Saturday, May 31, 2014

An International French?

From USA Today:
"Is French the language of the future?"

The French are a proud bunch, especially when it comes to their mother tongue. So it must have been hard for them to take a backseat and watch English become the lingua franca of the 21st century.
But revenge could be on the horizon: The language beloved by Parisian poets, Russian aristocrats and pretentious grad students is set to reclaim its title when it becomes the world's most commonly spoken language by the year 2050, according to a study by Natixis, an investment bank. French is currently ranked sixth among world languages, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Spanish, Hindi and Arabic. But it is gaining speakers quickly and, the study reports, will be spoken by 750 million in 2050, up from 220 million todayC'est possible? English enjoys an indisputable global popularity, and Mandarin has long been touted as the language of the future, given the size of China's population and its growing economic power, but French has a demographic ace up its sleeve: French-speaking populations are growing faster than English- and Mandarin-speaking ones. Besides France and its best-known former colonies, Morocco, Tunis and Algeria, the language of Molière and Manet is spoken in 28 other states — which happen to be some of world's fastest-growing nations. In Africa, French is the official schooling language of countries with increasingly high fertility rates like Lebanon and Mali in the north, and Guinea, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo in the sub-Saharan region. A demographic boom in these African states could bump the world's percentage of French speakers from 3 percent today to 8 percent by 2050. French-speaking populations are growing faster than English- and Mandarin-speaking ones. Meanwhile, China and many English-speaking countries are likely to experience a demographic slowdown, which could lead to an expected decline in the number of English speakers — from 8 percent to 3 percent of the world's population. For Mandarin, a drop from 10 percent to 8 percent is anticipated. While this sounds like cause for celebration for Francophiles who might cringe at the notion of studying Mandarin, it's not time to pop open the Dom Perignon quite yet. Some skeptics think the predictions are overstated. The study labels all the citizens of the states where French is the official language as "French speakers," which is not strictly true. Countries like Belgium, for example, have more than one official language and, in some African nations, the tongue of the former colonial power is losing ground. Even in Algeria, only a third of the population can write in French. "The number of people who speak French continues to increase, and the projections are indeed impressive, but they do not take into account the coexistence of languages, which is the reality in many countries," says Alexandre Wolff from the Observatory of the French Language. So while French is on the rise, it may be a while before it can challenge the hegemony of English or the growing appeal of Mandarin Chinese. Which makes it a good time to dust off your old French phrasebook — but don't bid adieu to those Mandarin lessons just yet.

^ I don't see the French language becoming the international language ever again. Many people in Africa may be using it, but most of Africa is poor and war-torn and has no real clout over world events. Spanish is used in many places in the US as well Mexico, Central and South America but again they don't hold much sway either. I don't see Chinese becoming an international language only because it is too hard for the majority of the world to learn it. They may have a billion speakers inside China, but not many outside. English has been the sole international language since 1945 and I only see that strengthening in the coming years. English is used in: science, the military, aviation, tourism, business, education, etc all over the world. A person from China can go to Russia and speak with a person from France in English. That is the way the world has evolved and people around the world should focus on learning English if they want to become part of the global community. With that said, I do think native-English speakers sill need to learn different languages. I learned French and Russian so it can be done. ^

CDN Monument

From the G and M:
"Harper goes on full-scale verbal attack against ‘evil’ communism"

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched into a full-throated attack on the evils of communism at a fundraiser on Friday for a monument to its victims. In a lengthy key-note speech to the dinner, Harper took aim at Russian President Vladimir Putin and past adherents to communism. “During the 20th century, communism’s poisonous ideology and ruthless practices slowly bled into countries around the world, on almost every continent,” Harper said.  “The result was catastrophic. More than 100 million souls were lost — an almost incomprehensible number.” The evening’s goal was to help raise money for Tribute to Liberty, which aims for a permanent memorial in Ottawa to communism’s “hundreds of millions” of victims. In 2010, the Conservative government said it would support the monument. Future generations of Canadians, Harper said, must be reminded that peace was earned through struggle and sacrifice. In language reminiscent of the height of the Cold War, Harper lambasted communism and oppressive or even murderous ideologies. “Evil comes in many forms and seems to reinvent itself time and again,” he said. “But whatever it calls itself — Nazism, Marxist-Leninism, today, terrorism — they all have one thing in common: the destruction, the end of human liberty.” Canadians, the prime minister said, are well aware of that destruction. “We feel this pain so acutely because nearly one quarter of all Canadians were either held captive by communism’s chains or are the sons and daughters of those who were.” He repeated his support for Ukraine, and lashed out again at Putin, saying the president has “grown more comfortable with confrontation” and Russia’s “expansionism and militarism” threatens global security. Canada, he said, has been a haven from those fleeing oppression. “Instead of communism’s grim determinism, they found Canadian opportunity.” Harper said Canada and the West played their pro-freedom role during the Cold War, and he singled out former prime minister Brian Mulroney along with ex-British PM Margaret Thatcher and former U.S. president Ronald Reagan. The PM did express “immense regret” that Canada had not always lived up to its high aspirations. A jury will be selecting the winning monument design team within months.

^ It is odd that the Canadians are now going after communism and other tyrants so forcefully considering that during the Cold War they almost always remained silent on the issues. They were officially on the West's Anti-Communist side and sometimes supported anti-communist actions (the Korean War, NORAD and NATO) but didn't usually say anything openly against the communists or their crimes. It seems that the ultra Liberal Prime Ministers of the 1960s-1970s did little because they were creating a mini-Socialist state within Canada at the time. It's nice to see Harper stand up and strongly make his opinions known to both Canadians and the world. He has spoken out not only about past communist crimes, but also Russia attacking the Ukraine. Harper is more outspoken than Obama would ever be (I think that's because, like the Ultra Canadian Liberals of the '60s and '70s Obama is trying to make the US another socialist state - especially with his Obamacare.) For once a Canadian leader has a back-bone and isn't afraid to use while. I wish Obama would call Harper and ask him how he can use his. ^

VA Resignation

From the BBC:
"Veterans Secretary Eric Shinseki resigns after report"

Embattled US Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki has resigned amid a scandal over delayed care and falsified records at the agency's hospitals. President Barack Obama said Mr Shinseki told him he did not want to be a distraction as the agency tried to fix Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals.
Mr Obama said he accepted the resignation "with considerable regret". A recent report found veterans at an Arizona hospital waited an average of 115 days for an initial appointment. On Friday morning after an Oval Office meeting with Mr Shinseki, a retired four-star general wounded in Vietnam, Mr Obama told reporters Mr Shinseki had "worked hard to investigate and identify the problems with access to care". The US president said he had named Deputy VA Secretary Sloan Gibson to be acting head of the agency.  Mr Shinseki's decision to step down came as his support among Mr Obama's own Democratic Party steadily eroded. Republicans in Congress and at least one major veterans group had called for him to step down earlier this month. On Friday, Jeff Miller, Republican chairman of the House veterans affairs committee, said Mr Shinseki's tenure had been "tainted by a pervasive lack of accountability among poorly performing VA employees and managers, apparent widespread corruption among medical centre officials and an unparalleled lack of transparency".
And House Speaker John Boehner said the resignation "does not absolve the president of his responsibility to step in and make things right for our veterans".  Mr Shinseki's resignation is the culmination of months of tumult at the agency over reports that administrators at a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, had falsified records to hide a lengthy backlog of veterans awaiting care.  On Wednesday, an internal VA inquiry revealed veterans in Phoenix waited an average of 115 days for a first appointment, but the hospital reported to the agency an average wait time of only 24 days. The VA inspector general's report also said at least 1,700 veterans were not even on official waiting lists because they had not been properly registered.  A separate internal audit released on Friday found 64% of the more than 200 VA sites investigated so far had at least one instance of questionable scheduling procedures. Mr Obama acknowledged the misconduct was not limited to Phoenix but had occurred in VA facilities across the country. The US veterans health system serves about nine million former US military service members. Its resources have been strained by the ageing population of Korean and Vietnam War veterans as well as the large influx of wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

^ This is a step in the right direction, but Shinseki is not the only one guilty for allowing the VA to treat the veterans poorly. Obama (as Commander and Chief of the Armed Forces as well as the President) is also at fault since he should have been informed about the problems and done something sooner. The buck always stops with the President and yet Obama (as usual) takes no blame. He likes to think of himself as a modern-day JFK, but the big difference between them is that when Obama makes mistakes he always finds someone else to blame - ie Shinseki - whereas when JFK made mistakes he went to the American people and owned them. ^


From USA Today:
"Putin signs economic union deal with ex-Soviet states"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a deal with his counterparts from Kazakhstan and Belarus to create an economic union. Moscow says the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) of ex-Soviet states will create a shared market and help integrate economic policy, starting next year. Critics say the project is an attempt to revive part of the old Soviet Union.  Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko predicted Ukraine would join the bloc eventually.  Russia had pressed for Ukraine to join while Viktor Yanukovych was in power as president, before his overthrow in February by opposition forces looking to build ties with the European Union instead. Relations have deteriorated sharply since then amid violent unrest in eastern Ukraine. The three presidents signed the agreement establishing the EEU at a meeting in the Kazakh capital, Astana. It will come into force on 1 January, once it has been ratified by the three countries' parliaments, and aims to guarantee free movement of goods, services, capital and labour, as well as co-ordinated policy in major economic sectors. Between them, the three states have a combined GDP of about $2.7tn (£1.6tn; 2tn euros) Mr Putin said the creation of the EEU had "epoch-making significance".  "This document is taking our countries to an absolutely new level of integration, fully preserving their state sovereignty," he said as he met his counterparts in Astana.  The three countries were "creating a powerful and attractive centre of economic development, a large regional market uniting more than 170 million people", he added. Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev said he saw the new union as "a bridge between the East and the West". Along with Ukraine under its new leaders, other former Soviet republics have refused to sign up for the union, although Armenia and Kyrgyzstan are considering membership. "We lost some along the way: I mean Ukraine," President Lukashenko said at the signing ceremony. "I am sure that sooner or later the Ukrainian leadership will realise where its fortune lies."

^ I think the EEU is going to be just as ineffective as the CIS has been. The CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) was formed in 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed and included every former Soviet Republic except: Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia (Georgia wanted a few years to join.) The CIS was supposed to be a way to integrate the economies and militaries of the different countries and yet it has done very little. It didn't stop the Russians from invading and occupying Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) or the Crimea (which caused both Georgia and the Ukraine to leave the CIS.) I remember when I was first studying in Russia and was working on my thesis for college (comparing the Soviet Union with the Russian Federation) and had a survey (in Russian) that I gave people. One of the questions asked was if they thought the CIS would ever be as effective as the USSR or if the USSR would ever return in any form or f they wanted it to. The majority of people wrote that they didn't understand what the CIS was or how it worked. The majority of people  (85% of those who responded) did say they wanted the old USSR back, but didn't think there could ever be the exact conditions that prevailed from 1922-1991. I think the EEU is just one more attempt to create a form of the old Soviet system due to nostalgia, but won't hold any real weight. Besides the CIS there have been numerous unions and organizations (ie GUAM, the the Union of Russia and Belarus, etc) Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, the Collective Security Treaty Organization, made to entice the post Soviet states to join back together and all have no real power. ^

Friday, May 30, 2014

Maiden Tourism

From DW:
"Summer tourists take in the sites of Kyiv's Maidan revolution"

As Ukraine forms a new government, Kyiv's independence square, the Maidan, remains occupied by activists. However, visitors can now take a special tour of the Maidan's tents, barricades and battlegrounds. The area around the Maidan in the heart of Kyiv is one of the city's main tourist attractions. But while the political upheaval in Ukraine might deter international visitors, for US$50 (around 35 euros) tourists can take a new walking tour of the Maidan and meet people who are literally still manning the barricades.  Olena Klimova has worked as a professional guide in Kyiv for around 10 years. She usually starts the tour on the city's best known boulevard, Khreshchatyk, beneath the marble plinth that used to support a stature of Lenin until it was torn down by demonstrators in December 2013. Klimova finds leading a tour through her home city, where history is literally unfolding before her eyes, is very challenging. Before each tour she makes sure to check buildings and tents around the Maidan to get a sense of the atmosphere and adapt her tour if necessary. "I know that every night, anything can change," Klimova says. She also draws upon the stories of her first hand experience of participating in the protests that ousted Viktor Yanukovych. But she's also conscious that not all of her customers will agree with her interpretation of events.
"With foreigners it's very easy because I just have to be very direct with them. And with Russians, who receive news in Russian, sometimes it can be a mental fight." To enter the area still inhabited by people living in tents and occupied buildings around the Maidan, you need to pass through fortified check points guarded by camouflage-clad men.
Outside a large green army tent fenced off from the street to make a kitchen and living area, we meet Svetlana Skrypai, from the Cherkasy region in central Ukraine. The 21-year-old takes off her cap to show us the long scar on her head from being beaten by police. Svetlana describes to us the hardship of living in a crowded tent. But she feels it will be worth it if there is real change in Ukraine. She's prepared to stay until the new Poroshenko government fulfils its promise to hold parliamentary elections later this year. "I know if I manage to stay here, if we will manage to change the parliament, to introduce new people to the parliament, simple people the same as you and me, it will be easier for us to live," she says. As we walk among the tents and make-shift compounds, many activists, particularly males, wear some form of camouflage military clothing. For some it's practical work wear for living in a tent months on end, for others it's clearly more of a uniform.  Klimova points out various emblems and flags flying over tents too. The red and black flag of the ultra-nationalist Right Sector is very prominent. Now a political party, the Right Sector is one of the most radical organizations present at the Maidan and its members were involved in violent clashes with police. Outside many tents you'll also find ad-hoc displays of helmets, home-made shields, molotov cocktails, and usually a plastic donation box. Some groups are quite creative to solicit tips from passers-by. For example, offering tourists the chance to pose with them holding a Russian World War II-era sub-machine gun for an "unforgettable photograph". Further on in the middle of the Maidan, there is a sort of flea market atmosphere. Buskers, including a group of elderly women in traditional dress, play and sing for small crowds, and several stalls sell ribbons, scarves and caps in the Ukrainian national colors of blue and yellow.  Everywhere, tourists pose for photos or take 'selfies' with their mobile phones against the backdrop of what remains of the Maidan revolution. Looking around there are huge piles of bricks, imposing barricades of tyres, wood and metal debris, the blackened shell of the Trades Union building, armored vehicles and make-shift shrines of candles and wilted flowers commemorating the dead. As we walk a little way up Instytuka Street, just behind the Maidan, my guide Olena describes how this street became a killing ground. Between 18-20 February, about 70 people, including riot police, were shot dead in this area as demonstrators clashed back and forth with police. "The Maidan is located as if in a hollow so it was very easy for snipers to shoot from up the hill and from buildings," she says. "Sometimes they were not shooting directly at people but at the road and then it [bullets] ricocheted back to Maidan." There is an ongoing investigation into the sniper shootings at the Maidan. Klimova says she still finds it very hard "to digest" what happened here. She also introduces me to Katja Kobko, a student activist. Kobko says she was beaten by police on February 18 and will never forget what she experienced on Instytuka Street. The 20-year-old describes how police chased demonstrators down the street towards a barricade with a narrow passage. In the panic people fell upon each other. "That was one of the most terrible things I've even seen because I found myself under this pile of people. And I have never heard men screaming like that," says Kobko. To finish the tour, Olena sits me down outside a tent that serves sweet green tea or a simple slice of rye bread and pork lard to anyone who drops by. Kyiv's newly-elected mayor, Vitali Klitschko, says the goals of the Maidan protests have been achieved and it's time for demonstrators to leave. Here though, there's little talk among people of going home soon.  As the summer tourist season begins, the political upheaval and ongoing fighting in the east of Ukraine is likely to be disastrous for the country's tourism industry this year. Olena Klimova is however trying to remain optimistic. "A year ago I had three, four tours a day. Now of course it drops and I have three or four tours a month and I am very happy when I have this opportunity. But I'm not depressed. I know that this is a period we have to pass and life will stabilize and everything will be good." Leaving the Maidan, a young man plays a traditional folk song on one of the upright pianos that you'll find among the tents. He says the song is about a young partisan boy who dies fighting for Ukraine. People of all ages sing along as they pass by. It could be easy to dismiss a tour of the Maidan as just a gimmick. But for intrepid visitors it's perhaps a way of finding out more about Ukraine's ongoing crisis and a chance to see a revolution through the eyes of people who are still living it.

^ I would like to go back to Kyiv and see how the city (and the country) has changed. ^

Born Or Raised?

From Yahoo:
"Less Than Half of Americans Think People Are Born Gay, Poll Shows"

Same-sex marriage has been rapidly gaining support in the United States, and yet Americans have been divided for the last decade on whether they think people can be born gay, a new Gallup poll shows. Forty-two percent of Americans say people can be born gay, down slightly from 2013, when 47 percent said the same, the survey found. Meanwhile, more than a third of Americans (37 percent) attribute homosexuality to external factors, such as a person's upbringing and environment. Gallup first polled Americans about the origins of homosexual orientation in 1977. At that time, 56 percent thought being gay or lesbian was the result of a person's environment or upbringing, while only 13 percent believed people could be gay at birth, though that doesn't mean they have same-sex attractions at the very moment they are born. By 2001, this gap closed, but Americans have remained roughly divided on the issue since then. [Can People Stop Being Gay?] Gallup officials said the contention surrounding the question of sexual orientation might reflect "a lack of input from the scientific community, which historically has not shied away from offering its opinion on lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) issues and questions." The American Psychological Association (APA) stopped classifying homosexuality as a disorder in 1973. According to the APA today, there is little scientific consensus about the exact factors that cause a person to be gay, but most people don't experience a choice about their sexual orientation. Evidence is mounting that homosexuality is at least partly genetic and biological. For instance, a review of studies, published in 2001, found that identical twins, who have matching genes, are much more likely to be of the same sexual orientation than fraternal twins, who share about half of their genes with each other. Another study, detailed in 2006 in the journal Human Genetics, revealed a mother's X chromosome can affect whether she has a gay son. Epigenetics, a process that turns genes on and off, could also play a role in homosexuality, according to a study published in the journal The Quarterly Review of Biology in 2012. Other research has suggested hormone exposure in the womb can shape a person's sexual orientation.
Regardless of these studies, the new Gallup poll revealed divisions of opinion largely along demographic, political and religious lines. College grads, whites, females, liberals, Democrats, high-income earners and people who aren't churchgoers are most likely to think people can be born gay.
The poll was conducted May 8-11, 2014, through phone interviews with a random sample of 1,028 adults in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The results are weighted to be nationally representative and have a sampling error of plus or minus 4 percent. Gallup released results from a separate survey this month that found support for gay marriage had reached a new high, with 55 percent of Americans now saying they are in favor of same-sex marriage. In 1996, the first time Gallup asked about same-sex marriage in a survey, 68 percent of Americans said they were opposed.

^ This was pretty interesting. I don't think it really matters though if a person if born or raised gay. They still deserve the same equal rights as everyone else. ^

GPS Graves

From MT:
"Moscow Graves to Become GPS-Navigable by Late 2015"

Muscovites may soon find it significantly easier to locate their loved ones lost among the city's more than 70 cemeteries as authorities move forward with plans to make each grave GPS-navigable.
Moscow funeral company Ritual told television station M24 that 10 GPS terminals had already been installed at cemeteries around the city, including its most famous burial site next to Novodevichy Convent. The program is expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2015. Alexander Nemeryuk, head of Moscow's Department of Consumer Goods and Services, told M24 that the city plans to create a registry of World War II soldiers this year. A registry of veterans from other wars will follow next year. Ordinary citizens are unlikely to receive their own registry based on concerns of vandalism. The Moscow region will also create a unified registry of all graves that will be available online, the Moscow region's minister for consumer goods and services Vladimir Posazhennikov told M24. Posazhennikov added that the Moscow region would start by creating a registry of veteran's graves featuring information about their time at war before expanding to the general population.

^ This is a great idea. I like that they are starting with the soldiers. I think every major country and region should have a grave site locator unified and made available to the public. I know the US has a good system for those buried in a National Cemetery, but for everyone else (soldiers and civilians) there is virtual nothing. ^

What If: JFK

From Yahoo:
"What if JFK had survived his assassination?"

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas. Almost as prevalent as theories about his assassination are theories about what would have happened to three major historical events if JFK had been alive in 1964. Since then, many theories have sprung up about the assassination, who was involved, and why Kennedy was killed. Among historians and some authors, there has been detailed debate and discussion about what would have happened in the event that Kennedy wasn’t killed in November 1963. The three main topics of debate have been the outcome of the 1964 presidential election; the escalation of the Vietnam War; and the finality of the historic Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. All three of those items were in process when Kennedy died when he visited Texas as part of the run-up to the 1964 presidential campaign. Kennedy was committed to running again in 1964 and based on the theories among historians, he had a good chance of winning.
His popularity rating was at 58 percent right before the assassination, just after he served 1,000 days in office. That number was higher than similar ratings for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama, five presidents who won re-election bids. The presumptive presidential nominee for the Republicans in late 1963 was Senator Barry Goldwater. He was friends with Kennedy and briefly dropped out of race after Kennedy’s death, only to re-enter it to oppose a man he disliked, Lyndon Johnson. Kennedy and Goldwater had reportedly agreed to debate, while Johnson had no interest in debating Goldwater. The closeness of an election between Kennedy and Goldwater would have been decided by two big issues looming over the year of 1964: civil rights and Vietnam. On taped recordings made in the White House just before his death, Kennedy told advisers he expected a tough re-election campaign because of his support of civil rights. President Kennedy had introduced his historic Civil Rights Act in June 1963. It was stalled in Congress when Kennedy died. The Civil Rights Act faced fierce opposition in Congress, mostly from southern Democrats. Kennedy rejected an attempt to substitute a bill that would allow segregation at public facilities to continue. After Kennedy’s death, President Johnson told the nation that passing the Civil Rights Act would be the best way to honor Kennedy’s legacy, but it took until July 1964 for Johnson and his allies to get the act approved. If Kennedy had lived, the debate over the Civil Rights Act would have occurred during an election year—or maybe not. One theory is that Kennedy would have waited until after the 1964 election, with the hope of having more leverage in Congress to pass the act. The combination of Kennedy and Johnson would have tackled the bill, which would have been a protracted battle. In reality, President Johnson was able to get the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 and Voting Rights Act passed in 1965 using his mandate from a landslide election, Kennedy’s legacy, and his considerable powers of persuasion in Congress. The same audio tapes from November 19,  1963, also show Kennedy’s concerns about the crisis in Vietnam as he quizzes two aides who had returned from Asia. “On the one hand, you get the military saying the war is going better, and on the other hand, you get the political [opinion] with its deterioration . . . I’d like to have an explanation what the reason is for the difference,” Kennedy asked. The president’s brother, Robert Kennedy, did an audio interview for the Kennedy Library in April 1964 that recounted the thinking about Vietnam at the time of the president’s death: that Vietnam couldn’t fall to the Communists. “He had a strong, overwhelming reason for being in Vietnam and that we should win the war in Vietnam,” Robert Kennedy said about his brother. The reason was the Domino theory, “Just the loss of all of Southeast Asia if you lost Vietnam. I think everybody was quite clear that the rest of Southeast Asia would fall,” Kennedy said. Just three weeks before President Kennedy’s death, South Vietnamese president Ngo Dinh Diem was killed in a military coup indirectly supported by the United States.
In August 1963, Kennedy said in another taped conversation that Congress would be mad if it found out about a proposed coup in Vietnam, but Congress would “be madder if Vietnam goes down the drain.” The situation rapidly deteriorated in Vietnam in the year after Kennedy’s death and in August 1964, Congress approved by a near unanimous vote the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson the ability to commit massive amounts of U.S. troops without a war declaration.
In 2009, filmmaker and visiting Brown scholar Koji Masutani took on the subject of Kennedy and Vietnam in Virtual JFK: Vietnam If Kennedy Had Lived. The film was based on a book and considerable research on the subject by academics at Brown and the University of Toronto, who looked at large amounts of data and transcripts from the Kennedy administration. Masutani and the researchers concluded that Kennedy would have sought a more diplomatic solution than Johnson, who committed more troops to the Vietnam War in 1964, and that Kennedy wanted to be out of Vietnam entirely by 1966. Their theory was that Kennedy had a pattern of behavior, established in his handling of crises like the Bay of Pigs and Cuban Missile situations, which usually had the president going against the advice of his military advisers to find a diplomatic solution. Planning documents from November 20, 1963 show that the U.S. had hoped to have all military personnel out of Vietnam by the end of the 1965 calendar year, unless there were “justified” exceptions. But the fallout from the Diem coup was unknown at the time of the Kennedy assassination, so how the president would have handled Vietnam during an election year remains a mystery.

^ I like reading thee "What if's" that have a basis in fact. JFK is one of my favorite Presidents. I do believe that American and world history would have changed had he lived past 1963 and won the 1964 election. I don't think the Civil Rights Act would have past in 1964. JFK didn't seem too concerned with Civil Rights until the very end of 1963 and the main reason Johnson was able to pass it was because he knew all the "secrets" the members of Congress had and he used that to get them to vote for the Act. JFK didn't have the long experience with Congress. I do think we would have stayed and escalated Vietnam whether it was JFK or Johnson. Unlike Johnson, who didn't care what the American public thought of him, JFK loved and needed the American people's support and that would have changed the tactics in Vietnam. I don't know if we would have still lost or not, but it would have been different. ^

Traitor Interview

From Yahoo:
"Snowden: 'no relationship' with Russian government"

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told a U.S. television interviewer on Wednesday he was not under the control of Russia's government and had given Moscow no intelligence documents after nearly a year of asylum there. "I have no relationship with the Russian government at all," Snowden said in an interview with NBC News, his first with a U.S. television network. "I'm not supported by the Russian government. I'm not taking money from the Russian government. I'm not a spy." The remarks by Snowden, whose leaks about highly classified U.S. surveillance programs shook the NSA and prompted limited reforms by President Barack Obama, were his most extensive to date on his relations with his host government. Current and former U.S. intelligence officials have said it is unlikely Russian security services have not squeezed Snowden for secrets. "I think he is now being manipulated by Russian intelligence," former NSA director Keith Alexander said last month. But Snowden - who said he wants to return to the United States - said he destroyed classified materials before transiting to a Moscow airport, where he was prevented from onward travel. "I took nothing to Russia, so I could give them nothing," he told NBC's Brian Williams in the hour-long interview. Later in the interview, Snowden briefly criticized the crackdown on freedom of expression under Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Casting himself as a defender of privacy and civil liberties, he deemed it "frustrating" to "end up stuck in a place where those rights are being challenged in ways that I would consider deeply unfair." Snowden, who fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow last year, is believed to have accessed about 1.5 million secret documents, U.S. officials have said, although how many he actually took is unclear. The leaked documents revealed massive programs run by the NSA that gathered information on emails, phone calls and Internet use including, in many cases, by Americans. He was charged last year in the United States with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence to an unauthorized person. "If I could go anywhere in the world, that place would be home," Snowden said. U.S. officials said he was welcome to return to the United States if he wanted to face justice for leaking details of massive U.S. intelligence-gathering programs. Secretary of State John Kerry invited Snowden to "man up and come back to the United States." "The bottom line is this is a man who has betrayed his country, who is sitting in Russia, an authoritarian country where he has taken refuge," Kerry told the CBS "This Morning" program on Wednesday.

^ It is ironic (and a little funny) that Snowden went from thinking the US was doing wrong things to living in Russia when they took over the Crimea. He tries to make himself out to be a crusader and a martyr when in reality he is simply a traitor. If you see things that are illegal or not right there are so many different ways to "blow the whistle" and do what is right rather than stealing state secrets and fleeing the country. I hope he is made to live in Russia forever as it would be more of a punishment from him than sitting in an American jail. Also to say the Russians haven't made him give them anything is a complete lie. If Snowden didn't give them what he knows the Russians would never let him stay in their country and would have shipped him back to the US on the next plane. He made his bed as a traitor and now has to lay in it. ^

Russian Syria

From MT:
"Russian Language to Become Compulsory in Syrian Schools"

The Syrian government plans to introduce mandatory Russian-language classes in its schools, Itar-Tass reported Thursday. The Syrian government made the decision following Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin's visit last Saturday to the war-torn republic. Rogozin met with Syrian President Bashar Assad and expressed Moscow's confidence in "the full legitimacy" of the upcoming presidential vote there. Former Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin, who announced the news at the State Duma Thursday, contrasted Russia-Syria relations with the diplomatic turmoil that has arisen from the Ukraine crisis. "We are being pressured in Ukraine, but look at what is happening in Syria," Stepashin said. According to Stepashin, Syria has always been "our [Russia's] real outpost in the Middle East."

^ This reminds me of what happened during the Cold War. The countries (in Asia, Africa, Europe) that received money from the Soviet Union forced its people to learn Russian. Learning Russian (whether it was 30 years ago or today) doesn't really help you unless you travel to Russia. Don't get me wrong I support people learning Russian - I did  - but you still need to be realistic with how you will use the language after you learn it.  Regardless, of politics, English is the only international language that is used in: science, military, economics, tourism, etc. It's clear that the Russian Government is really the only country left that supports the Syrian dictator in his civil war and so making Syrians learn Russian is logical in the sense that Syrians really can't go any other place except Syria or Russia. ^

Thursday, May 29, 2014

New Park Places

From the Wire:
"National Park Service Will Start Promoting Historic LGBT Places"

The National Park Service will start considering more sites important to the history of LGBT rights in the U.S., based on the recommendation of a recently convened panel through the Department of Interior. The panel of 18 scholars is examining the history of the LGBT movement, according to a report from the Associated Press. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell will announce the panel on Friday. 
There are three federally recognized sites in the U.S. chosen in part for their importance to LGBT history, one of which is landmarked — the Stonewall Inn in New York gained the distinction in 2000. The area around the inn is also on the National Register of Historic Places. And the Dr. Franklin E. Kameny Residence in Washington, D.C. is listed on the Historic Places register as well. So is Fire Island's Cherry Grove Community House & Theater. Although, as the AP notes, the study (funded by Colorado philanthropist Tim Gill) probably won't be completed until 2016, there are some sites that could be considered by the Park Service. Here are just three of many potential places: 

1. - The Castro Camera shop was owned by Harvey Milk and was where the LGBT rights activist lived and worked. Milk was the first openly-gay man to be elected into public office in California. He was assassinated in 1978, after which the store temporarily became the home to an art gallery. The building is currently home to a satellite office of the Human Rights Campaign, an LGBT equality group. 

2. - In the mid-1920's, Henry Gerber founded what is widely believed to be the first gay rights organization in the U.S.: the Society for Human Rights. The organization published the first LGBT publication as well, called the Friendship and Freedom newsletter. Gerber lived in this house during the height of his activism. Gerber House is already a recognized landmark by the city of Chicago. 

3. - The Alice Austen House, now a museum, was the home of an an early pioneer for LGBT women. Austen was a photographer, and her work includes shots of women dancing together, in bed together, and wearing men's clothing. She lived with her partner Gertrude Amelia Tate in the house until the 1930's, when she lost the property in foreclosure. After that, Take and Austen were forced to live apart.  

^ Slowly, but surely the US Government is moving to give all Americans equal recognition. ^


From the BBC:
"Georgia Abkhazia: Leader 'flees' protesters in Sukhumi"

The president of the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia is said to have fled the capital Sukhumi after opposition protesters seized his office. Alexander Ankvab reportedly retreated to his home town Gudauta, 40km (25 miles) away, when talks with the opposition broke down. Many people in the Russian-backed region are unhappy with the ailing economy and lack of reforms.  But Abkhazian nationalist feeling is also fuelling the unrest.  The protesters are led by Raul Khadzhimba, a former prime minister and vice-president of Abkhazia, who was defeated by Mr Ankvab in elections in August 2011. The Black Sea coastal region is recognised as a state only by Russia and a few other countries. It broke away from Georgia after a civil war more than 20 years ago and declared formal independence in 2008. Since then, it has relied militarily and financially on Russia. Russia is reportedly sending two senior officials, presidential aide Vladislav Surkov and deputy security council secretary Rashid Nurgaliyev, to Sukhumi in response to the crisis. Opinion among the opposition is said to be divided between those who want Abkhazia to rely less on Russia and those who instead want it to become part of Russia. Mr Ankvab accused the opposition of attempting a coup on Tuesday and said the security forces remained "loyal to the state" and were "taking measures to stabilise the situation". Raul Khadzhimba defended the protests, saying: "Over all the years of his rule the president did not allow anybody in his circle to do their work.  "He took upon himself everybody's responsibilities on their behalf, whether he should or should not have been doing this. That led to our country in fact becoming an authoritarian regime.  In a statement, the Russian foreign ministry said: "The Russian side is following events closely and with concern... and considers it important that socio-political processes develop exclusively along legal lines."
^ I believe that what is happening in Abkhazia will also happen in the Crimea. Abkhazia and South Ossetia left Georgia and came under Russian rule. Russian says that these are "independent countries" yet the people there receive Russian pensions and Russian international passports. I don't know of any countries that give their pensions and passports to non-citizens. Now that Russia annexed the Crimea and are giving the people there Russian pensions and Russian passports (among other things) it looks like the same exact situation repeating itself. Apparently, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were promised the "world" by Russia if they left Georgia and now the people - at least in Abkhazia - continue to live in poverty. In a way I hope the people of the Crimea (at least the ones who called for Russian rule) get the same Russian treatment. Then they (the Crimeans) will learn their lesson. It took 6 years for this Abkhazian unrest to come out, but since the Crimea has no gas, water or electricity coming from the Ukraine (despite Russian promises that they will send it to them from Russia) it may come sooner rather than later. ^

Tuesday, May 27, 2014


From Veterans' Affairs Canada:
"70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy"

To commemorate the historic 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, the Government of Canada is presenting commemorative ceremonies in France.
To commemorate the historic 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, the Government of Canada is presenting commemorative ceremony in Ottawa.
  • June 6 (1:00 pm) - Commemorative ceremony in partnership with the Canada Aviation and Space Museum and the Canadian War Museum at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Ottawa
Community Events:
  • Alberta
  • June 6, 2014 (10:30 AM) - On the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion, 3rd Canadian Division will hold a Patching Ceremony to mark the change from Land Forces Western Area to the historically significant 3rd Canadian Division. 3rd Canadian Division previously existed during World War I, while 3rd Canadian Infantry Division served during World War II. 3rd Canadian Division has been assigned the traditional "French Grey" divisional patch, which will be worn on the left shoulder of the military dress uniform. Members on parade during the Patching Ceremony will be presented with their divisional patch, while the 3 Canadian Division Commander, Brigadier-General J.C.G. Juneau, OMM, MSM, CD will be presented with the divisional flag. The Patching Ceremony is open to the public. In particular, we are hoping that some veterans from D-Day and 3rd Canadian Infantry Division will attend. Any 3rd Canadian Infantry Division or D-Day veterans planning on attending are requested to RSVP by Wednesday, 28 May, 2014
  • June 6, 2014 (1:30 PM) - Commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the 14th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Airborne Monument at the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion Cairn (Airborne Monument) Siffleur Falls, Albert Confirm all details and times with organizer Mr. Bill Dickson or 780-459-0947 Accomodations: David Thompson Resort 1-888-810-2102
  • June 7, 2014 (10:45 AM) - Join us at the Bomber Command Museum as we commemorate the 70th Anniversary of D-Day with a focus on the contributions of Bomber Command. Saturday Program: Lancaster Cockpit Tours, Photo opportunities, and Demonstrations: 11:00 a.m. Special D-Day Program 12:30 a.m. Lancaster Merlin Engines Run-up & Bristol Hercules Engine Run-up 1:00 p.m. Hawk-One Demonstration 2:30 p.m. Lancaster Merlin Engines Run-up & Bristol Hercules Engine Run-up
  • British Columbia
  • May 16, 2014 (10:00 AM) - June 6, 1944: The largest Allied operation of World War II began in Normandy France. "D-Day: Normandy 1944" brings this monumental event to the world's largest screen for the first time. Rated G. Many show times, check listings.
  • May 17, 2014 (10:00 AM) - This will be a military living history event to mark the 75th Anniversary of the beginning of Second World War and the 70Th Anniversary of D-Day. By the use of period uniforms, equipment, drill and tactics the visitor will be able to step back in time to the Second World War era and be educated on the sacrifices and help commemorate the men and women of the Second World War generation who helped bring victory to the Allies.
  • May 29, 2014 (6:45 PM) - Honour those who have served and are currently serving in the cause of peace and freedom. Please join us and lay a candle which will burn until midnight in silent tribute to our Canadian Servicemen and Servicewomen, past and present. Our thoughts especially will be for those who died on D-Day, on the eve of the 70th anniversary of that Second World War battle. Service starts at 6:45 p.m. sharp. The ceremony is located in Esquimalt, in the middle of Gorge Vale Golf Course, with entrance off of Colville Road. Please allow extra time to get to the cemetery from the parking area. Shuttle service will be available. June 6, 2014 (1:30 AM) - Launch of memoir by 93 year old CWAC veteran, providing intimate description of daily life of CWACs in wartime Britain, including experiences of D-Day, VE Day, VJ day; air raids of 1843-44 including buzz bomb and rocket attacks; routines at Canadian Military Headquarters in London and Headquarters Canadian Reinforcement Units in the Farnborough-Aldershot area; travels throughout Britain and the Irish Republic. Note that, unlike other memoirs by servicewomen, this one is not self-published, and has been endorsed by Canadian historian Allen Andrews and Lady Penny Mountbatten. It is very likely the last memoir to be written by a CWAC veteran. The author extends a welcome to all who wish to join her in this celebration.
  • Manitoba
  • May 4, 2014 (2:00 PM) - Please join us at our annual Decoration Day parade and service. We are commemorating the 70th anniversary of D-Day at Winnipeg's Cenotaph on Memorial Boulevard. Come pay tribute to those who fought for freedom.  June 7, 2014 (10:30 AM) - All are welcome to commemorate the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy in Vimy Ridge Memorial Park.
  • June 9, 2014 (7:00 PM) - The 60 Royal Canadian Sea Cadets (Swiftsure) and the 26th Field Regiment RCA-XII Manitoba Dragoons Museum are hosting a community-wide tea and fundraiser in commemoration of the 70th Anniversary of D-Day. Please RSVP by May 27th to Lorna.
  • New Brunswick
  • June 6, 2014 (11:00 AM) - This event will mark the 75th anniversary of the beginning of World War Two and the beginning of the Battle of the Atlantic, and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Normandy. We will remember those area veterans who served aboard the ships HMS Jervis Bay and HMCS Saint John, and those who flew with 410 (City of Saint John0 Squadron, RCAF. We will also dedicate a RCAF Memorial in this veterans memorial park, making the park a Combined Operations Park. This is a free event, followed by a reception.
  • June 7, 2014 (10:30 AM) - Anniversary of D-Day and Official Rebadging of the North Shore (NB) Regiment
  • June 7, 2014 (11:00 AM) - Town of Sackville Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial Unveiling Day June 7 – commemorating and honouring the men and women from the Tantramar Region involved in the RCAF past, present and future. Unveiling a display containing a propeller from an Avro Anson and an interpretive panel. Schedule: 11 a.m. at Sackville Memorial Park, ceremonial procession, speeches by dignitaries, music, and the unveiling. 12:30 p.m. A reception, with free food and featuring the Sackville Citizen’s Band, at the Tantramar Veterans’ Memorial Civic Centre. 2 p.m. a new RCAF themed display will be unveiled at the Boultenhouse Heritage Centre, 29 Queen’s Rd.
  • June 8, 2014 (1:15 PM) - Parade will form up at 1:15 p.m. and proceed to the Veterans Health Care Unit. Ceremony will be held outside. Reception and refreshments will followi the ceremony at Royal Canadian Legion Branch 6, 100 War Veterans Avenue.
  • Nova Scotia
  • June 3, 2014 (2:00 AM) - In honour of the 70th anniversary of D-Day, the public is invited to attend a special, commemorative event at Parkland Clayton Park in Halifax. Special guest Mr. Fred Turnbull, a WWII naval operations veteran and author of The Invasion Diaries, will share his remarkable and heroic story through select readings from his book and will take questions from the audience. Signed copies of Mr. Turnbull’s book will be available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the Battle of the Atlantic Place project. Seating is limited, please RSVP by calling 446-8505. June 6, 2014 (7:00 PM) - Na Gaisgich Pipes and Drums presents a “ Pipes of War” concert which will focus both on the events of D-Day and the importance that pipes and drums had on military efforts over the ages. This year the infantry regiment of the North Nova Scotia Highlanders will be highlighted. Admission: $20 Tickets available from the deCoste Centre Box Office: Phone: 902-485-8848 Toll-free: 1-800-353-5338
  • Ontario
  • May 9, 2014 (7:30 PM) - The Forest City Singers present “Freedom” a concert to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of D-day and in gratitude for all our veterans at the Mount St. Joseph Chapel (485 Windermere Road) at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at the door and cost for adults is $15 and children under 12 years are free. All veterans are admitted free. For more information call 519-434-0414.
  • June 1, 2014 (11:00 AM) - The Algonquin Regiment Veterans Association will host the 70th Anniversary D-Day Remembrance and Annual Flag Raising Ceremony at the Monument that borders the Rotary/Algonquin Fitness Trail. A red rose will be placed at the foot of the Memorial by a young Algonquin Cadet during the ceremony.
  • June 1, 2014 (10:45 AM) - D-Day parade and service presented by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 606 in partnership with Branch 258. Bands and Legion members will lead parade, ceremony and wreath placement.
  • June 1, 2014 (11:00 AM) - Tamworth D-Day parade is featuring a Legion Colour Party. Memorial service at the Cenotaph includes wreath-laying followed by a luncheon at RCL Branch 458.
  • June 6, 2014 (11:30 AM) - The Government of Canada and the Canadian War Museum will hold a Commemorative Ceremony for the 70th Anniversary of D-Day and the Landing at Normandy, at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum. 11:30 am to 12:15 am - Live broadcast of the ceremonies to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy in France at the Theatre of the Canada Aviation and Space museum. 13:00 to 14:00 - Ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day and the Battle of Normandy at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum.
  • June 6, 2014 (1:00 PM) - The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 56 will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day with a special ceremony. At 1 p.m., in front of the legion on Clarence Street West, a public ceremony will be held to commemorate the day. As part of the event a red maple tree will be planted before refreshments are served at the legion. Northland Point and Portal Village have already been engaged so seniors living there can attend. The general public is encouraged to attend. June 6, 2014 (12:00 PM) - On Friday, June 6, the City of Toronto will mark the 70th anniversary of D-Day - the Allied forces' invasion of Normandy, France that took place on June 6, 1944. Please join members of Toronto City Council in honouring those who took part in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy.
  • June 7, 2014 (10:30 AM) - Royal Canadian Legion Branch 109 will commemorate D-Day with a parade of Veterans and Legion Members and a special Act of Remembrance at Goderich’s recently restored Town Square Cenotaph as well as at the town's Dutch Liberation Memorial Park. Musical entertainment will be provided by a brass and pipe bands and there will be activities for children. Members of the Canadian Forces will attend and parade with the veterans, Legion members and cadets. The formal events at the Cenotaph and at Dutch Liberation Memorial Park will be followed by a Legion reception (with food and refreshments) and a dance featuring War era- music.
  • June 7, 2014 (5:00 PM) - The Legion Branch 639 Restoule will be celebrating D-Day's 70th Anniversary with a Dinner Gala on June 7, 2014. As guests, all surviving Veterans of WWII within the Branch area. There will be decorations and scenes depicting Juno Beach 6 June at the Legion (inside and outside).
  • July 1, 2014 (7:00 PM) - A Canadian WWII Veteran returns to France for the 60th anniversary of D-Day. Jake meets a charming and inquisitive young girl who challenges him to make peace with his past.
  • Prince Edward Island
  • June 1, 2014 (1:45 AM) - Commemorative Parade & Remembrance Service for D-Day (6 Jun 1944) - Sun 1 Jun 1:45pm - form up parade at Charlottetown Legion, and march to Cenotaph 2:00pm - Cenotaph service, followed by reception at Legion
  • Quebec
  • May 31, 2014 (1:30 PM) - On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, with veterans of the Régiment de la Chaudière and other units in attendance, the Régiment de la Chaudière Museum invites the public to a preview of a documentary by Alain Stanké, Nom de code: Les carottes sont cuites, which will be broadcast on Radio-Canada. The event will also feature the launch of Mr. Stanké's book, Histoires vécues du débarquement, 6 juin 1944 : le matin des canadiens, and an autograph session with the author.
  • June 6, 2014 (3:00 PM) - On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, with veterans of the Régiment de Maisonneuve, journalists and journalism students in attendance, the public is invited to a discussion on the role of war correspondents and their role in democracy. This event is being run jointly by the Consulate of the United States and the Régiment de Maisonneuve. June 8, 2014 (1:30 PM) - On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, with veterans and members of the Sherbrooke area in attendance, Unit 318 of the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada invites the public to a commemorative ceremony and wreath laying at the monument at Lennoxville City Hall.
  • June 13, 2014 (11:00 AM) - On the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the centenary of the First World War, the Rendez-vous naval invites the public to visit the Port of Quebec, where they can tour the military ships on site and visit exhibitions about art and the horror of the trenches.
^ It's great to see both the Canadian Government and Provinces are going to remember the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings in both France (where they took place) as well as around Canada (where the soldiers came from.) It was the largest sea invasion ever and helped to end the war years sooner. ^

Priest Shortage

From USA Today:
"U.S. Catholics face shortage of priests"

Nationally, one in five Catholic parishes does not have a resident priest. America's Catholic population is rising by 1 percent annually, but seminary enrollment is flat. An inadequate supply of priests already has forced hundreds of parishes to close or consolidate. Priests aren't getting any younger, either. Their average age is 63. Something's got to give. "These people have served the church for 30, 40 or 50 years, and now they are retiring or dying and leaving the priesthood," said Mary Gautier, senior research associate with Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate. In 1975, there were 58,909 priests in the United States. Today, Georgetown's CARA puts the figure at 39,600, a 33 percent drop. Meanwhile, America's Catholic population rose from 54.5 million to 78.2 million, a 43 percent increase, during the same period. Although the 39,600 priests seems plenty for America's 17,413 parishes, it's not. Presiding over Mass is just one of a priest's duties, along with hearing confessions, baptizing babies, officiating weddings, counseling parishioners, conducting funerals, teaching schoolchildren, blessing hospital patients, running missions and more. On Easter and Christmas, some parishes in Southwest Florida have a half-dozen or more Masses, often simultaneously on church campuses, to accommodate residents, tourists and seasonal residents. "I don't know of any bishop who believes he has too many priests," said the Rev. John Guthrie, associate director for the secretariat of clergy, consecrated life and vocations with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Nationally, Guthrie said, the ratio of priests to parishioners in 1950 was 1 to 652, but that climbed to 1 to 1,653 by 2010. That doesn't account for the millions of Catholics who are not registered with a parish or regularly attend services. "There are fewer of us doing more and more work," Guthrie said. When schoolteachers are sick or on vacation, a principal finds substitute teachers. The same holds true for a church when priests are needed. A long-term vacancy at school, however, poses more serious problems: Who will teach students, and will their education suffer because of instability and inconsistency? The same questions arise for a parish without a resident priest: Who will provide spiritual guidance and manage the parish? In some cases, the answer is no one. "There are places where they only hold Mass once a month because that's the only time you can get a priest," Gautier said.

^ I have seen first-hand the priest shortage. The local priest covers 4-5 other churches in surrounding towns. It is a shame because they used to be pillars of the community and now they are merely commuters in the community. ^


From the BBC:
"US to keep 9,800 Afghanistan troops after 2014"

The US will keep 9,800 troops in Afghanistan after the US concludes its combat mission at the end of this year, President Barack Obama has said. Under the plan he announced at the White House, the US will continue to withdraw troops until only a small residual force remains after 2016.  The remaining troops would guard the US embassy, train Afghan forces and support counter-terrorism operations.
But the plan depends on the Afghans signing a joint security agreement. While current Afghan President Hamid Karzai has refused to sign such an agreement, the Obama administration appears to be confident either of the two candidates seeking to replace him would do so. "This year, we will bring America's longest war to its responsible end," Mr Obama said. The troop numbers Mr Obama announced are largely in line with what military commanders have been asking for. His announcement indicates the longest war in American history - launched by President George W Bush following the 11 September 2001 terror attacks - will end by the time he leaves office.   He confirmed the US would seek to have 9,800 troops across Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, but that number would be reduced by about half by the end of the year and would be concentrated in Kabul and at Bagram Air Force Base. "We will no longer patrol Afghan cities and towns, mountains or valleys," Mr Obama said. "That is a task for the Afghan people." By 2016, the US president said, the military will draw down to a "normal embassy presence" with an additional security detail, "just as we've done in Iraq". "We have to recognise Afghanistan will not be a perfect place - and it is not America's responsibly to make it one," Mr Obama said. But he added the US would help Afghans secure a "hard-earned peace". Afghanistan's run-off election between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani to replace Mr Karzai is set for 14 June.  Mr Obama noted on Tuesday that both have said they would sign a security agreement with the US.

^ I guess Obama has learned his lesson from Iraq. In Iraq he simply removed all the soldiers and now there's a civil war there. That wasn't seen as very "responsible" and so now in Afghanistan he is saying he will do something different. I agree that no soldier should be left without a new SOFA (Iraq didn't have one and Obama didn't care as he had already decided to remove all the troops from there.) ^

Last Communist

From the BBC:
"Poland divided over burial of Wojciech Jaruzelski"

Poland's last communist leader, Gen Wojciech Jaruzelski, will be buried in Warsaw's Powazki cemetery, officials say, despite widespread opposition. But it will not be a state funeral and there will no day of national mourning. Critics say Gen Jaruzelski does not deserve to be buried at such a prestigious cemetery because he was a traitor who had blood on his hands.  His daughter says it was his wish to be buried alongside other soldiers, a move supported by World War Two veterans. He died aged 90 on Sunday after a long illness. His supporters have since called for him to be buried with full military honours in the Lane of Honour at Powazki cemetery. His only daughter, Monika, said her "father saw himself as a soldier and always wanted to be buried alongside his comrades-in-arms". Leszek Miller, a former Communist Party colleague of Gen Jaruzelski and prime minister, sent a letter to President Bronislaw Komorowski requesting a national day of mourning. But the president refused, explaining he was too divisive a figure. "A day of national mourning would be inopportune, due to the fact that it should be express the sentiments of the entire nation," spokeswoman Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek said. The funeral will nevertheless be organised and funded by the state. The head of the Institute of National Remembrance, the state body that investigates communist-era crimes, said the general should not be buried at Powazki cemetery because he had fought against values that modern-day Poland was built on, such as freedom, truth and human dignity. Gen Jaruzelski became known around the world for his 1981 decision to impose martial law and launch a crackdown on the pro-democracy Solidarity movement.  Thousands of people were arrested and dozens killed as the Soviet-backed authorities moved to quash protests and strikes, sending tanks onto the streets. The general later insisted that he chose martial law as the lesser evil because it saved Poland from a potentially bloody Soviet invasion. He lifted martial law two years later and after growing unrest was forced to negotiate with Solidarity in 1989. The movement was legalised and won Poland's first free elections. The next year the Communist Party was dissolved and Gen Jaruzelski resigned as president.

^ I don't think he should have a state funeral or that the state should even pay for it. He was a Communist dictator who used martial law and the secret police to try and keep the people of Poland under Soviet/Communist rule. Luckily, it didn't work. ^

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Medic

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Army medic becomes guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier"

A nation spends Memorial Day weekend remembering its military's fallen. Luke Porter devotes most of his life to that mission. It's his job. He also makes sure others pay proper respect. When he walks across the plaza of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery, his uniform crisp and immaculate, creases like razors, all eyes turn to him. Tourists lounge and gab — until the State College native delivers the standard address for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. "Ladies and gentlemen, may I have your attention please," he intones. "I am Sgt. Porter, of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, United States Army Guard of Honor, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. "The ceremony that you are about to witness is the changing of the guard. In keeping with the dignity of the ceremony it is requested that everyone remain silent and standing. Thank you." It always works. "As soon as we say that, everyone stands up and everyone stops talking, and I love to see that," Porter said. Marines call themselves the "the few, the proud." They've got nothing on Porter. He'll soon receive the prestigious Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Identification Badge, the Army's second least-awarded badge behind the Astronaut Badge, to become a member of the tomb's Honor Guard. Nine months of rigorous, on-the-job training, completed April 21, led to the sterling silver badge about 2 inches wide. At 24, Porter will become the 623rd recipient in Army history, and only the third medic to accomplish the feat. On June 9, the badge will be pinned to his uniform, officially making him one of Arlington's famous sentinels. "To me, just in my personal experience, in my humble opinion, it's my way of rendering honor to all the service people who came before me," Porter said. Before his parents, Joyce and Dave Porter, and his many siblings, he'll finally wear the inverted wreath of his hard-earned piece of silver polished, naturally, to brilliance. Rain or shine, in heat or cold, despite insect bites and itches, he'll solemnly uphold the Sentinel's Creed memorized long ago. "My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted," it begins, continuing in part: "In the responsibility bestowed on me will I never falter. And with dignity and perseverance my standard will remain perfection." Out on the plaza, every second is Memorial Day, every step a tribute to the nameless remains of fallen but not forgotten souls. "I'm in it because there are so many people who sacrificed so much more than I could ever imagine to sacrifice," Porter said. "And I respect that so much that it's become an enormous part of my life."

^ This is a fitting story on Memorial Day. ^


From the Stars and Stripes:
"Opportunities to identify war dead abound as DOD overhauls troubled recovery efforts"

On Tarawa, bodies of fallen Marines, still wrapped in ponchos or wearing helmets, were just below the island’s trash-ridden top soil. About 10,000 bones, hundreds of pounds of gear and dozens of dog tags were recovered over the past two years on the densely developed Pacific island, generations after a bloody World War II battle there, said Mark Noah, whose private group, History Flight, initiated the search effort. The remains were so numerous and buried in such shallow ground that in one servicemember’s grave site “a local trash pit had been dug right into his chest,” Noah said. Tarawa is not an isolated instance. Opportunities to finally identify America’s war dead — including some who have been missing for more than 70 years — and return them to family members abound as the Department of Defense prepares to overhaul its troubled national recovery efforts, according to advocates for missing servicemembers who gathered for a conference in Washington, D.C. Friday.
More than 83,000 servicemembers are still listed as missing from War World II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iraq and other conflicts, according to the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office.
Advances in DNA analysis, the use of global positioning software and aerial drones, and clues gleaned over decades from historical records are already pointing the way toward closure for scores of those servicemembers, speakers at the POW-MIA Awareness Conference said. “Many hundreds or thousands of cases remain unknown and could easily be solved with today’s technology,” Noah said.
Noah used a drone to snap photos of Tarawa and GPS programs to match up archive photos and maps to find remains. He and colleagues pored over the history of the battle and documents connected to the burial area. Meanwhile, nuclear DNA tests, pioneered 20 years ago during the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, now allow researchers to identify U.S. servicemembers from bone fragments, increasing the ease and likelihood that those who perished decades ago will be found, said Ed Huffine, vice president of humanitarian projects for Bode Technology, a leading forensic testing company. Huffine said a “quantum leap” is underway in DNA testing, providing “a very powerful tool that will be able to assist in the identification of loved ones.” So, it should be a good time to find the missing. Instead, government efforts to close those cases have sputtered and drawn intense criticism over the past year. Stars and Stripes found that the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, a DOD agency that conducts global operations to recover tens of thousands of missing remains, and DPMO officials ignored those leads, prematurely declared missing servicemembers deceased, and argued against examining remains in government custody that appeared to be identifiable. JPAC was so incompetent and mismanaged that it risked descending from “dysfunction to total failure,” according to an Associated Press report last summer. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the Pentagon to restructure the effort to recover missing servicemembers and consolidate JPAC and DPMO into a single agency that handles all accounting, research and field operations. On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee backed the changes and approved an amendment sponsored by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., to create a new accounting command with one federal official in charge. McCaskill’s office called it a “first step” in overcoming the deep problems uncovered in JPAC and DPMO over the past year. The overhaul may mean more attention for the cases that have been delayed or overlooked. JPAC has said it is trying to press ahead and meet a congressionally mandated 200 identifications per year. The agency is now focusing on the exhumation of 400 World War II sailors buried in Hawaii as unknowns after dying aboard the USS Oklahoma, though the Navy has opposed disturbing the graves. Hundreds might still be unidentified on Tarawa — Noah said his group’s examination of National Archive records puts the death toll at 1,260 instead of the official count of 1,009. The remains of hundreds more Korean War missing in action might be even closer to home, said John Zimmerlee, historic researcher with the Korea and Cold War POW-MIA Network.
After working several weeks per year for about 20 years, Zimmerlee said his amateur research discovered that remains of 355 unidentified servicemembers buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii, which is known as the Punchbowl, had included enough evidence to make tentative identifications when they were recovered. But the clues were never followed up and family members were never notified, he said. Furthermore, seven had been fully identified and were mistakenly buried without names or notifications, Zimmerlee said. The recovery and identification should be easy to correct, he said. “But here’s the obstacle — and this is a big one — the bodies are in the National Cemetery 8.6 miles from JPAC, and somebody has to go get them.”
^ It doesn't matter if it has been 70 years or 1 the US military does not leave a soldier behind (NSLB - No Solider Left Behind.) Hopefully, these new techniques and organization will be able to identify more soldiers and help bring closure to their families. ^