the grounds that the court misspelled their patronymics, Life News reported Monday.  The former hostages also are pressing for an investigation to be re-opened into the details of the siege, with the Lefortovo District Court reviewing the grievances of the plaintiffs, their lawyer, Igor Trunov, said Tuesday, according to RIA-Novosti. Back in 2011, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of 64 Dubrovka victims, saying that the government had to pay 1.3 million euros in damages, or between 9,000 and 66,000 euros to each of the 64 applicants. It also ruled that a new investigation should be opened into the details of the rescue operation by the government security forces.
Russian officials deny accusations of negligence in their decision to end the standoff by pumping an unknown gas into the theater's ventilation systems, knocking out the attackers. Security forces then raided the theater and shot dead the attackers. But the gas also knocked out the hostages, and many of the deaths were blamed on the rescue operation, which critics say was poorly organized.
Even after 10 years, the Russian government refuses to reveal the ingredients of the gas, although Western scientists have identified one of its components as fentanyl, a strong anesthetic commonly used during neurosurgery.  At the time, President Vladimir Putin said the gas could not have caused health problems, but many survivors have since suffered serious mental and physical disorders. Some have developed brain-related illnesses and many became deaf or partially lost sight, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported in 2010. According to a Levada Center poll in 2010, only 9 percent of respondents believed that Russian authorities had told the full truth about the incident.  But although it might be difficult to find the full truth 10 years later, Tatyana Karpova, who lost her son and is now a co-chair of the community organization "Nord Ost" said in an interview with Novaya Gazeta that her organization "will continue to fight" for justice.  A liturgy will take place at a church near the theater's entrance at 7:40 a.m. Friday, followed by a minute of silence at 10 a.m. and concluded with a memorial service. According to tradition, 130 balloons will be released commemorating the 130 dead.

^ It seems that 10 years later the Russian Government still denies any wrong doing in how they handled the whole situation. The Chechen terrorists were willing to release all 74 non-Russians from the theater because they claimed they had no issue with them - only with Russia and the Russian Government. The Russians declared that it was all the hostages or none. Any non-Russian who has ever been to Russia knows that the Russian Government and businsess openly discriminate against Russian residents and foreigners (foreigners have to pay higher prices for most things. An example was a tour of a Czarist Palace around Saint Petersburg that I took a few years ago. The Palace charged Russians 15 Rubles while they charged foreigners 160 Rubles for the same thing (and the tour was still in Russian.) Since everyone (Russian or foreigners) have to show their passport to get tickets for most places (trains, buses, museums, etc) there was no getting around this dual-pricing. My point is that the Russian Government openly allows this discrimination to happen and yet when they could have saved the lives of those 74 foreigners they did nothing. Also, everyone knows that the Russians used a deadly gas that did more harm than good to the hostages. Reports after the attack showed that the Russian authorities refused to tell the EMTs, doctors, hospitals, etc what gas was used or how to treat the victims and because of that the doctors had no idea how to help save them - and this was after the terrorists were all killed. A responsbile government would admit the mistakes they made and try to make ammends with the victims and their families rather than dismissing  and censoring them. I was in Moscow the December after this took place and my friends and I made a point to go see a Russian musical - we saw "Chicago"  - just to show that we were thinking of the victims. It was my first and only musical I ever saw in Russia. While they had security (they made you wait outside the theater with your coats off in below freezing temperatures and then frisked you when you came in and asked you questions - only in Russian - it really didn't make you feel any safer. Of course I don't know what changes they have in place today, but I'm sure that not much as changed in the 10 years. One more item to note is that I was in Russia when the Chechen terrorists took the school hostage in Beslan and all Russian media (news, newspapers, the Internet, etc) were highly censored. I didn't realize it at the time as I was in the country, but once I came home and had access to everything I saw what really happened. It gave me a glimpse at what the Soviet Government did to the Soviet people for 70 years. Again, I guess old habits die hard.  ^

http://www.themoscowtimes.com/news/article/dubrovkas-former-hostages-seek-justice-10-years-on/470303.html


Gypsy Holocaust Memorial

From Deutsche Welle:
"Can a memorial end discrimination?"

Sinti and Roma have fought for a Holocaust memorial in Germany for decades, not only because they were victims of genocide, but also because they still face discrimination today. Their wish has finally been granted. "When they unveil the memorial now, the tragic thing is that many of the survivors will not be able to see it," said Silvio Peritore, member of the Central Council of Roma and Sinti in Germany. One of these, said Peritore, was 85-year-old Franz Rosenbach, a former forced laborer and Auschwitz survivor who spoke of his experiences in schools and campaigned for the memorial. He died just days before the memorial was opened. The German state has taken a long time to acknowledge the Nazi genocide against Sinti and Roma - for many, far too long. The issue is not simply adding up victims - six million murdered Jews versus 500,000 Sinti and Roma. "What does a memorial express? It is an acknowledgement of the victims. It is showing responsibility for the history that resulted from the Holocaust," said Peritore. But the Sinti and Roma are clearly still an unloved minority, which has meant they have long been denied their recognition as victims of genocide. That, at any rate, is what people like Rosenbach felt. "They ask themselves, why don't they want that?" said Peritore. By "they," he means that belong to mainstream German society. There are 12 million Roma and Sinti in Europe, and in many countries, including those in the European Union, they are still marginalized. "In countries like Hungary, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia, Roma and Sinti are denied basic human rights," Peritore said. "They don't have equal access to the core areas of life - occupation, health care, a decent home." He added that Sinti and Roma are discredited, criminalized, and scapegoated in many central and southern European countries. Peritore also claimed that EU funds meant to help the community often disappear into dark channels, rather than invested in infrastructure projects that would improve the lives of Sinti and Roma. His criticisms do not spare western Europe. "Here in Germany, when we hear about a 'Roma problem,' then we're talking about people searching for a safe, dignified economic existence. That is a justified hope," he said. But here too they are seen as a security risk, he argued - as in 2010, when President Nicolas Sarkozy allegedly defied French and EU law and deported Sinti and Roma. Peritore also accuses Germany of deporting some Roma and Sinti to Kosovo, even though they are threatened with persecution there, and had already established themselves in German society.  My grandparents and their four children survived," Peritore said. "They were taken to a ghetto in occupied Poland in May 1940, along with 2,500 other German Sinti and Roma." As a trained telegraph technician, his grandfather had to maintain communications equipment, which gave him contact with Polish partisans. That meant he could flee from the ghetto with his wife and children and disappear among Polish farmers. After the war, his family then returned home to the southern German town of Karlsruhe. The rest of his family were sent to a death camp in 1943 and murdered. "Serious scholars have long since proved that there was a second Holocaust," said Peritore. "They were the completely identical racist motives, the identical criminal apparatus - the same murder methods in the same places, carried out systematically and efficiently." But the first German chancellor to acknowledge this was Helmut Schmidt, in 1982. After it was decided that there would be no common remembrance for all the victims of the Holocaust, the German parliament voted to establish a memorial to the Roma and Sinti. But then there was a bitter row - the government, historians, and the representatives of the minority could not agree on details. For the Central Council of Sinti and Roma, the issue is not just the belated acknowledgement of the past, but responsibility for the present and the future - to prevent further discrimination and marginalization. "If there's something to be learned, then maybe it's that. But maybe that's too much to ask," Peritore said, the sadness audible in his voice.

^ To the German Government and most of Europe (Western and Eastern) the Gypsies are still seen as "sub-humans" who lie, cheat and steal. They were discriminated against by the Nazis and their allies during World War 2, they were discriminated against by both the Communist  and non-Communists governments during the Cold War and they continue to be discriminated against today. It should not have taken 70 + years to make an official memorial to the Gypsies murdered by the Nazis. I remembered being at the US Holocaust Museum in DC and asked a researcher there about the killing of the Gypsies during the war and what happened after 1945 and he said that most Europeans tolerated the Jews before the war because they were traders and businessmen and most had assilimated into the "regular" society of the country they were in (especially in Western Europe) but that the Gypsies were very nomadic throughout the continent for centuries and so there was a strong resentment and fear of them. After the war the de-natizifaction by the Allies was plagued with the same fear and resentment of the Gypsies (the French and British set the tone that the Americans followed while the Soviets did so out of their own distrust of the Gypsies.) This same fear and resentment continues throughout the continent because the two groups: the Gypsies and the non-Gypsies are kept apart. Each group remembers the stories told to them about how bad the other is and so it gets passed through the generations. The fact that the Gypsies don't have a homeland - like the Jews got after the war - helps these myths spread since they are separated around the many countries of Europe. I'm surprised that the EU continues to allow the discrimination of the Gypsies since they are supposed to be for a "united and peaceful Europe where everyone is equal." I guess I shouldn't be so surprised since the EU also allows the discrimination of people from Bulgaria and Romania. There are quotas in many EU member states that curb the "free movement of the Bulgarians and Romanians" even though both are supposed to be full members of the EU. Guess which country is leading this policy: Germany. I guess old habits die hard. Europe and the EU needs to work with the Gypsy communities to bring them from the outer-regions of society and into the modern 21st Century. Hopefully, this Gypsy Holocaust Memorial will help to that end. ^


Monday, October 22, 2012

Oldest Auschwitz Survivor Dies

From USA Today:
"World's oldest survivor of Auschwitz dies at 108"

The oldest known survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp — a teacher who gave lessons in defiance of his native Poland's Nazi occupiers — has died at the age of 108, an official said Monday.
Antoni Dobrowolski died Sunday in the northwestern Polish town of Debno, according to Jaroslaw Mensfelt, a spokesman at the Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum. After invading Poland in 1939, sparking World War II, the Germans banned anything beyond four years of elementary education in a bid to crush Polish culture and the country's intelligentsia. The Germans considered the Poles an inferior race and the education policy was part of a plan to use Poles as a "slave race." An underground effort by Poles to continue to teach children immediately emerged, with those caught punished by being sent to concentration camps or prisons. Dobrowolski was among the Poles engaged in the underground effort, and he arrested by the Gestapo and sent to Auschwitz in 1942.
Dobrowolski, who was born Oct. 8, 1904 in Wolborz, a town in central Poland, was later moved to the concentration camps of Gross-Rosen and then Sachsenhausen, where he was liberated in the spring of 1945 at the war's end, according to information provided by the Auschwitz memorial museum in southern Poland. At least 1.1 million people were killed by the Germans at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Most of the victims were Jews, but many non-Jewish Poles, Roma and others were also killed there.

^  This goes to show that Holocaust (whether Jewish or not) survivors are dying faster and faster and that it's very important to record what they lived through since soon there won't be any left. ^


http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2012/10/22/worlds-oldest-survivor-of-auschwitz-dies-at-108/1649427/

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Canada Or The US?

From Yahoo Canada:
"U.S. or Canada: Which country is best to call home?"

This question is part of the age-old debate between two nations. The societies of both Canada and the United States hold the view that their own country is the better place to live. Generally, neither country learns all the facts about what the other country has to offer. So, which is better: Canada or the United States?

BenefitsBecoming a mother is one of the greatest gifts in the world. Spending time with your child as he or she grows up is a need of every mother. How does your country support new moms?

CanadaCanada has paid leave, and many employers offer benefits to new mothers, or parents, ranging from 17 weeks up to as much as 52 weeks. During this time, one of the spouses can claim Employment Insurance (EI) for approximately 15 weeks. Generally, EI payments are 55% of weekly earnings but have a maximum payment of $485 per week. Parents can also split the allocated time if they choose.
U.S.While their northerly neighbors have a solid set of maternity and parental benefits, the United States currently does not mandate any sort of maternity leave. However, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for extreme sickness and birth of a child. While this 12 weeks of unpaid leave is not specifically categorized as maternity leave, it can be used under the FMLA as such. Small companies of under 50 employees are exempt from the FMLA. Some states such as California and New Jersey include paid maternity benefits into their disability insurance, but this choice is solely at the discretion of each state.

ServicesSome of the more well-known services available to Canadians and Americans are healthcare and university funding. The United States is ranked No. 1 for most expensive healthcare per capita at $8,233. Conversely, Canada ranks No. 6 worldwide and is over $3,700 cheaper than the United States at $4,445 per capita, according to a 2012 OECD Health Data study using 2010 statistics. Americans pay over 17% of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) towards healthcare while Canadians sit at about 11%.
University can be another extremely large cost in a person's life. It puts many students tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Individual states have the choice on whether or not they want to grant funding to large state-run universities. Despite these grants, schooling is still very expensive for the average American. A bachelor's degree in the U.S. can run from about $37,600 for an average public college to over $160,000 at prestigious schools such as Harvard. In Canada, the average cost of an undergraduate degree starts at $8,000 (Quebec) and increases to about $26,000. The most expensive undergraduate programs in Canada will cost around $50,000, which is approximately one-third the cost of a degree from Harvard University.

Average SalariesAccording to the website numbeo.com, the average income of an American and a Canadian are approximately the same amount. Canada's after-tax monthly income is about $3,000 which totals around $36,000 per year. The U.S. sits just below Canada at approximately $2,942 per month, or roughly $35,300 per year.  The real difference is seen in the cost of living. While Americans and Canadians roughly make the same amount per annum, there are large gaps in specific spending areas of both countries.  The monthly rent for a one-bedroom condominium in the downtown area of your average city in Canada is near $907, but only about $878 in the United States. This difference of roughly $29 per month adds up to nearly $350 in the course of a year. If you multiply that over a five-year span, you are looking at over $1,700 in additional expenses for housing alone.
Food is much more costly in Canada. One kilogram of chicken breasts costs around $6.50 in the United States, while it averages almost $11 in Canada. A mid-range, three-course meal for two in Canada ends up costing $60. In the U.S. you are only paying about $44. Finally, clothing is more expensive in Canada than in the United States. A $40 pair of Levi's jeans in the States will run you about $55 in Canada.  If all the little things are added that cost more in Canada, the total is far more than the $750 salary difference that was originally stated. By this measure, the U.S. is cheaper to live in.

The Bottom LineCanadians receive better social benefits such as healthcare, paid maternity leave and greater subsidization of their post-secondary schools. Both countries generally have around the same annual income. However, the cost of living in the United States is remarkably less. While Canadians may pay less for larger-life events, Americans pay less for day-to-day expenses such as eating and housing costs. Maybe it all evens out in the end, or perhaps one place really is better to live than the other. If you live a healthy and active lifestyle and don't plan on having children, the U.S. is potentially the place for you. If you plan on having many children and need the help putting them all through school, Canada may be the more suitable choice for your family. Whichever the case, the choice should be made on the basis of what you value most. Take into consideration your current and future lifestyle.

^ As I guessed when I saw the title of this article in the end the author doesn't say which country is best overall, but cops-out and says that for certain things Canada is good and for others the US. As a dual-citizen of Canada and the US I see both the pros and cons of each country (more so than other people) and think that each place has something unique to offer it's citizens. That may seem like a cop-out like this author did, but I didn't pose the question.  Canada has only been fully independent for 30 years (when they no longer needed London's approval for their own laws, etc) whereas the US has been for over 200 years. Canada claims it is a bilingual country (French and English) but if you go to Quebec (except Montreal) it is hard to find an English speaker and if you are in any other Province or Territory it is hard to find a French speaker. The US has no official language, but more than half of the 50 states have made English their official State lanaguage. Canada gives all its citizens free health-care and their system has had lots of rationing whereas the US is forcing everyone to have health-care even if they can't afford it - the Federal Government is not going to help and those that don't will get taxed/fined. Homosexuals in Canada can marry throughout the country whereas only a handful of US States allow it (but both countries allow homosexuals to serve openly in the military.) Canada has a Queen (Queen Elizabeth of Canada,) a Prime Minister and a Parliament while the US had a President and a Congress. The Monarch is not elected and either is the Prime Minister. If a Canadian wants a particular person to win they have to vote for the party of that person and hope that party wins and then  the winning party choosing the Prime Minister. In the US people vote for the person - not the party - but even if a person gets the most votes they may not get all the electorial votes needed and so could still lose. Canada has more land area, but less people than the US (and the majority of Canadians live close to the US border.) There are many more pros and cons, but this is enough to make my point. John Kennedy said a good quote about Canadian/US relations in 1961: ""Geography has made us neighbors. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder." No matter what you think: Canada is better than the US or the US is better than Canada both countries are highly, industrialized, modern, Western Countries. One does some things better than the other in certain aspects, but overall the people in each country live much better than most of the world and I would want to live in either Canada or the US. ^


http://ca.finance.yahoo.com/news/u-canada-country-best-call-213740296.html

Putin Against Headscarves

From Yahoo:
"Putin opposes the wearing of headscarves at school"

President Vladimir Putin spoke out Thursday against the wearing of headscarves in Russian schools in his first public comment on a potentially explosive issue. Putin's statement follows a recent incident in Russia's southern region of Stavropol during which a school principal forbade girls from Muslim families from wearing headscarves to class. Their parents protested and the principal said she was threatened. Asked to comment on the issue, Putin clearly voiced his opposition to headscarves at schools, saying that Russia is a secular state and must create equal conditions for all its citizens. "We have a secular state, and we must proceed from that," Putin said at a meeting with supporters.
Other countries also have faced debate over the issue. This month, police in Azerbaijan clashed with citizens protesting a ban on the wearing of headscarves in the mainly Muslim ex-Soviet nation's secondary schools. In Europe, France and Belgium have banned the wearing of headscarves or face-covering Islamic veils in public, as have some towns in Spain and elsewhere. An estimated 20 million of Russia's 143 million people are Muslims, and they make up the majority of the population in many regions, including the oil-rich province of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, as well as Chechnya and neighboring provinces in the volatile North Caucasus. Putin said that with Russian Orthodox believers making up a majority, any departure from secular rules in public life could eventually lead to the infringement on the rights of followers of other religions. "It would be better if all people feel equal," he added. If the dispute over headscarves escalates in Russia, it could fuel tensions between the federal government and Chechnya and other Muslim-dominated provinces. Chechnya's Kremlin-backed leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, has imposed a tight Islamic dress code on females. Girls and women are strongly advised to wear headscarves in public. Kadyrov's feared black-clad security forces have used paintball guns, threats and insults against those failing to obey. Putin said Thursday that one possible way out of the headscarves dispute would be the introduction of school uniforms.

^ I agree that headscarves should not be worn in a secular state. I don't see Russia as a secular state though - even though it says it is in the Russian Constitution. Russia seems to be run by the Russian Orthodox Church (take the recent Pussy Riot trial) and so to fully be secular it needs to treat all reglions equally. The US is also not as secular as the motto: "Separation of Church and State" suggests. We continue to use "One nation, under God, ""In God We Trust" and "So help me God" in all aspects of our lives from the currency we use, going to school, voting and doing with Federal and State agencies like the courts. Like I stated above I have no problem with banning headscarves and other religious clothing that distracts and hides, but I also believe that countries can't be hypocrites (whether they are Russia, the US or elsewhere) and say we are secular when we aren't. ^

http://news.yahoo.com/putin-opposes-wearing-headscarves-school-172300173.html;

 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Libya: 1 Year On

From Deutsche Welle:
"Libya one year after Gadhafi's death"

Moammar Gadhafi controlled all aspects of public life in Libya for 40 years. One year after his bloody demise, Libya is trying to build a new state. He called himself a friend of the French, received heads of state and in the final years of his time in power nearly seemed to have taken on a mild tone. But by then the self-proclaimed revolutionary Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi no longer had friends or allies. He proved to be too erratic, supporting various terror groups, sometimes seeking Arab unity, then African unity - and eventually used brutal force against his own people. There was not a single dissenting voice in the UN Security Council when the NATO operation against the Libyan dictator was agreed in the spring of 2011. It was the end of the Gadhafi era - but the consequences of his tyranny can still be felt.  No wonder: For four decades, the son of a Bedouin family had solely decided Libya's policies - first as a head of state, then since 1979 as a self-styled revolutionary leader. Regardless of who was head of state or prime minister at any time, all the power was really in Gadhafi's hands. Parties were not allowed and the opposition was suppressed. Fearing strong opponents, Gadhafi systematically neglected the infrastructure of his country. Competing centers of power were not allowed to arise at all - even the army was practically powerless. Now the Libyans must create completely new political structures and institutions. "It's an enormous challenge to rebuild the entire public administration, the security forces and the army," said G√ľnter Meyer, professor of economic geography and head of the Centre for Research on the Arab World at Mainz University.  In recent months, the reorganization of the country led to controversy and heated debate, because of the different interests of Libya's demographic groups. This also has historical reasons: Before Gadhafi staged a coup in 1969 to seize power, the three regions of Cyrenaica, Fezzan and Tripoli had separate identities. Under Libya's first ruler, King Idris, the country had a federal constitution until 1963. Previously, the three regions were an Italian colony - but had never before been a unit. Even today, many Libyans feel more connected to their city and their tribe than to the unitary state. One reason is that many Libyans have had bad experiences with central rule. Gadhafi controlled the oil industry and thus the entire economy of the country. Under his rule, revenue from oil production mainly benefited the capital Tripoli and Sirte, his home region. In contrast, the Cyrenaica region around the city of Benghazi in the east was deeply neglected. It was no coincidence that when the revolution broke out in February 2011, Benghazi served as the capital for the revolutionary government until the fall of Tripoli.  Radical Islamists are trying to take advantage of the uncertain situation in the country. Even so, fundamentalist Islam is relatively unpopular among religious Libyans. The destruction of Islamic shrines by Salafis badly affected the popularity of the radical Islamists. Even with their hatred of the West, Islamists can hardly gain supporters. This was evident even after September 11, 2012, as a terrorist group in Benghazi murdered four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador. In response thousands of Libyans took to the streets and expelled two especially militant and hitherto influential radical Islamic militias from the city.

^ Libya one year after Gadhafi is still disorganized and facing problems at every level. That is one reason I will never understand why the US State Department cut back security at the Consulate in Benghazi and then seemed surprised when it was over-run and the US Ambassador was killed. ^


Austrian Nazi Crimes

From Yahoo:
"Austria probes gruesome fate of Nazi-era disabled"

Forensic crews scraping away dirt from the remains of the Nazi-era psychiatric patients were puzzled: The skeletal fingers were entwined in rosary beads. Why, the experts wondered, would the Nazis — who considered these people less than human — respect them enough to let them take their religious symbols to their graves? It turns out they didn't. A year after the first of 221 sets of remains were exhumed at a former Austrian hospital cemetery, investigators now believe the beads were likely nothing more than a cynical smokescreen, placed to mislead relatives attending the burials into thinking that the last stage of their loved ones' lives was as dignified as their funerals. But skeletons don't lie. Forensic work shows that more than half of the victims had broken ribs and other bone fractures from blows likely dealt by hospital personnel. Many died from illnesses such as pneumonia, apparently caused by a combination of physical injuries, a lack of food and being immobilized for weeks at a time. Neither do medical records, which show that medical personnel cursed their patients as "imbeciles," ''idiots" and "useless eaters." Indeed, there is now little doubt that for many of the dead — mentally and physically disabled people considered by the Nazis to be human garbage — their final months were hell on Earth. Nazi extermination of the mentally and physically deficient has been documented since the end of World War II. But information gathered from the hospital cemetery in Hall, an ancient Tyrolean town of narrow, cobble-stoned alleys, cozy inns and graceful church spires east of Innsbruck, has filled out the picture in chilling new ways. Historians, anthropologists, physicians and archaeologists say the Hall project represents the first time that investigators can match hospital records with remains, allowing them to identify, for example, cases in which patients had broken ribs, noses and collarbones that were not listed in their medical histories, suggesting that the patients had been beaten by those responsible for their care. The Nazis called people deemed too sick, weak or disabled to fit Hitler's image of a master race "unworthy lives," in the terrible culmination of the cult of eugenics that gained international popularity in the early 1900s as a way to improve the "racial quality" of future generations. More than 70,000 such people were killed, gassed to death or otherwise murdered between 1939 and 1941, when public protests stopped most wholesale massacres. From then until the end of the war in 1945, the killings continued at the hands of doctors and nurses. In all, at least 200,000 physically or mentally disabled people were killed by medication, starvation, neglect or in the gas chambers during the war. Documents show that the cemetery was created in 1942, a year after the formal end of the mass-killing campaign meant that Hall patients could no longer be shipped to gas chambers. It was shut down and abandoned in 1945, when the war ended. During that time, deaths in the psychiatric ward rose from an average of 4 percent a month in early 1942 to as high as 20 percent in some months before the end of the war.

^ Austria tries to portray itself as a victim of Nazism when in fact the Austrians voted to join Hitler's Germany in 1938 and many Nazis were Austrian (as was Hitler.) This article sheds light on a lesser-known group - the mentally and physically disabled - that the Nazis did experiments on and murdered. As the article states the public learned about the killings and demonstrated against them so officially they ended in 1941 - I wonder why no one demonstrated against how the Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals and other "sub-humans" were treated. Of course no German (or Austrian) alive at the time "knew" anything about what was going on just as no one was ever a Nazi once the war was over. Even though 60 years have passed it is still important to document everything that happened and if the victims can be identifed then every effort should be made to do that. ^


http://news.yahoo.com/austria-probes-gruesome-fate-nazi-era-disabled-

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

2nd Debate

From Yahoo:
"Obama gets significantly more aggressive, takes more time"

President Obama is making a much more aggressive presentation in the second presidential debate. But for the third in a row, Democrats are getting more time to address national audiences than their Republican opponents, even as they protest the debate moderator asserting the opposite. "I will get run out of town, if I don't allow people to…" moderator Candy Crowley said, trailing off as she tried to reign in Romney and Obama, both talking over her and refusing to yield. Obama then said he wanted equal opportunity to respond. At that time, Obama was leading Romney in speaking time by nearly a full minute, 15:01 to 14:18 according to CNN's ticker. Obama made a similar complaint during the first debate, despite leading Romney in speaking time throughout. And in last week's vice presidential debate, Joe Biden made a similar complaint, despite leading Paul Ryan by nearly two minutes.

^ I watched this debate and think Romney was the winner. Obama was constantly interrupting both Romney and the moderator throughout. The moderator was very Pro-Obama which you can see when she corrected Romney on a point (yet she didn't correct Obama when he said that he was raised by a single mother - when, according to his own book, he was raised by his grandparents.) The moderator should be unbiased and this was definitely not the case here. Also, Obama didn't answer the questions asked (regarding creating jobs right away, if the Government had the power to lower the gas prices and Libya - he talked about Iraq and Afghanistan, but the question was about why the US lowered security at the Consulate before it was attacked.) He went on a bunch of tangents that even the moderator couldn't bring him back from. While Obama spoke more this time around it was out of desperation from his poor performance last time. He is trying to act as though he is the "under-dog" instead of the person who has been the President and most powerful person in the world for the past 4 years. While Biden had the desperate, fake laugh during his debate that made him very creepy Obama had the desperate "Look at me! Look at me!" little kid act as he was trying to shout over both Romney and the moderator. That is not the professional way a true President acts, but as I said the act of a desperate man who is running out of excuses. ^

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-wants-more-speaking-time-already-talking-more-014451463--election.html

SSA 2013 Changes

From Yahoo:
"6 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2013"

Social Security recipients will get slightly bigger checks in 2013. The Social Security Administration also recently announced several other ways the program will be tweaked in the coming year. Here's a look at the Social Security changes workers and retirees will experience next year:
\
Bigger monthly payments. Social Security payments will increase by 1.7 percent in 2013. That's considerably less than the 3.6 percent cost of living adjustment retirees received in 2012. Social Security payments are adjusted each year to reflect inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Previous inflation adjustments have ranged from zero in 2010 and 2011 to 14.3 percent in 1980. The average Social Security check is expected to increase by $21 as a result of the change from $1,240 before the cost of living adjustment to $1,261 after. Couples will see their benefit payments grow from an average of $2,014 to $2,048.

Payroll tax cut scheduled to expire. Workers will pay 6.2 percent of their income into the Social Security system in 2013, up from 4.2 percent in 2012. The temporary payroll tax cut expires at the end of December 2012 under current law.

Higher Social Security tax cap. The maximum amount of earnings subject to Social Security taxes will be $113,700 in 2013, up from $110,100 in 2012. Approximately 10 million people will pay higher taxes as a result of the increase in the taxable maximum.

Increased earnings limit. Retirees who work and collect Social Security benefits at the same time will be able to earn $480 more next year before any portion of their Social Security payment will be withheld. Social Security recipients who are younger than their full retirement age (66 for those born between 1943 and 1954) can earn up to $15,120 in 2013, after which $1 of every $2 earned will be temporarily withheld from their Social Security payments. For retirees who turn 66 in 2013, the limit will be $40,080, after which $1 of every $3 earned will be withheld. Once you turn your full retirement age you can earn any amount without penalty and collect Social Security benefits at the same time. At your full retirement age your monthly payments will also be adjusted to reflect any benefits that were withheld and your continued earnings.

Maximum possible benefit grows. The maximum possible Social Security benefit for a worker who begins collecting benefits at their full retirement age will be $2,533 in 2013, up from $2,513 per month in 2012.

Paper checks will end. The U.S. Treasury will stop mailing paper checks to Social Security beneficiaries on March 1, 2013. All federal benefit recipients must then receive their payments via direct deposit to a bank or credit union account or loaded onto a Direct Express Debit MasterCard. Retirees who do not choose an electronic payment option by March 1 will receive their payments loaded onto a pre-paid debit card. Most people already receive their benefit payments electronically, and new Social Security recipients have been required to choose an electronic payment option since 2011.

^ Whether you agree with these changes or not it's always good to know what is going to happen so you can plan/prepare. I'm glad the SSA monthly payments will increase (something is better than nothing.) ^

http://news.yahoo.com/6-ways-social-security-change-150049250.html

Soviet MIAs

From Yahoo:
"Russia asks Afghanistan for help with Soviet MIAs"

Russia appealed Monday to the Afghan authorities and public to provide information on over 200 Soviet troops listed as missing since Soviet forces ended their occupation of Afghanistan in 1989 — including 30 to 40 who may still be alive. Russian ambassador Andrey Avetisyan said the two countries are preparing an agreement that would regulate future efforts to recover the servicemen, who went missing during a decade of guerrilla warfare in the impoverished nation. Difficulties remain, he noted, in accessing some areas believed to contain soldiers' graves because of the current war between international forces, the Taliban and other insurgents. The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on Dec. 27, 1979, telling the world it aimed to transform Afghanistan into a modern socialist state. Moscow sought to prop up a communist regime facing a popular uprising, but left largely defeated on Feb. 15, 1989 by anti-communist mujahedeen forces receiving massive support from the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and others. The Soviets maintained a garrison of about 80,000 troops in Afghanistan through much of that war. Nearly 700,000 rotated through the country and about 15,000 died in the 10-year conflict. A Russian veterans group says 265 soldiers remain unaccounted for. About 20 are thought to have resettled in other countries after they deserted, while 30 to 40 may still be in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Aleksander Lavrentyev, deputy head of a veterans group searching for Soviet MIAs, said his group had received excellent help from Afghan authorities, the Red Crescent, NGOs and ordinary citizens — including those who had fought on the opposing side — in locating the remains of 15 soldiers in the past 4 years. Of those, five were positively identified while the rest were still undergoing forensic testing. Russia has backed the international coalition in the war, providing air and land transit routes for troops and equipment. But Moscow has been critical of the alliance's plans to pull out while the Taliban remain undefeated.

^ It seems a little too late considering the Soviets left in 1989 (23 years ago.) The Russian Government - which took over for the collapsed USSR - should have started looking for the MIAs much early. The US had POWs/MIAs included in the Paris Peace Treaty that ended the Vietnam War and would never think to leave their citizens/soldiers behind without at least trying - we would never have waited 20 + years to start. I hope the families of the MIAs will get some closure, but after so many years and the continued violence I don't think much will come out of this. ^

http://news.yahoo.com/russia-asks-afghanistan-help-soviet-mias-