Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Compensation

From BBC:
"Germany to pay Holocaust victims new compensation"

Germany has agreed to pay an extra 800 million euros (£685 million) to help care for Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust.  It is thought about 56,000 people worldwide will benefit, one third of them in Israel.  The aim is to help ensure elderly Holocaust survivors can live their final years in dignity.  Germany has also agreed to widen the scope of those eligible, to include people who lived in open ghettos.  The Jewish Claims Conference, which represents Jews caught up in the Holocaust and their descendents, welcomed the announcement. "We are seeing Germany's continued commitment to fulfil its historic obligation to Nazi victims," said Stuart Eizenstat, the Claims Conference's special negotiator, in a statement on the organisation's website. He said the main beneficiaries would be people whose "early life was filled with indescribable tragedy and trauma". A German finance ministry spokesman confirmed the details of the compensation. Mr Eizenstat, who is a former US ambassador to the European Union, added that the move was "all the more impressive since it comes at a time of budget austerity in Germany". The open ghettos referred to were those without walls but where residents "lived in constant fear of deportation by the Nazis", according to the Claims Conference. The former West German government acknowledged the murder of six million Jews by the Nazi regime and began, in 1952, to pay compensation to Israel.  Last year, the German finance ministry said it would make one-off payments worth 2,556 euros (£2188) each to Jewish victims of the Holocaust who had still not received any compensation.  Many of them live in the former Soviet Union.

^ It seems that the current generation of German officials are truly trying to make amends for the horrors and crimes done by their parents and grandparents. Not only are they opening new cases against former Nazis and their collaborators, but now they are giving more compensation to the survivors. Of course there is no amount of money that anyone could give to erase the pain and suffering that happened during the war and the Holocaust, but this new amount will hopefully ease some of the burdens faced by the now very old survivors. The Nazis murdered the elderly right away because they were deemed unfit to work and now the current German government is trying to help the elderly survivors live the rest of their lives as peacefully as possible considering what they went through so many years ago. ^

Broadcast Wedding

From Yahoo:
"France's first gay marriage is broadcast to nation"

In a historic ceremony broadcast live on French television, the first gay couple to marry in France said "oui," then sealed the deal with a lengthy and very public kiss. Hundreds of invited guests including a government minister gathered for the moving ceremony Wednesday inside city hall in southern French city of Montpellier. Hundreds more flocked to the square outside the building as Vincent Autin, 40, and his 30-year-old partner, Bruno Boileau, were wed. The politically charged ceremony was held under tight police surveillance — a stark reminder of the months of bruising opposition to the new gay marriage law that French lawmakers passed earlier this month. France is the 14th country so far — and the biggest in political and economic weight — to recognize gay marriage.

^ While I think homosexuals should be allowed to marry and have the same civil rights as everyone else I don't think the ceremony needed to be put on TV. If the French TV channel also puts heterosexual weddings on then it is fine, but to put just a homosexual wedding on shows that there is something unique - and it shouldn't be unique - it should be commonplace. ^;_ylt=AqeUptCBQ.2gQ45XbI9389A

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Maple Syrup Currency

From the Globe and Mail:
"Think the new banknotes smell like maple syrup? You’re not alone "

The penny may be history, but some Canadians suspect the Bank of Canada has been circulating a new scent along with its plastic bank notes. Dozens of people who contacted the bank in the months after the polymer notes first appeared asked about a secret scratch-and-sniff patch that apparently smells like maple syrup.  “I would like to know ... once and for all if these bills are in fact scented, as I do detect a hint of maple when smelling the bill,” says a typical e-mail from a perplexed citizen.
Said another: “They all have a scent which I’d say smells like maple? Please advise if this is normal?” Under the Access to Information Act, The Canadian Press obtained a year’s worth of correspondence to the Bank of Canada from ordinary Canadians about the new currency. Names were withheld to protect privacy. For the record, bank official Jeremy Harrison says no scent has been added to any of the new bank notes. The maple mystery was born soon after the first polymer note – the $100 bill – was released in November 2011, and has persisted in cyberspace on YouTube videos, blogs and Tweets. A few people were so convinced about the fragrant funds that they actually complained to bank officials that some of their new plastic notes were odour-free. “The note ... lost its maple smell,” said one writer. “I strongly suggest the Bank increases the strength of the ... maple smell.” One person wrote in French asking for the bank’s confirmation or denial of the maple scent to forestall a nasty family dispute at the dinner table. “Everyone I asked who’s smelt the bills agree they smell like maple,” wrote someone convinced the odour was real. The Bank of Canada’s repeated denials are unlikely to quash the Myth of the Maple Moola. A Vancouver woman who creates perfumes said her discerning nose picked up the scent of maple in the very first $100 polymer bills she encountered. “I didn’t know about this phenomenon until a friend asked me to close my eyes and tell him what I smelled,” Monique Sherrett said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press. The Bank of Canada initially withheld all of the public correspondence about the new polymer bank notes, citing privacy concerns, but recently released a package of material after an investigation by the information commissioner of Canada. In dozens of e-mails and telephone calls, people complained about other aspects of the plastic notes, such as:

– the new bills generally exclude images of women, whereas the old bills celebrated women’s-rights pioneers and others;
– the notes stick to one another, making them hard to count. The bank says that’s normal for all brand-new bills and will disappear as the currency gets handled;
– the stylized maple leaf on the currency represents a Norway Maple, a foreign invasive species. The bank categorically rejects that claim;
– the bills are prone to melting when exposed to high heat, such as in a clothes dryer. The bank says its extensive, rigorous testing disproves that.

^ This is funny. The new Canadian bills have had countless issues since they were first issued and this is just another problem. I don't have any of the new bills so I don't know if they smell like maple syrup, but there are worst things that they could of. ^

Bumping Air Canada

From the Globe and Mail:
"Air Canada ordered to increase payout to bumped passengers"

Air Canada has been ordered to boost the compensation paid to passengers it bumps from overbooked domestic flights. The Canadian Transportation Agency ruled that the existing practice of paying $100 cash or $200 travel voucher is unreasonable in cases that are not due to operational and safety reasons.  It has given the airline 30 days to submit new compensation guidelines. The agency sided with Gabor Lukacs, a former University of Manitoba math professor, who has challenged several airline industry practices. He suggested that passengers be compensated between $200 and $800 depending on the length of delay. The agency said the airline must choose between this model and the one used in the United States, which pays up to $1,300 (U.S.) under certain circumstances. It ruled that Air Canada’s 12-year-old bumping payout rate doesn’t reflect the current price of airline tickets, accommodation and other incidental expenses. The ruling doesn’t affect WestJet Airlines Ltd. because it doesn’t overbook flights. Air Canada declined comment because it say it is “currently in consultation” on this topic.

^ Airlines (regardless of where they are registered) should have to compensate passengers double the cost of their flight segment on their ticket because there is no excuse for the airlines to overbook. They know how many seats their planes can hold  - it's not as though they can change daily. Overbooking can cause passengers a lot of headache and money. ^

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

From the Stars And Stripes:
"Americans gather to honor fallen servicemembers "

Americans gathered at cemeteries, memorials and monuments nationwide to honor fallen military service members on Memorial Day, at a time when combat in Afghanistan approaches 12 years and the ranks of World War II veterans dwindles. President Barack Obama laid a wreath Monday at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery across the Potomac River from Washington.
"Let us not forget as we gather here today that our nation is still at war," Obama said. "When they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington," he said. He told the stories of three soldiers who had died. Each had been devoted to their mission and were praised by others for saving lives. Earlier in the morning, he and first lady Michelle Obama hosted a breakfast at the White House with "Gold Star" families of service members who have been killed. Another wreath-laying ceremony was planned at Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island in New York City. The park is a tribute to President Roosevelt's famous speech calling for all people to enjoy freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. At the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, about 20 bicyclists clustered around World War II veteran and museum volunteer Tom Blakey, a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division who jumped at Normandy on D-Day - June 6, 1944 - and in May 1945 helped liberate the work camp at Wobbelin in northwest Germany. "Most of us wondered why we were there, killing people and being killed," he said. "We didn't do anything to deserve it. When we got to that camp and saw what was there, the lights came on." The cycling group makes regular weekend training runs, and on Monday started a Memorial Day ride about seven miles away at the national cemetery in Chalmette, where the Battle of New Orleans — the last in the War of 1812 — was fought. Across much of New England, several days of heavy rain gave way to sunny skies for parades in towns large and small. Memorial Day gives those who served an opportunity to get together and remember friends who didn't make it.  In Connecticut, a Waterford man who was killed in the Vietnam War was honored with a hometown park area named for him. Arnold E. Holm Jr., nicknamed "Dusty," was killed when his helicopter was shot down on June 11, 1972. A group of at least 100 dedicated the park this weekend. In suburban Boston, veterans gathered in a park to mark Memorial Day this year rather than hold a parade because of failing health and dwindling numbers. The city of Beverly called off its parade because so few veterans would be able to march. The parade has been a fixture in the town since the Civil War. In Atlanta, a dedication of the History Center's redone Veterans Park was scheduled for early evening. Soil from major battlefields will be scattered by veterans around the park's flagpole. The holiday weekend also marked the traditional start of the U.S. vacation season. AAA, one of the nation's largest leisure travel agencies, expected 31.2 million Americans to hit the road over the weekend, virtually the same number as last year. Gas prices were about the same as last year, up 1 cent to a national average of $3.65 a gallon Friday.

^ Every American should take a moment today to remember the men and women who fought and died so they can have a carefree holiday weekend. I went to the airport today and picked up my dad who is on leave from Kabul (and a Veteran - along with my Grandfather and brother.) ^

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Fitting Memorial Fitting Day

From the Stars and Stripes:
"These children of 9/11 died fighting its war"

When the terrorists struck on 9/11, Barrett Austin was in Mrs. Spearman’s second-grade class here. Weeks later, he’d wear a Ninja costume with a red headband for Halloween. Tristan Wade was a middle-school practical joker with an endearing crooked smile who told everyone he wanted to be in the Army like his dad, a military policeman stationed near Tacoma, Wash. Zack Shannon was playing Army in a cul-de-sac where his family lived in Florida. He’d break his ankle later that fifth-grade year on a neighbor’s trampoline across the street. They were little boys oblivious to the beginning of America’s war in Afghanistan. Any notion they might be caught up in the violence to come was the furthest thing from their parents’ minds. But this would become the nation’s longest war. All three children -- Barrett, 8, Tristan, 11, and Zack, 9 -- would reach manhood as fighting churned on. Barrett’s desire to challenge himself, Tristan’s drive for excitement and Zack’s love of all things military would draw each on separate paths toward war. As the conflict in Afghanistan slogs through its 12th year, all three young men have given everything to a war growing longer as they grew up. Zack died in a Black Hawk helicopter crash March 11. Just days before his planned return home, Tristan was killed March 22 by an improvised explosive device. Another roadside bomb mortally wounded Barrett on April 17; he was removed from life support as his parents stood by four days later. This Memorial Day, the nation remembers the almost 4,500 Americans who died in the war in Iraq, where the U.S. role ended in 2011, and the 2,220 who have lost their lives in the Afghanistan War, a conflict from which President Obama says he will withdraw most American troops next year. Among those now fighting and dying are young people all but unaware when it all began.

ZACK SHANNON --’He was the baby’
Kimberly Allison worried about the oldest of her four boys when the twin towers fell, the Pentagon’s south face was demolished, a passenger jet crashed into the Pennsylvania countryside and war beckoned. Her oldest, Joe, then 20, was in Army boot camp. Her second son, Robert, then 18, had just finished Navy basic training. “That was like, OK, this war is a little close to home,” says Kimberly, who raised her boys in Dunedin, Fla., north of St. Petersburg. Thank God, she was thinking, her other sons were so young. Steven, then 14, was in middle school. Zack, 9, was only in the fourth grade. Zack caught images of the 9/11 tragedy on television in between playing Madden NFL video games. His passion: baseball cards (assembling an estimated 10,000 growing up). “He was the baby,” she says of Zack, certain the war would be over before he came of age. “Never thought it would drag on this long.” A critical care nurse whose marriage to Zack’s father had ended, Kimberly remarried when the boy was an infant. As the years passed, her oldest sons were spared. Joe never deployed. Robert became a submariner serving far from Afghanistan. Steven joined the Army National Guard to deploy in Kuwait. But it was becoming clear that if the Afghanistan War lasted long enough, Zack would be more than ready. He idolized his older brothers and their military service, wearing Joe’s discarded fatigues trick-or-treating in fifth grade, complete with camouflage face paint. He devoured the History Channel, books on the Civil War, Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers. “Zack used to say to me, ‘Oh well, Joe, Robert and Steven went in. I guess I have to carry on the tradition,’” Kimberly says, “And I’m like, ‘Oh, you don’t have to.’” Driving down Interstate 75 in the family Ford Expedition returning from visiting grandparents, Robert and Steven would vigorously debate the virtues of Army vs. Navy for a rapt younger brother. Kimberly didn’t need to hear it. “I’d be like, enough already,” she recalls. Zack joined ROTC at Dunedin High School, insisting his mother maintain the vertical, military creases in his dress-white uniform shirt and inspecting himself in the hallway mirror before walking to school. When he finally enlisted after graduation, Zack chose crew maintenance on a Blackhawk helicopter. He actually grew his last few inches during basic training, Kimberly remembers. “I never would have dissuaded him,” she says. “Not that I think could have.” Zack went to Afghanistan in December. His family was told he volunteered for a night mission March 11. Initial reports say the helicopter crashed in bad weather, killing all five on board, including Spc. Zachary “Zack” Shannon. Kimberly got a call just as she was leaving work from her husband, Chip Allison, mysteriously urging her to come directly home but saying nothing more. Her heart sank when she saw her son Steven’s truck parked outside. An Army chaplain and casualty officer were in her living room, visible through the plate glass window. “As soon as I got halfway up the driveway, I saw them standing there,” Kimberly recalls. “And I knew.”
BARRETT AUSTIN -- ‘He was my only son’
With jug ears and a grin filling half his face, Barrett Austin was a boy in perpetual motion at age 8. He had an embrace for everyone. “He was very loving,” says his mother, Yolanda Austin, of the son she remembers as a sensitive child. “He would hug all his teachers.” The 9/11 attacks were like distant thunder for a boy busy skipping rocks in the creek down the hill or switch-hitting for the Little League Diamondbacks. “He was aware, but not capable of really understanding,” says his father, Curt Austin. “It was just, ‘Bad people are attacking us,’” Yolanda says. The couple -- both electrical engineers who do safety analysis for major oil companies -- raised their family amid pine, cedar and oak trees at the end of a winding country road. Barrett was the oldest of two children born to Yolanda. Curt has an older daughter from an earlier marriage. It was impossible the war would last long enough to take Barrett and even if it did, he would never go, Yolanda reasoned. “We didn’t have the draft in place,” she says. “And if we did, he was my only son. He was the only one to carry on the family name -- and those aren’t drafted.” “We just wanted something else for him,” Curt says. But they never counted on a kind of internal lottery that leads certain young men and women to volunteer, a strain of patriotism particularly endemic to these Appalachian foothills where seven of 11 boys on Barrett’s Little League team would join the military. After high school, he spent a year working at an automotive assembly plant. One day, Barrett pulled his mother aside in the kitchen. “His final thing to me was, ‘Mom, I’m going to do this and I need you to support me. I want you to go down with me to the (enlistment) office. I’m going to do it regardless,” she recalls. That was November 2011. He enlisted a few weeks later. By last August, he had completed advanced training to become a combat engineer, a job his mother knew from researching on the Internet involved the dangerous work of finding roadside bombs. Home on leave, Barrett married Heather Hooker, a young woman he met on Facebook. By this past March, he was on his way overseas, ready to put his training into action, his 18-year-old wife says."He was excited,” Heather says. Shortly after winning his stripes as a private first class, Barrett was driving an armored truck on patrol in Wardak province south of Kabul when insurgents attacked. A bomb exploded and he suffered massive head and chest trauma. Before the Army flew his parents and his wife to a U.S. Army hospital in Germany, where he was brought from Afghanistan, they were told he had no brain activity and was on life support. “It was without a doubt the longest journey I’ve ever had to take,” Curt says. “The world was still whirling around us and we could hardly hold it together.” But they had the chance to say goodbye. “His body was warm,” Yolanda says. “We got to touch him and smell him,” Curt says. Barrett had always been their “miracle child” because an elusive heartbeat early in Yolanda’s pregnancy left both fearing the unborn boy would not survive. “I said, ‘Good Lord, if you just let me have my son, I’ll give him back to you when the time comes,’” Yolanda recalls. “Little did I know it was going to be a short 20 years.”
TRISTAN WADE -- Wanting to be like dad
From the time he was 9, Tristan Wade told everyone that he wanted to be like his dad and enlist in the Army. The 9/11 attacks only made him want it more. The second of four boys, Tristan was the only one to enlist. Their father, a military policeman, often invited his buddies to the house on weekends. Over beer and poker, they’d talk about their work. “The boys were always hearing what was going on, so I think that opened their eyes up at a younger age,” Daniel Wade says. Tristan heard the stories and wanted in. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, they were living in Tacoma, Wash. The elder Wade, stationed at Fort Lewis, remembers lacing up his sneakers with the TV on. He looked up and saw a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers. He thought it was an action movie, but it happened again, and he soon realized he was watching the news. Within hours, he’d kissed his family goodbye and was on a transport plane for Washington, D.C. In more than a decade, he’d served all over the world, protecting military outposts in Kosovo, Afghanistan and Korea. Now he was protecting the Pentagon. Tristan was 11. He never looked back. A 98-pound daredevil, he took up skateboarding after the Army transferred the family to Hawaii. He soon had an endless series of spills and sprains. “It seemed like every time I turned around he was hurt,” Wade says. Tristan often dug his father’s Army rucksack out of the closet, stuffing it full of supplies and marching up the side of the volcano behind their house. “He was really driven,” his father says. In high school, the 115-pound sophomore surprised everyone by trying out for the football team. He made the squad and played linebacker, safety, running back and even returned punts -- any position that involved “speed, jumping, agility, not just brute force,” Wade says. He’d soon help lead them to the state championship game -- they lost, but just barely. Pegged by an Army recruiter his senior year as a promising candidate, Tristan told him he wanted “a cool job.” The recruiter rattled off a series job titles. When he got to “combat engineer,” the boy asked what they did. “You make things go ‘boom,’” he said. “I want that job,” Tristan told him. In basic training right after graduation, he ended up at New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, assigned to the 573rd Clearance Company, which disposed of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). After a tour in Iraq, he returned to White Sands.
He was out with friends one Saturday night, standing in the parking lot of a Las Cruces bar, when a pretty girl in a Pontiac G5 honked at him. Alisha Morales had seen him inside but didn’t know how to get his attention. They had their first date a month later, and a year later, to the day, they were married. They got matching tattoos that told their story -- his on his stomach, hers on her hip. When they stood together, the tattoos read: “Beep ... beep.” A month later, his unit deployed to Afghanistan. She sent him care packages -- two a week -- and they talked almost every day by Skype. “If he was off he’d talk to me all day,” she says. On March 21, just a few days before his unit was to come home, the couple had their usual Skype chat. He said he had “a weird feeling -- he was just nervous,” Alisha says. “It was his last mission so he just wanted to come home.” The following day, an IED killed Tristan and wounded his interpreter.
It’s been only a few weeks since Barrett Austin, Tristan Wade and Zack Shannon were laid to rest.
After burying her 23-year-old husband, Alisha Morales, only 24 herself, says it sometimes doesn’t feel like it’s real. But on this Memorial Day, she’s determined to let people know whom Tristan was and what he did. “Everybody knows that he’s a hero, and that’s all I care that people know,” she says. “And I don’t want that to just go away.”
^ This seems like a sad yet fitting story for Memorial Day. ^

Saturday, May 25, 2013


It's official - we have snow! When we went to do our errands earlier today it was chilly and raining and now it is snowing. This is the snowiest year since 1960 and it seems it doesn't want to stop even though it is the end of May and a holiday weekend. I wish I could see all the tourists' faces when they realize they came here to have fun in the mountains and lakes only to find snow. I don't think we will get a whole lot and it is supposed to be in the 70s on Monday so it will melt quickly, but it is still very strange. Only in the mountains of New England.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Boy Scouts Modernizing.

From Yahoo:
"Boy Scouts vote to end ban on openly gay youth members"

The Boy Scouts of America, one of the country’s largest and oldest youth organizations, decided Thursday to break 103 years of tradition by allowing openly gay members into its ranks. The controversial move was approved by more than 60 percent of the approximate 1,400 votes cast by the BSA’s national council. According to the new resolution, beginning Jan. 1, 2014, “no youth may be denied membership in the Boy Scouts of America on the basis of sexual orientation or preference alone.” “The resolution also reinforces that Scouting is a youth program, and any sexual conduct, whether heterosexual or homosexual, by youth of Scouting age is contrary to the virtues of Scouting,” the BSA stated in a press release. Lifting the organization’s ban on gay adult volunteer leaders and paid staff was not considered and remains in place. Pascal Tessier, a gay Scout from Maryland, told Yahoo News that he was ecstatic with the outcome. “Proud, happy and on top of the world,” he said.

^ This is good news although I don't understand them not allowing gay leaders (especially those that go through the Boy Scouts and want to help other kids thrive in the program. I used to be in the Boy Scouts and learned/did some good things (although I barely learned to make a fire for my badge and have since forgotten.) I hope this change will enable more boys to experience all that being a Boy Scout means. I still don't think girls should be allowed in the Boy Scouts just like boys shouldn't be allowed in the Girl Scouts. ^

Gay Kiev? Hi! (No!)

From Yahoo:
"Court cancels Ukraine's first gay pride rally"

A Ukrainian court on Thursday banned what would have been Ukraine's first-ever gay pride demonstration, upholding a suit by city authorities, who argued the rally would disturb annual Kiev Day celebrations and could spark violence. The ruling dashed the hopes of Ukraine's gay and lesbian community, who planned to use the event to fight discrimination and derogatory stereotypes of gays. Last year, organizers canceled the event at the last minute when skinheads gathered at its planned location, intent on beating up the participants. Still, two leading activists were brutally beaten by radicals in subsequent weeks. While the recognition of gay rights advances in much of the West, antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in the USSR and societal resistance to it remains strong two decades later. The highly influential Orthodox Church strongly opposes gay rights. A small gay pride rally in the capital of Georgia last week was attacked by a large mob that included Orthodox priests; attempted rallies in Moscow in recent years attract crowds of bellicose Orthodox conservatives. The gay community is now pondering whether to hold the even at a different location, far away from Kiev Day celebrations, or merely hold a press briefly on the banning of the rally. Amnesty International said in a recent report that Ukraine's gay community suffers attacks and abuses and widespread discrimination. Despite condemnation from the West, the Ukrainian parliament is debating several anti-gay bills, including one which would make any public positive depiction of homosexuality punishable by up to five years in prison.

^ I don't understand why so many people are against giving gay people equal rights. You would think these ignorant people believe that if homosexuals get equal civil rights that it will turn everyone gay. Luckily, this anti-gay attitude is loosing ground in many places and hopefully it continues. There is a group of non-gay people that support homosexual equality called "Straight, but not Narrow" and if more non-gay people read up about this issue I think these anti-gay attitudes would go away sooner rather than later - in the US and the rest of the world. ^


Monday, May 20, 2013

Death With Dignity

From Yahoo:
"Compassion & Choices"

Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin's signing into law at 2pm today of the nation's first death-with-dignity bill passed by a legislature is a "breakthrough" moment, according to the nation's leading end-of-life choice advocacy group, Compassion & Choices. Vermont also will become the first eastern state and fourth state nationwide where aid in dying clearly is legal and accessible starting immediately. "This historic achievement is a political breakthrough that will boost support for death-with-dignity bills nationwide," said Compassion & Choices President Barbara Coombs Lee, an ER and ICU nurse and physician assistant for 25 years who co-authored the nation's first Death-with-Dignity law in Oregon and was a senior advisor on the successful campaign to pass the Death-with-Dignity law in Washington state, both of which were approved by citizen-passed ballot initiatives and served as models for the Vermont legislation. The Vermont law will let dying, mentally competent people determine when they have endured enough suffering and empowers them to end their lives with dignity. Specifically, it will provide criminal, civil and professional protections for physicians who prescribe medication to mentally competent, terminally ill patients that they can ingest to achieve a peaceful death. "Gov. Shumlin and Vermont legislators have shattered a barrier by becoming the first politicians to show the courage to enact a death-with-dignity law," added Coombs Lee.  "Given the high margin of public support for end-of-life choices nationwide, it is only a matter of time before legislatures in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and other states that are currently considering death-with-dignity bills enact them into law." Oregon and Washington enacted aid-in-dying laws thru citizen-passed ballot initiatives in 1994 and 2008, respectively. In 2009, the Montana Supreme Court ruled in a case brought by Compassion & Choices, Baxter v. Montana, that the state's public policy supports mentally competent, terminally ill patients being able to choose aid in dying. The Vermont law will have requirements similar to the Oregon and Washington laws, but the Vermont requirements will expire after a three-year period. Then the Vermont law will follow the model in Montana, where professional practice standards have successfully governed the practice of aid in dying.

^ This is an important step for the whole US and I hope that more states follow suit. There is no reason to allow the terminally ill who want to end their suffering to do so in a humane way - not in the 21st Century. ^

Victoria Day

Today is Victoria Day in Canada. It is the official birthday of Elizabeth 2nd, Queen of Canada. The holiday was named in honor of Queen Victoria, but has since been the sole day remembering the current monarch's birth. It is also the unofficial start of Summer - sort of like what Memorial Day has become in the US. It is sad that most Canadians don't know much, if anything, about their monarch. Most assume that the King or Queen of Canada is whomever is King or Queen of the United Kingdom, but that isn't true. It is up to the Canadian Parliament to decide who will be their monarch - it has always been the same as the UK and I don't see that changing anytime soon, but it doesn't legally have to be. You would think that with the Queen's portrait on the Canadian dollar and in all Federal and many Provincial buildings that more people would know about the role their monarch takes, but sadly most don't care.

No EU Sense/Cents?

From DW:
"EU mulls scrapping its one- and two-cent coins"

The one- and two-euro cent coins are facing criticism: their production and distribution is considered much too expensive, which is why the EU Commission is considering scrapping the coppers.
As the euro crisis goes on, the voices calling for the currency's abolition are getting louder. One of them belongs to the new party "Alternative for Germany," who can't wait to get rid of the euro altogether. Olli Rehn, the European Union's Economic Commissioner, is currently examining a proposal that would at least partially scrap the euro. That is, not the currency itself, but its two smallest coins - the one- and two-cent coins. The European Parliament and the European Council are both calling for the move. Rehn's conclusion after initial consultations with various business and politics representatives is that making the low value coins represents a losing proposition.  The production of these coins, whose inside is made of iron and whose outside is copper, is more expensive than their face value. On top of that, there are the considerable costs when the coins have to be distributed to retailers. The European Commission has reported that the difference between the production costs and the face value of the single currency's coins since their introduction has already grown to more than 1.4 billion euros ($1.8 billion). Finland and the Netherlands have taken steps to make do without the two smallest denominations - all prices are rounded to five cents, and so the little coins are practically no longer in circulation. But that's an unthinkable scenario for Germany, says Stefan Hertel, press spokesman for the German trade association (HDE): "There are relevant surveys, including from the German Central Bank, that show that a huge majority of consumers like the one- and two-cent coins and want to keep them." Retailers also want to keep the coins, if only for the psychological reason that for years prices have been set with a "99" after the decimal point - and rightly so, says Hertel. In Germany, the central bank is responsible for distributing coins to retailers. Since 2002, the bank has been narrowing its branch network to save money, which is inconvenient for businesses who want to pick up their cash personally. Carl-Ludwig Thiele, the board member responsible for cash supply, defends this arrangement. "As a central bank, we don't have to operate these branches everywhere," he told DW. After all, he argued, the bank itself has to function in an economically viable way, and scaling down does not affect the end user. But there has been plenty of criticism of the central bank's cost-cutting from retailers. "We have warned about and called attention to the fact that we have to travel further," said Hertel. On top of this, retailers also criticize another Bundesbank measure that makes acquiring cash more expensive - in 2011, the bank reacted to the enormous transport costs of the coins by only using standardized containers. These containers carry 314,000 euros' worth of coins each. There are eight standard containers for each coin. The standard containers for small coins contain 2,500 euros in one-cent coins and 4,000 euros in two-cent coins. That presents a problem for many small retailers, because they have to pay a fee for any smaller orders. Hertel admits that getting rid of the one- and two-cent coins would help. "Scrapping them would have a cost benefit, because we have to keep the rolls in reserve as change. That costs money. We would save that." Thiele, meanwhile, defends the standardized containers, saying, "I don't know any kiosk owner who takes a standard container which has to contain all the coins in all denominations, with a weight of 650 kilos." Regardless of how much the distribution of cash costs, the central bank has no plans to actually take the smaller coins out of circulation as long as the majority of Germans are against it. So if Rehn does not come to the conclusion that the euro coin must be partially scrapped, there will still be plenty of copper to fill German wallets.

^ The EU should focus on all of its many, more important issues rather than whether it should get rid of the 1 and 2 cent coins. I think they should keep it (and said the same when Canada got rid of it's penny.) The EU did little when it changed to the Euro and thus businesses were able to raise prices and scam its customers in the changeover confusion. Now the same thing can happen if business have to "round." ^

Mt Washington

Two days ago (last Saturday) we went to Mount Washington. We ordered our tickets online. I checked the Cog Railroad's website and it said there were no restrooms or food services at the Observatory - only at Marshfield Station (this turned out not to be true.) We got to the Station and got out tickets, went to the Gift Shop and waited for our train. The trains are very small with only one car and they are pretty uncomfortable (not as nice as when we took the Cog Railroad to Pikes Peak in CO.) Boarding was also a slight issue since the conductor didn't let us board first - luckily there was a teacher with a school group who let us go first. Then the conductor kept shouting over the taped information so you couldn't hear anything. He also kept the main door opened the whole way up and blocked any view out of the front of the car. We had an hour to hang out at Observatory before our return train. Despite what the website said there were restrooms and a snack bar there. We took pictures outside and then walked the slippery (they still had some snow and I was in sandals) rocks to the Summit. The train taking us back down the mountain had a different conductor. He didn't let us pre-board either, but we were a few people from the front. This time all the windows and doors were closed and you could hear the taped tour. We were at Mount Washington for about 3 hours (1 hour up, one down and one at the Observatory.) While it is a nice mountain I don't think it is as nice as Pike's Peak. I did get some good pictures though.

Friday, May 17, 2013

New American Way

I just don't understand why a business can't be professional and true to their word. We used a dog trainer whose website stated she would get back to us in "24 hours." She came once a month ago and we tried her techniques and wanted her to come again. I e-mailed her twice and then a week later called and left a message. I got no response. It wasn't until I went to the kennel that recommended her to us and told the woman there what was happening that the trainer decided to grace us with an answer - and then she blamed me for using the wrong phone number. I sent her a "nice" e-mail telling her that I had e-mailed her twice before calling and so her blaming me for the wrong number was baseless. She was just unreliable and unprofessional and we would be going elsewhere - I also said I would recommend to the kennel that they stop recommending the trainer to anyone. It seems that people and businesses follow this practice. I heard nothing from an electrician about our generator until I filed a complaint with the BBB. It seems people/businesses could stop crying about a lack of business if they actually tried to do their job and get money, but most just want to do nothing, complain about it, yet still get paid. That's the new American way of doing business.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Brazlian German Help

From DW:
"Can Germany show Brazil how to cope with past?"

Brazil's efforts to shed light on human rights violations committed during decades of military rule are moving sluggishly. The National Truth Commission hopes for support from Germany's visiting President Joachim Gauck.  During Brazil's military rule from 1964 to 1985, Rosa Maria Cardoso defended political prisoners. Today, the 67-year-old lawyer coordinates the country's National Truth Commission (NTC). It means a lot to her that German President Joachim Gauck made time to meet with members of the commission before wrapping up his three-day visit to Brazil on Friday. "I hope Gauck will be an inspiration to us in our efforts toward democracy and enlightenment," she told DW, adding she also hopes the former East German pastor and the federal commissioner for the Stasi archives will show the Brazilian commission avenues for a "step-by-step renunciation of authoritarianism." Established one year ago, the National Truth Commission in Brazil began its task of investigating into human rights violations during more than two decades of military rule. According to official reports, 480 people were killed under the regime, 160 people disappeared without a trace, and more than 100,000 people were imprisoned for political reasons. An estimated 50,000 people were tortured. The NTC's seven members were personally appointed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who herself was persecuted, tortured and imprisoned during the military dictatorship. Coming to terms with the recent past may be a central concern for the country's president, but it is still problematic almost three decades after the country opted for a democracy. According to Rosa Maria Cardoso, several factors complicate the commission's work, including continued violence against the population, extreme social inequality and growing inflation.
Commission member Rosa Maria Cardoso  The slow pace is due to a "silence pact," Cardoso said. "Brazil's social elite deliberately misuse the state's weakness to further their own interests." "Many developments in the history of our country occurred without abrupt change," said Joao Ricardo Dornelles, a lawyer and member of the Truth Commission. Treaties and accords, including the Declaration of Independence in 1822 and the abolition of slavery in 1889, were made without involving the public. The understanding between opponents and supporters of military dictatorship led to a controlled transitional phase, Dornelles said, which meant blocking progress in some areas, such as clearing up human rights violations and finding proof of repression by state organizations. Syllabi in Brazilian military academies are still based on the doctrine of national security used to justify the 1964 coup d'état in Brazil, he said. Meanwhile, Brazil's step-by-step efforts at coming to terms with the past remain sluggish. In neighboring Argentina and Chile, many perpetrators are already being held accountable while Brazil has only just begun to search for its dead and disappeared.   According to the Brazilian constitution, the search for the truth was originally meant to start in 1988. At that time, however, the issue appeared to be of little interest to the government and society. Only relatives of the former political prisoners, of the disappeared and murdered people and a few human rights organizations pushed for an investigation. Both Rousseff and Gauck experienced dictatorial rule  Years later, in 1995, the issue resurfaced in the public eye in the wake of the creation of a Special Commission on Political Deaths and Disappearances. Again, several years passed, before a certain amount of material and symbolic compensation was granted in 2003. In 2010, the Organization of American States' Inter-American Court of Human Rights held Brazil responsible for the disappearances and deaths of members of the Araguaia guerrilla movement, active between 1972 and 1974. For the first time in Brazil, coming to terms with the past has assumed public importance with the inauguration of the National Truth Commission a year ago. There are some acts of violence that must not be kept silent and that Brazil's youth must be aware of, Rosa Cardoso said, adding, "We do not merely want to inform - we want to mobilize the Brazilian society to search for the truth."

^ It is good that Germany is helping Brazil since Germany has personally dealt with two dictatorships (Nazism and Communism) and knows the horrors they can bring. While Germany (especially the western part) has dealt with it's Nazi past it has done little to deal with its Communist past. Brazil needs to put its past out in the open and acknowledge its mistakes if it wants to fully better it's future. A country that simply acts as though it's dictatorships/dark past never happened (ie Russia, Spain, etc) then nothing is learned and the past can easily repeat itself. ^

VA Backlog

From the Stars and Stripes:
"VA workers told to work overtime to clear claims backlog"

Veterans Affairs claims processors will be required to work overtime this summer to help clear the problematic benefits backlog, department officials announced Wednesday. Under the plan, all 10,000-plus VA employees who process disability claims will be required to work at least 20 hours overtime each month, between now and September 30. Officials could not estimate how much the move will cost the department. In a statement, Secretary Eric Shinseki said the move “will provide more veterans with decisions on their claims, and will help us achieve our goal of eliminating the claims backlog.” According to VA statistics this week, about 567,000 compensation pending claims are “backlogged” — unfinished after more than four months of processing. The average wait for a claim to be completed is almost nine months. VA officials said they expect the mandatory overtime will have a “measurable impact” on the backlog by the end of the fiscal year. Undersecretary for Benefits Allison Hickey called the move a surge in resources “to help those who have waited the longest.” The department has come under fire in recent months from lawmakers and veterans advocates for slow progress on the claims processing problem. But officials have also received praise from veterans groups for their public plans to eliminate the backlog in 2015, and recent steps to achieve that goal. Last month, the department announced it would begin issuing provisional decisions — partial, temporary compensation awards — for veterans who have been waiting more than a year to have their cases completed. The department has also introduced a host of new processes, training and technology they insist will help clear the backlog over the next two years. VA officials said the overtime work will also focus on quickly finishing high-priority claims, which include homeless applicants, terminally ill veterans, and former Prisoners of War. The VA announcement amounts to about 12 extra days of work for claims employees between May and the end of September. On Tuesday, Defense Department officials announced plans to furlough most of their civilian employees for 11 days over the same period, to cover funding cuts mandated under sequestration.
VA programs and employees are exempt from the sequestration cuts.
^ This is long over-due. Our veterans desire more than the government is currently doing. It is a disgrace that such action has to be happened in the first place. People should do their job correctly rather than be forced to do it. ^

Poor Health Rating

From USA Today:
"Obamacare: 3 years in, it faces steep challenges"

The Affordable Care Act is sure to survive the latest vote scheduled for Thursday by the House of Representatives to repeal it — since the Senate doesn't plan to take it up and President Obama would veto it if it somehow reached his desk — but the administration's signature legislative achievement still faces serious perils ahead. Americans have a dimmer view of the health care law now than they did when Obama triumphantly signed it three years ago, according to monthly tracking polls by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The public's divided view and relentless Republican attacks have made it easier for governors and state legislators to balk at cooperating with the law. It is designed to provide coverage for millions of Americans who haven't qualified for Medicaid in the past and don't get insurance through their employers. That could have a cascading effect: Resistance by the states will make it harder for the law to work as promised when Medicaid expands next year and the health-insurance marketplaces where the uninsured can shop for plans open this fall.  That could fortify the arguments of those who warned the law was a mistake from the start and threaten fundamental provisions of it down the road. Just over a third of Americans, 35%, have a favorable opinion of the health law, according to the Kaiser survey taken last month, down from 46% who had a positive view when it was signed in 2010. Now 40% have an unfavorable opinion — precisely the same as three years ago — and nearly one in four, 24%, say they don't have an opinion.  Uncertainty about the law has risen as time has passed, and confusion about what it does and how it works is especially high among those it is designed to help. In fact, four in 10 Americans don't believe the law is still in place, saying inaccurately that it's been overturned by the Supreme Court or repealed by Congress.  The White House is scrambling to bolster support for and knowledge about the law, in part to encourage younger and healthier Americans who lack health insurance to shop for a plan when the exchanges open Oct. 1. Officials are trying to spotlight popular policies that already have gone into effect, including provisions that provide free preventive care for seniors and allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance plans. Opposition to Obamacare fueled the rise of the Tea Party and the Republican takeover of the House in the 2010 congressional elections. "Those of us who remember 2009 and the town-hall meetings, we want to be fully prepared now," says Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., recalling raucous meetings with constituents who saw the health care plan as an expensive and dangerous government overreach. "People are concerned that we do some better messaging before the August recess."  Meanwhile, Republicans relish the idea of brandishing Obamacare as a political weapon in the midterms. House Speaker John Boehner says the House brought up overall repeal of the law for the third time since it was enacted simply to give Republican freshmen a chance to stand against it. "We've got 70 new members who have not had an opportunity to vote on the president's health care law," he told reporters beforehand. Boehner's office says it is the 37th vote in the House on repealing, curtailing or defunding all or part of the Affordable Care Act. Republicans have failed to repeal the law in its entirety, but seven bills revising particular provisions have been enacted. The GOP also has denied funding requests by the Department of Health and Human Services to help implement the law, including the campaign to boost participation in the insurance exchanges. That's particularly important because if only people with chronic conditions and higher medical bills sign up, premiums would soar and the underpinnings of the system would be undercut. While the law mandates that most of the uninsured get insurance, the annual penalty for failing to do so is low enough ($95 in 2014, rising to $695 in 2016) that some people simply will choose to pay it. The Affordable Care Act envisioned most states establishing and running their own insurance exchanges. But only 17 states and the District of Columbia are moving ahead with plans to do that; another seven are setting up "partnership exchanges" with the federal government. But 26 states, including six of the 10 most populous ones, are leaving the job entirely to the federal government. The administration says one-third of the prime target group nationwide — healthy 18- to 34-year-olds who don't have insurance — live in California, Florida and Texas. Of that trio of states, only California is setting up a state exchange.  The other major part of the Affordable Care Act to cover the uninsured, expanding Medicaid to include more low-income Americans, is opposed by at least 20 governors, according to the Kaiser foundation. The Supreme Court ruling last year upheld the law's controversial individual mandate but gave states the option of choosing not to participate in the Medicaid expansion. In the states that don't, the uninsured who are too poor to afford to buy coverage in the exchanges, even with a federal subsidy, are out of luck.

^ I have written about this before and think it will fall apart sooner rather than later as the average American finally starts to be affected by it. ^

World War 2 Illegal

From MT:
"Duma May Make Criticism of WWII Illegal"

The State Duma has ordered an evaluation of a comment made by opposition politician Leonid Gozman in which he compared a Soviet intelligence agency to Adolf Hitler's SS on the grounds that the comment may hurt the image of Russia's military history. Gozman wrote an op-ed on the Echo Moskvy website last week in which he criticized a TV show about a Soviet security agency that worked during World War II called Death to Spies, or SMERSH in its Russian abbreviation. The show portrayed the officers of the agency, which in Soviet times focused on counterintelligence, as heroes helping the coalition to win the war. "I'm sure there were honest officers in SMERSH but they were unfortunate to work for an agency that was as criminal as the SS," he wrote. "The word SMERSH must fall into the same category as such words as the SS, NKVD and Gestapo, and cause horror and disgust, but not be a part of the headline for a patriotic movie." The Duma's sharp reaction to Gozman's words comes amid a drive by President Vladimir Putin to bolster patriotism among Russians, including through the glorification of Russian military exploits. Following Putin's lead, pro-Kremlin politicians have aggressively targeted critical views on certain aspects of Russia's past, and the government plans to create a single set of textbooks for Russian schoolchildren to present a "canonical" version of the country's history. In comments for The Moscow Times, Gozman called the Duma's initiative "one more amusing instance of buffoonery."  "The first thing I want to say is that along with my comment, the Duma must also check Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Nikolai Astafiyev, Vasily Aksyonov and many other great people, because they said the same thing long before me," Gozman said, adding that the Duma's intention was a sign of the state's policy "to control people's words and thoughts in addition to their actions." It is not clear what consequences the evaluation of Gozman's comments could have for him.  Communist Melnikov said the lower chamber would issue its proposals and presumably send them to Rosnano, while Gozman said he hoped the Duma's check would turn into a criminal case against him, "because it would be the trial against Stalin, which is long awaited by all." An outspoken critic of the Soviet era, Gozman said: "Yes, I think Stalin was as much a criminal as Hitler was, and Stalin's punitive agencies were as criminal and disgusting as Hitler's ones." Nikita Petrov, a historian and member of the Memorial human rights group, said that even though SMERSH had fewer functions than the SS, they both were repressive organizations and instruments used by ruling parties to maintain pressure, meaning it was reasonable to compare the two.  SMERSH was controlled personally by Stalin, and it was an instrument used to apply pressure not only against militants, Petrov said, but against the civilian population as well. Petrov also echoed Gozman's words that thousands of innocent people fell victim to SMERSH. In his post on Echo Moskvy, Gozman wrote: "I don't know how many people SMERSH officers shot dead and how many they sent to die in concentration camps. I don't know how many of those shot and arrested were innocent. I believe that very many of them were." He also said the glorification of SMERSH was understandable given the current political situation, referring to the apparent ongoing crackdown on the opposition and the state's intention to educate patriots.  Historian Petrov said that such a law would be "absurd," and that it likely would not be passed, as it would be "a flagrant violation of constitutional norms and designed to fight dissidence." In recent years, discussions about Victory Day celebrations have become more and more resonant, with a growing number of people supporting the idea of scaling down the celebrations and making them much less lavish as they are now.   In Soviet times, the Victory Day parade was held only to mark anniversaries of Victory Day, but the parade has been held annually now since 1995.

^ I don't see a problem with showing the good and the bad of a country - especially during wartime. Every country in the world has it's dark past as well as it's great accomplishments and both need to be openly acknowledged, studied and remembered. ^

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Spire That Could

From the Times Union:
"Stubborn spire: Does the St. Patrick's tower fall Wednesday?"

Demolitions of the tower at St. Patrick's Church was expected to resume Wednesday morning with developers planning to pull down the spire. Despite repeated efforts by the demolition crew working for the Nigro Cos., the church tower has not fallen, a development that has heartened critics of the plan to build a Price Chopper supermarket on the 19th Street site. The last effort was made on Monday when cables attached to the sturdy church snapped, temporarily putting a halt to the project.
Crews brought in a larger crane on Tuesday and expect it will finish the demolition of the church on Wednesday. The crane was still being assembled Wednesday morning.

^ This is definitely the "little spire that could." It has stayed up since last Thursday. It's clear that someone (pointing upwards) doesn't want this church to become a market. Don't get me wrong I miss going to my ghetto Chopper, but maybe they could build the new market someplace else. I would never work or shop at this market when it is finally built. Maybe the Vatican should get involved and let the spire be since it has fought long and hard to stay. ^

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Longer CDN Stays

From the Globe and Mail:
"U.S. bills propose longer stays for Canadian vacationers"

American lawmakers are considering further opening the border to Canadian snowbirds, by extending the amount of time vacationers can stay each year. Two U.S. bills propose to allow certain Canadians to visit for up to eight months, rather than six. Thousands of Canadians head south during winter each year, with some carefully counting each allotted day to avoid trouble with U.S. immigration officials and Canadian health-care programs. If passed, the new laws could give some of them breathing room, though much work remains.  The federal government applauded the proposed changes, but said it had nothing to do with them. Instead, a non-profit group – the Canadian Snowbird Association (CSA) – says it met with more than 100 American senators, members of Congress and staff to press for the changes. The campaign, though, is far from over. The bills haven’t passed, and a previous version did not pass. Meanwhile, in Canada, many provinces still require six months of residency for health-care coverage. Advocates nonetheless call the proposals a first step. “Our approach is that once the law passes, we’ll be in a better position to further our efforts in Canada,” said Evan Rachkovsky, a research officer at the CSA. Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade said it does not, and has not, lobbied for the changes. The department nonetheless said “we support any efforts to increase trade and tourism between our two countries.” The two proposed American bills, introduced this year, overlap – a sign of the difficult path U.S. bills take to being enacted. If one does manage to pass, the other likely won’t, according to a spokesman for Congressman Mike Quigley, who co-sponsored one of the two bills with Congressman Joe Heck. The other was tabled by prominent Democratic Senator Charles Schumer as part of immigration changes.“The bill is about bringing more travellers and tourists to the U.S. by streamlining the visa processing system,” Greg Lemon, a spokesman for Mr. Heck, said in an e-mail. Canadians spent $16.5-billion in the U.S. in 2011, according to the Canadian government. The CSA also hopes for changes to tax regulations, Mr. Rachkovsky said. Currently, Canadians who spend more than six months in the U.S. are not eligible to claim an exemption from being taxed in the U.S. Mr. Rachkovsky’s group is lobbying to extend that to eight months as well. “They recognize these obstacles,” Mr. Rachkovsky said of the U.S. lawmakers working with his group. “And they have assured us that they will change the formula if the act were to pass.” The two proposed laws are different. For instance, Mr. Schumer’s bill applies to Canadians 55 and older, while the other bill applies to those age 50 and older. The age is “not set in stone at this point,” Mr. Lemon said. Both allow for a spouse to stay under the same rules.
Both bills would require vacationers to maintain a residence in Canada, and either own a home in the U.S. or sign a rental agreement for the duration of their stay. The visitors would be forbidden from working in the U.S. or claiming welfare. The CSA also hopes to see the changes included in a third U.S. bill, which hasn’t yet been tabled. Federally, Canadian citizens have no rules governing how often they are in the country, though permanent residents must spend at least two years in the country within a five-year period. Health-care rules would need to be changed to allow travellers eight months’ leave. In Ontario, B.C. and Manitoba, for example, Canadians can spend a maximum of seven months outside the country each year if they wish to maintain their health coverage. Other provinces set the limit at six months. Some provinces grant exemptions, including New Brunswick, where residents can apply to leave for of up to 18 months every three years. The snowbirds’ group is pushing for all provinces to extend health coverage for eight-month absences.

^ This is a good idea and if passed the Canadians should allow Americans to stay 8 months as well. I do not think there should be a mandate of any kind with regards to getting health care. If you are a Canadian citizen you should be allowed to stay outside Canada as long as you want and the minute you return you should have access to health care. It is stupid for any government to restrict health care for its citizens. ^

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Best States

From AARP:
"10 Best-Rated States for Retirement"

 Many highly personal factors come into play when it's time to pick the perfect place to retire. Everything from availability of tee times to proximity to grandkids can have an impact on the decision. There's no one-size-fits-all formula. After all, one retiree's paradise can be another's hellish
Here are the 10 best states for retirement, and some of the reasons why each is on the list. With this ranking the No. 1 spot is the best of the best.

10. Texas (tie) — warm weather and solid economy
10. California (tie) — good weather and high life expectancy
9. South Dakota — low crime rate and high life expectancy
7. New Mexico (tie) — good weather
7. Florida (tie) — good weather
6. Colorado — high life expectancy
5. Virginia — good economy
4. Arizona — good weather and high life expectancy
3. Utah  — good economy
2. Idaho — low crime rate and good economy

1. Hawaii — great weather and high life expectancy

^ I would NEVER, EVER suggest anyone live or retire in Virginia. I lived there and it I the worst state - period. It was surprising to see California here since it is also on the worst states to retire in lists. ^

Worst States

From Huff Post:
"Worst States To Retire: Oregon, Alaska, Washington, California, Wisconsin At Bottom Of Study"

It's got breathtaking beauty, but Oregon is no place to live out the golden years, a new study says.
The Beaver State ranked as the worst place to retire, according to In perhaps a hint of sour grapes, Portland station KGW noted that the list did not take into account "the number of beaches, lakes or golf courses." compiled its rankings on the basis of healthcare, crime, taxes, climate and bang for your buck. Oregon got dinged for its cost of living (37th), below-average temperature and hospital bed availability, as well as its above-average tax and crime rates. Alaska, Washington, California, Wisconsin, Maine, Maryland, Vermont, Minnesota, Delaware and Connecticut round out the worst 10. "Beware of the beach!" the financial site warned. "Watch out for historic neighborhoods, vineyards, sweeping verandas -- especially if you're about to retire. These places will steal your heart and get you thinking about a permanent move before you've considered all the angles." Kind of gives a new spin on the "location, location, location" mantra repeated by real estate agents, doesn't it?

^ It's odd that I live in a state surrounded by other states that are the worst place to retire in. It was interesting to see what are the worst states to retire in, but would like to see the top to best states. ^

Friday, May 10, 2013

A British German

From DW:
"Is Germany's image improving in the UK?"

In the UK, Germany has long been derided as a nation of humorless sausage eaters. But British authors, businesses, cultural institutions and sports fans seem to be having a change of heart.  "Hitler," said one British woman walking near the Baker Street underground station in London, when asked what her first thought was upon hearing the word "Germany." "Seriously?" asked a reporter.
The woman shrugged and hurriedly walked away. Such has been the British image of its European neighbor - even if often in a teasing, deprecating way - since the end of the Second World War. Germans and Brits alike know the satirical adage, "Don't mention the war!" as well as comedian John Cleese's ultra goose-stepping impersonation of Hitler in the BBC sitcom, Fawlty Towers. For many Brits, it's tradition to make fun of the Germans and their military past - often without knowing much at all about modern-day Germany. "Typical," says Peter Watson, a British author and journalist who's written extensively about Germany's cultural and intellectual history.  "There was a recent article [in a well known UK tabloid] by a modern historian saying that ‘Germany's finally got what it wants - it controls Europe under Kaiser Merkel.' And that's a pitiful approach, I think," Watson told DW. In his book, "The German Genius: Europe's Third Renaissance, the Second Scientific Revolution and the Twentieth Century," Watson mentions a 2005 annual report by Britain's Qualification and Curriculum authority. Its authors were concerned that the average history lesson in the UK "continues to be dominated by Hitler." When Britons were surveyed in 1977 as to whether "Nazism or something like that" could occur again in Germany, 61 percent had said no, with 23 percent answering yes. When asked again in 1992, 53 percent answered yes, and 31 percent no. There's so much focus in the UK on Germany's role in the First and Second World Wars, Watson says, that few are aware of Germany's immense cultural contribution to the world and the links between the two nations. Although negative stereotypes still exist in the UK about Germany, Watson says, soccer is helping to revamp the nation's image. He calls the World Cup in 2006 a turning point. "[It] was in a sense a coming of age, not just of Germany becoming more content with itself, but a lot of people could see it - that they could have a good time in Germany, and that each game isn't a war all over again," Watson said. Germans are again the envy of the UK this month, with two Bundesliga soccer teams due to meet in the final of the wildly-popular Champions League of European club teams. This recent soccer success is no bad thing for Germany's image abroad. Professor Martin Roth, the German director of the very British Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is another case-in-point. Still, he feels there are some reasonable grounds for Brits to not wholly embrace Germany and its culture. "I think Germany has this mix of an insecurity complex, and always believing, 'We are the best, the greatest, the fastest.'" he told DW. "And I think that mix is sometimes a little difficult to understand for people coming from abroad." Beyond the boardroom, even German food appears to be seducing the British. The German Deli, started by two German chefs in 2004 in London's thriving Borough Market, seems to be perpetually busy, selling frankfurters, sauerkraut and German mustard to Brits and tourists. But Philipp Dahmen, the shop's German manager, and who has adopted London as his home, thinks his countrymen and women back in Germany need to take British provocation with more of a pinch of salt. There's something about the Germans being very, very serious all the time and taking themselves far too seriously," Dahmen told DW. "But it's not only us, you know - it's everybody else as well. I mean have you seen what they say about the French?" Clichés in general, it seems, are slow to fade in the UK - as are the images of war that continue to be associated with modern-day Germany. But a younger generation of Britons may now be embracing the image of a more modern Germany. And with Bayern Munich due to play Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League Football final this month, German and British football fans may even find themselves cheering for the same side.

^ I lived in Germany twice and have been back to Germany many times since and also have many German friends I remain in contact with. While I'm not British, I am Canadian-American and both suffered and fought against the Germans during the war and both had bases in Germany afterwards along with the British (although Canada no longer does.) The German militaristic history is still a very sound stereotype in Britain, Canada and the US and so of course there are jokes about that time period (such as: do you want the smoking section on the train - referencing the cattle cars that took people to the smoking chimneys of the gas chambers.) While they are morbid jokes they are still used by old and young generations alike. You have to remember that there are still many people a live today who fought or were victims of Germans. They are great-grandparents and grandparents now, but still are eye-witnesses. I don't see the stereotypes or jokes going away for at least another generation. Even with the jokes, I don't hold all Germans responsible for what happened during the war - only those that were 18 or older in 1945. I also have the same jokes and feelings towards the Japanese as they did similar things during the war. ^

No Border Fee

From the Globe and Mail:
"U.S. Senate nixes planned U.S.-Canada border tolls"

Obama administration plans to impose a toll on land travellers crossing the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico were scrapped Thursday. The proposed toll, which sparked angry responses on both sides of the borders, was blocked in a rare show of bipartisan unanimity by Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate.  “Canada is the United States’ No. 1 trading partner," said Vermont Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who, along with Texas Republican John Cornyn, co-sponsored an amendment blocking any attempt to impose a crossing fee. "Some 300,000 Canadians cross into our country every day and spend nearly $235-million,” Senator Leahy said. The amendment passed on a voice vote in the judiciary committee. It effectively killed a Homeland Security suggestion contained in Mr. Obama’s proposed budget that tolls on pedestrian and vehicular traffic crossing the Canada-U.S. and Mexico-U.S. borders be considered as a means of raising revenues for the cash-strapped federal government. "Whether they’re from northern Vermont or southwest Texas, Americans living in border communities know their lives are interwoven with their neighbours across the border," the Senate amendment's preamble said. "Our children play sports across the border. Our fire departments respond across the border. Our neighbours come across the border to shop, eat, and contribute to our local economy. Imposing a fee and tax to travel back and forth would put a barrier between neighbours and hurt American communities." When the toll was first proposed, Canadian business groups, among others, were quick to condemn it. “Building the walls higher and making the borders stickier and thicker is exactly the wrong way to go,” said Perrin Beatty, President of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. “Anything that drives up costs discourages traffic.” The Leahy-Cornyn amendment has no impact on existing border-crossing fees, such as tolls for using bridges at the border. Those are not imposed by either federal government.

^ I'm glad the Senate did what was right and dropped Obama's proposed fee. ^

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

V-E Day!

Today is the 68th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day.) Tomorrow the Russians and most of the former Soviet Union celebrates Victory Day (День Победы) because of the time difference. We need to remember what our grandparents and, for some, great-grandparents, went through in order to rid the world of fascists. They are called the "Greatest Generation" because they went through the Great Depression, World War 2, Korea and the beginnings of the Cold War. They suffered a lot so the rest of us could grow up without having to constantly worry about our day-to-day survival.

Hospital Help

From Yahoo:
"High hospital bills go public, but will it help?"

For the first time, the government is publicly revealing how much hospitals charge, and the differences are astounding: Some bill tens of thousands of dollars more than others for the same treatment, even within the same city. Why does a joint replacement cost 40 times as much at one hospital as at another across the country? It's a mystery, federal health officials say. "It doesn't make sense," Jonathan Blum, Medicare deputy administrator, said Wednesday. The higher charges don't reflect better care, he said. And the amounts are too huge to be explained by obvious differences among hospitals, such as a more expensive regional economy, older or sicker patients, or the extra costs of running a teaching hospital, he said. The average charges for joint replacement range from about $5,300 at an Ada, Okla., hospital to $223,000 in Monterey Park, Calif., the Department of Health and Human Services said. That doesn't include doctors' fees. Hospitals within the same city also vary greatly. At Beth Israel Medical Center in New York, the average charge to treat a blood clot in a lung is $51,580. Down the street at NYU Hospitals Center, the charge for the same care would be $29,869. At the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the list price is $16,861. That isn't necessarily what you pay. Medicare pays hospitals on its own fee schedule that isn't based on the listed charges, Blum said. And insurance companies routinely negotiate discount rates with the hospitals. But patients who are uninsured can be billed the full amount. And some with private insurance may find their share of the bill is inflated as a result of a hospital's higher charges, officials said. Blum said the Obama administration hopes that releasing the information, at the website, will help lead to answers to the riddle of hospital pricing — and pressure some hospitals to lower their charges. The database also will help consumers shop around, he said.

^ This site should help those that can't afford the huge amounts hospitals and doctors are allowed to charge. They shouldn't be allowed to, but in the end it is buyer beware. ^

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Buried Criminals

From MT:
"Where Notorious Criminals Have Been Buried "

Whether it's a genocidal dictator or a gunman behind a mass shooting, debate often flares over where the notorious should be laid to rest.  Concerns about gravesite vandalism, possible backlash from the public and some sites becoming shrines often lead to burials cloaked in secrecy.  In Massachusetts, controversy is surrounding where to bury Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
Here's a look at how some of history's most well-known criminals have been buried over the years:

Osama bin Laden:
Bin Laden, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks was buried at sea after Navy SEALs killed him in a 2011 raid on his compound in Pakistan. U.S. officials said the al-Qaida leader's body was handled according to Islamic practice and tradition, which calls for the body to be buried within 24 hours

Jeffrey Dahmer:
Dahmer was beaten to death by a fellow inmate while serving life prison sentences in 1994. Convicted of killing 16 boys and men, Dahmer was arrested after body parts were found in his Milwaukee apartment in July 1991. After Dahmer's death, his brain was kept in formaldehyde in the state pathologist's office while his divorced parents disagreed over what to do with it. His mother, Joyce Flint, wanted the brain studied to determine whether biological factors were behind her son's homicidal behavior, which included necrophilia and cannibalism. His father, Lionel Dahmer, favored cremation, saying that is what his son wanted. Eventually, Jeffery Dahmer's brain and body were cremated and the ashes were divided between his mother and father after a judge decided the brain should be cremated.

Adolf Hitler:
The Nazi dictator, who committed suicide in his Berlin bunker in 1945, was responsible for the Holocaust and the deaths of millions during World War II. Attempts to burn his body were only partially successful, and his remains were recovered by the Soviets. The discovery was kept secret, allowing Stalin to perpetuate a Cold War myth that Hitler survived and was hidden in the West.
After decades of uncertainty and disinformation, the demise of the Soviet Union has allowed researchers to establish what they believe is the truth about what happened to the body. Hitler's jaws and skull were later rediscovered in secret archives in Moscow and went on display in Russia's Federal Archives Service in 2000. The rest of him turned out to have been buried beneath a Soviet army parade ground in the former East German city of Magdeburg. His remains were exhumed in the 1970s and incinerated. The ashes were flushed into the city's sewage system.

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris:
In 1999, Klebold and Harris opened fire at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, killing 12 classmates and a teacher and wounding 26 others before killing themselves in the school's library.
Klebold's family had him cremated, according to the Reverend Don Marxhausen, who presided at his funeral. Marxhausen said Klebold couldn't be placed in a public cemetery because people would desecrate his grave. The pastor said a policeman escorted him to the funeral, and others took circuitous routes to avoid being followed by the media. Harris' family has never publicly revealed his final resting place.

Timothy McVeigh:
McVeigh was executed by lethal injection in 2001 for killing 168 people in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh's body was taken to a local funeral home, where he was cremated and his ashes were given to one of his attorneys. In a letter to The Buffalo (New York) News, McVeigh had said he wanted his ashes scattered at a secret location.

Lee Harvey Oswald:
John F. Kennedy's assassin was shot to death at a Dallas police station two days after the president was killed in 1963. Oswald was never put on trial, but authorities concluded he was the killer. His body was exhumed in 1981 from a cemetery in Fort Worth, Texas, to put to rest theories that Oswald's body wasn't actually there. Authorities used dental records to conclude the remains did, indeed, belong to the man who shot the president in 1963. The body was then reburied at Rose Hill Memorial Cemetery in Fort Worth. The assassin's original coffin was auctioned off in 2011 to an anonymous bidder for nearly $87,500. His brother, Robert Edward Lee Oswald, later sued the Texas funeral home and a California auction house.

Pol Pot:
The toppled Khmer Rouge leader died in the Cambodian jungle at age 73 in 1998, cheating pursuers who believed they were days away from capturing him for prosecution in the deaths of as many as 2 million countrymen. He ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, seeking to create a Marxist agrarian regime but leaving one person in five dead of starvation, illness or execution. The despot was cremated on a pile of used car tires and furniture on Dangrek Mountain, just about a mile from the border with Thailand. His unguarded grave site is now a mound of earth marked by bottles stuck into the ground, protected by a rusting, corrugated iron roof. A few wilting flowers sprouted around the unguarded grave site, which officials complain has been virtually stripped of Pol Pot's cremated remains by foreign tourists.

^ These kind of people should not be given a proper funeral. They should be cremated and their ashes dumped in random places. That way no one can come and idolize their gravesite and they are given one lasting punishment for the crimes they did. ^