Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's In A Name? Victory!

From Yahoo:
"Icelandic teen triumphs in court in bid to use her given name, which authorities had rejected"

A 15-year-old Icelandic girl has been granted the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother, despite the opposition of authorities and Iceland's strict law on names. Reykjavik District Court ruled Thursday that the name "Blaer" can be used. It means "light breeze." The decision overturns an earlier rejection by Icelandic authorities who declared it was not a proper feminine name. Until now, Blaer Bjarkardottir had been identified simply as "Girl" in communications with officials. "I'm very happy," she said after the ruling. "I'm glad this is over. Now I expect I'll have to get new identity papers. Finally I'll have the name Blaer in my passport." Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. Names are supposed to fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules — choices like Carolina and Christa are not allowed because the letter "c'' is not part of Iceland's alphabet. Blaer's mother, Bjork Eidsdottir, had fought for the right for the name to be recognized. The court ruling means that other girls will be also allowed to use the name in Iceland. In an interview earlier this year, Eidsdottir said she did not know the name "Blaer" was not on the list of accepted female names when she gave it to her daughter. The name was rejected because the panel viewed it as a masculine name that was inappropriate for a girl. The court found that based on testimony and other evidence, that the name could be used by both males and females and that Blaer had a right to her own name under Iceland's constitution and Europe's human rights conventions. It rejected the government's argument that her request should be denied to protect the Icelandic language. Blaer had told the court she was very happy with her name and only had problems with it when she was dealing with state authorities who rejected it. The court did not grant her any damages. The government has not indicated whether it will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

^ I'm glad that the Icelandic Court overturned the original decision and will allow this girl to have and use her name legally. I do not think any country should be allowed to restrict someone's name as long as it is not a swear word or praises something horrible - like Hitler, Stalin, etc. It seems all these so called liberal countries restrict their citizens in many ways. Iceland allows gay people to marry yet refuses a someone to have a name like Christina - that doesn't seem right. Hopefully, this decision will stand and will open up many more names for other Icelanders. These language/name rules may have been needed when Denmark ruled Iceland so the Icelandic language would not disapperar, but Iceland has been independent since 1944 and there is no longer a cause of concern with Icelandic to disappear. I was in Iceland and if anything the authorities should make people have real last names instead of ones that say: Eid's daughter or Eid's son. ^


From Yahoo:
"Stalingrad get names back on days marking battle"

The southern Russian city where the Red Army decisively turned back Nazi forces in a key World War II battle will once again be known as Stalingrad, at least on the days commemorating the victory, the regional legislature declared Thursday. The city was renamed Volgograd in 1961 as part of the Soviet Union's rejection of dictator Joseph Stalin's personality cult. But the name Stalingrad is inseparable with the historic battle, which was among the bloodiest in history with combined losses of nearly 2 million people. Regional lawmakers' decision to use the historic name in city statements on Feb. 2, the day of the Nazi defeat, as well as several other war-related dates each year, has angered many in Russia where Stalin's name and legacy continues to cause fiery disputes nearly 60 years after his death. Russia's human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin sharply criticized the move, saying it should be declared void by court. "This is an insult of the memory of those who died," he said, according to the Interfax news agency. Nikolai Levichev, a senior federal lawmaker with the leftist Just Russia party, condemned the restoration of the old city name, saying "it's blasphemous to rename the great Russian city after a bloody tyrant who killed millions of his fellow citizens." Levichev added that the country won the war "despite rather than thanks to" Stalin's leadership, whose errors multiplied the Soviet losses. Stalin led the Soviet Union from 1924 until his death in 1953. Communists and other hardliners credit him with leading the country to victory in World War II and making it a nuclear superpower, while others condemn his brutal purges that killed millions of people. President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, has avoided open public praise or criticism of Stalin, but he has restored Soviet-era symbols and tried to soften public perceptions of the dictator. Kremlin critics have seen attempts to whitewash Stalin's image as part of Putin's rollback on democracy. In recent years, many in Russia were outraged by government-sponsored school textbooks that painted Stalin in a largely positive light and the reconstruction of a Moscow subway station that restored old Soviet national anthem lyrics praising Stalin as part of its interior decoration. In addition to the Volgograd legislature's move to restore the old name of the city, authorities in Volgograd, St. Petersburg and the Siberian city of Chita ordered images of Stalin to be put on city buses on Feb. 2 to commemorate the historic battle. Yan Raczynski of Memorial, a leading Russia's human rights group, was quoted as saying by Interfax that the authorities' moves highlighted the nation's failure to "legally and politically recognize the crimes committed by the Bolshevik regime, particularly Stalin and his inner circle." On Saturday, Russia plans extensive ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of the battle, which raged for half a year in 1942-43 with the Red Army resisting the Nazi onslaught in fierce street fighting and then encircling and capturing more than 100,000 Nazi soldiers.

^ It is pretty dumb to "rename" the city for a few days every year. The city was named Stalingrad to praise Stalin just like many German towns had Hitler Strasse to praise Hitler. Both men were dictators who murdered millions of their own people and millions of other countries' citizens. You will never find a Hitler Strasse nowadays and you shouldn't find the same for Stalin in the former USSR. The Battle of Stalingrad is ingrained in Russian history just as the Blockade of Leningrad is and the victories and sacfrices done there will not be overshadowed because the places have new names. Saint Petersburg doesn't revert to Leningrad every year so why does Volgograd need to go back to Stalingrad? They don't. Countries and people need to remember the past, but live for the future. ^

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hitler's Rise: 80 Years On

From USA Today:
"Germany marks 80th anniversary of Hitler's rise"

On the 80th anniversary of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Germans to always fight for their principles and not fall into the complacency that enabled the Nazi dictator to seize control. Speaking Wednesday at the opening of a new exhibit at the Topography of Terror memorial documenting Hitler's election, Merkel noted that German academics and students at the time happily joined the Nazis only a few months later in burning books deemed subversive. "The rise of the Nazis was made possible because the elite of German society worked with them, but also, above all else, because most in Germany at least tolerated this rise," Merkel said. After winning about a third of the vote in Germany's 1932 election, Hitler convinced ailing President Paul von Hindenburg to appoint him chancellor on Jan. 30, 1933 — setting Germany on a course to war and genocide. "This path ended in Auschwitz," said Andreas Nachama, the director of the Topography of Terror.The Topography memorial is built around the ruins of buildings where the Gestapo secret police, the SS and the Reich Security Main Office ran Hitler's police state from 1933 to 1945. A stretch of the Berlin Wall along the edge serves as a reminder of Germany's second dictatorship under the Communists in the 20th century. Once chancellor, Hitler was able to use his position to consolidate absolute control over the country in the months to follow. About a month after being appointed chancellor, Hitler used the torching of the Reichstag parliament building — blamed on a Dutch communist — to strengthen his grip on power. He suspended civil liberties and cracked down on opposition parties, paving the way for the police state. By midsummer 1933, he had declared the Nazi Party to be the only political party in Germany. He later named himself "Fuehrer" or "Leader" of the country. The fact that Hitler was able to destroy German democracy in only six months serves as a warning today of what can happen if the public is apathetic, Merkel said. "Human rights do not assert themselves on their own; freedom does not emerge on its own; and democracy does not succeed on its own," Merkel said. "No, a dynamic society ... needs people who have regard and respect for one another, who take responsibility for themselves and others, where people take courageous and open decisions and who are prepared to accept criticism and opposition." Following the morning ceremony, Germany's Parliament held a special session in tribute to those who died under the Nazi dictatorship. Inge Deutschkron, a 90-year-old Jewish Berliner and writer, recalled Germans celebrating Hitler's rise to power as she addressed lawmakers. "Often, I couldn't get to sleep in the evenings and listened for footsteps in the staircase," she said. "If they were boots, I became afraid they could be SA men coming to arrest my father." Deutschkron's father managed to escape to England shortly before World War II, while she and her mother were hidden by friends in Berlin for the final years of the war. She recalled most ordinary Germans' indifference to the fate of Jews, who were forced to wear yellow stars. "The majority of Germans I met in the streets looked away when they saw this star on me — or looked straight through me," she said. And when she visited West Germany's capital of Bonn after the war, she recalled that most "had simply erased from their memory the crimes for which the German state had set up its own machinery of murder." Deutschkron remembered West Germany's first postwar chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, saying that most Germans opposed the Nazis' crimes against Jews and that many had helped Jews to escape. "If only that had been the truth," she said.

^ It has been 80 years since the German people elected Hitler their leader and followed him blindly for the next 12 years. No matter how many years pass the truth about what happened can not be re-written. The Nazis,World War 2 and the Holocaust happened with the help of every aspect of German society. Of course after the war every German had been an anti-Nazi and had never known about the crimes committed. Had the Germans won the war those same "anti-Nazis" would have been seen praising Hitler and acknowledging their help in his cogwheel of death. As it is the two Germanys after the war brushed aside what happened during the war. East Germany made itself out to be a victim while West Germany allowed former Nazis to live and work openly - including within the West German Government. It is only recently - now that the generation of Germans involved in the war and it's crimes are grandparents and great-grandparents  - is the unified Germany starting to fully and completely come to terms with its past. Of course for most victims and survivors it is too little too late. I hope that this trend continues because even though we always here the slogan "Never Again" it could happen again. Hitler came to power 80 years ago when the German economy was in shambles from forced war reparations and the world depression. Today Germany is facing a financial and political crisis with the European Union and the weakening of the Euro. While I do not believe the world would again sit back and allow the Nazis or the Germans do what they did in the 1930s-1940s there is always the threat of neo Nazis in Germany, Europe, the US and the world. ^

Monday, January 28, 2013

Military Women

I was curious to see what policies other countries had regarding women in their military (after the US announced it would finally allow women to serve in combat roles.)

Eritrea:     Female soldiers in Eritrea played a large role in both the Eritrean civil war and the border dispute with Ethiopia, because they make up more than 25% of the Eritrean military.
Libya:      A 200-strong unit was Muammar al-Gaddafi's personal bodyguard and is called variously the "Green Nuns" and "The Amazonian Guard" or more commonly in Libya The Revolutionary Nuns

The Gambia:    Military of The Gambia have no gender conscription and women are free to volunteer for the armed forces. In 2011 the first female army general was decorated.

Australia:   The first women became involved with the Australian armed forces with the creation of the Army Nursing Service in 1899. Currently, women make up 12.8% of the Australian Defence Force (with 15.1% in the Royal Australian Air Force, 14.6% in the Royal Australian Navy and 10.5% in the Australian Army) and 17.5% of the reserves. However, only 74% of the total number of available roles in the Australian armed forces are available to women. Despite this, using 1998-99 figures, the ADF had the highest percentage of women in its employ in the world.  In 1998, Australia became the fourth nation in the world to allow women to serve on its submarines. Like many other countries, Australia does not currently permit women to serve in the following military positions involving 'direct combat', as defined by the 1983 Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): Clearance diving teams, Infantry including Special Forces, Armour, Artillery, Combat Engineers, Airfield Defence Guards or Ground Defence Officers. Women can serve in combat units or at times in combat, but they currently cannot serve in combat roles in combat units.  On 27 September 2011, Defence Minister Stephen Smith announced that women will be allowed to serve in frontline combat roles by 2016.

Israel:       Some women served in various positions in the IDF, including infantry, radio operators and transport pilots in the 1948 War of Independence and "Operation Kadesh" in 1956, but later the Air Force closed its ranks to female pilots, and women were restricted from combat positions. There is a draft of both men and women. Most women serve in non-combat positions, and are conscripted for two years (instead of three for men). A landmark high court appeal in 1994 forced the Air Force to accept women air cadets. In 2001, Israel's first female combat pilot received her wings. In 1999 the Caracal company was formed, as a non segregated infantry company. In 2000 it was expanded into a Battalion since then, further combat positions have opened to women, including Artillery, Field Intelligence, Search and Rescue, NBC, Border Patrol, K-9 Unit and anti-aircraft warfare. On May 26, 2011, IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced Brigadier General Orna Barbivay's appointment as the next Head of the IDF Personnel Directorate. Barbivay was promoted to Major General, thus becoming the most senior female officer in the history of the IDF.

New Zealand:      New Zealand has no restrictions on roles for women in its defence force. They are able to serve in the Special Air Service, infantry, armour and artillery. This came into effect in 2001 by subordinate legislation. Though, no woman has ever made it into the Special Air Service.

People's Republic of China:     Women have long served in armies dating from the ancient period of 5,000 years ago to present day. Female comprise an estimated 7.5% of the People's Liberation Army forces.

Singapore:  Allows women to serve in combat roles, although females are not conscripted.

Sri Lanka:       Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) was the first service of the Sri Lankan military to allow women to serve, accepting female recruits to the Sri Lanka Volunteer Air Force in 1972. The Sri Lanka Army followed in 1979 with the establishment of the Sri Lanka Army Women's Corps (SLAWC). Since then, each service has for both administrative and practical reasons maintained separate units for women. These are the SLAWC and the SLAF Women's Wing; the Sri Lanka Navy does not have a specific name for women's units. In order to maintain discipline, all three services have women MPs attached to their respective military police/provost corps.

 Thailand:     Has recently begun recruiting and training women to conduct counter-insurgency operations. A ranger commander said that when women are protesting, "It is better for women to do the talking. Male soldiers look tough and aggressive. When women go and talk, people tend to be more relaxed".

 Denmark:         Women were employed in the Danish armed forces as early as 1934 with the Ground Observer Corps, Danish Women’s Army Corps and Naval Corps in 1946 and the Women’s Air Force since 1953. In 1962, the Danish parliament passed laws allowing women to volunteer in the regular Danish armed forces as long as they did not serve in units experiencing direct combat. 1971 saw the enlistment of women as non-commissioned officers, with military academies allowing women in 1974. In 1978, based on the reports of studies on the topic, women were allowed to enlist in an all areas of the Danish armed forces, with combat trials in the eighties exploring the capabilities of women in combat. In 1998, laws were passed allowing women to sample military life in the same way as conscripted men, however without being completely open to conscription. Women in the Danish military come under the command of the Chief of Defense. As of January 2010, women make up 5% of the army, 6.9% of the navy, and 8.6% of air force personnel.

Finland:  The Finnish Defense Forces does not conscript women. However, since 1995, women between 18 and 30 years of age have the possibility of voluntarily undertaking military service in the Defence Forces or in the Border Guard. Women generally serve under the same conditions as men. The non-combat duties in Finnish Defence Forces peace-keeping operations opened to women in 1991. Since 1995 the women are allowed to serve in all combat arms including front-line infantry and special forces both in Finland and in operations outside Finland.  

France:    In the 1800s, women in the French military were responsible for preparing meals for soldiers, and were called cantinières. They sold food to soldiers beyond that which was given to them as rations. Cantinières had commissions from the administrators of the regiments, and they were required to be married to a soldier of the regiment. They served near the front lines on active campaigns, and some served for as long as 30 years. The role of women in the French military grew in 1914 with the recruitment of women as medical personnel (Service de Santé des Armées). In 1939, they were authorized to enlist with the armed service branches, and in 1972 their status evolved to share the same ranks as those of men. Nonetheless, women are still not permitted to join the field combat units or to be aboard the submarines of the French navy. Today women make up around 15% of all service personnel in the combined branches of the French military. They are 11% of the Army forces, 13% for the Navy, 21% of the Air Force and 50% of the Medical Corps. This is the highest proportion of female personnel in Europe.

Germany:        Since the creation of the Bundeswehr in 1955, Germany had employed one of the most conservative gender-policies of any NATO country. That was generally regarded as a reaction to the deployment of young women at the end of World War II. Though women were exempt from direct combat functions in accordance with Nazi-ideology, several hundred thousand German women, along with young boys and sometimes girls (as Flakhelfer), served in Luftwaffe artillery units; their flak shot down thousands of Allied warplanes. In the year 1975 the first female medical officers were appointed in the Sanitätsdienst of the Bundeswehr. Since 1994, two women, Verena von Weymarn and Erika Franke, attained the rank of Generalarzt. But it was not until January 2001 that women first joined German combat units, following a court ruling by the European Court of Justice. There are no restrictions regarding the branch of service, and there are women serving in the Fallschirmjäger, aboard U-Boats  and Tornado fighter planes.

Ireland:          The Defence Act, 1979, allowed women to join the Irish Defence Forces for the first time and was passed by the Oireachtas in 1979. There are no restrictions for women to the "full range of operational and administrative duties." As of January 2010 the number of women in the Permanent Defence Forces is 565, 5.7 percent of the total.

Norway:         Women in Norway have been able to fill military roles since 1938, and during the Second World War both enlisted women and female officers served in all branches of the military. However in 1947 political changes commanded that women only serve in civilian posts, with reservists allowing women to join them in 1959. Female personnel currently make up around 7% of the army. Between 1977 and 1984, the Norwegian Parliament passed laws expanding the role of women in the Norwegian Armed Forces, and in 1985 equal opportunities legislation was applied to the military. In 1995, Norway became the first country to allow women to serve on its military submarines, and to this date there has been at least one female commander of a Norwegian submarine.

Poland:       Women have taken part in the battles for independence against occupiers and invaders since at least the time of the Napoleonic Wars. During the occupation by the Nazis, 1939–1945, several thousand women took part in the resistance movement as members of the Home Army. The Germans were forced to establish special prisoner-of-war camps after the Warsaw Rising in 1944 to accommodate over a thousand women prisoners. In April 1938 the law requiring compulsory military service for men included provisions for voluntary service of women in auxiliary roles, in the medical services, in the anti-aircraft artillery and in communications. In 1939 a Women's Military Training Organization was established under the command of Maria Wittek. In present Poland a law passed April 6, 2004 requires all women with college nursing or veterinary degrees to register for compulsory service. In addition it allows women to volunteer and serve as professional personnel in all services of the army. As of June 30, 2007 there are 800 women in the army, of which 471 are officers, 308 non-commissioned officers and 21 other ranks, in addition 225 are in military training schools. Two active duty Polish women have achieved the rank of Colonel. Maria Wittek was the 1st Polish woman to reach the rank of General.

Russia:    During the First World War, heavy defeats led to the loss of millions of Russian Imperial soldiers. To psychologically energize morale Alexander Kerensky (leader of Russia of the Russian Provisional Government) ordered the creation of the Woman’s Death Battalion in May 1917. After three months of fighting, the size of this all-female unit fell from 2,000 to 250.  In November 1917, the Bolsheviks dissolved the unit. Shortly after Russia became part of the Soviet Union till December 1991. In 2002, 10% of the Russian armed forces (100,000 of a total active strength of 988,100) were women. However continuing attitudes towards women in Russian life are demonstrated by activities such as Miss Russian Army. The current tally of woman in the Russian Army is standing at around 115,000 to 160,000, representing 10% of Russia’s military strength.

Soviet Union:      Women played a large part in most of the armed forces of the Second World War. In most countries though, women tended to serve mostly in administrative, medical and in auxiliary roles. But in the Soviet Union women fought in larger numbers in front line roles. Over 800,000 women served in the Soviet armed forces in World War II; nearly 200,000 of them were decorated and 89 of them eventually received the Soviet Union’s highest award, the Hero of the Soviet Union. They served as pilots, snipers, machine gunners, tank crew members and partisans, as well as in auxiliary roles. Very few of these women, however, were ever promoted to officers.  Women consistituted significant numbers of the Soviet partisans. One of the most famous was Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya, who earned the Hero of the Soviet Union award (February 16, 1942). After the war, most women left the armed forces. Those that stayed to make a career in the post-war armed forces saw old attitudes return and promotion and opportunities more difficult. Also, some military academies closed their doors to women despite the supposed official policy of equality. In 1967, the Russian Universal Military Duty Laws concluded that women offered the greater source of available combat soldiers during periods of large scale mobilisation. Thus, several programs during the height of the Cold War were set up to encourage women to enlist. Participation in military orientated youth programs and forced participation in the reserves for ex-servicewomen up to the age of 40 are some examples. Universities contained reservist officer training which accompanied a place in the reserves themselves, especially for doctors. But some roles open to women during the war were later barred.

Serbia:       Although the Serbian armed forces were traditionally exclusively male (with exception of nurses and some other non-combat roles) there were some exceptions. Several women are known to have fought in the ranks in the Balkan Wars and the First World War, often by initially hiding their gender to work around the draft regulations. The most notable of them was Milunka Savić, the most decorated female combatant in history. In the Second World War Yugoslav partisan units accepted female volunteers as combatants as well as medical personnel. After the war the practice was abandoned, but was reintroduced recently with professionalisation of the army.

Sweden:         Since 1989 there are no gender restrictions in the Swedish military on access to military training or positions. They are allowed to serve in all parts of the military and in all positions, including combat. Female personnel currently make up around 5% of the army.

Turkey:       Sabiha Gökçen was the first female combat pilot in the world, as well as the first Turkish female aviator. She was one of the eight adoptive children of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Throughout her career in the Turkish Air Force, Gökçen flew 22 different types of aircraft for more than 8,000 hours, 32 hours of which were active combat and bombardment missions. She was selected as the only female pilot for the poster of "20 Greatest Aviators in History" published by the United States Air Force in 1996. Women personnel are being employed as officers in the Turkish Armed Forces today. The women officers serve together with the men under the same respective chains of command. The personnel policy regarding women in the Turkish Armed Forces is based on the principle of "needing qualified women officers in suitable branches and ranks" to keep pace with technological advancements in the 21st century. Women civilian personnel have been assigned to the headquarters staff, technical fields, and social services without sexual discrimination. Women officers serve in all branches except armor, infantry, and submarines. Assignments, promotions and training are considered on an equal basis with no gender bias. As of the year 2005, the number of the female officers and NCOs in the Turkish Armed Forces is 1245.

Ukraine:     Women (on active duty) make almost 13% of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (18.000 persons); 7% of those are officers. This number is close to NATO armies statistics. Ukraine shows better results in military gender equality than countries like Norway (7%), United Kingdom (9%) or Sweden (5%). There are few female high officers, 2,9% (1.202 women).  There are no females among Ukraine’s generals while there are a dozen female colonels.  Contractual military service counts for almost 44% of women. However, this is closely linked to the low salary of such positions: men refuse to serve in these conditions when women accept them. In total about 25 percent of Ukraine’s 200,000 military personnel are women. Servicewomen live in woman-only apartments near the military bases. A female officer can take three years’ maternity leave without losing her position.

United Kingdom:         Women were first employed by the Royal Navy in 1696 when a handful were employed as nurses and laundresses on hospital ships. They received pay equal to an able seaman.  The practice was always controversial and over the next two centuries first the nurses and the laundresses were removed from service.  By the start of the 19th century both roles had been eliminated. Female service in the Royal Navy restarted 1884 when the Naval Nursing Service was formed. It became the Queen Alexandra's Royal Naval Nursing Service in 1902 and is still in operation. Women have had active roles in the British Army since 1902, when the Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps was founded. The Princess Mary's Royal Air Force Nursing Service was formed in 1918 During the Second World War, about 600,000 women served in the three British women's auxiliary services: the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, and the Women's Royal Naval Service, as well as the nursing corps. In 1949, women were officially recognized as a permanent part of British Armed forces, although full combat roles were still restricted to men. In this year, the Women's Royal Army Corps was created to replace the ATS and in 1950 the ranks were normalised with the ranks of men serving in the British Army.  From 1949 to 1992, thousands more served in the Women's Royal Army Corps and sister institutions. Women first became eligible to pilot Royal Air Force combat aircraft in 1989. The following year, they were permitted to serve on Royal Navy warships. The 1991 Gulf War marked the first deployment of British women in combat operations since 1945.  After 1992, the women were integrated into regular units.  Women may now join the British Armed forces in all roles except those whose "primary duty is to close with and kill the enemy": Infantry, Household Cavalry, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Marines Commandos, RAF Regiment, Special Air Service and Special Boat Service. They are also excluded from service in the Royal Navy Submarine Service and as Royal Navy Clearance divers. Thus, despite being the first and thus far only woman to pass the All Arms Commando Course (in May 2002), then Captain Philippa Tattersall can only serve in 3 Commando Brigade in a support role. Female personnel currently make up around 9% of the British armed forces.  However, female combatants can be found throughout Britain’s military history.

Canada:      During the First World War, over 2,300 women served overseas in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. During the Second World War, 5,000 women of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps again served overseas, however they were not permitted to serve on combat warships or in combat teams. The Canadian Army Women's Corps was created during the Second World War, as was the Royal Canadian Air Force (Women's Division). As well, 45,000 women served as support staff in every theatre of the conflict, driving heavy equipment, rigging parachutes, and performing clerical work, telephone operation, laundry duties and cooking. Some 5,000 women performed similar occupations during Canada’s part in the Korean War of 1950–1953. In 1965 the Canadian government decided to allow a maximum of 1,500 women to serve directly in all three branches of its armed forces, and the former "women's services" were disbanded. In 1970 the government created a set of rules for the armed forces designed to encourage equal opportunities. In 1974 the first woman, Major Wendy Clay, earned her pilot's wings in the newly integrated Canadian Forces. Between 1979 and 1985 the role of women expanded further, with military colleges allowing women to enroll. In 1982 laws were passed ending all discrimination in employment, and combat related roles in the Canadian armed forces were opened for women, with the exception of the submarine service. In 1986 further laws were created to the same effect. The following years saw Canada’s first female infantry soldier, and a female Brigadier-General.In 1989, a tribunal appointed under the Canadian Human Rights Act ordered full integration of women in the Canadian Armed Forces "with all due speed", at least within the next ten years. Only submarines were to remain closed to women. Women were permitted to serve on board Canadian submarines in 2002 with the acquisition of the Victoria-class submarine. Master Seaman Colleen Beattie became the first female submariner in 2003.

United States:      During the American Civil War, Sarah Rosetta Wakeman enlisted under the alias of Private Lyons Wakeman. In the history of women in the military, there are records of female U.S. Revolutionary and Civil War soldiers who enlisted using male pseudonyms, but a letter written by Annie Oakley to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898 may represent the earliest documentary proof of a political move towards recognizing a woman's right to serve in the United States military. Oakley, sharpshooter and star in the Buffalo Bill Show, wrote a letter to President William McKinley on April 5, 1898 "offering the government the services of a company of 50 'lady sharpshooters' who would provide their own arms and ammunition should war break out with Spain." The Spanish-American War did occur, but Oakley's offer was not accepted. The Woman’s Army Auxiliary Corps was established in the United States in 1941. The Woman’s Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Women’s Reserve were created during World War II. In July 1943 a bill was signed removing "auxiliary" from the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps, making it an official part of the regular army. In 1944 WACs arrived in the Pacific and landed in Normandy on D-Day. During the war, 67 Army nurses and 16 Navy nurses were captured and spent three years as Japanese prisoners of war. There were 350,000 American women who served during World War II and 16 were killed in action; in total, they gained over 1,500 medals, citations and commendations. Law 625, The Women's Armed Services Act of 1948, was signed by President Truman, allowing women to serve in the armed forces in fully integrated units during peacetime, with only the WAC remaining a separate female unit. During the Korean War, women serving in Korea numbered 120,000. Records regarding American women serving in the Vietnam War are vague. However, it is recorded that 600 women served in the country as part of the Air Force, along with 500 members of the WAC, and over 6,000 medical personnel and support staff. In 1974, the first six women aviators earned their wings as Navy pilots. The Congressionally mandated prohibition on women in combat places limitations on the pilots' advancement, but at least two retired as captains.  On December 20, 1989, Captain Linda L. Bray, 29, became the first woman to command American soldiers in battle, during the invasion of Panama. She was assigned to lead a force of 30 men and women military police officers to capture a kennel holding guard dogs that was defended by elements of the Panamanian Defense Forces. The 1991 Persian Gulf War proved to be the pivotal time for the role of women in the United States Armed Forces to come to the attention of the world media. Over 40,000 women served in almost every role the armed forces had to offer. However, while many came under fire, they were not permitted to participate in deliberate ground engagements. Despite this, there are many reports of women engaging enemy forces during the conflict. Today, women can serve on American combat ships, including in command roles. There is a plan to allow women to serve on submarines.  During Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan, more than two hundred thousand women have served, of which 152 were killed of which 84 were killed by enemy action. The Ike Skelton National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2011 directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to review the laws, policies and regulations restricting the service of female service members. As a result, DoD submitted the Review of Laws, Policies and Regulations Restricting the Service of Female members in the U.S. Armed Forces, popularly known as the "Women in Service Review", to Congress in February 2012. According to the review, DoD intends to eliminate co-location exclusion (opening over 13,000 Army positions to women); grant exceptions to policy to assign women in open occupations to direct ground combat units at the battalion level; assess the suitability and relevance of direct ground combat unit assignment prohibition to inform future policy based on the results of these exceptions to policy; and to further develop gender-neutral physical standards for closed specialties. On January 23, 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta removed the military's ban on women serving in combat, which was instituted in 1994.


Queen To Abdicate

From the BBC:
"Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands to abdicate for son"

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands has announced she is abdicating in favour of her son, Prince Willem-Alexander.  In a pre-recorded address broadcast on TV, she said she would formally stand down on 30 April.  The queen, who is approaching her 75th birthday, said she had been thinking about this moment for several years and that now was "the moment to lay down my crown". Queen Beatrix has been head of state since 1980, when her mother abdicated. In the short televised statement, the queen said it was time for the throne to be held by "a new generation", adding that her son was ready to be king. Prince Willem-Alexander, 45, is married to Maxima Zorreguieta, a former investment banker from Argentina, and has three young children.  He is a trained pilot and an expert in water management. He will become the Netherlands' first king since Willem III, who died in 1890.
Queen Beatrix is the sixth monarch from the House of Orange-Nassau, which has ruled the Netherlands since the early 19th Century. Correspondents say she is extremely popular with most Dutch people, but her abdication was widely expected and will not provoke a constitutional crisis. Under Dutch law, the monarch has few powers and the role is considered ceremonial. In recent decades it has become the tradition for the monarch to abdicate. Queen Beatrix's mother Juliana resigned the throne in 1980 on her 70th birthday, and her grandmother Wilhelmina abdicated in 1948 at the age of 68. Queen Beatrix will be 75 on Thursday.

^ It seems a little strange that the Dutch Monarchs always abdicate whereas in the UK they stay until they die. It will be interesting to see how the Netherlands fares under a king since they haven't had one since 1890. Like in Denmark, the Crown Prince of the Netherlands married a commoner and a non -citizen (in Denmark she is from Australia.) This seems to be the latest trends among royals -although Prince William married a British commoner. Hopefully, Holland will continue the way it has over the past several decades and continue to lead the world in tolerance under the new king. ^

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Disabled Sports

From Yahoo:
"Government rules U.S. schools must provide sports to disabled"

U.S. schools must give disabled students the chance to compete in extracurricular sports alongside their able-bodied classmates, or else provide them with their own programs, the federal government said in new guidelines issued on Friday. The Education Department issued the directives to clarify schools' legal obligations to their disabled students, and to urge school districts to work with community organizations to "increase athletic opportunities" for them. "Participation in extracurricular athletics can be a critical part of a student's overall educational experience," said Seth Galanter, of the department's civil rights office. "Schools must ensure equal access to that rewarding experience for students with disabilities," he added. The 1973 Rehabilitation Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in programs conducted by federal agencies, including public education. The directive followed a critical report by the Government Accountability Office that found disabled students were not being given the same chance to take part in school sports, and recommended that the department clarify and communicate to schools their responsibilities.
Examples of reasonable modifications schools might make to meet their responsibilities included providing "visual clues" alongside a starter pistol to allow hearing disabled students to compete in track events, and waiving the "two-hand touch" finish at swim meets to allow one-armed swimmers to compete/ The new directive was seen by advocates for the disabled as on a par with the 1972 "Title IX" rule that forced schools to provide equal athletic opportunities to girls.
It was also welcomed by disabled student competitors, among them Casey Followay, a 15-year-old high school track athlete confined to a wheelchair by a birth defect, who under current rules, has to race on his own.
^ This should have been done decades ago considering the 1973 Rehabilitation Act was enacted (40 years ago this year.) I have worked and dealt with the mentally and physically disabled since I graduated from high school and know that they just want the same opportunities as everyone else. I have been around the world and the US and have seen how people in everyday circumstances treat the disabled - a few help, but most go out of their way to get away from them. Even basic things like holding the door open an extra second while you push a wheelchair in would be a big help that many people refuse to do. I have become good at juggling a wheelchair, several luggage bags and carry-ons while at the same time opening a door while others watch and complain, but not help.  I am no saint and sometimes I don't know how to help a disabled person, but I usually at least offer  - whether they accept it or not is besides the point. Hopefully, this new directive will finally give the disabled children the same rights as other children when playing sports. ^

First Gay Premier

From The Globe and Mail:
"Wynne Makes History as First Openly Gay PremierIn Canada"

Nine years ago, Kathleen Wynne was a social activist-turned school trustee who handily knocked off a sitting cabinet minister to earn a seat in the Ontario legislature. On Saturday evening, she made history on two fronts: as the first woman chosen to lead Ontario’s government and the first openly gay premier in the nation’s history. After three rounds of voting, she stormed past Sandra Pupatello at the Ontario Liberal leadership convention in Toronto’s Maple Leaf Gardens, defeating her chief rival 1,150 to 866 to succeed Dalton McGuinty. When the results were announced, she joined hands with Ms. Pupatello and raised them in the air, as her supporters’ cheers swelled to a deafening roar  She also addressed, head-on, the worry some Liberals had expressed that an openly-gay candidate could not win a general election. She pointed out that the other candidates – a Portuguese-Canadian, an Indo-Canadian, a Catholic and a woman – would once have been thought unelectable. “I don’t believe the people of Ontario judge their leaders on the basis of race, colour or sexual orientation,” she said to loud cheers from her supporters. “I don’t believe they hold that prejudice in their hearts.”
There had been debate in Ms. Wynne’s camp over whether the topic should be in her speech, but campaign insiders say she insisted on including it. Born and raised in Newmarket, Ont., a suburb north of Toronto, the 59-year-old made her career as a professional mediator. She got into politics by way of activism, joining one group opposing the merger of several municipalities into a single city of Toronto and another advocating for better public education during the 1990s cutbacks of then-premier Mike Harris. Elected a school trustee in 2000, she went to Queen’s Park in 2003 after unseating Tory minister David Turnbull. That same election was the one that brought Mr. McGuinty to power, and Ms. Wynne’s star rose quickly. She became education minister in 2006, working on the government’s signature full-day kindergarten program. Ms. Wynne later served in the transportation and municipal affairs portfolios.

^ It's a good step forward for Canada to have it's first openly gay Premier (which is like a Governonr in the US.) I don't know anything about her politics or policies but I hope she helps Ontario and Canada. ^

Holocaust Remembrance Day

From Yahoo:
"Holocaust victims mourned at Auschwitz and beyond"

 Holocaust survivors, politicians, religious leaders and others marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Sunday with solemn prayers and the now oft-repeated warnings to never let such horrors happen again. Events took place at sites including Auschwitz-Birkenau, the former death camp where Hitler's Germany killed at least 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, in southern Poland. In Warsaw, prayers were also held at a monument to the fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943. Pope Benedict XVI, speaking from his window at St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, warned that humanity must always be on guard against a repeat of murderous racism. "The memory of this immense tragedy, which above all struck so harshly the Jewish people, must represent for everyone a constant warning so that the horrors of the past are not repeated, so that every form of hatred and racism is overcome, and that respect for, and dignity of, every human person is encouraged," the German-born pontiff said. Not all words spoken by dignitaries struck the right tone, however. On the sidelines of a ceremony in Milan, former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi sparked outrage when he praised Benito Mussolini for "having done good" despite the Fascist dictator's anti-Jewish laws. Berlusconi also defended Mussolini for allying himself with Hitler, saying he likely reasoned that it would be better to be on the winning side. The United Nations in 2005 designated Jan. 27 as a yearly memorial day for the victims of the Holocaust — 6 million Jews and millions of other victims of Nazi Germany during World War II. The day was chosen because it falls on the anniversary of the liberation in 1945 of Auschwitz, the Nazis' most notorious death camp and a symbol of the evil inflicted across the continent. "Those who experienced the horrors of the cattle cars, ghettos, and concentration camps have witnessed humanity at its very worst and know too well the pain of losing loved ones to senseless violence," U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement. Obama went on to say that like those who resisted the Nazis, "we must commit ourselves to resisting hate and persecution in all its forms. The United States, along with the international community, resolves to stand in the way of any tyrant or dictator who commits crimes against humanity, and stay true to the principle of 'Never Again.'" As every year, Holocaust survivors gathered in the cold Polish winter at Auschwitz — but they shrink in number each year. This year the key event in the ceremonies was the opening of an exhibition prepared by Russian experts that depicts Soviet suffering at the camp and the Soviet role in liberating it. The opening was presided over by Sergey Naryshkin, chairman of the Russian State Duma. Several years ago, Polish officials stopped the opening of a previous exhibition. It was deemed offensive because the Russians depicted Poles, Lithuanians and others in Soviet-controlled territory as Soviet citizens. Poles and others protested this label since they were occupied against their will by the Soviets at the start of World War II. The new exhibition — titled "Tragedy. Courage. Liberation" and prepared by the Museum of the Great Patriotic War in Moscow — removes the controversial terminology. It took years of discussions between Polish and Russian experts to finally complete it. The exhibition narrates the Nazi crimes committed against Soviet POWS at Auschwitz, where they were the fourth largest group of prisoners, and at other sites. And it shows how the Red Army liberated the camp on Jan. 27, 1945, and helped the inmates afterward. Also Sunday, a ceremony was held in Moscow at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, which opened in November and is Russia's first major attempt to tell the story of its Jewish community. The museum portrays Russia as a safe and welcoming place for Jews today despite its history of pogroms and discrimination. In Serbia, survivors and officials gathered at the site of a former concentration camp in the capital, Belgrade, to remember the Jewish, Serb and Roma victims of the Nazi occupation of the country. Parliament speaker Nebojsa Stefanovic said it is the task of the new generations never to forget the Holocaust crimes, including those against Serbs. "Many brutal crimes have been left without punishment, redemption and commemoration," he said. "I want to believe that by remembering the death and suffering of the victims the new generations will be obliged to fight any form of prejudice, racism and chauvinism, anti-Semitism and hatred."

^ I wanted to show how other countries were marking International Holocaust Remebrance Day (and not just Germany.) I am curious to see what the non-Jewish Russians think of the new museum in Russia. ^;_ylt=AulS0lAndyR3

Holocaust Rembered

From the DW:
"Germany marks the liberation of Auschwitz"

Auschwitz is synonymous with the mass murder of Jews, Roma and Sinti, and other groups persecuted by the Nazis. January 27 marks the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz by Soviet troops.   As the Red Army closed in,the liberation of Auschwitz also edged closer. But it would be two long weeks before the time finally came. At last, on January 27, 1945, a Saturday, Soviet troops reached Auschwitz. The German military put up a bitter fight. A total of 231 Red Army troops lost their lives in the battle to liberate the extermination camp. Soviet soldiers found 7,500 camp prisoners who looked more dead than alive. What had happened in Auschwitz was not immediately public. It was in mid-April 1945 when the survivors recounted their ordeals to the German service of the BBC. Anita Lasker, a young cellist, was one of them. "A doctor and a commanding officer stood waiting upon the arrival of the transporters on the ramp and everyone was sorted before our very eyes," she remembered. "That meant, people were asked their age and about the state of their health." Many unsuspecting new arrivals revealed certain ailments, in effect signing their own death warrants. "Children and the elderly were disregarded above all. Right left, right left. Right is to life. Left is to the chimney," one eyewitness said. There was no way out for prisoners at the camp where over a million people were murdered  Auschwitz was the largest and most horrific concentration camp. The National Socialists perfected their system of mass murder there. At the helm was Adolf Eichmann, who headed the so-called Department for Jewish Affairs at the Reich Main Security Office (RSHA), responsible for the SS apparatus of terror. At the end of the war, Eichmann fled to Argentina with the help of the Vatican. In May 1960, he was captured by the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and extradited to Israel. During his trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann attempted to play down his role in the Holocaust. "I condemn and regret the act of extermination of the Jews which the leadership of the German state ordered," he said. Eichmann claimed he was unable to break ranks, saying, "I was just a tool in the hands of the strong and the powerful and an incomprehensible fate." Eichmann's cynical protestations failed to convince the judges. He was found guilty and executed in 1962. The concentration camp Auschwitz, situated around 60 kilometers southwest of Krakow, was built in spring 1940. In September 1941, camp commander Rudolf Höss gave the order for the poisonous gas Zyklon B to be used to murder camp inmates. Zyklon B was originally used as a disinfection agent, the fumes from which could kill a person within minutes. From 1942, the SS deported Jews from across Europe to Auschwitz. From 1943, Jews, Sinti, Roma and others persecuted by the Nazi regime were "industrially" exterminated: The prisoners were murdered in four gas chambers and their corpses were burnen in giant crematoriums.  But not all victims of Auschwitz were gassed. Following their arrival at the camp in over-crowded livestock wagons, detainees were "selected," as Nazi jargon had it, on the unloading ramp. SS doctors decided who would be gassed immediately. One of them was Josef Mengele, who would later be known as the "Angel of Death." Alongside the selection process, Mengele carried out brutal experiments on inmates, including children. After the war, Mengele fled to Argentina, then later to Paraguay and finally Brazil, where he is believed to have lost his life in a bathing accident in 1978. Anita Lasker explained to the BBC about how he experimented on women in the notorious Block 10. "Women were sterilized; that meant they were experimented on like guinea pigs. Jews were just as good for them. Twins were also experimented on. Their tongues were almost pulled out or their noses were opened." Those who appeared to be physically robust were sentenced to forced labor. That included work for the chemical company IG Farben, which had a factory for concentration camp detainees in Auschwitz-Monowitz from 1941. Inmates carried out the most difficult work without proper clothing, nutrition or medical care. After a few months, the forced laborers were starved, died of malnourishment, cold, or as a result of accidents in the workplace. Those who could no longer work were sent back to the extermination camp. Over 30,000 forced laborers were murdered at the IG Farben factory in Auschwitz-Monowitz  The SS murdered more than a million people in Auschwitz. In order to remove any traces of the crimes it committed from the Red Army, the SS blew up the gas chambers and evacuated the majority of the detainees westward at the end of 1944. Charlotte Grunow and Anita Lasker, for example, were taken to Bergen-Belsen in Lower Saxony where they were liberated by British troops in mid-April 1945.  Those who remained in Auschwitz would soon hear the sound of Soviet artillery fire. But the SS wanted to prevent the Red Army from liberating the camp. Nazi henchmen drove the emaciated prisoners out of the camp and forced them to march night and day. Whoever stayed behind was shot. Around 56,000 were taken on the death march. For around 15,000 it was to be their final journey. Their corpses were left strewn along the roadside. The Holocaust, which Eichmann called an "incomprehensible fate" during his trial, cost the lives of over six million people: at least 5.6 million Jews and around half a million Roma and Sinti. Homosexuals, the disabled, and Jehovah's witnesses were also systematically persecuted. Among the dead were 1.5 million children. Germany has officially remembered the victims of the National Socialist regime on January 27 since 1996.

^ I think it is interesting how different countries chose what date to remember the victims of the Holocaust. The UN and most member states chose January 27th when Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviets.  The Israelis chose the date of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in April or May by the Hebrew calendar.The January 27th date is when an army freed the few remaining Jews too sick or dying to leave Auschwitz while the Germans forced the other prisoners on a death march. The April/May date is when the few remaining Jews left in the Warsaw Ghetto fought against the Germans who had deported thousands upon thousands of men, women and children to the death camps. One shows passivity (January 27th) while the other shows resistance (April/May.) Each day should be remembered for what happened on that day. I think the true International Holocaust Remembrance Day should be on May 8th - VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) since it is the day that all the victims of the Holocaust throughout German-occupied Europe were finally freed. ^

Friday, January 25, 2013

Drafting Women

From Yahoo:
"Women in combat: Will they have to register for the draft?"

Now that the Pentagon is lifting its ban on women in combat, does this mean that women could potentially be drafted, too? And as a practical matter: When women turn 18, will they now need to register, as men do, so that they can be conscripted in the event of a World War III, or any military emergency where the US government decides it needs troops quickly? It’s a thorny question, raising what may be a difficult prospect societally. But the legal implications are obvious, analysts argue. “The answer to that question is clearly yes,” says Anne Coughlin, a law professor at the University of Virginia School of Law in Charlottesville. “The legal argument is clear: If it comes to that kind of wrenching emergency where we have to press young people into service, there is no legal justification for saying that men alone need to shoulder that burden.” The wars of the past decade in Iraq and Afghanistan have been fought by an all-volunteer force, since the US military discontinued the draft in 1973. Males between the ages of 18 and 25, however, are still required to register for the Selective Service. Once the combat exclusion policy is lifted, “My belief is that if we open up combat arms to women, even on a voluntary basis, if there is a draft, we should be able to force women into those positions,” says retired Col. Peter Mansoor, a professor of military history at the Ohio State University in Columbus and a former US Army brigade commander who served two tours in Iraq.  “If women are acceptable to serve in combat, they are acceptable to serve whether they volunteer or not. You can’t have the frosting on the cake and not the cake underneath,” he says. Legal precedent backs this up, adds Professor Coughlin, who has advised plaintiffs in lawsuits to overturn the Pentagon’s combat exclusion policy – in particular a US Supreme Court case in 1981, Rostker v. Goldberg. In that suit, men argued that the draft is unconstitutional because only men are required by law to register. The Supreme Court rejected the premise of lawsuit. “The court ruled that the Selective Service process is designed to assemble combat-ready people, and right now women are excluded from combat arms,” Coughlin says. “Therefore they can’t participate in the very thing that the draft is for. Hence, it’s appropriate and constitutional to continue to exclude women from the draft.”  Yet in overturning combat exclusion for women, “The male-only draft falls as well, no question about it,” she adds. Critics of women in combat argue that culturally, the prospect of women being drafted might make the country reluctant to go to war. To that, Professor Mansoor says, “It should be: That’s exactly the debate the country needs to have.” But while the notion of women being drafted “may add some measure of hesitancy to the decision, I don’t see it as swinging the decision,” he says. Even so, “Congress and the president should agonize over going to war. Questions of war should be difficult,” Mansoor adds. “They should not be as easy as they’ve been in the past 10 years.”

^ I agree that women should be treated equally as men and should be allowed to serve in combat as well as sign up for the draft as men do. I do not believe that we will ever have another draft especially considering how it tore the country apart in the 1960s-1970s during the Vietnam War. It seems the US Military is coming a long way (finally.) Not only can homosexuals now openly serve, but women can now be in combat roles. I hope this trend continues and leads to more opportunities being opened for everyone. ^

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Going Home

My sister helped us check out of the hotel, return the rental car and then drove us to the Denver Airport. It was sunny and warm (in the 60s F.) We had no issues checking in. Then we went through security. The “fun” began then. We were directed into a short line that lead to a bigger line. The guy who checks the IDs and boarding passes told us that because of the chair we could cut in front of everyone waiting to go into the full body scanner. There was a TSA guy just standing near-by doing nothing and I asked if he could help us get through all the people and he said he wasn’t allowed to do anything to which I replied “Of course not.” Then I had to try to “cut” in front of lots of people who hadn’t heard what the first TSA guy had said and thought we were just being rude. A female TSA employee came and took my mom – I watched her the whole time – and I waited to push all our items through the x-ray machine and then to go into the full body scanner. They only had a few lines open and there were lots of people with many TSA people standing talking to each other and not doing their job. I don’t like the airports like Dulles and Denver that have one security area for all gates/terminals -  they should separate them. When we were finished with security we had to take the train to our gate. We got to our gate and I saw the same idiot woman that we dealt with our bags when we arrived. I just ignored her (knowing she was going to get in trouble for how she treated us.) This time the plane was completely full. My mom sat by the window while I sat in the middle seat (we had to sit several rows from the door because other passengers from the previous flight wouldn’t be kind and move.) A very large woman sat next to me and kept hitting me and taking my space. It was not very comfortable. The flight itself was fine. Luckily, they didn’t get the 6-12 inches of new snow that was expected so we weren’t delayed.  We landed, got our bags, went to the car and then headed to a diner we know for some food (even though it was 10:30 pm.) We then drove home. Our driveway had about 5 inches of snow and it was -10 F with a windchill of -25 F.

The trip was decent. It was nice to see everyone (although they got us sick.) It was also nice to be in the warmth and sunshine while in Colorado. I still have no desire to live in Colorado Springs. The city is disorganized with businesses thrown everywhere. Also no one has any real yard. All the houses are grouped so close together and then across the street they have open fields.

Colorado Springs

I won’t give a detailed account of the week we spent in Colorado. My mom and I got to see my sister, brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew when they weren’t working or in school (although my sister switched some things and was able to spend more time with us.) We stayed at a Hilton Garden Inn (although I never saw a garden.) We were supposed to have a smoking, handicapped room but they messed up and only gave us a smoking room – and 4 bottles of water to make up for not being able to get a handicapped room (as though water would make it better.) We also rented a car at the Avis counter from the Colorado Springs Airport. The guy was very slimy and when he wasn’t lying to us (about having to charge us for another driver, which was free) he was pushing us for everything and anything he could. He even said my sister was my “significant other” which is just plain gross. It was my first time suing Avis and I probably would use someone else next time.

We went to the Air Force Academy Chapel one day. It seems the Air Force doesn’t care about the handicapped as they make you park about 10 minutes from the entrance and walk an obstacle course to find the few ramps. Then when we finally got into the chapel it is divided into different faiths. The main and largest chapel was for the Protestants. There was a scandal a few years back where the Air Force Academy was charged for forcing everyone –regardless of their faith – to go to the Protestant chapel. We then saw the small Buddhist chapel, Jewish chapel and the Catholic chapel. It would have been better if the Air Force had either made each chapel the same size or have one chapel for all the different faiths. That way the Air Force doesn’t show favoritism for one religion over the others as they did with the Protestantism over all the others.

We went bowling on Fort Carson one day too. I didn’t play, but watched everyone else and took some pictures. It was a nice, quick night (we were only there about 2 hours before they closed.)

My sister is involved with a Krav Maga (Israeli martial arts) and they had a full day demonstration the Saturday we were there. My mom and I went there and stayed a few hours, but then we had to leave to do things for my niece. I would have preferred to stay at the Krav Maga since it was pretty interesting.

We ate Sunday brunch at the Broadmoor. The last time we were in Colorado Springs (in December 2011) we ate at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort for brunch and while that was ok the Broadmoor’s was bigger and better. We had a really nice time eating and hanging out with everyone.

Now to talk more about food. The state I live in doesn’t have many restaurant choices and almost nothing except gas stations and hospitals are open 24/7 so when we were in Colorado Springs we made use of all the food choices. We ate at IHOP a few times, Arbys, Panda Express (which was really nasty,) Edelweiss German Restaurant  (which is really good,) Wendys and Red Robin. We ate at Red Robin twice. The first time with my sister-in-law when we got to Colorado Springs from the Denver Airport. That time we had no issues. The second time we ate there with my sister a few days later and had an incident. We ordered our food (I got a burger with a side salad) and we needed silverware to eat. We asked the waiter for them since they weren’t already on the table. He came back and said they were being washed. Since we didn’t have our food at that time we didn’t press it, but when the food came and we still didn’t have anything we told the woman who brought the food out that we either needed silverware or to take back the food and keep it warm until the silverware was washed. Out of 3 plates she only took 1 back to keep warm. The waiter came back and asked how everything was and we told him. He just said there were no clean silverware and so we asked to speak with the manager. When the manager finally came (after the waiter came back again with nothing and I said he was being an idiot as he expected us to eat salads, etc with our bare hands) he didn’t seem smarter than the rest of his staff. I explained that we wanted the food kept warm until we could get the silverware to eat with. He took the 2 plates back and eventually we got the silverware and the food, but by then I had had enough and just wanted to leave. We also ate at the Texas Roadhouse and the ribs and steak were great.

Trip To Colorado

We left for the airport around 3 am and everything was fine until we got closer to the airport when the snow started coming down at a good clipper. We had to take it very slow as you couldn’t see the lines in the road. We parked in the airport garage and went to check-in. The guy at the Southwest counter was confused when I told him we were going to “gate check” my mom’s wheelchair and so I had to explain that we were “checking in the wheelchair at the gate.” He was nice, but not the smartest person. We then went through security. It’s a small airport and so didn’t take too long although they made us wait because they didn’t have someone to check a passenger that set off the whole body scanner (I still don’t understand why you have to take off your belt and shoes if the machine sees through your clothes.) The airport had a smoking area past security which was nice and then we boarded. The flight wasn’t full and so my mom sat by the window and I sat by the aisle with no one in the middle seat. We waited on the runway, away from the terminal, for an hour because of the 3 inches of snow. You would think that an airport in northern New England would be prepared for such a small amount. When we did take off the flight was long and bumpy. We landed in Denver and waited for our chair to be brought up. The one flight attendant was helpful with that. We took the train to the main terminal where we met my sister-in-law. That’s when the “fun” began. All the signs said that our bags would be at carousel 7 and so like most intelligent people we waited at 7 for them to come. When nothing came I looked around and saw a Southwest employee walking with our bags to the Lost Baggage Office. I stopped her and told her that they were supposed to have come off at 7 like the signs said. She was very stupid and just gave me a blank stare. When she did speak she asked for my baggage tags. I told her that if the bags had come off at 7 like they were supposed to I wouldn’t have to show any ID to get them. She said “Oh well” and so I told her I wanted to speak with her supervisor. She said that her supervisor wasn’t there – of course he/she wasn’t standing in the middle of the airport – and so I said that we then needed to go to where the supervisor was or have he/she come to us. She went to the Lost Baggage Office and went into a room. She called from the room and said the supervisor was busy on the phone and I told her that I still wanted the supervisor right away. She made some stupid remark and went back into the room. I left the Office and told my mom and sister-in-law that the woman was an “idiot.” Right after I said that the 4 female employees standing behind the counter started shouting at me that they were going to “call the police because I was verbally attacking the employee.” These have got to be the dumbest Southwest employees I have ever met. I told them that I was out of their office and said that she was an idiot to my family and not to her face and that if they wanted to call the police then they could and I would love to explain everything to them. In the end the supervisor came out, said something to the women and came over to me. I started explaining the situation about the bags and how the employee “handled” my complaint. The supervisor could have cared less and kept saying that nothing was there fault and that they were not allowed to communicate with anyone (regarding the different baggage carousels.) She was an even bigger idiot than the first woman I dealt with. I saw that I wasn’t getting anywhere with her so I told her that since she wasn’t handling the problem correctly I would file a complaint with her boss and left. I guess the police were never called as they never came. I think the stupid women behind the counter knew I didn’t do anything illegal, but wanted to abuse their authority and threaten me. A few days later I got an online survey from Southwest and wrote about the experience and then filed an official complaint about the two employees. I received a response a few days later which said they were sorry at how I was treated and that they would mention it at their next meeting to make sure it never happened again. I’m surprised Southwest admitted their guilt as they are usually too cocky and can do no wrong in their own minds. We then got into my sister-in-law’s car and drove to Colorado Springs.

Women In Combat

From Yahoo:
"AP sources: Panetta opens combat roles to women"

Senior defense officials say Pentagon chief Leon Panetta is removing the military's ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war. The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule prohibiting women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta's decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women. A senior military official says the services will develop plans for allowing women to seek the combat positions. Some jobs may open as soon as this year. Assessments for others, such as special operations forces, including Navy SEALS and the Army's Delta Force, may take longer. The official said the military chiefs must report back to Panetta with their initial implementation plans by May 15. The announcement on Panetta's decision is not expected until Thursday, so the official spoke on condition of anonymity. Panetta's move expands the Pentagon's action nearly a year ago to open about 14,500 combat positions to women, nearly all of them in the Army. This decision could open more than 230,000 jobs, many in Army and Marine infantry units, to women. In recent years the necessities of war propelled women into jobs as medics, military police and intelligence officers that were sometimes attached — but not formally assigned — to units on the front lines. Women comprise 14 percent of the 1.4 million active military personnel.

^ Women should be allowed to serve in combat if they want to. Ever since they have been allowed to serve in the US military they have come under fire from the enemy and so they should be officially allowed to serve where they would come under fire. ^

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On The Go To CO!

I am going to Colorado and will write again when I get back.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Even The Blind Can See

From Yahoo:
"Blind Russian girl criticizes adoption ban"

A blind Russian high-schooler's impassioned criticism of the ban on adoption by Americans has added a new and compelling voice to the chorus of condemnation of the law. Since her Jan. 6 blog entry complaining about the ban, written as an open letter to President Vladimir Putin, Natasha Pisarenko has attracted the wide attention of Russian media and, she fears, drawn the disapproving notice of authorities. The adoption ban, which went into effect Jan. 1, is one of the most controversial moves of the first year of Putin's third term in the Kremlin. It was enacted as part of a bill retaliating for a new U.S. law that calls for sanctions against Russians deemed to be human rights violators. But critics say it punishes innocent children by denying them a chance of escaping Russia's often-dismal orphanages. Around 20,000 people held a protest march against the measure in Moscow on Sunday that included banners likening Putin to King Herod, whom the Bible says ordered the massacre of Jewish male infants. Pisarenko wrote sarcastically that by signing the law, Putin was "saving children from American evil" and said that Russians rarely adopt disabled children because the country's medical system is backward and can't take care of them. "They die because Russia doesn't have modern medicine," she wrote. Pisarenko, blind from birth, writes that she has painful personal experience with Russia's medical inadequacy. She says that although her father detected her blindness within days of her birth, Russian doctors were unable to diagnose it for months. But, she says, she received precise diagnosis and the hope of treatment from German and American doctors. "For Russian doctors, I am a child with an illness of unknown etiology ... but in Germany and America I am a patient whose sight the doctors are trying to restore," she wrote. Concluding her post, Pisarenko called on Putin to adopt five or 10 children with serious congenital disorders. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted by a local radio station as saying "Of course we will pay attention to such a statement. "This girl is well known to us, she's known by the regional authorities and by the health ministry," he said. Pisarenko and her parents have challenged authorities before, according to Russian media, notably when her parents agitated to have her educated at a regular school in her native Rostov-on-Don, rather than sending her away to a school for the blind. She's now in 10th grade, one year short of graduation under the Russian system. In a later post, she expressed worry that her letter would cause her parents to be called in for questioning by regional authorities.When The Associated Press on Monday asked her father, Nikolai, if Natasha could be interviewed, he said he had been ordered not to comment to news media, but declined to say who issued the order. "Probably, I will regret that I wrote what I think," Natasha wrote in her blog on Saturday.
^ I guess even the blind can see right through this new law. I only hope that the Russian government doesn't try and punish her or her parents for her speaking her mind. If they do than everything she has written and stands for (ie the poor treatment of the disabled in Russia) will be confirmed. ^;_ylt=AsJNjbkF5No4bmi.ptyanqpvaA8F

Operation In Mali

From Yahoo:
"A look at what countries are contributing to Mali"

Here's a look at what countries are providing to help Mali's battle against armed Islamic extremists who have occupied the north since March. West African nations authorized immediate deployment and France launched attacks last week after fighters pushed even further south, toward the capital, Bamako.
France's resources in what they call Operation Serval include:
—200 troops from Operation Epervier in Chad have been flown into Bamako. This includes some French Foreign Legionnaires. And a company of the 2nd marine infantry regiment based in Auvours, France was moved into Bamako on Saturday.
—Gazelle helicopter gunships from the 4th helicopter regiment of the special forces armed with HOT anti-tank missiles and 20mm cannons. The 4th regiment, based in Pau, France, has 12 of these helicopters.
— Four Mirage 2000D fighter jets, based in Chad, and supported by two C135 refueling tankers. In total, France has two Mirage F1 CR reconnaissance jets, six Mirage 2000D, 3 C135s, one C130, 1 Transall C160 stationed in Chad as part of its Operation Epervier.
—Four Rafale fighter jets were quickly moved Sunday from their base in Saint-Dizier France to Mali, where they began bombing operations on Sunday.
—Two C-17 aircraft to carry foreign troops and military equipment to Mali. One C-17 is currently in France and the other is currently at RAF Brize-Norton in England.
—Britain is not offering any troops, but Mark Simmonds, the government minister for Africa, said British personnel also could be involved in training the Malian army.
— Britain's involvement in Mali is expected to last one week, according to the country's armed forces minister Andrew Robathan. The only military personnel there would be a Royal Air Force ground crew intended to service C-17 transport.
U.S. officials have said they offered to send drones to Mali. France's foreign minister said that the U.S. is providing communications, intelligence and transport help.
German officials have ruled out sending any combat troops to support Mali, but French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Germany will offer logistical, humanitarian and medical support.
The European Union says it is speeding up its preparation for a troop training mission in Mali, which will now likely be launched in the second half of February or early March, but the EU is not planning any direct combat role.
ALGERIA: Algerian Foreign Ministry spokesman Amar Belani said on Monday that Algeria was closing the nearly 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) border with Mali. After months of expressing grave doubts over any intervention in Mali, regional powerhouse Algeria has backed the French attack. It has granted overflight rights to French jets heading to northern Mali.
BENIN: Will send 300 troops.
BELGIUM: Transport.
BURKINA FASO: Will send 500 troops to Mali and 500 others to control the northern border. Check points have also been set up in Burkina Faso on roads to it northern border with Mali.
CHAD: To send troops, but no specific number yet.
DENMARK: Transport.
MAURITANIA: Mauritanian armed forces were placed on high alert along the border with Mali. The president says the country would not take part in the fighting in northern Mali. The Mauritanian army had conducted raids in 2010 and 2011 against the bases of al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb in northern Mali.
NIGER: Will send 500 troops to Mali to help fight the Islamic extremists. Date for their departure not yet set.
NIGERIA: Will send 600 troops, according to an announcement Monday by French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius.
SENEGAL: Will send 500 troops to Mali to help with combat.
TOGO: Will send 500 troops.

^ While I think the Islamist Extremists in Mali need to be stopped I am glad that for once it isn't only up to the US to handle everything. I am curious to see if France can win this since their track record hasn't been good in the past. They only won World War 1 because the US entered. They gave up in World War 2 and then collaborated with the Germans. They lost in Indochina in the 1950s and then again in Algeria in the 1960s. I also like that African countries are going to participate as well since it is in their best interest.^;_ylt=Al.h6ImEccMRzxiyq7