Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Secrect French

From the BBC:
"How French secretly filmed prison camp life in WWII"

One of the most extraordinary episodes involving Allied prisoners during World War II was recently remembered in Paris. They had been defeated in the Battle of France and marched to the furthest reaches of the Reich. In 1940, Oflag 17a must have felt a bleak, unforgiving place for the 5,000 French officers who were now prisoners-of-war. The Austrian camp, close to the border with Czechoslovakia, was originally built for troops taking part in military exercises.  There were 40 barracks, 20 each side of a central aisle. The land was bound by two lines of barbed wire, the perimeter illuminated by floodlights.  Escape seemed almost impossible. Almost.... and it is remarkable that we can see it. Through some extraordinary ingenuity - and cunning - the men filmed their efforts.  Their rarely seen footage is called Sous Le Manteau (Clandestinely). So professional is it that on first viewing you would be forgiven for thinking it is a post-war reconstruction.  It is in fact a 30-minute documentary, shot in secret by the prisoners themselves. Risking death, they recorded it on a secret camera built from parts that were smuggled into the camp in sausages. The prisoners had discovered that German soldiers would only check food sent in by cutting it down the middle. The parts were hidden in the ends. The camera they built was concealed in a hollowed-out dictionary from the camp library. The spine of the book opened like a shutter. The 8mm reels on which the film was stored were then nailed into the heels of their makeshift shoes. It gives an incredible insight into living conditions within the camp. The scant food they were given, the searches conducted without warning by the German soldiers. They filmed it all, even the searches, right under the noses of their guards.
The film shows the prisoners at work on one of 32 tunnels that were dug during the camp's lifetime.
There was no forced labour and so for large parts of the day the prisoners studied. The teaching was led by senior officers, at the time some of the most intellectual men in France, and such was the high quality of the diplomas they taught that many of the qualifications were recognised after the war by the civilian authorities.

^ It is always interesting to see and hear about what people went through. It is much better than simply reading about it. ^

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Delta Dislikes Disabled

From ABC News:
"Disabled Man Claims Delta Forced Him to Crawl On and Off Plane"

A partially paralyzed man is suing Delta Airlines, claiming he was forced to crawl on and off his flights and across the tarmac because he wasn't provided with the equipment he needed to board and exit the plane, according to a complaint.  D. Baraka Kanaan, 40, of Haiku, Hawaii, filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Hawaii against Delta Airlines and 20 of the carrier's employees and agents. The suit, filed on July 23, seeks damages after he endured "intense physical and extreme emotional suffering" from the ordeal.  In the suit, Kanaan said the airline subjected him to "appallingly outrageous treatment" both on his flight to Nantucket, Mass., on July 27, 2012 and on his flight back to Maui, Hawaii, two days later.  Kanaan, who suffered partial paralysis of his legs after a car accident in 2000, called Delta weeks before his flight to Nantucket, Mass., to let them know he needed an aisle chair and a lift to get off the plane and into his wheelchair, the complaint said. The airline told him he'd be accommodated upon his arrival. But when his flight landed at Nantucket Airport, he was told by a flight attendant that the airline didn't have the equipment he needed and that the crew couldn't get him off the plane, according to the complaint.  As a result, Kanaan was "forced to crawl down the aisle of the airplane, down the stairs of the aircraft and across the tarmac to his wheelchair without any assistance."  But even though Kanaan reported the problem to Delta and was assured he'd be given what he needed on his trip home, the same thing happened to Kanaan on his flight to Hawaii.  Kanaan was told that neither an aisle chair nor a lift was available to help him on the plane. Once again, he was forced to "crawl across the tarmac, up the stairs of the aircraft, down the aisle and hoist himself into his seat," the complaint said.  The only thing the airline offered him was "a piece of cardboard to put down so his clothes wouldn't get dirty," according to the suit.  Under the Air Carrier Access Act, the airline is required to provide passengers "with a lift, aisle chair and other equipment as needed or requested," the suit said.  While the Delta disability desk offered to compensate Kanaan with 25,000 miles and $100 voucher, the lawsuit also states, the offer was not enough to quell his fears that he'd be forced to crawl again if he flew with the airline.  Kanaan's attorney, Richard Holcomb, told ABC News that while his client was upset that the issue could not be resolved, he's glad that his story is out as the airline has "done other egregious things to disabled people" in the past.  Kanaan's complaint states, "Just a year before, Delta received no less than 5,000 complaints against it and was ordered to pay record breaking fines for its persistent 'egregious' mistreatment of disabled passengers."  A spokesman for Delta Airlines declined to comment on the pending lawsuit.

^ This isn't the first time Delta has made headlines about how horrible they treat the disabled (a disabled American vet also had to crawl since no one at the airline would help him. I already wrote about this.) It seems that the US Government and aviation officials seriously need to look into Delta and al the complaints regarding their treatment of the disabled and do something to force Delta to follow the law. If I was disabled and the flight crew refused to help me I would simply stay in my seat until they found a legal way to get me off - of course that doesn't help someone get on the plane because the flight crew wouldn't care like they would deplaning - as they can't leave until every passenger is off. I have plans to travel in the near future and I can guarantee it won't be with Delta - I am making a conscious effort to find another airline. I travel with someone in a wheelchair and "fight" hard whenever people treat them badly. It is just plain disgusting for anyone in the 2nd decade of the 21st Century to treat a disabled person in this way - especially one that is supposed to be in the customer support business. ^

Gay Vodka

From the MT:
"Irked With Russia, U.S. Gays Target Vodka and Sochi"

Russian vodka and the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For now, those are the prime targets as gays in the U.S. and elsewhere propose boycotts and other tactics to convey their outrage over Russia's intensifying campaign against gay-rights activism. At many gay bars across North America, owners have joined a campaign to stop selling Russian vodka — notably the popular brand Stolichnaya. Activists also are pressing the International Olympic Committee and NBC, which holds U.S. broadcasting rights for Sochi, to be more aggressive in criticizing new Russian laws. So far, there have been only scattered calls for a full-fledged boycott of the Sochi Games, but there is active discussion of how to convey gay-rights messages once the competition begins — including gestures by individual athletes and perhaps a gay-pride parade. The chief flashpoint is a law signed by President Vladimir Putin last month that bans the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposes hefty fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.
There also is concern about a long-running problem of violence against gays in Russia, as well as a new law restricting adoptions of Russian children by people in countries allowing same-sex marriage. The new laws were approved by parliament with overwhelming support, reflecting animosity toward gay activism that is widely shared across the political spectrum in Russia. Responding to the furor, the IOC said it has received assurances "from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games." It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.  However, the Human Rights Campaign, a leading U.S. gay-rights group, said the IOC should take a stronger stand. "They should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics," HRC president Chad Griffin said. "Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal."
The New York Times, in an editorial Sunday, said the U.S. government "needs to be more forceful" in denouncing the new laws. "So does the International Olympic Committee, which too often fails to defend the Olympic ideals and should be leading a full-throated international campaign to insist that Russia repeal these laws," the editorial said. NBC also is coming under pressure, including an open letter from the Human Rights Campaign saying it would be wrong to televise Sochi's opening ceremonies without reporting on the anti-gay legislation. Nikolai Alexeyev, a prominent Russian gay-rights activist, suggested staging a gay pride parade in Sochi as the Olympics begin "to attract the maximum attention to the rights violations." Alexeyev was not among a group of more than 20 other Russian activists who issued an open letter endorsing efforts to boycott Russian goods and companies, as well the Sochi Games. Russian journalist Masha Gessen, who helped organize the letter, also suggested that activists around the world should confront Russian officials when they travel abroad. "Our goal is that any foreign trip made by Russian officials or representatives of big Russian companies becomes hell," she said. Another signer of the letter, photographer Mitya Aleshkovsky, welcomed the boycott of Stolichnaya. "If more Russian brands face rebuke and boycott in the West, it would help influence the Russian government," he said. "Of course, a boycott of Russian oil and gas would be the most efficient step, but, regrettably, none of Western oil and gas importers are willing to do that." The vodka boycott took shape last week, fueled by appeals from popular gay columnist Dan Savage and various other activists and organizations. Gay bars in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere joined the effort. In New York, the activist group Queer Nation is planning to organize a "vodka dump" Wednesday at the Russian consulate. Hoping to defuse the boycott, the CEO of the company that produces Stolichnaya, Val Mendeleev, issued a statement criticizing the Russian anti-gay laws as "dreadful actions." He depicted his company as a longtime supporter of the global gay community, as evidenced by Stolichnaya's role as a sponsor of various gay pride events. "We are upset and angry," Mendeleev wrote. "We fully support and endorse your objectives to fight against prejudice in Russia." Mendeleev said his company, SPI Group, has no ties to the Russian government. The vodka is made from Russian wheat, rye and raw alcohol at a distillery in Latvia. Some U.S. activists proposed that the boycott be extended to Russian caviar, and also suggested that American companies doing business in Russia be pressured to speak out against the laws.

^ It is good that people take a non-violent stand against things that they do not support, but I doubt anything will come of these boycotts. The US and other Western nations boycotted the 1980 Olympics in Moscow because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Soviets didn't leave for 10 years. The Soviets and other Eastern nations boycotted the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles in retaliation and nothing came of that either. To think the IOC will do anything is funny. They didn't stop the 1972 Munich Games after the Israeli team was murdered. They also didn't hold a ceremony at he 2012 London Games to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the massacre. The only thing the IOC cares about is making money and they do not care how they do it. The only real change of this homosexual discrimination has to come from within Russia and as history has shown that will most likely never happen. ^

Pope's Gay Speech

From the BBC:
"Pope Francis: Who am I to judge gay people?"

Pope Francis has said gay people should not be marginalised but integrated into society. Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Brazil, he reaffirmed the Roman Catholic Church's position that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not. He was responding to questions about whether there was a "gay lobby" in the Vatican. "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?" He also said he wanted a greater role for women in the Church, but insisted they could not be priests. The Pope arrived back in Rome on Monday after a week-long tour of Brazil - his first trip abroad as pontiff - which climaxed with a huge gathering on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach for a world Catholic youth festival. Festival organisers estimated it attracted more than three million people.  His remarks on gay people are being seen as much less judgemental than his predecessor's position on the issue.  Pope Benedict XVI signed a document in 2005 that said men with deep-rooted homosexual tendencies should not be priests.  But Pope Francis said gay clergymen should be forgiven and their sins forgotten. "The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well," Pope Francis said in a wide-ranging 80-minute long interview with Vatican journalists. "It says they should not be marginalised because of this but that they must be integrated into society."

^ Since no priest (homosexual or not) is allowed to marry or have sex this speech is a little pointless. If any of them act on their desires then they are excommunicated regardless if it was a man or woman. I also don't see his remarks about women in the Church as anything special since he says they will never become priests. Basically, while the Pope is said to be modern and wanting change so far his only change is talking with no action. ^

Clinton And Weiner

From CP:
"Bill and Hillary Clinton Reportedly Livid at Comparison to Weiner's Sex Scandal and Huma's Forgiveness"

Former President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary are reportedly "livid" at the campaign of New York City mayoral Candidate Anthony Weiner for comparing the Clintons' response to Bill's infamous White House sex scandal to Weiner and his wife's reaction to his explicit sexting habit.
"The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is 'standing by her man' the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did,'' a top New York State Democrat told the New York Post. According to the report, Weiner and his campaign operatives have explicitly cited the Clintons experience as they seek to assure Democratic voters that he is still a viable candidate to become mayor of New York City.  "Our marriage, like many others, has had its ups and its downs," said Abedin in defense of standing by her husband last week. Clinton's operatives took this statement as a veiled comparison to Bill and Hillary's union. "Who didn't think Huma was referring to the Clintons when she said that?'' noted another prominent Democrat. The Clintons' camp are concerned about how the association might affect Hillary's possible 2016 presidential run and wants to distance her from the Weiners as much as possible.

^ The Clintons are worried that the Weiners are too much like them because they ARE with a few exceptions. Bill Clinton was President at the time and not only had sex outside his marriage, but also openly lied to the American people. When his lies were made public Hillary was standing right next to him. Not only that, but she has stayed with him (although I think that was mainly due to her own political goals.) Weiner's wife not only stood beside her husband, but she worked for Hillary  - which is probably where she learned how to. ^

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sequestration Affects

It is very disturbing that the media, Congress, the President and the ordinary people do not care about what Sequestration is doing to the American soldier and their families. Sequestration (or automatic budget cuts) came into effect because Congress and the President refused to work together and make sure the country wasn't affected by these cuts. These cuts will last until the end of the fiscal year in September, but the damage to hard-working government and military employees has already been done. Government workers not deemed "essential" have to take a furlough  of a day or two a week without pay. Government and military services are being cut-down because of these furloughs. Commisaries (military supermarkets) are closed an extra day a week. Schools overseas (like DODDS) have had to cut school days thus affecting children. While I am only affected by the commissary we go to once a month being closed Mondays (it's regular day off) and now Tuesdays the point is that the government and the ordinary people need to know and remember that workers and soldiers are being punished because of a Congress and President who simply don't care. If they did they would be working hard to fix the problem and making sure it was in all the media so the voters also knew how hard they were trying. Ordinary Americans only cared when it directly affected them via the TSA. Congress saw the outcry and rather then fix the whole problem they simply made the TSA "essential" and so the delays ended. I wish the TSA delays were still enforce (and I say that knowing I would have been affected when I flew to Colorado last month) so that more pressure would be on Congress and the President to get things done and end Sequestration. If people stood-up for things that didn't directly affect them then we wouldn't have had the Holocaust, most wars, slavery, Apartheid and many other horrible events throughout history. Sadly, the majority of people do nothing unless it directly involves them. There is a famous quote from Martin Niemöller (that sums this up:

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist.
Then they came for the socialists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.

I know that Sequestration is not the same as the Holocaust, but the principles behind standing-by and watching things happen to others and doing nothing because it doesn't directly affect you is the same.

EU Works

From the BBC:
"How the EU works"

EU Commission:

There are 28 EU commissioners - one from each member state - and each one focuses on a policy area, for example justice and home affairs, or the EU internal market.  The Commission's job is to draft EU laws and act as "guardian of the treaties". It enforces EU rules, and if a member state delays enacting an agreed policy, or simply refuses to comply, then the Commission will warn them and if necessary pursue them at the EU Court of Justice. The Commission can levy fines or suspend EU funding.  New EU laws, or revisions to existing ones, come about usually after requests from governments, Euro MPs or lobby groups. There is often pressure from all three areas for the Commission to take action.  The Commission has a staff of about 33,000.

EU Council:

Usually this institution is simply called "the Council". It represents the governments of the member states; the ministers meet regularly according to their policy area.  EU summits are officially meetings of the "European Council" - that is, when all the heads of government meet. It is their job to set the EU's main priorities and overall policy direction. Their chairman is European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, who took office in 2009 and will step down in December 2014.
EU laws become part of national legislation after detailed negotiations between the Council and the European Parliament. They examine draft laws from the Commission and make recommendations, so the final text is a compromise - often the result of numerous amendments.  Voting in the Council is weighted according to a country's size and economic power, so for example Germany has a bigger weight than Luxembourg. It is called qualified majority voting (QMV). Germany, France, Italy and the UK have 29 votes each, while Malta has three.  But for taxation or foreign policy issues, such as trade agreements or sanctions, unanimity is required.

EU Parliament:

The Lisbon Treaty, signed in 2007, gave the European Parliament more powers than it had previously.  It is the only directly elected EU institution, and the next elections will be in May 2014.
The parliament has grown because 13 countries - mostly ex-communist states in Central and Eastern Europe - have joined since 2004. There are 766 MEPs. Germany has the most - 99, France 74, the UK and Italy 73 each, and the three smallest countries - Estonia, Luxembourg and Malta - have six each.  A majority of MEPs want the parliament to be permanently based in Brussels, to stop the expensive monthly shuttle to Strasbourg, where the full "plenary" sessions are held. But France wants to keep the Strasbourg sessions and switching to a "single seat" in Brussels would require treaty change.  MEPs now have "co-decision" powers in nearly all policy areas, meaning that they shape EU laws on an equal basis with the Council. Before the Lisbon Treaty they had little influence over agriculture, fisheries or the EU budget.

European External Action Service:

The EU's new diplomatic service was one of the key innovations under the Lisbon Treaty, intended to give the EU "one voice" internationally.  The EEAS is led by Baroness Ashton from the UK, a Labour Party peer, who will step down in December 2014. In 2012 the budget for the service was 489m euros (£422m; $649m), and it has a staff of 3,500 (1,500 in HQ and 2,000 in delegations).
There is much dispute about whether the EEAS has made EU foreign policy any more coherent. A European Parliament report this year called the service top-heavy and slow to react to crises. But Catherine Ashton's office argues that the EEAS has responded efficiently to emergencies in Africa and has achieved successes elsewhere, such as the April 2013 Serbia-Kosovo deal, reached after long, gruelling talks.

^ I know many people around the world (especially those living within the European Union) have no idea how the EU actually works. I was surprised that the BBC had this article since they have steadily become anti-EU in recent years. I once took a class in college called: "The European Union" and while the class (well the professor) was very boring I did learn a lot about it and have kept up on the new developments. ^

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Other Son (2012)

I  recently watched "The Other Son" ("Le Fils de l'Autre" in French.) It is a French movie based in Israel. It revolves around two families: one Israeli Jews and the other Israeli Arabs and how the two are forced to deal with each other when a secret is made known. In 1991, when Saddam's Iraq was firing Scud missiles at Israel two woman were given birth at the same hospital and in the wake of the air raids their babies were switched. It took 18 years for the families to learn the truth (due only because of the routine medical tests that every conscript in the Israeli military had to take.) The Israeli Jewish family had raised the Israeli Arab boy (not knowing the truth) while the Israeli Arab family had raised the Israeli Jewish boy  (again not knowing the truth.)  Pascal Elbe plays the Jewish father, Emmanuelle Devos the Jewish mother, Jules Sitruk plays their "son. Khalifa Natour plays the Arab father, Areen Omari the Arab mother,  Medhdi Denbi their "son" and Mahmud Shalaby  the older brother. Each did a good job portraying their respected role. The movie shows the good and bad of both sides (rather than favoring one over the other) and how they fit in the current Israel-West Bank relationship.

Gibraltar Blocked

From the BBC:
"Gibraltar border delays prompt UK protest to Spain"

The UK government has raised "serious concerns" with Spain about long delays at the border with Gibraltar caused by a rise in vehicle searches. Gibraltar says Spain has created "deliberate" delays of up to six hours to vehicles travelling to and from the British territory since Friday. Foreign Secretary William Hague called the Spanish Foreign Minister on Sunday. Spain has yet to respond publicly.
It follows earlier accusations of Spanish incursions into British waters. Spain disputes UK sovereignty over Gibraltar, a limestone outcrop on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, which has been ruled by Britain since 1713. On Friday and Saturday, Spanish customs officers stopped thousands of vehicles trying to leave the territory for Spain. On Sunday the delays switched to traffic trying to enter Gibraltar.  Gibraltar's government said Spain had engineered the delays to traffic.
There were delays of nearly six hours for those leaving Gibraltar on Saturday in temperatures of 30C (86F) as Spanish authorities searched "practically every vehicle". A resident of Gibraltar, David Gibbins, told the BBC Saturday's delays had meant the territory - which has a population of under 30,000 - had been "gridlocked". "People couldn't go to the beach, they couldn't go to their houses and they couldn't go to see their families," he said. He said border guards had been "checking every bit of paperwork", which he said never normally happened. Gareth Gingell, who is a member of the activist group Defenders of Gibraltar, told the BBC that on Sunday the Guardia Civil had been "only letting one car through about every 30 minutes".  "It's taking about four hours for people to get through," he said. On Sunday evening, the Foreign Office said that as well as the call between the two foreign ministers, the British ambassador in Madrid had raised concerns with the Spanish deputy foreign minister, and Britain had "registered our protest" with the Spanish ambassador in London.  "Our main concerns at the moment are restoring people's basic right to freedom of movement, and we want to work towards a speedy solution that will help to ease the very difficult situation and humanitarian issues at the border and enable a return to normal operations," said a spokesman. Earlier, the government of Gibraltar said: "The Spanish government has inflicted these unnecessary delays on the elderly, children and the infirm in up to 30 degrees of heat.  "This torture has resulted in an ambulance being deployed to treat people with medical conditions. On Friday, for instance, a Spanish man had to be taken to hospital with chest pains." It said the delays had affected tourists and "thousands" of people who go in and out of Gibraltar every day to work. Gibraltar's Deputy Chief Minister, Joseph Garcia, said: "Spain has again shown that she cannot resolve issues through normal diplomatic channels.  "Instead she merely resorts to heavy-hand tactics at the frontier. The behaviour of the Spanish authorities is unacceptable, un-European and illegal." Fellow government ministers John Cortes and Steven Linares distributed water on Saturday afternoon to motorists caught in the queues at the border, and the Royal Gibraltar Police called in 10 additional officers to help with traffic control.

^ I have both British and Spanish (among other nationalities) blood in me and think that the Spanish are acting like a bunch of children in this latest incident on the Gibraltar-Spanish border. The UK (which Gibraltar is a territory of) and Spain are both part of the EU, but Gibraltar and the UK are not part of the Schengen Visa Area like Spain is. Even so, since they are all part of the EU the British should lodge a complaint with the EU Parliament (since they already have with the Spanish authorities.) Franco Spain closed the border completely from the late 1960s and it wasn't reopened  until 1985 almost a decade after Franco's death. That was before Spain joined the EC (European Community - the precursor to the EU) and so there wasn't much the UK could do. If the EU doesn't stand-up for the people of Gibraltar then it will only show the member-countries and the world how worthless the EU is and will probably make more people in the UK vote to leave. ^

Gay UN

From the MT:
"UN Unveils Gay Rights Drive"

Amid a surge of anti-gay violence and repression in Russia and several other countries, the United Nations' human rights office has launched its first global outreach campaign to promote tolerance and greater equality for lesbians, gays, transgender people and bisexuals. Called Free & Equal, it's an unprecedented effort by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to change public attitudes around the world on issues that have bitterly divided the UN's own member states.
The multi-pronged campaign — announced Friday at a news conference in Cape Town, South Africa — will include videos and public-service announcements distributed through social media, a new website, a series of fact sheets and engagement by celebrities well-known in different regions of the world. "Changing attitudes is never easy. … It begins with often difficult conversations," said Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights. "And that is what we want to do with this campaign. Free & Equal will inspire millions of conversations among people around the world and across the ideological spectrum." There were multiple reasons for choosing South Africa as the news conference venue. It is Pillay's home country and is a leading nation on a continent where discrimination and violence against LGBT people is widespread. In Cameroon, for example, two men were sentenced to prison last week for gay sex, and a gay rights activist was tortured and killed earlier this month in an attack his friends suspect was related to his activism. South Africa, in contrast, does not criminalize homosexuality and allows same-sex marriage, yet is plagued by extensive anti-gay violence, including frequent rapes of lesbians. However, the new awareness campaign will extend worldwide, reflecting the challenges faced by gays in many countries. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin recently signed a law that will impose hefty fines for holding gay pride rallies or providing information about the gay community to minors. In Haiti, gay-rights leaders say their community has been targeted by a recent series of threats. In Montenegro, several hundred people on Wednesday attacked the Balkan nation's first-ever gay pride rally, throwing rocks and bottles at activists while some yelled, "Kill the gays." Meanwhile, a group of protesters tried to disrupt Lithuania's second gay pride parade ever on Saturday, defying an enormous police presence by throwing eggs at marchers and attempting to storm a stage. Several hundred gay rights activists took to the grand main street of Vilnius to show their pride, waving Lithuanian and rainbow-colored flags, with some standing on top of buses decked out in colorful balloons. They were met by hundreds of unruly protesters, 28 of whom were detained, police said. Among them was Petras Grazulis, an anti-gay lawmaker who rallied protesters with a bullhorn. He was thrown face-down on the ground and carried off in handcuffs by police, though the lawmaker soon reappeared at the protest after being released from police custody.

^ I have written before that I don't think the UN really changes anything (it's all up to individual countries), but if this new program can change the discrimination of homosexuals in places like Russia and Africa than maybe there is hope for the UN  - of course they (the UN) have been trying for years for female equality and not much as been achieved. ^

Afghan Questions

From Yahoo:
"Afghan TV show brings officials face-to-face with ordinary people"

Afghanistan's imperfect democracy is finding one of its purest forms over the television airwaves, where ordinary citizens are getting a rare chance to question their highest officials face-to-face.
A debate program named "Open Jirga" is for the first time bringing a studio audience from every corner of the country to directly question the powers-that-be, from President Hamid Karzai and his ministers to the army chief. Rampant corruption, “wasted” years, and security fears of what will happen after US-led international forces drawdown in 2014 are all fair game.  A co-production of the BBC and state-run Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), the program has given Afghans an unaccustomed taste of political accountability on a national stage. “This is the kind of thing that shows democracy and freedom of expression, and people need to hear it,” says Zarghoona Salihi, a Kabul reporter for the Pajhwok Afghan News agency. “Yes, there are different opinions among people,” says Ms. Salihi. “Some are shocked [at the access to authorities], some are tired of this system. Some people say it is useless and can’t change anything. Others say it is very good, and can cause many changes.” In the nine episodes since December, officials sometimes appear as surprised as the audience, to be questioned by Afghans who are usually far from the nation’s security-bubble elite. Civil society activists, teachers, and lawyers rub elbows with farmers, cobblers, and butchers – with an average audience size of 70 – in feisty debates that are recorded and aired in both of Afghanistan’s two primary languages, Dari and Pashto. “Ninety-percent [of the audience] are real people, a lot of them have never seen a provincial governor, let alone a minister,” says Shirazuddin Siddiqi, the BBC program’s country director and architect of Open Jirga. “It’s been an amazing experience. I really don’t know if we will achieve the aim of contributing to building the future of Afghanistan, by people questioning their officials to bring some accountability,” says Mr. Siddiqi. But the events “especially bring minorities, women, the really aggrieved – especially people from remote areas and the provinces – to this national platform.” The show is presented by Daud Junbish, a well-known Afghan BBC journalist. He twice interviewed the elusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has been a fugitive since 2001. “Presenting” Open Jirga means only facilitating the conversation between Afghans and their authorities, under the gaze of five cameras. Mr. Junbish met with Karzai, who declared himself a “fan” of the show and agreed to appear in March. The audience was not told until they were all within the palace gates that Karzai would be the one debating “governance.” That realization was greeted with surprise and nervousness. “It’s important that ordinary people get a chance to visit high officials, and also a good opportunity for high officials who can’t normally see ordinary people,” said Laila Samani, director of a nongovernmental organization in the northwestern city of Herat, who was part of the Karzai audience in Kabul. The first question came from a farmer from Wardak Province, who asked about Karzai’s performance over 11 years. Another man from Badghis Province said his elders had told the Afghan cabinet of their complaints for so long and with so little result “that hair has grown on their tongues.” From ties to America to unfinished roads and lack of village drinking water, the questions came faster than Karzai could answer them. Another woman from the Panjshir Valley asked about the continuing insurgency: “You have called the Taliban brothers during 12 years … have you achieved a positive result?” Karzai replied that seeking revenge in Afghanistan would not solve its problems, though it was “not forgivable” that Taliban continued to “kill our boys in Khost” and elsewhere. “How much blood was shed in our country?” Karzai asked. “Is the solution in killing or is the solution in forgiveness, friendship, and forgetting? I have selected the path of forgiveness. The Talib who attacked me in Kandahar, I wish he was not killed. I would have forgiven him if he had survived.” Besides the president, Open Jirga has so far questioned 8 ministers, 7 parliamentarians, and top military and security officials. Prior to the debates, detailed research was done in seven provinces to determine issues that mattered most to Afghans by BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity, with primary funding from the UK’s Department for International Development, along with EU and UN donors.
In a security debate that aired earlier this month, one audience member warned that Afghanistan could return to civil war after foreign troops largely depart in 2014 – a common lament of uncertainty about the future. But Abdul Razaq Atif from Badghis suggested there was little reason for concern: “In the last 5,000 years of history our own people have ensured security, not foreigners.” The commander of the Afghan National Army, Gen. Shir Mohammad Karimi, also sought to reassure fellow Afghans. He said Afghanistan’s “enemies” expected the army and police to “be defeated in one day,” after control has gradually passed from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
“But our operations in the last two months which dealt with direct enemy attacks proved our capability to our people,” said General Karimi.

^ I guess it is good that the officials at least appear to care about what the ordinary citizens think. I have heard of Russia's Putin doing a phone call-in show where he answers people's questions, but those questions are pre-submitted and so it is basically staged. As far as I can tell this Afghani show isn't pre-recorded which is good. I have always wanted the US Government to do a Question Time like the UK and Canada do  - and air it on TV - while Question Time doesn't deal with the public it at least has officials answering tough questions. ^

Saturday, July 27, 2013

60 Years Since Korea

From the Stars and Stripes:
"MIAs and troops abroad remain Korean War legacies"

A truce stopped the fighting in Korea that once threatened to spread into a world war whose outcome might have been decided by nuclear weapons. Sixty years later, the costs of the Korean War continue to mount even amid relative peace. Hostility lingers between the North and South and between the North and the United States, which still has no formal diplomatic relations with the communist nation in spite of the war's end on July 27, 1953. That ongoing antagonism is rooted in the U.S. commitment to take a leading role in assisting the South should war break out again on the Korean Peninsula. Washington has tried for years to wean its ally off its dependence on the U.S. military by setting a target date for switching from American to Korean control of the forces that would defend the country in the event North Korea again attacked the South. That target date has slipped from 2012 to 2015 and, just this past week, American officials said the Koreans are informally expressing interest in pushing it back still further. Another powerful legacy from the 1950-53 conflict is more personal for Americans: the seemingly endless challenge of accounting for thousands of U.S. servicemen still listed as missing in action. That mission, which competes for Pentagon resources with demands to also retrieve and identify MIAs from the battlefields of World War II and Vietnam, is beset with problems including bureaucratic dysfunction, according to an internal Pentagon report disclosed July 7 by The Associated Press. What began as a Cold War contest, with the former Soviet Union and China siding with the North and the U.S. and United Nations allies supporting the South, remains one of the world's most dangerous flash points. In some respects, the security threat from the North has grown more acute in recent years. So the U.S. is stuck with a lead wartime role in Korea and with a dim prospect, if any, of building the kind of relationship required to return to the former battlefields of North Korea to excavate remains of U.S. MIAs. The Pentagon says there are about 7,900 MIAs, of which approximately half are thought to be recoverable. President Barack Obama marks the armistice's 60th anniversary with a speech Saturday at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The U.S. has kept combat forces on the Korean Peninsula since the fighting halted with the signing of an armistice, or truce, and it still has 28,500 troops based in the South. They are a symbol of a vibrant and important U.S.-South Korean alliance, and few advocate even a partial American troop withdrawal. But some U.S. military officers believe their permanence on the peninsula, with a singular focus on North Korea, is an anachronistic arrangement that should have been overhauled years ago. Bruce Bennett, a Korea expert at the RAND Corp., a federally funded think tank, says he believes the argument for giving Seoul wartime command of its own troops loses ground as North Korea's nuclear ambitions grow bolder. The North has tested nuclear devices and may be capable of mounting one on a ballistic missile - a worry not only for South Korea, Japan and others in the region but also for the United States. "From the South Korean perspective - and I believe there is a lot of truth to their argument - having the U.S. in (the lead) is a strong deterrent of North Korea, and it means North Korea can't split the alliance," he said. For similar reasons, some South Koreans favor asking the U.S. to reintroduce short-range nuclear weapons onto the peninsula. President George H.W. Bush withdrew all U.S. nuclear weapons from Korea in 1991. In 1994 the South took peacetime control of its forces from the U.S. four-star general who heads a South Korean-U.S. Combined Forces Command, but the American general remained responsible for wartime control. In 2006 the two countries agreed that South Korea would assume wartime control of its forces in April 2012. But in June 2010, shortly after North Korea torpedoed and sank the South Korean ship Cheonan, Seoul and Washington agreed to delay the handover of wartime operational control until December 2015. Now, U.S. officials say Seoul officials are again raising the prospect of another delay, although no formal request has been made. Also on hold are U.S. hopes to send forensic science teams back to North Korea to find U.S. MIA remains. Although the North began to allow U.S. excavations in 1996, Washington stopped in 2005 amid rising nuclear tensions.

^ Even though the fighting stopped in 1953 the tension has remained for the past 60 years. Some things have changed. In 1953 the Chinese and Soviets helped the North Koreans while today there is no USSR and Russia and China don't seem to interested in helping North Korea. ^

Thursday, July 25, 2013

World English

Here is a list of countries/territories and the percentage of their population that official admit to being able to speak/understand English.

These countries/territories have English as an official or de facto status:

-          United States (95%), India (10%), Pakistan (49%), Nigeria (53%), Philippines (79%), United Kingdom (98%), Canada (85%), Australia (97%), South Africa (29%), Kenya (19%), Cameroon (42%), Zimbabwe (42%), Sierra Leone (84%), Ireland (98%), Singapore (80%), Ghana (21%), Tanzania (10%), New Zealand (98%), Papua New Guinea (50%), Liberia (83%), Jamaica (98%), Uganda (8%), Hong Kong (46%), Puerto Rico (49%), Zambia (16%), Rwanda (15%), Trinidad & Tobago (88%), Guyana (91%), Botswana (38%), Malawi (4%), Lesotho (28%), Malta (89%), Namibia (17%), Bahamas (87%), Barbados (99%), Belize (82%), Mauritius (16%), Vanuatu (84%), Fiji (21%), Solomon Islands (32%), Guam (91%), St Vincent (95%), Us Virgin Islands (96%), Grenada (91%), Samoa (50%), Isle of Man (100%), St Lucia (43%), Northern Marianas (83%), Antigua & Barbuda (80%), American Samoa (100%), Micronesia (58%), Bermuda (97%), Dominica (94%), Swaziland (4%), Gambia (2%), St Kitts & Nevis (78%), Cayman Islands (77%), Seychelles (38%), Tonga (30%), Kiribati (24%), British Virgin Islands (87%), Palau (93%), Anguilla (92%), St Helena (82%), Cook Islands (20%), Montserrat (68%), British Indian Ocean Territory (100%), Falkland Islands (96%), Norfolk Island (79%), Turks & Caicos (4%), Pitcairn (92%), Tokelau (3 %)

These countries/territories do not have English as an official of de facto status:

-          Germany (56%), Bangladesh (18%), Egypt (35%), France (39%), Italy (34%), Thailand (27%), Netherlands (90%), Poland (33%), Turkey (17%), Iraq (35%), Spain (22%), China (0.8%), Brazil (4%), Sweden (86%), Malaysia (21%), Russia (5%), Belgium (59%), Israel (85%), Austria (73%), Romania (31%), Greece (51%), Mexico (5%), Denmark (86%), Switzerland (61%), Morocco (14%), Norway (89%), Finland (70%), Portugal (27%), Jordan (45%), Algeria (7%), Czech Republic (27%), Argentina (6%), Yemen (9%), Croatia (49%), Hungary (20%), Sri Lanka (10%), Bulgaria (25%), Bosnia & Herzegovina (45%), Kazakhstan (15%), Lebanon (40%), Chile (10%), Cambodia (10%), Slovakia (26%), Slovenia (59%), Lithuania (38%), Latvia (46%), Estonia (50%), Cyprus (72%), Suriname (87%), Luxembourg (56%), Ethiopia (0.2%), Brunei (39%), Aruba (42%), Honduras (0.4%), Andorra (22%), Nepal (3%), Dominican Republic (0.2%), Guadeloupe (0.1%), St Pierre & Miquelon (3%)

The countries/territories in bold have 50% or higher English understanding.


Here's an updated list of the status of military conscription around the world.

These countries/territories do not have Conscription (year ended):

-          Albania (2010),  American Samoa (1973), Andorra, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina (1995), Australia (1972), Bahamas (1973), Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belgium (1995), Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina (2006), Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria (2008), Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada (1945), Comoros, Congo Democratic. Republic., Congo Republic. Croatia (2008), Curacao, Czech Republic (2005), Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Fiji, France (2001), Gabon, Gambia, Germany (2011), Ghana, Guyana, Honduras, Hungary (2004), India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy (2005), Jamaica, Japan (1945), Jordan (1999), Kenya, Latvia (2007), Lebanon (2007), Lesotho, Liberia, Lithuania (2008), Luxembourg, Macedonia (2006), Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Montenegro (2006), Morocco (2006), Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands (1997), New Zealand (1972), Nicaragua, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru (1999), Philippines, Poland (2009), Portugal (2004), Qatar, Romania (2007), Rwanda, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia, San Marino, Sao Tome & Principe, Saudi Arabia, Serbia (2011), Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Sint Maarten, Slovakia (2006), Slovenia (2003), South Africa (2002), Spain (2001), Sri Lanka, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden (2010), Tanzania, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Trinidad & Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom (1960), United States (1973), Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

These countries/territories have conscription (term of service):

-          Afghanistan (4 years), Algeria (18 months), Angola (2 years), Armenia (2 years), Austria (6 months), Azerbaijan (18 months), Belarus (18 months), Bolivia (12 months), Brazil (12 months), Cambodia (18 months), Chile (12 months), Colombia (18 months), Cote d’Ivoire (18 months), Cyprus (25 months), Denmark (4 months), Egypt (36 months), Eritrea (16 months), Estonia (8 months), Finland (6 months), Georgia (18 months), Greece (12 months), Guinea (18 months), Iran (18 months), Kazakhstan (2 years), Korea North (120 months) Korea South (24 months), Kyrgyzstan (2 years), Laos (18 months), Mauritania (2 years), Moldova (12 months), Mongolia (12 months), Norway (19 months), Paraguay (24 months), Russia (12 months), Singapore (24 months), Somalia (2 years), South Sudan, Switzerland (260 days), Syria (18 months), Taiwan (2 years), Tajikistan ( 2 years), Tunisia (1 year), Turkey (15 months), Turkmenistan (2 years), Ukraine (12 months), Uzbekistan (1 year), Venezuela (30 months), Vietnam (2 years)

These countries/territories have a lottery conscription (term of service):

-          Benin (18 months), Bermuda (38 months), Cape Verde (14 months), Central African Republic (2 years), Ecuador (12 months), El Salvador (12 months), Equatorial Guinea (2 years), Guatemala (2 years), Guinea-Bissau, Indonesia (2 years), Mali (2 years), Mexico (1 year), Mozambique (2 years), Niger (2 years), Senegal (2 years), Thailand (2 years), Togo (2 years)

These countries/territories have conscription for males and females (term of service):

-          Burma (2 years), Chad (3 years for males, 1 year for females), Cuba (2 years), Israel (36 months for males, 21 months for females), Kuwait (2 years), Sudan (2 years)
The countries/territories in bold are the only places that I believe still need military conscription  - because of the external threats to their security.

No More Door-To-Door

From the Times Union:
"No more mail at your door? Delivery changes eyed"

Door-to-door mail delivery is about as American as apple pie. With the Postal Service facing billions of dollars in annual losses, that tradition could be virtually phased out by 2022 under a proposal in Congress. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday approved a plan to move to cluster box and curbside delivery, which includes mailboxes at the end of driveways.
The proposal is part of broader legislation by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the oversight and government reform panel, designed to cut costs at the cash-strapped agency by up to $4.5 billion a year. The Postal Service had a $16 billion loss last year. The bill was approved on a party-line vote, with 22 Republicans supporting it and 17 Democrats opposing it. Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer said the agency would evaluate Issa's bill based on whether it would enable the agency to make $20 billion in savings by 2017. The agency has been moving toward curbside and cluster box delivery in new residential developments since the 1970s. The Postal Service in April began deciding whether to provide such delivery for people moving into newly built homes rather than letting the developers decide. About 1 in 3 mail customers has door-to-door delivery, Issa said. The shift would include safe and secure cluster box delivery areas, he said, especially for elderly customers who receive Social Security checks and prescriptions through the mail. About 30 million residential addresses receive delivery to boxes at the door or a mail slot. Another 87 million residential addresses receive curbside or cluster box delivery. The cost differences are clear. Curbside delivery costs average $224 per year for each address, while cluster box delivery averages $160. Door-to-door delivery costs the agency about $350 per year, on average.
^ This is one of the few changes I wouldn't mind the USPS making. I used to get mail delivered right to my driveway, but for over 4 years now I have had to drive a mile (down my mountain) to a bunch of mailboxes. After having to complain to the USPS that they were leaving my boxes on top of my mailbox - where anyone could take them or where it could get ruined by the rain or snow - there hasn't been much of a problem related to the box itself (only the carrier.) Of course it is not fun to drive down the mountain in ice, snow or mud and then find out the carrier hasn't come yet so you have to do it all over again, but for the majority of people (living in cities and towns) it would mean walking down the street for their mail. ^

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prince George

From the BBC:
"Royal baby: William and Kate name their son George"

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have named their son George Alexander Louis, Kensington Palace has said.  The third in line to the throne, who was born on Monday at 16:24 BST, will be known as His Royal Highness Prince George of Cambridge. It is thought the Queen was told of Prince George's name when she met him for the first time on Wednesday. Royal infants usually have historical names which are passed down through the generations.  There have been six King Georges up to now, most recently the Queen's father, although his first name was Albert and he was known to his family as Bertie. The name Louis is Prince William's fourth name and is likely to be a tribute to Lord Louis Mountbatten, the Duke of Edinburgh's uncle and the last British Viceroy of India before independence in 1947.

Our correspondent also said Prince George does not have to be King George if he accedes to the throne - he can choose another name, as the Queen's father did. "Royal names are diminishing. Edward VIII had 7; Prince Charles has 4; Prince William 4; Prince George 3. #princegeorge," he tweeted. Charles Mosley, author of Blood Royal, told the BBC he knew it would be George. "It was the name of the sovereigns under whom this country became a world player - in the 19th Century, defeating Napoleon, and in the 20th Century, winning two world wars. "Louis is a nod in the direction of the Mountbatten element in the Royal Family. And indeed the surname of the royal family is still Mountbatten. His (Prince George's) birth certificate and marriage certificate will say Mountbatten-Windsor." As well as being an established regal name, George is also a saint's name. St George was an early Christian martyr and is the patron saint of England. Royal baby prince named George  The announcement of the new prince's name has been relatively quick compared with previous royal babies. It was seven days before the name of a newborn Prince William was announced in 1982, and there was a wait of a month following Prince Charles's birth in 1948.
King Georges:
  • George I - Born 1660, Hanover. Reign: 1714-27
  • George II - Born 1683, Hanover. Reign: 1727-60
  • George III - Born 1738, London. Reign: 1760-1820
  • George IV - Born 1762, London. Reign: 1820-1830
  • George V - Born 1865, London. Reign: 1910-36
  • George VI - Born 1895, Sandringham. Reign: 1936-1952

^ George sounds like an old man's name like Barbara sounds like an old woman's name. When he becomes king he could change it. ^

NH Marijuana

From WMUR:
"Medical marijuana bill signed into law"

CONCORD, N.H. —Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a law making New Hampshire the 19th state to allow seriously ill residents to use marijuana to treat their illnesses.  "Well I think it's very important to allow physicians to provide relief to their patients with appropriately regulated and dispensed marijuana. I think it's the compassionate and right thing to do," Hassan said. The law allows patients with cancer and other conditions to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana obtained from dispensaries.
Up to four dispensaries can be licensed and have a maximum of 80 marijuana plants, 160 seedlings and 80 ounces of marijuana or 6 ounces per qualifying patient. But Matt Simon of the Marijuana Policy Project said those dispensaries may not be around for a while. "The problem is that it will take probably two years or more before they're able to open.  The Department of Health and Human Services has 18 months before it even has to register these entities to grow and distribute marijuana to patients," Simon said. There are still those who oppose legalized medical marijuana.  Enfield Police Chief Richard Crate worries the drug will fall into the wrong hands. "We're calling marijuana medicine and we've seen an increase in marijuana use in teenagers," Crate said. But supports like Simon said medical marijuana is about helping people living with cancer, Aids, and other illnesses and offering them a little relief. "The patients whom I'm most concerned about are those who are unable to maintain a healthy weight, and who know that medical marijuana would stimulate their appetites," Simon said.

^ Medical marijuana should be legal on the Federal level and also in all the states. As long as there are safe guards so it isn't abused like in California. ^

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Speeding States

From Yahoo:
"The Most Egregious States For Speeding Tickets In The US"

I’ve lived in Massachusetts for most of my life. I racked up a handful of minor traffic violations here over the last 25 years, but when I moved to Vermont, I seemed to be getting popped for violations once every couple of months. It was a combination of driving more during odd hours, and a lot of cops with nothing better to do. Those factors influence what state you’re likely to get a ticket in, too, and how expensive it’s likely to be.

Most Expensive First Offense: (Tie) Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire

These five states all hold drivers liable for a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense. The fine is up to a judge’s discretion and can be based on how many miles per hour you’re ticketed over the designated speed limit, or if you were caught speeding in a work or a school zone, both of which tend to double a fine. In addition to the fine, you can spend up to a year in jail. Granted, speeding in a work zone is bad for everyone concerned, but a few moments of inattention resulting in a $1,000 fine? What’s the first offense for a weapons violation in those states?

Most Expensive State to Fight a Ticket: Massachusetts

Back in 2005, Vincent Gillespie got a $15 parking ticket in Northampton, Massachusetts, a bucolic community in the Connecticut River Valley in Central Massachusetts. In order to fight the ticket, Gillespie had to pay $319.90 in filing fees with the Hampshire County Superior Court, which was non-refundable whether he won his case or not. His case went to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial court, where Gillespie’s lawyers argued that the fees effectively negated his constitutional right to due process. In its ruling, the SJC noted that the plaintiffs hadn’t met the burden of proof that the laws weren’t in keeping with the state constitution, and that the fee system serves the purpose of discouraging “the filing of nonmeritorious appeals,” thus conserving scarce judicial resources.
Sneakiest Speed Traps in America: Vermont

Mt. Tabor is a one-horse dot on Route 7a in western Vermont that doesn’t even have a traffic light. What it does have is a speed limit sign that drops to 40 mph, and you will get rung up by its zealous constable, a guy who drives a Camaro and gets paid by the number of tickets he writes. And he’s not alone. One constable in the village of Island Pond made national news by writing 1,100 tickets, with fines totaling $100,000 – a tenth of the entire revenue of the town that year.

Most Unmarked State Police Cars: Connecticut

In all my years driving in New England, I’ve never seen a fully marked Connecticut State Police car. That’s because only one is assigned to every troop. Apparently, they’re white with yellow and blue markings. Most Connecticut State Police cars are silver, with a pushbar up front and a low-profile lightbar on the roof, which carries the only “State Police” marking on the car. Connecticut’s also been notorious for using Camaros, Mustangs, Grand Nationals and other non-traditional cars as unmarked patrol cars on the state’s highways.

Most Tickets Written: Washington, DC
Ohio residents will be surprised that it’s Washington, DC (yeah, not technically a “state,” but whatever) that writes the most speeding tickets. With just over half a million residents, DC’s Finest writes more than 430,000 tickets a year. It beats out the next state in the top ten – Wyoming – by a factor of ten. Save your money. Visit some other place.

^ I have lived and/or travelled to all of these states and I guess the thing to remember is - don't break the law and you won't get a ticket. ^

Royal Wishes

From the BBC:
"Royal baby: UK and world reaction"

People in the UK and around the world react to the news that the Duchess of Cambridge has given birth to a baby boy, who is now third in line to the British throne.

- Prime Minister David Cameron:

"It is wonderful news from St Mary's Paddington, and I am sure right across the country and right across the Commonwealth people will be celebrating and wishing the royal couple well. It is an important moment in the life of our nation, but I suppose above all it is an important moment for a warm and loving couple who have got a brand new baby boy.  "It has been a remarkable few years for our Royal Family. A Royal wedding that captured peoples' hearts. That extraordinary and magnificent jubilee and now this royal birth, all from a a family that have given this nation so much incredible service. And they can know that a proud nation is celebrating with a very proud and happy couple tonight."

- Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg:

"Miriam and I want to congratulate The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son. This is wonderful news which will make the whole country smile. "The arrival of a first child is a very special time and we send our very best wishes to The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge - and indeed to all couples who have become proud parents on this very special day."

- Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond:

"I am sure that people across Scotland will be absolutely thrilled to hear the news of the birth of a baby boy to the royal couple and will want to join me in wishing the proud parents many congratulations."

- Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones:

"On behalf of the people of Wales, I would like to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their baby boy. "The couple already have established and strong links with Wales, choosing Anglesey to start their married life, and they will always have a very warm welcome home here as a family. "I would like to wish the Duke and Duchess all the very best as they enter their journey into parenthood." The crew of HMS Kent mark the birth of the prince

- London Mayor Boris Johnson:

"Congratulations to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on their new arrival."

- Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby:

"I am delighted to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the arrival of their baby boy.
"Along with millions here and around the world, I share in their joy at this special time. May God bless this family with love, health and happiness in their shared life ahead."

- Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks:

"Mazal Tov to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the birth of their son. We wish them blessings, good health, and joy in becoming parents."

- Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd:

"I think all Australians at the bottom of their hearts wish the royal bub all the best, and certainly wish the new parents all the best as well. This is a day of great joy.  "To Prince Charles and Camilla, they have the delight of being grandparents, all I can say is, this is probably one of the best experiences of your life. And I'm sure they're going to have a wonderful time with the royal baby. And her Majesty the Queen and to the Duke of Edinburgh, the special delight of a great-grandchild. So, on behalf of all Australians, we wish the family all the best at this wonderful time of celebration."

- Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper:

"The arrival of the newest member of the Royal Family, a future sovereign of Canada, is a highly-anticipated moment for Canadians given the special and warm relationship that we share with our Royal Family. This new beginning reminds us of the remarkable and enduring relationship our country has enjoyed with generations of the Royal Family."

- US President Barack Obama:

"Michelle and I are so pleased to congratulate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge on the joyous occasion of the birth of their first child. "We wish them all the happiness and blessings parenthood brings. The child enters the world at a time of promise and opportunity for our two nations. "Given the special relationship between us, the American people are pleased to join with the people of the United Kingdom as they celebrate the birth of the young prince."

- French President Francois Hollande:

"The happy news of the birth has delighted the French people. "I and Valerie Trierweiler [Mr Hollande's partner] wish to offer our most heartfelt congratulations, as well as our warmest wishes for joy and happiness for your new family. "The Prince will one day be called on to reign and to follow in the footsteps of his ancestors, who - since the Entente Cordiale - have contributed to developing excellent ties between our two countries."

- New Zealand Prime Minister John Key:

"The birth has been well-publicised over here and there's been a high level of anticipation and excitement, and I think there's just genuine fondness towards William and Kate. "William has a special part both in the hearts and minds of New Zealanders, he came over here after the Christchurch earthquake and the Pike River mine disaster and represented the Queen at the opening of the Supreme Court over here and spent quite some time as well. So he is much-loved in New Zealand and I think people are genuinely very happy for the couple."

- Russian president's press service:

"Russian President Vladimir Putin has congratulated Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland on the birth of her great-grandson. He wished the newborn baby, the Duchess of Cambridge and all members of the Royal Family good health."

- Israeli President Shimon Peres:

"On behalf of the people of the State of Israel, I wish to express our tremendous joy at the birth of your child - a royal baby, born in the most democratic country on earth. From Jerusalem, we pray for his health, his future, and his peace. May he live to a hundred and twenty years, and I know the whole Jewish nation joins me in wishing the entire royal family a hearty Mazal Tov."

^ It always nice to see how the rest of the world reacts to events in your country. ^