Sunday, March 31, 2013


Today is Easter and we just finished our traditional dinner of Polish fare (ham, babka bread, peirogies, asparagus.) We finished with a pineapple upside-down cake. It was a really nice meal. It would have been nice if we could have the rest of our family here but they are around the country and the world.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

I saw this movie yesterday and thought it was really good. Not only did it have an all-star cast (Gerald Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett and Ashley Judd) but it had a good storyline. It was a fast-paced, action movie that delivered on all fronts and was very contemporary with the current North Korean threats being made against us. I have to mention that I think it is funny that in most movies like this one - including this one - a strong military with lots of powerful weapons are no match for the enemy. It is always up to one man to save the day. I also don't understand why the Secret Service don't wear bullet-proof vests or have better guns since they were easily mowed down by the terrorists. With that said it was still a really good film. I used to work in DC and we had monthly meetings about what to do in different situations (ie fires, snowstorms, terrorist attacks) and with most - including an attack - it was simply leave anyway you can. Even though it is a Hollywood film I hope the government officials that be look at it and think of ways to improve security and prevent or stop an attack. I would highly recommend this movie to everyone.

Confederate Debate

From USA Today:
"Confederate flag at old N.C. Capitol coming down"

A Confederate battle flag hung inside the old North Carolina State Capitol last week to mark the sesquicentennial of the Civil War is being taken down after civil rights leaders raised concerns. The decision was announced Friday evening, hours after the Associated Press published a story about the flag, which officials said was part of an historical display intended to replicate how the antebellum building appeared in 1863. The flag had been planned to hang in the House chamber until April 2015, the 150th anniversary of the arrival of federal troops in Raleigh. "This is a temporary exhibit in an historic site, but I've learned the governor's administration is going to use the old House chamber as working space," Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz said Friday night. "Given that information, this display will end this weekend rather than April of 2015." Kim Genardo, the spokeswoman for Gov. Pat McCrory, said the exhibit that includes the Confederate battle flag will be relocated, possibly across the street to the N.C. Museum of History. The decision was a quick about-face for the McCrory administration, which initially defended the display. Many people see the flag as a potent reminder of racial discrimination and bigotry. The presentation of the Confederate battle flag at state government buildings has long been an issue of debate throughout the South. For more than a decade, the NAACP has urged its members to boycott South Carolina because of that state's display of the flag on the State House grounds.  David Goldfield, a history professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and author of the book "Still Fighting the Civil War," said the battle flag can hold starkly different meanings depending on a person's social perspective. "The history of the Confederate battle flag, how it was designed and formulated, how it has been used through the years, clearly states that it is a flag of white supremacy," Goldfield said. "I know current Sons of Confederate Veterans would dispute that, saying 'Hey, I'm not a racist.' But the fact remains that the battle flag was used by a country that had as its foundation the protection and extension of human bondage."

^ The Confederate flag should be banned in the US along with everything honoring the Confederacy just like the Swastika and Nazi things are in Germany. Both the Confederacy and Nazism had the same goal - racial purity - and by displaying and honoring Confederate things only praises racism. Lets not forget that it was the South and the Confederacy that started the Civil War that killed so many people and that they lost - thankfully. When I lived in Virginia the Southerners called one main road the Jefferson Davis Highway while Northerners called it Route 1. You could tell where a person stood just by how he/she called the road. One way recalls bigotry and the other freedom for all. It seems you can tell a lot by a name. ^

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jew In A Box

From Yahoo:
"Exhibit of Jews in Germany Raises Interest, Ire"
"Are there still Jews in Germany?" ''Are the Jews a chosen people?" Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany's 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them. To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors' questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: "Are there still Jews in Germany?" "A lot of our visitors don't know any Jews and have questions they want to ask," museum official Tina Luedecke said. "With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life." But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect. Since the exhibit — "The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews" — opened this month, the "Jew in the Box," as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler's defeat in 1945. "Why don't they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box," prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. "They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I'm not available." The exhibit is reminiscent of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann sitting in a glass booth at the 1961 trial in Israel which led to his execution. And it's certainly more provocative than British actress Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Eran Levy, an Israeli who has lived in Berlin for years, was horrified by the idea of presenting a Jew as a museum piece, even if to answer Germans' questions about Jewish life. "It's a horrible thing to do — completely degrading and not helpful," he said. "The Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews." But several of the volunteers, including both German Jews and Israelis living in Berlin, said the experience in the box is little different from what they go through as Jews living in the country that produced the Nazis. "With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece," volunteer Leeor Englander said. "Once you've been 'outed' as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on." Museum curator Miriam Goldmann, who is Jewish, believes the exhibit's provocative "in your face" approach is the best way to overcome the emotional barriers and deal with a subject that remains painful for both Jews and non-Jews. "We wanted to provoke, that's true, and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable," Goldmann said. "But that's fine by us." The provocative style is evident in other parts of the special exhibition, including some that openly raise many stereotypes of Jews widespread not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe. One includes a placard that asks "how you recognize a Jew?" It's next to an assortment of yarmulkes, black hats and women's hair covers hanging from the ceiling on thin threads. Another asks if Jews consider themselves the chosen people. It includes a poem by Jewish author Leonard Fein: "How odd of God to choose the Jews. But how on earth could we refuse?" Despite the criticisms, the "Jew in the Box" has proven a big hit among visitors. "I asked him about the feelings he has for his country and what he thinks about the conflict with Palestine, if he ever visited Palestine," visitor Panka Chirer-Geyer said. "I have Jewish roots and I've been to Palestine and realized how difficult it was there. I could not even mention that I have Jewish roots."
On a recent day this week, several visitors kept returning to ask questions of Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli seated on a white bench with a pink cushion. One woman wanted to know what to bring her hosts for a Shabbat dinner in Israel. Another asked why only Jewish men and not women wear yarmulkes. A third inquired about Judaism and homosexuality. "I guess I should ask you about the relationship between Germans and Jews," visitor Diemut Poppen said to Porat. "We Germans have so many insecurities when it comes to Jews." Viola Mohaupt-Zitfin, 53, asked if Porat felt welcome as a Jew living among Germans "considering our past and all that." Yes, Porat said, Germany is a good place to live, even as a Jew. But the country could do even more to come to terms with its Nazi past, he added. He advised the would-be traveler that anything is permissible to bring to a Shabbat dinner as long as it's not pork. "I feel a bit like an animal in the zoo, but in reality that's what it's like being a Jew in Germany," Porat said. "You are a very interesting object to most people here." Dekel Peretz, one of the volunteers in the glass box, said many Germans have an image of Jews that is far removed from the reality of contemporary Jewish life. "They associate Jews with the Holocaust and the Nazi era," he said. "Jews don't have a history before or after. In Germany, Jews have been stereotyped as victims. It is important that people here get to know Jews to see that Jews are alive and that we have individual histories. I hope that this exhibit can help."

^ I think this is an interesting way to engage people in something they normally wouldn't do. While it may not be right to have Jews in a box and answer questions elsewhere around the world I think it is one of the best ways in Germany. Jews and Germans have been speaking to each other for the past 70 years and has achieved little in terms of integrating them back into society. Hopefully, this fresh way of trying will work and make the young generations of Germans see Jews (especially those still living in Germany) in a new light. ^

Victory At Last!

Today we got a check with the last restitution money owed to us from the contractor that scammed us. It only took 6 years and a constant battle with Stafford County (who only seem to want to help the criminals rather than the victims.) This makes me one step closer to never having to deal with anything from Virginia ever again and the lying, cheating inbreds from there. Let this be a lesson to others that those who try to scam us will not only go to jail (like the contractor) but we will not stop seeking justice - no matter how long it takes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Equality Box

From Yahoo:
"Gay marriage equality box spreads on social media"

Bud Light said it with beer cans and Martha Stewart with red velvet cake as companies and celebrities from Beyonce to George Takei joined millions of social media users in posting and tweaking a simple red logo in support of gay marriage.A square box with thick pink horizontal lines (the mathematical equal symbol) was offered for sharing this week by the Human Rights Campaign as the U.S. Supreme Court took up arguments in key marriage rights cases. The image, replacing profile pictures on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and elsewhere, is a makeover of the advocacy group's logo, usually a blue background with bright yellow lines. The HRC made it available in red — for the color of love — on Monday and estimated tens of millions of shares by Wednesday. "It shows the enthusiasm and the passion," said Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the nonprofit in Washington, D.C. Like viral campaigns of yore, supporting breast cancer awareness (pink), President Barack Obama (change your middle name to Hussein) and even Arab Spring (green), a bit of fatigue set in on some social media streams by those questioning whether such efforts serve to change any minds.

^ I saw the Equality Box all over Facebook. I believe gay people should be allowed to marry. I like the campaign "Straight, but not narrow" where non-gays show their support for gay rights. People have said that those that support gay rights are gay themselves. That's pretty stupid since history has shown examples of other groups helping those oppressed. Non-Jews helped Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe, men helped women get the right to vote, white Americans helped black Americans bring down Jim Crow in the South. What really gets me is those who strongly oppose making everyone equal and protected under the law. You do not have to agree with their livestyle to support their rights under the law. Hopefully the Supreme Court will make gay marriage legal and we can move on as a better country. ^

Cypriot Controls

From the BBC:
"Cyprus banks to reopen on Thursday after bailout closure"

Banks in Cyprus are to reopen on Thursday at 10:00 GMT, 10 days after they closed to prevent a bank run as a controversial bailout was negotiated.  Customers will also be limited to withdrawing 300 euros ($383; £253) a day, to prevent everyone fleeing with their savings. Earlier, the boss of the Bank of Cyprus was sacked. "I am telling you that all banks are definitely going to open tomorrow," the Cypriot central bank's Aliki Stylianou said.  Capital controls are to be imposed as Cyprus seeks to raise 5.8bn euros to qualify for a 10bn-euro bailout from the European Union, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the so-called troika. Cyprus Finance Minister Michalis Sarris announced a long-awaited series of capital controls. These include the 300-euro daily withdrawal limit, and a ban on cashing cheques. Depositors in Cypriot banks with more than 100,000 euros could see 40% of their funds converted into bank shares, while those with less than 100,000 euros will not lose any funds - but face limits on what funds they can access.Other controls will prohibit people from taking more than 1,000 euros in cash outside the island, with customs officers authorised to make checks at border crossings. Money transfers outside Cyprus are prohibited, with a few very specific exceptions, and there is a limit of 5,000 euros a month in credit or debit card purchases while abroad. The new measures mean that Cyprus is the first eurozone nation to impose capital controls - the absence of which is a fundamental reason behind the monetary union of the 17 members of the euro bloc - since the debt crisis began.

^ I think this is the beginning of the end for the Euro. It was ok while it lasted. ^

Friday, March 22, 2013

Israel-Turkey Imporve Ties

From Yahoo:
"Israel and Turkey agree to restore diplomatic ties"

Israel and Turkey agreed to restore full diplomatic relations on Friday after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu apologized in a phone call for a deadly naval raid against a Gaza-bound international flotilla in a dramatic turnaround partly brokered by President Barack Obama. Joint interests between the two countries, including fears that the Syrian civil war could spill over their respective borders, and some cajoling by Obama made the time ripe to repair the frayed relations after nearly three years of acrimony over the deaths. It was a surprising turnaround for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who had long rejected calls to apologize. He announced the breakthrough after a 20-minute phone conversation with his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Obama helped broker the fence-mending while visiting Israel, but the sides had been reaching out to each other before. "They agreed to restore normalization between Israel and Turkey, including the dispatch of ambassadors and the cancellation of legal steps against Israeli soldiers," a statement from Netanyahu's office said. Netanyahu "regretted the recent deterioration of relations between Israel and Turkey and expressed his commitment to overcoming their differences in order to advance peace and stability in the region," it said. The statement stressed that the bloodshed was not intentional and suggested that relatives of those killed would get compensation. In light of an Israeli investigation into the shootings that pointed to a number of operational missteps, Netanyahu apologized to the Turkish people for "any mistakes that might have led to the loss of life or injury and agreed to conclude an agreement on compensation (and) non-liability," the statement said. Israel and Turkey were once close allies. Relations began to decline after Erdogan, whose party has roots in Turkey's Islamist movement, became prime minister in 2003. Erdogan has embarked on a campaign to make Turkey a regional powerhouse in an attempt to become the leading voice in the Muslim world and distanced from Israel. Tensions raged after Erdogan attacked Israel for the high Palestinian death toll in an Israeli campaign aimed at stopping daily rocket fire from Gaza on Israel in the winter of 2008, at one point storming off a stage he shared with the Israeli president at the high-profile World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

^ I knew this was going to happen sooner or later. Turkey needs Israel just as much as Israel needs Turkey. Hopefully, the two countries can work closer together to stop other countries and organizations from making the Middle East more unstable. ^

Illegal Is The Word

From Yahoo:
"North Carolina drops "scarlet letter" driver's license for immigrants"

North Carolina on Thursday revealed a new look for driver's licenses it will issue to some young undocumented immigrants starting next week, after criticism that the previous design amounted to a "scarlet letter" that could invite discrimination. Immigrants and their advocates had complained about the first design, which featured a pink stripe at the top of the licenses and the words "No Lawful Status" and "Limited Term" in red. The altered licenses have the same color scheme as standard licenses, which use a blue bar. However, the licenses for the young immigrants will include the phrases "Limited Term" and "Legal Presence/No Lawful Status" in red. State law requires a temporary license to have a distinguishing mark, said Mike Charbonneau, a spokesman for the state transportation department. About 40 states and the District of Columbia have said they are granting driver's licenses or plan to do so for undocumented youths who receive short-term reprieve from deportation under a program announced last June by U.S. President Barack Obama. Republicans in some states have opposed licenses for illegal immigrants. Arizona and Nebraska have said outright that young immigrants are ineligible.

^ At least NC is still going to distinguish the licenses of legal residents over those who are illegal. I also like that AZ and NE won't issue them at all. I hope the other states intending to issue them to the illegals follow NC's example. It is only right that those who are here illegally be singled out as they are criminals (regardless if they were too young at the time - to become legal they could always leave the country and re-enter legally like most countries require.) ^

Gov't Stops USPS

From Reuters:
"Congress to force Postal Service to keep Saturday delivery"

Congress foiled the financially beleaguered U.S. Postal Service's plan to end Saturday delivery of first-class mail when it passed legislation on Thursday requiring six-day delivery. The Postal Service, which lost $16 billion last year, said last month it wanted to switch to five-day mail service to save $2 billion annually. Congress traditionally has included a provision in legislation to fund the federal government each year that has prevented the Postal Service from reducing delivery service. The Postal Service had asked Congress not to include the provision this time around. Despite the request, the House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to legislation that maintains the provision, sending it to President Barack Obama to sign into law. The Senate approved the measure on Wednesday. But some lawmakers who support the Postal Service's plan have said there may still be some room for it to change its delivery schedule. They point out that the language requiring six-day delivery is vague and does not prohibit altering what products it delivers on Saturdays. The Postal Service has said that while it would not pick up or deliver first-class mail, magazines and direct mail, it would continue to deliver packages and pharmaceutical drugs on Saturdays.A number of lawmakers and trade groups said the plan to cut Saturday mail service is illegal because the Postal Service requires Congress' approval before it makes such a decision. Democratic Representative Gerald Connolly of Virginia said in a letter to the Government Accountability Office on Thursday that the Postal Service is still bound by the six-day requirement."Unfortunately, the Postmaster General continues to stonewall members of Congress, withholding his legal justifications for eliminating Saturday delivery from postal customers and the American public," Connolly said.
Fredric Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers, said in a statement on Thursday that cutting Saturday mail delivery would harm rural communities and small businesses and "only serve to accelerate a financial ‘death spiral' for the Postal Service."

^ It seems the Federal Government and the USPS are going to fight it out for the first time since the Post Office was de-federalized in the 1970s. I hope the USPS looses since they seem to be overly arrogant and think they can change things without first asking (either the Federal Government or the ordinary public.) ^

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gazan Hebrew

From Yahoo:
"The latest hot language among Palestinians in Gaza? Hebrew"

Students are flocking to a fledgling Hebrew program sponsored by Gaza's Hamas-run government, encouraged by their parents who learned Hebrew through years of working in Israel. For the first time in nearly 20 years, government-run schools in Gaza are teaching Hebrew, and demand is outstripping the supply of qualified teachers. The driving force behind this pilot program? Hamas.“[Israel is] more developed than us, so we can get benefits out of it – in terms of science, in terms of culture,” says Mohamed Suleiman Abu Shqair, the deputy minister of education in the Hamas government. “This is also to prove to the rest of the world … that we are open-minded, even to teach our enemy’s language in our schools.” Many middle-aged Gazans know Hebrew well, since they spent years working in Israel before the border was tightened in 2003. They say it’s only natural that their children should know Hebrew as well and even hold out hope that they could use it to do business with Israel in the future, hinting at a possible thawing of relations between Israel and Gaza. They also laud the insight of Israeli news analysts, and say that watching Israeli TV news – readily available in Gaza, along with cultural and educational programs – can help them better understand not only their neighbor, but also their own society and political climate. The Hebrew language pilot program, launched in September 2012, is still small in scope. Today it reaches only 20 of 400 government schools in Gaza, with each school offering a single class of 30 to 40 students, although Mr. Abu Shqair says that demand is much higher and enrollment is only limited by a shortage of Hebrew teachers. Even the program’s strongest proponents don’t claim that it will improve ties between Israel and Hamas, which is designated by Israel and the West as a terrorist organization. In fact, some suggest that the intent is more to understand the enemy. “We are not looking for developing things with the Israelis, we are learning Hebrew to protect ourselves and to defend our country from the Israeli occupation,” says Maysam El-Khateeb, a Hebrew teacher at the Hassan Salma co-ed school in Gaza City. Citing a popular proverb, she adds, “As we say, if you know the language of the other nations, you will protect yourself from their hatred and evil work.”  One of her students, 14-year-old Nadine, goes even further. When asked why it is important to know the language of one’s enemy, she responds confidently, “To attack them, because we must know how they think, how they talk about us.”
Daniel Fares, a father of 15 who spent most of his life working in Israel, much of it at a Coca-Cola factory, is familiar with the proverb. But he also suggests Hebrew can help improve understanding between Jews and Arabs. His children haven’t learned Hebrew, but he hopes the pilot program will expand to their schools. “In the future they could be translators, analysts, businessmen,” he says, speaking fondly of his Israeli boss at Coca-Cola. Back at Hassan Salma school, Mrs. Khateeb opens her afternoon class by saying “Erev tov!” (Good evening!) "Erev tov," the students respond.
“Who are you? What are you? What are you studying?” she asks, beginning a sing-song pattern of call and repeat that they are clearly familiar with. One by one, girls in white hijabs stand up to answer the queries. “Where is the notebook? Where is the chair?” she quizzes them, and they answer in unison. This is not the way their parents’ generation learned Hebrew. Saba, a taxi driver sitting on the sidewalk with his boss, says he picked up the language during the 12 years he worked in Israel, starting with only a three-month course and then learning from everyday conversations after that.“To learn it with communication is better even than to learn it at schools,” agrees his boss, Mohammed Johar, who regrets not having learned more Hebrew himself.“It’s good for us to know what Israel thinks, what they are saying in Hebrew,” says Mr. Johar. “The Israeli analysts are really good and they know and are aware of their politics and our politics. So if we listen to their analysts and our analysts, we will get a better idea of what’s going on.” Hebrew was taught in Gaza schools from 1967, when Israel captured the small coastal territory in the Six-Day War with its Arab neighbors, until 1994, when the Palestinian Authority was created under the auspices of the Oslo Accords. The PA became responsible for the curriculum in government-run schools and did not include Hebrew, although United Nations schools in Gaza are run separately and did. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank are administered largely independent of each other. Hamas runs Gaza while the PA, dominated by Hamas’s secular rival Fatah, runs the West Bank. While the PA is backed by the West and has ties with Israel, Hamas has refused to recognize Israel’s right to exist and the two entities do not speak directly. Abu Shqair at Gaza’s Ministry of Education insists that the Hebrew pilot program is purely educational and cultural in scope. “We don’t have strategic plans or political plans out of it,” he says. “We don’t have any other ideology in our mind.”But he is eager to expand the program if the government can find enough qualified teachers and hopes that Gaza may one day engage again with Israel. “I don’t want to guess or imagine,” he says, “but if the two people do recognize each other, this will be a normal thing.”

^ I like the idea that the Palestinians in Gaza want to learn Hebrew so they can understand both the Israelis and themselves and can work peacefully to achieve their goals. I do not like those that say they are only learning Hebrew so they can learn how to attack Israel better. Hopefully those who want peace will be in the majority. Language says a lot of a people and to understand their language gives you greater insight into their culture, history, traditions, etc. The Palestinians want their own state and have tried for decades to use bombs, missiles and other terrorist acts to get their dream. That hasn't worked and I doubt it ever will. An intelligent person would take a hard look and see that since decades of violence didn't work maybe they should move away from that and try something new. Maybe they should stop calling for Israel's destruction and start working peacefully and diplomatically to achieve their goals. A country that is constantly being attacked and has always succeeded in protecting itself is not going to give an inch to the attacker, but when the attacks stop the country should be willing to open dialogue and work towards achieving a real peace. Teaching the younger generation Hebrew won't make Palestinians love Israelis overnight, but hopefully it will give the youth a better understanding of the other side as well as teaching them about their own culture and history and with all that knowledge it will make the majority of Gazans cast aside their terrorist ways (or their support of terrorism) and help bring about a lasting peace that will benefit both sides. ^

Monday, March 18, 2013


This week on "The Amazing Race" the teams went to Hanoi, Vietnam. They have been to Vietnam in the past and things go as they normally do on the show (except that they aren't allowed to use their show's flag for clues as it resembles the South Vietnamese flag.) This episode was different. It seems they moved away from entertainment and instead decided to focus on political issues. The teams had to watch a group of Vietnamese Young Communists sing a Communist song over and over again. This communist indoctrination was very blatant and just out of place (the show doesn't do the same when they are in Communist China.) Then in the same show the teams had to get their clue at Ho B-52 which is where an American bomber was shot down over Hanoi in December 1972. The wreckage of the plane is in a lake. There was no need to have the teams (all Americans) go there. It seems to be either TAR's or a productor's way of slapping the Vietnam War into our faces as if to say: See, not only did you loose the war (we shot down your plane), but Communism is still alive and well in Vietnam. They could have also replaced the portraits of Ho Chi Minh with those of Jane Fonda since they are one and the same. It has been 40 years since the US lost the Vietnam War. It seems pretty dumb for the show to force their political views on viewers who only want to be entertained. There was one season when the show made the teams stop and reflect at one of the atomic bomb memorials in Japan - I forget which one. I am glad that the US dropped the atomic bombs since it ended the war sooner rather than later and saved thousands upon thousands of American lives. The show forgets to mention that the Japanese attacked us first and that they continued to refuse to surrender even after we dropped the first atomic bomb and so we were forced to use the second. With regards to Vietnam, the North may have won the war, but the whole country is still very poor. It doesn't seem that Communism has helped them. I'm sure it will soon go the way of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Even Cuba and China are changing how they do things so they can modernize their country and economies and push themselves out of isolation - China is doing it much better than Cuba, but they have have 40 + years longer. Why don't they say how the US beat the USSR in the Cold War whenever the teams are in Russia? Or the same about Germany in World War 2? Maybe the teams should go to Iraq or Afghanistan so we can here the show's views on those wars as well.  I would hope that in future TAR focuses on entertaining its viewers rather than force-feeding us their spin on politics and history. If they want to be arrogant and spew their politics and historical viewpoint then they should either air on CNN or the History Channel otherwise leave well enough alone.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

US-Mexican Border

From Yahoo:
"What would it take to secure the U.S.-Mexico border?"

For immigration reform to proceed, Republicans say, our southern border must be better protected. That won't come cheap

How is the border defended now?
Through a combination of fences and patrols. The Department of Homeland Security has fenced off 651 miles of the 1,969-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico. The barriers are mostly near urban areas and international bridges; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency uses patrols to guard the more remote borderlands in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The agency — currently larger than it's ever been, with over 58,000 personnel — spends $4 billion a year protecting the southwestern border with the help of 16,875 vehicles, 269 aircraft, 300 watercraft, and 300 camera towers. It even uses aerial drones to enhance the scrutiny. President Obama says that the U.S. has now "strengthened border security beyond what many believed was possible." Senate Republicans, though, say they won't agree to immigration reform until the border is better protected. "We must follow through on the broken promises of the past to secure our borders and enforce our laws," said Sen. Marco Rubio.
How many illegal entrants are caught?
In 2012, the Border Patrol apprehended about 357,000 people at the southwestern border — a 78 percent drop since 2000. The government points to the near record lows in illegal migration as evidence of its success at deterring would-be immigrants from crossing illegally. Critics, though, say the decline is mostly a temporary function of the shortage of U.S. job opportunities. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office estimated that only 61 percent of those attempting to cross the border illegally are intercepted; fewer than 100,000 annually are thought to have settled here in recent years. The GAO found that just 44 percent of the border was under "operational control," with nearly two thirds of the remaining 56 percent "monitored," and the rest "low-level monitored." Critics say those numbers prove that security remains porous. "The bottom line is that we are far from having operational control of our borders," said House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas).

How can security be improved?
The Border Patrol could be deployed more efficiently. Currently, nearly 40 percent of the agency's staff is based in Tucson or El Paso, where intense enforcement has resulted in declining numbers of attempted crossings. San Diego has 80 Border Patrol pilots, while the entire Rio Grande Valley has just 15. To cover more-remote areas, Republican lawmakers such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz have advocated erecting more fencing. Arizona has already committed to raising $50 million in private donations to completely fence off its 370-mile border with Mexico. "It's not complicated," said conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer. "Build the damn fence."

Why hasn't that been done?
The cost and logistical challenges would be immense. Estimates from Customs and Border Protection suggest a cost of more than $22.4 billion to build a fence along the entire southwestern border, which runs along riverbanks and through remote deserts, marshlands, and hill country. On top of that would come ongoing maintenance costs: In 2010 alone, the agency repaired 4,037 breaches in the existing fences. The government would also need to expropriate private land, which would be both expensive and unpopular. And the border would still need policing, as illegal immigrants will try to breach, tunnel under, or climb over any fence. It's also possible, some immigration experts say, that ramping up border security could have unintended consequences.

What would those be?
Many illegal immigrants currently cross the border for seasonal work, then go back over to their families in Mexico. Additional border security could halt that ebb and flow, causing many illegal immigrants to choose to stay in the U.S. in perpetuity. Advocates of immigration reform argue that since our economy creates a big demand for the low-wage agricultural, factory, restaurant, and service labor that Mexicans provide, the best way to prevent illegal entrants is to create a realistic system that allows people to come and go on temporary work visas. "It isn't possible to enforce our way out of our immigration problems," said Benjamin Johnson, executive director of the American Immigration Council.

What's likely to happen next?
For reform to move forward, Congress, the White House, and the American people have to agree on what is an acceptable standard of border security. Past precedents suggest this will be difficult. The American Immigration Lawyers Association recently noted that all of the proposed security benchmarks outlined in 2006, 2007, and 2010 immigration bills have been met or exceeded, yet some lawmakers insist that border security remains insufficient. To truly "close" the border, as some demand, would require the equivalent of a 1,969-mile Berlin Wall. "The only nations that have come close to such control were totalitarian, with leaders who had no qualms about imposing border control with shoot-to-kill orders," said political scientist Rey Koslowski of the State University of New York at Albany. As Republican and Democratic senators hammer out fresh immigration legislation, said El Paso Mayor John Cook, their first question should be a basic one: "How secure is secure?"

Paying to get across
Smuggling illegal aliens across the border is now a $6.6 billion industry for Mexican gangs. Rates range from $3,000 to $30,000 for transport across the border, and anyone who tries to cross without the paid assistance of the cartels that control various swaths of the border risks being beaten or shot. About 90 percent of illegal aliens now pay "coyotes" to sneak them across the border, according to the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service. As U.S. border security hardens, the gangs are devising ever more ingenious means of getting across. Smugglers have mocked up fake Halliburton trucks to cross through oil fields that straddle the Texas-Mexico border. They have also used stolen Fed-Ex, UPS, and AT&T service trucks to ferry illegal immigrants into the U.S.

^ The US-Mexican border needs to be completely protected once and for all whether it is by building a fence or doing something else. It is worthless to have Border posts on parts of the border and then nothing for the majority as illegals and others will simply go to the unmanned places and cross over. I have experienced tighter security on the US-Canadian border than I did on the US-Mexican one and that is just plain stupid since the facts over the past decades show more illegals coming from the South than the North. ^

Cypriot Run

From the BBC:
"Shock in Cyprus as savers face bailout levy"

People in Cyprus have reacted with shock to news of a one-off levy of up to 10% on savings as part of a 10bn-euro (£8.7bn; $13bn) bailout agreed in Brussels. Savers could be seen queuing at cash machines amid resentment at the charge. The deal reached with euro partners and the IMF marks a radical departure from previous international aid packages.  President Nicos Anastasiades defended it as a "painful" step, taken to avoid a disorderly bankruptcy. It had, he said in a statement, been a choice between the "catastrophic scenario of disorderly bankruptcy or the scenario of a painful but controlled management of the crisis". The Cypriot leader, who was elected last month on a promise to tackle the country's debt crisis, will address the nation on Sunday. While Cyprus may be one of the eurozone's tiniest economies - its third-smallest - there could be serious repercussions for other financially over-stretched economies, such as those of Spain and Italy, BBC Business editor Robert Peston writes. The point of the levy is to warn lenders to banks that they should take care where they place their funds, and avoid banks that overstretch themselves - as Cypriot banks did, he adds. Cyprus is the fifth country after Greece, the Republic of Ireland, Portugal and Spain to turn to the eurozone for financial help during the region's debt crisis. The country has been in financial difficulties since the collapse of the Greek economy, where Cypriot banks had huge investments.  It appears that the heavy presence of Russian money in Cypriot banks was a factor in imposing the levy. People in Cyprus with less than 100,000 euros in their accounts will have to pay a one-time tax of 6.75%, Eurozone officials said.  Those with greater sums will lose 9.9%. Depositors will be compensated with the equivalent amount in shares in their banks. Reports suggest that depositors will be able to access all of their money except the amount set by the levy.  The levy itself will not take effect until Tuesday, following a public holiday, but action is being taken to control electronic money transfers over the weekend. Co-operative banks, the only ones open in Cyprus on Saturday, closed after people started queuing to withdraw their money. At one bank in the Limassol district, a frustrated man parked his bulldozer outside and threatened to break in.  Alan, a British expatriate saver in Cyprus, told BBC News: "This is robbery and we must get the EU to stop this.  "We retire and bring our savings to a bank in Cyprus and they can just take our money away without permission and then say we have shares in a bankrupt bank." Maria Zembyla, from Nicosia, said the levy would make a "big dent" in her family's savings and "erode the investor confidence". "Russians that currently keep the economy afloat will leave the country along with their money," she added. According to Reuters news agency, almost half of the depositors in Cyprus are believed to be non-resident Russians.  There has also been speculation that Russia could help finance the bailout by extending a 2.5bn-euro loan already made to Cyprus.  Cyprus Finance Minister Michael Sarris will travel to Moscow for meetings on Monday, reports say. "My understanding is that the Russian government is ready to make a contribution with an extension of the loan and a reduction of the interest rate," said the EU's top economic official, Olli Rehn. European regulators and politicians are convinced that a vast amount of cash in Cypriot banks belongs to Russian money launderers, our business editor writes. Russians reacted angrily to the news of the levy on social media. "Russia agrees to help a troubled EU state, and the EU calls Russian investors money-launderers? This is totally unfair," Moscow-based blogger Igor Kim told the BBC News website.  "Levying a 10% charge on investors is barbarian, interventionist and more Soviet than the Soviet Union!" In Berlin, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble called the levy part of the "fair" distribution of the bailout's burden.

^ This is such a mess. The EU has done an awful job in dealing with its debt crisis. It lets countries do whatever they want for years and then bails them out. Now it is attacking the ordinary citizens of Cyprus and their hard-earned money when it should be going after the Cypriot Government and banking system (along with the other countries in need of a bailout.) I have been to Cyprus and have no real love for the country, but still think the EU is using them as a scapegoat. I have several friends who live in Cyprus and they are affected by all of this. I thought the German Finance Minister's comment should true German arrogance in all this mess. I wonder what he and other Germans would be saying and doing if the EU forced all Germans to pay the tax to get their own money? I'm sure it would be the same as the Cypriots'. Any country that openly tries to join the Euro zone right now needs to have a menal evaluation done. ^

Support Israel

From the JP:
"Poll: American sympathy for Israel at record high"

Americans' sympathies for Israel matched an all time high according to a Gallup poll released Friday, just five days before US President Barack Obama was scheduled to visit Israel for the first time as president. According to the poll, Americans' sympathies lean heavily toward the Israelis over the Palestinians, 64 percent vs. 12%.  While partiality to Israel has topped 60% consistently since 2010, the 64% recorded in Friday's poll matched the previous record seen in 1991, during the first Gulf War. In the 1991 Gallup poll, only 7% of respondents sympathized more with Palestinians than Israelis. Analysis of the poll data showed that Republicans, conservatives and older Americans were more likely to be partial to Israel. Republicans (78%) were much more likely to sympathize with Israel than Democrats (55%), according to the poll. Democratic support for Israel has increased by four percent since 2001, while Republican support for the Jewish state has jumped 18 percentage points in the same period. The percentage of respondents favoring the Palestinians increases with formal education, ranging from 8% of those with no college experience to 20% of postgraduates.
"Palestinians receive the highest sympathy from Democrats, liberals, and postgraduates, but even among these, support tops off at 24%," according to Gallup.

^ This is great news. Israel has been a good ally to the US for decades just as we have been to them. They are a stable, democracy in a very unstable and mostly anti-American region. I would  also support the Palestinians if they rejected the terrorist government they elected that openly calls for Israel's destruction -  anyone who supports them now is supporting known terrorists.  ^

Friday, March 15, 2013

EU Travel Rules

From the BBC:
"EU unveils new air passenger rights"

New rights for airline passengers have been unveiled by the European Commission. They include rerouting travellers with rival carriers if a flight is delayed for more than 12 hours. The rules also clarify what are considered exceptional circumstances for compensation.  For example, mechanical failures on board the aircraft do not count, but natural disasters and traffic control strikes do. The Commission says the new rules, which are not likely to become law until 2014, will give a lot more certainty to airlines and passengers. "It is very important that passenger rights do not just exist on paper," said EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas. He added: "We know that the real priority for stranded passengers is just to get home. So our focus is on information, care and effective rerouting."
For this reason, airlines have been given more time to solve any problems, so as to encourage them to not to cancel the flight. During the Icelandic ash cloud crisis in 2010, when no flights could take off in Europe for several days, there was much confusion about how much responsibility the airlines should carry for the welfare of its passengers.  Some airlines were initially very reluctant to cover passengers' costs, but threats from the European authorities brought them into line.  There have also been some concessions to industry. Under the planned measures, airlines will have to pay for a maximum of three nights' hotel accommodation - although this does not apply to passengers with reduced mobility, unaccompanied children or pregnant women. "Critics from both consumer groups and industry have been vociferous in their concerns about the interpretations of the rules," says aviation expert Steven Truxal from City University. At times, they are seen as divergent, lacking certainty and therefore contributing to the confusion around air passenger rights and air carrier liability." Some observers go further. "They [the Commission] haven't tackled the big problem, which is that airlines will continue to misrepresent what the rules actually are and dodge their obligations. They haven't said what will happen to the airlines," said Simon Calder, travel editor at the Independent. "Until they make sure that they get the enforcement right, there's not a lot point bringing lots of extra new rules in," he added. The European Consumer Centre agrees that it can be a difficult process for customers getting compensation. The Commission also wants complaints to be dealt with more promptly. "The main problem for passengers is that, while they have very strong passenger rights defined under EU law, they can have difficulty claiming them and feel frustrated when air carriers do not appear to apply them," it said in a statement explaining the rules. It wants to make it a requirement for airlines to acknowledge receipt of a complaint within a week and provide a formal reply within two months. Tarmac delays A survey carried out in Denmark showed that just 2-4% of passengers entitled to financial compensation received it. And if a plane is boarded and sits on the tarmac for more than five hours, passengers will have the right to demand to be let off. If the tarmac delay is more than an hour, the airline must provide air conditioning, use of toilets and water.

Other changes include:

  • Financial compensation to be triggered after a minimum five-hour delay (currently stands at three) on any flight within the EU or international flight shorter than 3,500km
  • For longer international flights, compensation will be due after a delay of nine hours up to 6,000km and after 12 hours for longer journeys
  • Airlines will also be required to inform passengers about delays and provide an explanation no later than 30 minutes after the scheduled departure time
  • Carriers no longer able to charge for correcting misspelt names on tickets
  • Musicians allowed to bring smaller instruments into the cabin, while there must be clear terms and conditions for transporting larger instruments in the cargo hold.

The proposals are subject to approval by member states and the European Parliament. They apply only to European airlines.

^ On the one hand these new rules sound good, but when you read the fine-print they don't seem all great. Why are passengers with reduced mobility, unaccompanied children or pregnant women not given the 3 days hotel accomondation? Why can the airlines discriminate against them? I also don't like that there is a 5, 9 or 12 hour tarmac time limit  - in the US it's 3 hours for domestic and I believe 5 for international. 9 or 12 hours stuck on a plane is beyond stupid and should never be allowed. I also don't understand why it only applies to European planes. It should apply to any airline flying within the EU. The EU tries to act as though they are doing great things for the millions upon millions of its citizens and tourists and yet allow so many loop-holes to make the rules/laws effective. ^

War Costs

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Study: Iraq war cost 190,000 lives, $2.2 trillion"

The US-led war in Iraq claimed 190,000 lives and will cost the US government at least 2.2 trillion dollars, according to the findings of a project at Brown University released Thursday. The Costs of War report, released ahead of the 10th anniversary of the war on March 20, said that the financial calculation included "substantial" costs to care for wounded US veterans.  A small number of the 190,000 dead were US casualties: 4,488 US military members and at least 3,400 US contractors, according to the report. The US government has spent 60 billion dollars on reconstruction, but little has gone to restoring destroyed infrastructure. Most of the money has gone to the Iraqi military and police, the report noted. The US State Department conceded that both countries made "enormous sacrifices." Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, responding to the Costs of War report, said that the United States and Iraq have forged a "strategically important bilateral relationship." "Compared to where we were in the Saddam era, we now have a bilateral security agreement. We have deep economic interests and ties. We have a security relationship. We have a political relationship," she said. The Costs of War project involved 30 economists, anthropologists, lawyers, humanitarian personnel and political scientists from 15 universities, the United Nations and other organizations.

^ War is hell and the cost of war is just as bad. Wars are started by politicians and those wounded and killed are the soldiers and civillians. Whether you agreed with the war or not is besides the point. The point is that thousands upon thousands of people were killed, Saddam is dead and now the US needs to step-up its support for the soldiers wounded. ^

No More Death In MD

From the USA Today:
"Maryland will be 18th state to ban death penalty"

The Maryland General Assembly on Friday approved a measure to ban capital punishment, which would make the state the 18th in the U.S. to do so. It now needs the governor's approval.
Gov. Martin O'Malley is expected to sign it. Supporters argue that capital punishment is costly, error-prone, racially biased and a poor deterrent. Opponents say it's a necessary tool to punish those who commit the most egregious crimes. Capital punishment has been on hold in Maryland since a December 2006 ruling by the state's highest court that the lethal injection protocols weren't properly approved by a legislative committee. Maryland has a large Catholic population, and the church opposes the death penalty. According to the Maryland Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services website, Maryland has only executed five inmates since 1976. In contrast, neighboring Virginia has executed 110 inmates since the U.S. Supreme Court restored capital punishment in 1976, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. However, Virginia's death row population has dwindled to eight from a peak of 57 in 1995, in part because fewer death sentences are being handed down in the state amid an increased acceptance of life without parole as a reasonable alternative.
The center said death sentences have declined by 75% and executions by 60% nationally since the 1990s.

^ I believe that countries and states that ban the death penalty are living in a land of "lemon drops and moon beams" and do not live in the real world. It is one thing to have the death penalty and to use it wisely and sparingly and another to have it and abuse it. Not having the death penalty and not using it for: war criminals, rapists, murderers and terrorists just shows criminals and the victims that you do not care about the violence that was committed and would rather put your head in the sand  - like an ostrich - than deal with reality. ^

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

New Pope

I came home from doing my errands just in time to see the new Pope named live on TV. Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio the son of Italian immigrants born in Argentina has taken the name of Pope Francis 1st (Franciscus in Latin.) He is the 266th Pope and hopefully will bring the Catholic Church back to the great deeds that Pope John  Paul 2nd strove for. I have high hopes for Pope Francis just from his acceptance speech where he asked the crowd to pray for him before he blessed them.
I do not know a whole lot about the man, the cardinal who just became the new Pope and so looked him up. I think it is interesting to see that the Papacy is back in Italian hands with an Argentinian upbringing. It keeps the highest position in the Catholic Church traditional (Italian) as well as non-traditional (Argentinian.) They say he can work well with both the Conservatives and the Liberals and I hope he can find a balance between the two to make the Catholic Church the best it can be.

Here's a brief summary from Wikipedia:

Jorge Bergoglio was born in Buenos Aires, one of the five children of an Italian railway worker and his wife. After studying at the seminary in Villa Devoto, he entered the Society of Jesus on March 11, 1958. Bergoglio obtained a licentiate in philosophy from the Colegio Máximo San José in San Miguel, and then taught literature and psychology at the Colegio de la Inmaculada in Santa Fe, and the Colegio del Salvador in Buenos Aires. He was ordained to the priesthood on December 13, 1969, by Archbishop Ramón José Castellano. He attended the Philosophical and Theological Faculty of San Miguel, a seminary in San Miguel. Bergoglio attained the position of novice master there and became professor of theology. Impressed with his leadership skills, the Society of Jesus promoted Bergoglio and he served as provincial for Argentina from 1973 to 1979. He was transferred in 1980 to become the rector of the seminary in San Miguel where he had studied. He served in that capacity until 1986. He completed his doctoral dissertation in Germany and returned to his homeland to serve as confessor and spiritual director in Córdoba. Bergoglio succeeded Cardinal Quarracino on February 28, 1998. He was concurrently named ordinary for Eastern Catholics in Argentina, who lacked their own prelate. Pope John Paul II summoned the newly named archbishop to the consistory of February 21, 2001 in Vatican City and elevated Bergoglio with the papal honors of a cardinal. He was named to the Cardinal-Priest of Saint Robert Bellarmino.  As cardinal, Bergoglio was appointed to several administrative positions in the Roman Curia. He served on the Congregation of Clergy, Congregation of Divine Worship and Sacraments, Congregation of Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Congregation of Societies of Apostolic Life. Bergoglio became a member of the Commission on Latin American and the Family Council. As Cardinal, Bergoglio became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle has contributed to his reputation for humility. He lives in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop's residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation, and he reportedly cooks his own meals. Upon the death of Pope John Paul II, Bergoglio, considered papabile himself, participated in the 2005 papal conclave as a cardinal elector, the conclave that selected Pope Benedict XVI. A widespread theory says that he was in a tight fight with cardinal Ratzinger, later elected the pope, until he himself adviced crying  not to be voted. Earlier, he had participated in the funeral of Pope John Paul II and acted as a regent alongside the College of Cardinals, governing the Holy See and the Roman Catholic Church during the interregnum sede vacante period. During the 2005 Synod of Bishops, he was elected a member of the Post-Synodal council. Catholic journalist John L. Allen, Jr. reported that Bergoglio was a frontrunner in the 2005 Conclave. An unauthorized diary of uncertain authenticity released in September 2005 confirmed that Bergogolio was the runner-up and main challenger of Cardinal Ratzinger at that conclave. The purported diary of the anonymous cardinal claimed Bergoglio received 40 votes in the third ballot, but fell back to 26 at the fourth and decisive ballot. On November 8, 2005, Bergoglio was elected President of the Argentine Episcopal Conference for a three-year term (2005–2008) by a large majority of the Argentine bishops, which according to reports confirms his local leadership and the international prestige earned by his alleged performance in the conclave. He was reelected on November 11, 2008.  Cardinal Bergoglio was elected Pope Francis I on the second day of the 2013 Papal conclave.

Abortion and euthanasia:

Cardinal Bergoglio has invited his clergy and laity to oppose both abortion and euthanasia.[6]


He has affirmed church teaching on homosexuality, though he teaches the importance of respecting individuals who are homosexual. He strongly opposed legislation introduced in 2010 by the Argentine Government to allow same-sex marriage. In a letter to the monasteries of Buenos Aires, he wrote: "Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God." He has also insisted that adoption by homosexuals is a form of discrimination against children. This position received a rebuke from Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who said the church's tone was reminiscent of "medieval times and the Inquisition".

Relations with the Argentine government:

On April 15, 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Bergoglio, accusing him of conspiring with the junta in 1976 to kidnap two Jesuit priests, whom he, as superior of the Society of Jesus of Argentina in 1976, had asked to leave their pastoral work following conflict within the Society over how to respond to the new military dictatorship, with some priests advocating a violent overthrow. Bergoglio's spokesman has flatly denied the allegations. No evidence was presented linking the cardinal to this crime.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Falklands British

From BBC:
"Falklands referendum: Voters choose to remain UK territory"

The people of the Falkland Islands have voted overwhelmingly in favour of remaining a UK overseas territory. Of 1,517 votes cast in the two-day referendum - on a turnout of more than 90% - 1,513 were in favour, while just three votes were against.  It follows pressure from Argentina over its claims to the islands, 31 years after the Falklands War with the UK. The UK government welcomed the result and urged "all countries" to accept it and respect the islanders' wishes. The referendum had asked: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom?" There was a turnout of more than 90% from 1,672 British citizens eligible to vote in a population of about 2,900.  Nigel Haywood, governor of the Falkland Islands, said: "Obviously it is a major principle of the United Nations that a people have their right to self-determination, and you don't get a much clearer expression of the people's self-determination than such a large turnout and such a large 'yes' vote."  UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "We have always been clear that we believe in the rights of the Falklands people to determine their own futures and to decide on the path they wish to take. It is only right that, in the 21st Century, these rights are respected. "All countries should accept the results of this referendum and support the Falkland islanders as they continue to develop their home and their economy. I wish them every success in doing so." Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has maintained that the Falkland islanders' wishes are not relevant in what is a territorial issue. Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982. The garrison of the UK's Royal Marines was overwhelmed and other British South Atlantic territories including South Georgia were also seized. In two months of fighting after the UK military responded, 255 British and about 650 Argentine servicemen were killed, along with three Falklands civilians, before Argentine forces surrendered. Argentina says it inherited the islands from the Spanish crown in 1767 and the islands were seized by Britain in 1833, but the UK says it had long previously established a settlement there and never relinquished sovereignty. It says it has continuously inhabited and administered the islands since 1833.

^ Hopefully, this will end the British-Argentinian tension for a while. I don't think Argentina would think of invading the Falkland Islands again since they lost 31 years ago. I would hope that the Falkland Islanders can now move on from all of this. ^

CO Union

From Yahoo:
"Colorado lawmakers approve bill for same-sex civil unions"

Colorado lawmakers approved a bill on Tuesday to legalize same-sex civil unions, and the U.S. state's Democratic governor, who has indicated his support, was expected to sign the measure into law. The Colorado House Democrats said the measure, which passed by a 39-26 vote in the state House of Representatives, would provide benefits, protections and responsibilities to gay couples similar to those granted heterosexual pairs. The measure had already been approved by the state Senate. "This bill is about three simple things: it's about love, it's about family and it's about equality under the law," Colorado House Speaker Mark Ferrandino, an openly gay Democrat and a sponsor of the bill, told fellow lawmakers. Nine U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow same-sex marriage. Voters in Washington state, Maine and Maryland last November became the first in the nation to approve same-sex marriage at the ballot box. Eight other states allow civil unions, according to gay rights group the Human Rights Campaign. In his 2012 executive order calling for that session, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper said the bill was needed so that couples, regardless of their sexual orientation, could "take care of each other and their families".

^ It's not marriage, but it's a start Colorado. ^

Monday, March 11, 2013

Bulgaria Sorry

From the BBC:
"Bulgaria regrets failing to save thousands of Jews in WWII"

Bulgaria has expressed regret that more than 11,000 Jews were deported to Nazi concentration camps from areas under Bulgarian control during World War II.  A Bulgarian parliament declaration did however praise Bulgarians for having blocked the deportation of more than 48,000 Jews during the war. It said it could "not be disputed that 11,343 Jews were deported from northern Greece and the Kingdom of Yugoslavia". Most Jews sent to the Nazi German death camps in Poland died. Referring to the 11,343 deported, the MPs' declaration said "we denounce this criminal act, undertaken by Hitler's command, and express our regrets for the fact that the local Bulgarian administration had not been in a position to stop this act". Yad Vashem lists 20 Bulgarians among its "Righteous Among the Nations" - individuals who acted to protect Jews from the Holocaust. Bulgaria was an ally of Nazi Germany during the war, when Jews were deported en masse from the Nazi-occupied Balkans to death camps such as Auschwitz.  In 1943, German forces took 8,500 Jews to a square in the Bulgarian city of Plovdiv in preparation for deportation to death camps in Poland. But they gave up their plans following protests from ordinary Bulgarians, Christian clergymen, politicians and King Boris III.  The Bulgarian MPs on Friday praised the stand taken by Bulgarians against the deportations, saying Jews had been saved by being given Bulgarian citizenship or visas to Palestine issued by Bulgarian diplomats. On 13 March a joint commemoration in honour of Holocaust victims will be held by Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece in Lom, northern Bulgaria. The Nazi deportations of Jews from the region began in Lom in 1943. The US Holocaust Memorial Museum says that "Jews of Bulgarian citizenship were relatively secure from deportation to German-held territory". But the museum adds that all Bulgarian Jewish men between the ages of 20 and 40 were drafted for forced labour after 1941, and in 1943 the Bulgarian government expelled 20,000 Jews from the capital, Sofia, to the provinces.

^ It's always good when a country acknowledges their past (whether good or bad.) Every country in the world has done good things and also bad things. While most willingly shout and praise the good most do little to nothing about the bad. When a country admits its dark past and works to overcome it then it shows they are truly a great country. ^

Anschluss Austria: 75 Years

From Yahoo Canada:
"Incidents make Jews wary, 75 years after Hitler annexed Austria"

Marina Plistiev, a Kyrgyzstan-born Jew, has lived in Vienna for 34 years but still doesn't like to take public transport.She recalls the day in 1986 as a teenager when she and her four-year-old brother, whom she'd collected from school with a fever, were told to get off a tram for having the wrong tickets, and nobody stuck up for them, apparently because they were Jews. "With me (now), you don't see I'm Jewish but with my children you see that they're Jews. They get funny looks," she told Reuters at Kosherland, the grocery store that she and her husband started 13 years ago. While Austria is one of the world's wealthiest, most law-abiding and stable democracies, the anti-Semitism that Plistiev senses quietly lingers in a nation that was once a enthusiastic executor of Nazi Germany's Holocaust against Jews. After decades of airbrushing it out of history, Austria has come a long way in acknowledging its Nazi past, and the 75th anniversary on Tuesday of its annexation by Hitler's Third Reich will be the occasion for various soul-searching ceremonies. But Jewish leaders who fought hard to win restitution after World War Two are on guard against a rising trend in anti-Semitic incidents, occasionally condemned by Austrian political leaders but seen more generally as a regrettable fact of life. A new poll timed to coincide with the anniversary found that three of five Austrians want a "strong man" to lead the country and two out of five think things were not all bad under Adolf Hitler. That was more than in previous surveys. The history of Vienna - once home to Jewish luminaries of 20th-century culture such as Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Arnold Schoenberg, but later Adolf Eichmann's testing ground for what would become the "Final Solution" that led to genocide of 6 million Jews - means its Jews are always on the alert. Seeking to avoid being forever branded as the country that welcomed absorption by the Third Reich and refused to atone for it, Austria has made gestures to underline its disowning of both the Nazi past and previous manifestations of anti-Semitism. Rabbi Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Congress advocacy group has seen a marked change since a 1991 poll that he helped design found that most Austrians thought it was time to put the memories of the Holocaust behind them. "There was still a social anti-Semitism that kind of defied embarrassment," he said. "The Austrians have come a long way since then, but they had a long way to go." Today's Austrian Jewish community of 15,000 is diverse, formed mainly of post-war immigrants from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Before the 1938 annexation, the "Anschluss", Austria's Jewish population was 195,000, the same size as present-day Linz, a provincial capital not far from Hitler's birthplace. Two-thirds of them were driven out in the "Aryanisation" program immediately following the Anschluss and all but about 2,000 left behind were killed in concentration camps. Today's Austrian Jewish community is almost entirely in Vienna.
"The most terrible thing was not the way hundreds of thousands of Austrians celebrated Hitler's arrival, but the enthusiasm with which they dispossessed the Jews," recalled Ari Rath, a Holocaust survivor who fled Vienna at the age of 13. "We went from being people to non-persons overnight," he said in fluent German, a language he suppressed for decades. "It's a different Austria now, but you cannot forget it took until 41 years after the war ... before Austrians began seriously to confront the Nazi past of this country." He was referring to the so-called Waldheim Affair of the mid-1980s, in which President Kurt Waldheim was outed as having hidden his knowledge of German atrocities during his wartime past as a Nazi military officer. The case triggered a long-suppressed international debate about Austria's history. Austrians, many of whom had wanted a union with Germany, maintained for decades that their country was Hitler's first victim, ignoring the fact that huge, cheering crowds had greeted Hitler in March 1938 with flowers, Nazi flags and salute. Within days of March 12, tens of thousands of Jews and dissenters were under arrest, imprisoned or packed off to concentration camps. Jews were shut out of jobs and schools, forced to wear yellow badges, and had their property confiscated.
^ As the article states it took Austria 41 years to even consider their role in the Holocaust and so it will take them a lot longer to fully move away from it. People wonder why the Austrians were harsher Nazis than the Germans were. It shouldn't be a big surprise. Hitler was Austrian. Plus in most circumstances people on the outs want to show their loyalty and so tend to be more aggressive in their approach. The German Nazis had since 1933 to show their loyalty to the Party while the Austrians started in 1938 and so many felt they had to make up for lost time. Of course that doesn't excuse all the horrible things they did from then to 1945. ^