Monday, June 30, 2014

My Birthday!

Today is my birthday. I didn't expect much to happen this year, but I got some mini-surprises that made my day. I got a birthday cake that was made just for me (the first time since I was a little kid.) I got a handful of birthday cards - I love getting cards for any occasion. I got mostly money for presents, but did receive a world map that lets you mark-off the places you have been to. I love maps and travelling and so it was a good gift for me. I had a nice BBQ dinner and afterwards the cake.
Of course there was one person I wish could have been here to help me celebrate my birthday. We received a letter today that said the gravestone was now there. I wish we lived closer (we aren't even in the same state) so I could go visit and see it. I know this person was looking down on me today. All-in-all I can't complain about my birthday this year.

June 30th

From Wikipedia:
"June 30th"

June 30th is the 181st day of the year (182nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 184 days remaining until the end of the year.


1520 – Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés fight their way out of Tenochtitlan.

1559 – King Henry II of France is mortally wounded in a jousting match against Gabriel de Montgomery.

1651 – The Deluge: Khmelnytsky Uprising – the Battle of Beresteczko ends with a Polish victory.

1794 – Native American forces under Blue Jacket attack Fort Recovery.

1805 – The U.S. Congress organizes the Michigan Territory.

1859 – French acrobat Charles Blondin crosses Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

1860 – The 1860 Oxford evolution debate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural History takes place.

1864 – U.S. President Abraham Lincoln grants Yosemite Valley to California for "public use, resort and recreation".

1882 – Charles J. Guiteau is hanged in Washington, D.C. for the assassination of U.S. President James Garfield.

1886 – The first transcontinental train trip across Canada departs from Montreal. It arrives in Port Moody, British Columbia on July 4.

1892 – The Homestead Strike begins near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

1905 – Albert Einstein publishes the article On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies, in which he introduces special relativity.

1906 – The United States Congress passes the Meat Inspection Act and Pure Food and Drug Act.

1912 – The Regina Cyclone hits Regina, Saskatchewan, killing 28. It remains Canada's deadliest tornado event.

1917 – World War I: Greece declares war on the Central Powers.

1922 – In Washington D.C., U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes and Dominican Ambassador Francisco J. Peynado sign the Hughes-Peynado agreement, which ends the United States occupation of the Dominican Republic.

1934 – The Night of the Long Knives, Adolf Hitler's violent purge of his political rivals in Germany, takes place.

1936 – Emperor Haile Selassie of Abyssinia appeals for aid to the League of Nations against Italy's invasion of his country.

1937 – The world's first emergency telephone number, 999, is introduced in London

1944 – World War II: The Battle of Cherbourg ends with the fall of the strategically valuable port to American forces.

1953 – The first Chevrolet Corvette rolls off the assembly line in Flint, Michigan.

1960 – Congo gains independence from Belgium.

1966 – The National Organization for Women, the United States' largest feminist organization, is founded.

1968 – Pope Paul VI issues the Credo of the People of God.

1971 – Ohio ratifies the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, reducing the voting age to 18, thereby putting the amendment into effect.

1972 – The first leap second is added to the UTC time system.

1977 – The Southeast Asia Treaty Organization disbands.

1985 – Thirty-nine American hostages from the hijacked TWA Flight 847 are freed in Beirut after being held for 17 days.

1986 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Bowers v. Hardwick that states can outlaw homosexual acts between consenting adults.

1987 – The Royal Canadian Mint introduces the $1 coin, known as the Loonie.

1990 – East Germany and West Germany merge their economies.

1997 – The United Kingdom transfers sovereignty over Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China.



1470 – Charles VIII of France, King of France (d. 1498)

1890 – Paul Boffa, Maltese politician, 5th Prime Minister of Malta (d. 1962)

1893 – Walter Ulbricht, German politician (d. 1973)

1917 – Susan Hayward, American actress and singer (d. 1975)

1917 – Lena Horne, American actress, singer, and dancer (d. 2010)

1919 – Ed Yost, American inventor, invented the hot air balloon (d. 2007)

1926 – Paul Berg, American biochemist, Nobel Prize laureate

1943 – Florence Ballard, American singer (The Supremes) (d. 1976)

1954 – Serzh Sargsyan, Armenian politician, 3rd President of Armenia

1955 – David Alan Grier, American actor, screenwriter, and producer

1963 – Rupert Graves, English actor

1966 – Mike Tyson, American boxer and actor

1984 – Fantasia Barrino, American singer and actress

1985 – Michael Phelps, American swimmer

1986 – Jamai Loman, Dutch singer and actor



350 – Nepotianus, Roman ruler

1785 – James Oglethorpe, English general and politician, 1st Colonial Governor of Georgia (b. 1696)

1882 – Charles J. Guiteau, American preacher and lawyer, assassin of James A. Garfield (b. 1841)

1934 – Kurt von Schleicher, German general and politician, 23rd Chancellor of Germany (b. 1882)

1973 – Vasyl Velychkovsky, Ukrainian-Canadian bishop and martyr (b. 1903)

1984 – Lillian Hellman, American author and playwright (b. 1905)

1995 – Phyllis Hyman, American singer-songwriter and actress (b. 1949)

2003 – Buddy Hackett, American actor (b. 1924)

2012 – Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli politician, 7th Prime Minister of Israel (b. 1915)


Holidays and observances:

Army Day (Guatemala)

Christian Feast Day: Martial

Theobald of Provins

First Martyrs of the Church of Rome

June 30 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics)

General Prayer Day (Central African Republic)

Independence Day in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Belgium in 1960.

Philippine–Spanish Friendship Day (Philippines)

 ^ Today is my birthday and I wanted to see what else happened today in history. Who was born. Who died and what events took place. ^

Social Military

From the MT:
"Ukrainians Crowdfund 'People's Drone' to Patrol Russian Border"

Combine a cash-strapped army and a supportive, tech-savvy population, and something like this was bound to happen: Ukrainians have turned to online crowdfunding to raise money for a "people's drone" to help the military patrol their country's borders. The People's Project website said it had collected 426,579 hryvnas ($36,000) — some 8,000 hryvnas ($675) more than it had sought — to build a drone to help boost Ukrainian government defenses against pro-Russian separatists in the east. But the work is far from complete, organizers said on their website, adding that they were aiming to procure at least 10 drones in the "first batch," but that hundreds more would probably be needed. In the communal spirit of the Euromaidan public protests that toppled former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych earlier this year, Ukrainians have also been donating cash to the military to help procure food, bulletproof vests, binoculars and painkilling medicines, and — perhaps concerned about corruption — have been personally delivering the supplies to soldiers. The Ukrainian Defense Ministry — whose budget totaled $1.9 billion last year, according to military magazine Jane's Defense Weekly — asked Ukrainians for money earlier this year, and announced in late May that 126.4 million hryvnas (about $10.7 million) had been raised under its "Support the Ukrainian Army" project. To compare, Russia's defense budget for 2013 stood at $68.9 billion, according to Jane's Defense Weekly. The donated money would be used to buy supplies such as uniforms and sleeping bags for government soldiers, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said. The military also expressed a need for reconnaissance drones in spring when People's Project activists delivered much-needed communication radios, fundraising organizers said. The "people's drone" will have modest specs compared to modern military unmanned craft, with a speed of 120 kilometers per hour and an endurance of one hour, according to the People's Project website. "It's imperfect. In many ways," organizers said. But Ukrainian engineers do not have the time or technologies to build a better drone quickly, and "this craft will be fighting right away," the website said. The People's Project had also raised more than 1 million hryvnas ($84,500) by late May to help field the "first people's paratrooper battalion," and is collecting funds for a second one and for the "first people's sniper" unit. "Snipers are very efficient in an anti-terrorist zone as they help to prevent big losses. That's why we started equipping them," David Arakhania, an IT executive from Kiev who founded the site in March, told Britain's The Guardian. Pro-Russian separatists claimed earlier this month to have shot down a government drone near the eastern town of Horlivka, the Voice of Russia reported. Two weeks earlier, the Ukrainian Security Service released pictures of what it said was a Russian drone that it had captured.

^ This is interesting and odd at the same time. To hear that the ordinary people support their military and country so much they are willing to give extra money to help defend it is something most countries don't do any more. Most people are only patriotic on certain holidays (ie Independence Day, Memorial Day, etc) and only in between BBQs. It's nice to see the Ukrainians doing more although it would be even better if they didn't have a war in their country. ^

Extreme Russia

From MT:
"Putin Signs Law Giving Prison Terms for Internet Extremism"

People found guilty of financing extremist activities or expressing supporting for them online now face prison terms under a bill signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. Once the law takes effect, the dissemination of online material deemed extremist will be a criminal offense, meaning that even "liking" or reposting content on a social network could land users in hot water with the authorities.
In January, Vyacheslav Dmitriyev, a member of Moscow State University's philosophy department, was briefly detained and questioned by the Federal Security Service for reposting an article about a theoretical coup d'etat on a social network, reported at the time. The bill was approved by the State Duma, the lower house of parliament, on June 20 and by the Federation Council, the upper chamber, on June 25. It was published with Putin's signature on the government's legal information portal Monday. The law also entails the addition of a new article — "financing of extremist activities" — to the Criminal Code. Those found guilty of providing or collecting funds for an organization known to be preparing an extremist crime will face up to three years in prison, as well as up to 500,000 rubles ($14,700) in fines and being barred from holding certain positions.
Public incitement of extremism — including in the media and on the Internet — will get the offender up to five years in prison. Anyone found guilty of organizing the activities of a group deemed by the authorities to be extremist will also face time behind bars: up to eight years in prison and up to 500,000 rubles in fines. Roskomnadzor, Russia's official media watchdog, is in charge of compiling and updating the government blacklist of websites found to contain extremist material. Currently, there are more than 2,000 websites on the list.

^ This is a little confusing as the word "extremism" isn't defined - at least not in this article. If it means those that support or like terrorists than it makes sense, but if it means anyone who disagrees with the official government line than it sounds more like Stalinist Russia than a modern Russia. I hope Russians start being more careful when they "like" something on social media. The majority of people (Russian and non Russian) seem to not read the posts or status updates when they push the "like" button. ^

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Canadian Love

From the Globe and Mail:
"147 reasons to love Canada"

  We asked some well-known Canadians and you, our readers, to help us build our list of 147 reasons to love Canada. What follows is the full list of 147 reasons.

1. Our national anthem
2. We never say die
3. The maple leaf on travellers’ backpacks from all over
4. ‘We’re building a country together’
5. The ‘small town’ of Canada
6. Our raw natural landscape
7, Lester B. Pearson
8. Montreal
9. The Canadian flag
10. Canadian passports
11. Saskatchewan
12. The Trans-Canada Highway
13. Prairie summers
14. We stand up for each other
15. Snow
16. Canadian maples
17. We care
18. That our national identity is about not really having one 
19. We’re safe (and that’s not boring)
20. Gentle patriotism.
21. Maple syrup
22. Montreal bagels “Straight out of the oven.”
23. Our tolerance
24. We’re still becoming 
25. We thrive on entrepreneurship
26. Roadtrips
27. Toronto.
28. We’re always game for a new normal 
29. Bilingualism “I love that my kids speak both French and English even though I don’t (yet).”
30. Our health care
31. Our compassion
32. You can make it here.
33. Our apologies “Canada is the best country because you can walk into someone and they will apologize first.”
34. It’s inspiring
35. We believe in the public good
36. Our soldiers
37. Canada Day
38. Roméo Dallaire
39. The Dionne Quints
40. Freedom
41. Canada’s Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART)
42. The Canadian Arctic
43. The Montreal Canadiens
44. Home-grown TV.
45. Tim Hortons and poutine.
46. “Our semi-regular attempt to annex the Turks and Caicos Islands.”
47. “Our democracy, as protected by our amazing Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
48. Gay marriage!
49. Gun control.
50. “Our revered national police force: The RCMP.”
51. Asked for our virtues, we can’t name just one
52. It’s full of Canadians.
53. People around the world love us
54. Stereotypes about us are usually right – and worth being proud of
55. Frederick Banting “Canada is the birthplace of insulin"
56. Old Quebec

^ This was a very long list with 147 items and a bunch of descriptions. I narrowed them down to 56. It is almost Canada Day (this Tuesday) and so is a good time to reflect on what you love about your country. ^

The 1990s

From USA Today:
"How the overshadowed '90s shaped our world"

Monica Lewinsky's sudden return to the spotlight and Hillary Clinton's possible return to the White House evoke memories of a decade obscured by the transformative '80s and the tumultuous '00s, and squeezed between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11. How to characterize the 1990s, which saw the fall of Soviet communism and the rise of the Macarena, the end of the superpower nuclear arms race and the beginning of reality TV, the promise of the World Wide Web and the tragedy of Black Hawk Down? In some ways, the '90s were the best of times, including prosperity at home, relative peace abroad, a falling crime rate, an explosion in digital technology, even a federal budget surplus.
It was certainly preferable to what came next: the worst terror attack on U.S. soil; two long, inconclusive wars; two stock market crashes; and a financial crisis that precipitated a deep recession. After the '90s, says Kevin Howley, a DePauw University communication professor, "It's as if history jumped a track.'' Yet the '90s also were years when much of what bedevils us today — global warming, terrorism, health care costs, gun violence — had causes or antecedents. Opportunities were missed, perils overlooked. Take the economy. The stock market boomed, productivity increased, unemployment fell and GDP rose 40%. But real wages lagged, many workers lacked skills for Digital Revolution jobs, and the gap between the rich and everyone else widened. Sound familiar? When the decade began, Hillary Rodham Clinton was the wife of a Southern governor known for his endless speech at the Democratic convention in 1988. Vladimir Putin was an undercover KGB officer in East Germany filing reports no one read. Xi Jinping was head of the Communist Party School in a provincial capital. Steve Jobs was still in exile from Apple. There was no peace in Northern Ireland and no justice in South Africa, where a rebel named Nelson Mandela had been in prison for 27 years.
When the decade began, no one had texted, used a ThinkPad, PowerBook or PalmPilot, or taken Viagra. Politicians talked about reforming welfare.

Here's how 2014 was shaped by the events of the '90s:

Dec. 29, 1992: In al-Qaeda's first terror attack, two bombs detonate in or near hotels in Aden, Yemen. Bombings are directed at U.S. soldiers en route to Somalia. Al-Qaeda leaders claim it frightened Americans away, but in the USA, the attack is virtually ignored.
Feb. 26, 1993: Islamist extremists detonate a truck bomb under the World Trade Center, killing six people and injuring more than a thousand.
Aug. 28, 1996: Bin Laden declares war on the USA, saying its forces in Saudi Arabia make that nation, including the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, "an American colony.''
Aug. 7, 1998: Simultaneous bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya kill more than 220 people. Bin Laden is indicted on charges of plotting to kill U.S. citizens.
Aug. 20, 1998: In retaliation for the embassy bombings, U.S. ships fire cruise missiles at al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan (bin Laden flees unharmed) and a pharmaceutical factory in Sudan that the United States says made chemical weapons — a claim investigations refute.
June 7, 1999: Bin Laden is placed on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Jan. 1, 1994: The North American Free Trade Agreement creates a free-trade zone for Canada, Mexico and the USA. Business groups claim the deal will raise living standards; organized labor says it will send U.S. jobs to Mexico. Both prove correct.
Jan. 30, 1997: Greenspan tells Congress that worker insecurity is a significant factor in keeping inflation low, thus promoting long-term investment.
Dec. 16, 1997: A study by the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows the average income for the richest fifth of U.S. families jumped 30% from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s and fell 21% for the poorest fifth.
Nov. 30, 1999: Tens of thousands of anti-globalization demonstrators disrupt a World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle to protest economic globalization. They close streets, destroy property and battle police.
Dec. 31, 1999: The NASDAQ composite index, heavy with tech stocks, closes at 4,069, up from 455 on the same date in 1989.

Feb. 28, 1994: The Brady Law institutes federal background checks on firearm purchasers with a five-day waiting period.
Sept. 13, 1994: The Federal Assault Weapons Ban restricts sales of some newly manufactured semiautomatic firearms. Possession and transfer of existing weapons are not restricted, and the law expires in 2004.
Jan. 1, 1996: Texas law requires authorities — previously able to exercise their discretion — to issue a permit to carry a concealed handgun to any and all qualified applicants who pass a criminal background check. A woman who was at the Killeen Luby's during the massacre backed the law, saying she left her gun in car that day for fear of breaking concealed weapon law.
June 27, 1997: The Supreme Court rules the Brady Law requirement that state and local law enforcers perform gun sale background checks is unconstitutional.
April 20, 1999: Two teens kill 12 fellow students and a teacher at Columbine High School in Colorado.

Aug. 30, 1990: A 75-nation United Nations panel of scientists and government officials says humankind is warming the Earth's atmosphere and calls for an international effort to combat pollutants that accelerate the "greenhouse effect."
June 28, 1991: Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger gets the keys to the first road-legal Hummer, a new civilian version of the military Humvee. The hulking vehicle gets about 13 miles per gallon.
June 1, 1992: In his book Earth in the Balance, Sen. Al Gore warns of ecological catastrophe and proposes a "Global Marshall Plan" for the environment.
June 14, 1992: At the Earth Summit in Brazil, 24 nations promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2000.
April 7, 1995: Three years after Brazil's Earth Summit, few nations that promised to reduce greenhouse emissions are on target. "A shift in the world economy is required … a shift in consumption and lifestyle patterns," says Norway's environment minister, Torbjoern Berntsen.

Jan. 25, 1993: Five days after taking office, President Clinton appoints his wife, Hillary, to head the Task Force on National Health Care Reform — unprecedented authority for a first lady. The panel is to design a plan for a dramatically different health care system for submission to Congress by May.
Feb: 24, 1993: Three groups sue to force Hillary Clinton to open meetings of the Health Care Task Force to the public and news media. As the case drags on, it feeds the sense that the panel is elitist and secretive.
Sept. 22, 1993: The president presents a health care plan to a joint session of Congress. "Millions of Americans are just a pink slip away from losing their health insurance," he says, "and one serious illness away from losing all their savings. … And over 37 million Americans — most of them working people and their little children — have no health insurance at all.'' The plan runs more than 1,000 pages and includes a controversial requirement that employers provide coverage to all employees.
Jan. 9, 1994: Senate Finance Chairman Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat and nominal ally of Clinton, says, "We don't have a health crisis in this country." He later admits to a "health insurance crisis" but says, "Anyone who thinks [the Clinton health care plan] can work in the real world as presently written isn't living in it."
Sept 26, 1994: Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell acknowledges the obvious: The health care overhaul is dead. Unacknowledged: The attempt to pass it has been politically damaging to the president and his party. Unforeseen: Democrats will lose control of both houses of Congress in November.

Dec. 20, 1990: British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee, who's proposed what will become the World Wide Web — using hypertext "to link and access information of various kinds as a web … in which the user can browse at will" — tests the world's first website.
Dec. 9, 1991: President Bush signs the High Performance Computing Act, sponsored by Sen. Gore, which funds and encourages development of the "information superhighway.''
May 26, 1995: Microsoft CEO Bill Gates issues the "Internet Tidal Wave" memo, calling Netscape, with its Navigator browser, a "new competitor 'born' on the Internet." The memo says Microsoft failed to grasp the Internet's importance and must adapt.
Aug. 15, 1998: Apple introduces the iMac personal desktop computer designed by a team led by Jonathan Ive, who will work on the iPod and iPhone. The company, once nearly bankrupt, is profitable by year's end.
March 9, 1999: Gore says he "took the initiative in creating the Internet'' – a reference to his 1991 computing bill. He's ridiculed for the comment, commonly repeated as "I invented the Internet.''
Dec. 7, 1999: The Recording Industry Association sues Napster, a pioneering file-sharing Internet service that allows people to share music files. RIA alleges copyright infringement, part of a long-running argument: Who owns what in the Information Age.
Dec. 31, 1999: In 10 years, U.S. households with a personal computer have gone from 15% to 50%, and from 30% to 75% if the household had kids. Four years after the decade began, world information storage capacity has increased six times over what it was four years before the decade began.

^ The 1990s are an underestimated decade. It was the decade that East and West Germany were reunited, that the Soviet Union collapsed, that the Cold War ended, that the US became the world's sole Super Power and it was the last decade before the War on Terrorism started. ^

New VA Head

From the Stars and Stripes:
"West Point grad, former P&G head is Obama's choice to lead Veterans Affairs"

President Barack Obama plans to nominate former Procter & Gamble executive Robert McDonald as the next Veterans Affairs secretary, as the White House seeks to shore up an agency beset by treatment delays and struggling to deal with an influx of new veterans returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An administration official said Obama would announce McDonald's appointment Monday. If confirmed by the Senate, McDonald would succeed Eric Shinseki, the retired four-star general who resigned last month as the scope of the issues at veterans' hospitals became apparent.
In tapping McDonald for the post, Obama is signaling his desire to install a VA chief with broad management experience. McDonald also has a military background, graduating near the top of his class at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and serving as a captain in the Army, primarily in the 82nd Airborne Division. McDonald resigned abruptly from Procter & Gamble in May 2013 amid pressure from investors concerned that he was not doing enough to boost the company's performance.
McDonald, who had spent 33 years at the consumer products giant, said at the time of his retirement that he believed constant speculation about his job status had become too much of a distraction to the company. The VA operates the largest integrated health care system in the country, with more than 300,000 fulltime employees and nearly 9 million veterans enrolled for care. But the agency has come under intense scrutiny in recent months amid reports of patients dying while waiting for appointments and of treatment delays in VA facilities nationwide. McDonald has also served on the board of directors of the Xerox Corp., the United States Steel Corp., the McKinsey Advisory Council and the Greater Cincinnati regional initiative intended to "grow high-potential startups" in the Cincinnati region. McDonald is 61. A native of Gary, Indiana, he grew up in Chicago and graduated from West Point in 1975 with a degree in engineering. He also earned an MBA from the University of Utah in 1978.
^ I have never heard of McDonald before, but if he left Proctor and Gamble because that company's performance suffered because of him then why would you make him head of a Department that is already under fire for bad management skills that helped lead to people dying? ^

ISIS State

From USA Today:
"Iraq militants announce new Islamic state"

An al-Qaeda breakaway group that seized large swaths of Iraq in recent weeks declared Sunday the creation of a new religious state in Iraq and Syria, as it continued to repel government forces in Tikrit, the hometown of former dictator Saddam Hussein. The militant group called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced it will now be known as The Islamic State. A spokesman for the new entity, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, said the group's chief, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, remains its leader, and called on residents in areas under its control to swear allegiance to al-Baghdadi and support him. The announcement could force other jihadist groups to either join or fight the group, which lays claim to billions of dollars in assets, scores of communities and operations that extend into Turkey and Lebanon, said Charles Lister, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center, a think tank.
"The Islamic State's announcement made it clear that it would perceive any group that failed to pledge allegiance an enemy of Islam," Lister said. "Already, this new Islamic State has received statements of support and opposition from jihadist factions in Syria." The group, which was disowned this year by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahri, has developed an elaborate bureaucracy and an efficient model of governance, providing modern social services together with medieval justice. And it has supporters in Jordan, Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia, Lister said. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "This is a critical moment for the international community to stand together against ISIL and the advances it has made." The group, which gained control of much of northern Syria during that country's civil war, fought U.S. troops as al-Qaeda in Iraq during the U.S. occupation. In Tikrit on Sunday, Iraqi helicopter gunships struck suspected insurgent positions as part of a government offensive to retake the city from the militants. The Iraqi military launched its push on Saturday with a multipronged assault spearheaded by ground troops backed by tanks and helicopters. Iraq said the army is coordinating its campaign with the United States. The insurgents appeared to have repelled the military's initial push for Tikrit and remained in control of the city Sunday, but clashes were taking place in the northern neighborhood of Qadisiyah, two residents reached by telephone told the Associated Press. Muhanad Saif al-Din, who lives in the city center, said he could see smoke rising from Qadisiyah, which borders the University of Tikrit. Iraqi military spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said Sunday that the military was in full control of the university and had raised the Iraqi flag over the campus.  Jawad al-Bolani, a security official in the provincial operation command, said the U.S. was sharing intelligence with Iraq and has played an "essential" role in the Tikrit offensive. "The Americans are with us, and they are an important part in the success we are achieving in and around Tikrit," al-Bolani said. The United States has sent 180 of 300 American troops that President Obama has promised to help Iraqi forces. The U.S. military said it is flying 30 to 35 missions a day over Iraq, primarily on surveillance missions. "Some of those aircraft are armed," Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, said Saturday. The flights included both drones and manned aircraft. Tikrit is one of two major cities to fall to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. If Iraq's military forces are successful in regaining Tikrit, it would provide a boost to embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is fighting for his job as many former allies drop their support and Iraqis increasingly express doubts about his ability to unify the country. Al-Maliki, however, has shown little inclination publicly to step aside and instead appears set on a third consecutive term after his bloc won the most seats in April elections. The parliament convenes Tuesday to start the process to select a new government. The United States and other world powers have pressed al-Maliki to reach out to the country's Sunni and Kurdish minorities and have called for a more inclusive government that can address longstanding grievances.
Al-Maliki has widely been accused of monopolizing power and alienating Sunnis, who have long complained of being unfairly targeted by security forces.

^ It's never a good thing when an Islamist extremist country is declared. Hopefully the Iraqis can get their act together and fight to repel this threat as though their lives depended on it - since it does. ^

Smoke Fines

From the MT:
"Russia Pulls In More Than $500K in Fines From Rebel Smokers"

Since January, more than half a million dollars (17.4 million rubles) in fines have been collected from smokers evading Russia's crackdown on cigarettes, the Federal Consumer Protection Service announced on Sunday. The month of June alone saw the issuance of 8 million rubles in fines. Over 2,700 fines have been handed out since January. Russia's newly bolstered anti-smoking legislation, part of a wider government campaign to change the public's attitude to smoking and promote a healthier lifestyle, has been implemented in stages since it was passed last summer.  The first stage saw smoking banned near public places like schools, hospitals, stores and playgrounds in the summer of 2013. The ban was then expanded to include train stations, hotels, restaurants and cafes on June 1 this year. Of those slapped with fines so far this year, 1,800 were individuals, more than 700 individual sellers of tobacco products and about 150 legal entities, the agency said, RIA Novosti reported.

^ Now everything makes sense. Russia made the anti-smoking laws to get money. They have lots of laws that don't get enforced or can be bribed away, but it seems this one is a real money-maker and so will be strictly enforced. I remember people smoking EVERYWHERE in every town and city I was in. You couldn't even go to the restroom because it was always filled with people smoking. I am not a smoker, but still believe that smokers should have the right to smoke as long as it is legal to buy cigarettes. Governments seem to only take the easy and lazy way out and simply ban smoking everywhere rather than make it so those that smoke can be comfortable while at the same time keeping them away from those that do not. There are simple, solutions that can be done, but that would be too intelligent (and less lucrative than getting the money from fines.) ^

HK Votes

From the BBC:
"Hong Kong democracy 'referendum' voting ends"
Votes are being counted in Hong Kong after an unofficial referendum on universal suffrage in the Chinese territory. The 10-day poll was held by protest group Occupy Central, which says almost 800,000 voted online or in person. A Hong Kong government spokesman has said the vote has no legal standing. Campaigners want the former British colony to be able to elect its leader, or the chief executive. China has pledged direct elections by 2017. However, the public will only have a choice of candidates selected by a nominating committee, and China's communist authorities have said all candidates must be "patriotic". In the referendum, voters had the choice of three proposals - all of which involved allowing citizens to directly nominate Hong Kong's chief executive - to present to the Beijing government. Preliminary results suggest that the biggest number of votes has gone to a proposal to allow the public, political parties and a nominating committee to shortlist candidates.
Chinese leaders believe such a process is illegal and want the public ballot to be chosen solely by a committee, effectively limiting the field to those approved by authorities in Beijing. The voting, in polling stations or on the website, began on 20 June. The deadline was originally set at 22 June, but was later extended after what organisers claimed were several cyber attacks on the website. was designed by the University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University to measure support for Occupy Central's campaign. Chen Jianmin, sociology professor at the University of Hong Kong and one of the founders of Occupy Central, praised the turnout and declared the referendum a success "It is very unexpected. It is a very encouraging sign," he said. "I believe that people feel that our autonomy has been threatened and is going to be threatened even more by Beijing. People feel outrageous [sic outraged] and so they want to make their voice heard."  The BBC's Juliana Liu in Hong Kong says the large turnout - about one in five registered voters - sends a strong message that a significant part of the Hong Kong public is unhappy with the Chinese government's plans for reform.  Pro-Beijing groups have opposed the referendum, with one group marching through the Causeway Bay district with orange balloons urging people not to vote and handing a petition with 30,000 signatures to police. The vote is seen as a prelude to a campaign of dissent that could shut down Hong Kong's financial district, our correspondent adds. Prof Chen said the protests could turn violent. "We have been witnessing more and more physical confrontation during protests and I believe that more young people are willing to go to jail or even to confront the police and the government with their own bodies," he said. "As a professor, as a parent we want to protect our young generation, that's why we believe we are now in a very critical juncture of our history." Hong Kong was handed back to China in 1997 following a 1984 agreement between China and Britain. China agreed to govern Hong Kong under the principle of "one country, two systems", where the city would enjoy "a high degree of autonomy, except in foreign and defence affairs" for 50 years. As a result, Hong Kong has its own legal system, and rights including freedom of assembly and free speech are protected.
^ It's odd that Hong Kong has the freedom or assembly and free speech, but can't really vote. ^


From the Globe and Mail:
"Ottawa expands list of countries to receive foreign aid priority"

Ottawa is expanding a list of low-income countries that receive most of Canada’s bilateral development assistance, a shift that will see more funding directed to places where the government has identified key trade and investment interests. Mongolia, Myanmar and Democratic Republic of the Congo are among seven new “countries of focus” added to a list of 25 that will receive most of Canada’s country-to-country development aid. Burkina Faso, Benin, the Philippines and Jordan were also included in the new list, while Pakistan and Bolivia were removed.  The revision is the first major change to the list since the federal government announced in 2009 that it would spend 80 per cent of Canada’s bilateral assistance on programming in 20 priority countries. The new list increases the number of recipient countries to 25 and bumps up the proportion of overall bilateral development aid those countries will receive from 80 to 90 per cent. International Development Minister Christian Paradis said on Thursday that the changes are based on an assessment of low-income countries’ needs, their ability to benefit from foreign-aid dollars and their alignment with Canada’s foreign policy priorities. “It was a rigorous analysis, and this is what we ended [up with] as the 25 countries of focus,” he told The Globe and Mail in an interview. He pointed to the Democratic Republic of Congo, which tied for last place on the United Nations’ 2012 human development index, as an example of a country with significant development needs. “And yes, there are natural resources there, it’s a sector in which we are active, and I think we can make a difference on both sides: help to alleviate extreme poverty and also we can share [our] expertise in terms of resources.” He said Mongolia was added, in part, because it shares a number of interests with Canada and because it has “pushed hard” on economic growth. And a recent shift in favour of democratic principles and economic growth in Myanmar led Canada to decide that it’s a country “in which we can seriously make a difference,” Mr. Paradis said. More than half of the countries that were added to the list are considered priority markets under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan. And at least three of those have extractive sectors the government has identified as holding key opportunities for Canadian companies, signalling a continued interest in linking aid with Canada’s commercial priorities. Mr. Paradis said Canada’s interests were among the considerations for the new list, but were not the only determinants. The list also overlaps substantially with countries that receive aid through Canada’s efforts to improve maternal child and health, he said. “So on the other side, if people say, ‘You just talk about trade,’ this is not true,” he said. Jordan was added to the priority list to help it deal with the massive influx of refugees the country has accepted from Syria, while the Philippines is a place where Canada has been particularly active since Typhoon Haiyan, Mr. Paradis said. Ottawa also plans to launch a new development program in Iraq, but would have only a modest presence in the conflict-torn country. Mr. Paradis said he is mindful of the current crisis but hopes there will be opportunities in the future for Canada to contribute to Iraq’s economic growth. The shift comes one year after Ottawa merged its standalone development agency with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, marking a further integration of the government’s trade, development and diplomacy initiatives. The original list of 20 countries was established in 2009, two years after a review by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development recommended that Canada focus on a smaller number of partner countries where it could have a bigger impact.

^ I'm not sure how much aid, etc that Canada gives to these and other countries. A country (whether it's Canada, the US, the UK, etc) should first take care of their own country and their own people and then help others. I know that usually doesn't happen, but it's wrong to give to others while your starving family watches. With that said, I hope the countries that receive the aid actually give it to those within their country that need it and don't simply waste it. ^

Law One Year On

From the MT:
"Russia's 'Gay Propaganda' Law One Year On"

In the year that has passed since Russia adopted a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors," the country's LGBT community has witnessed the erosion of its rights and freedoms, human rights activists said. Since President Vladimir Putin approved the so-called "gay propaganda" law on June 29, 2013, only four individuals have been fined for violating it, according to Tanya Lokshina, program director and senior researcher at Human Rights Watch Russia. But, Lokshina added, the rarity of the law's formal enforcement inadequately reflects its broader consequences for Russia's LGBT community. "Only a few people were fined throughout the year and this might not seem to be much of a problem," Lokshina said. "But the fines are not what this law is about. This law is not only contrary to Russia's international obligations but has also contributed to anti-gay violence and to creating a hostile environment for LGBT people in the country. It has contributed to stigmatizing LGBT individuals as unnatural, perverse and as acceptable targets."
Putin has distanced himself from the issue of LGBT rights in the country. In January, he said that he was "not prejudiced in any way" and that he even had gay friends. He has also said publicly that gays face no discrimination in Russia. Since the adoption of the country's "gay propaganda" law, Human Rights Watch has observed an increase in violent attacks carried out against LGBT people in Russia.
U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Campaign reported that at least two men were killed because of their sexual orientation in Russia in the summer of 2013 alone and that others had been assaulted, pelted with eggs and blinded in air gun attacks in the past year. The level of homophobia in the country had "greatly worsened" since the adoption of the law, Elena Volkova, an LGBT rights activist, told The Moscow Times. "The law has not only made things worse for the LGBT community, it has also coincided with an increase in the number of attacks against gays — real attacks with real deaths," she said. "It is clear this law was conceived to foment homophobia in Russian society." But for more conservative factions of Russian society, the law's first anniversary is viewed as a triumph of Russian cultural specificities over what is perceived as Western decadence.
"This law is useful for everybody," Vitaly Milonov, the St. Petersburg MP who spearheaded the "gay propaganda" legislation, told The Moscow Times on Sunday. "It is a declarative law that expresses what we [Russia] value and what we do not. Unfortunately Europe has forgotten the story of Sodom and Gomorrah [a metaphor for vice and homosexuality]." In accordance with the law, any distribution of information among minors that is "aimed at creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations or creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations" can be punishable by a fine. Ordinary Russians found guilty of violating the law can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles ($119 to $148), while legal entities can either be fined 800,000 to 1,000,000 rubles ($23,700 to $29,630) or ordered to cease their operations for up to 90 days. The legislation has also compelled certain members of Russia's LGBT community to leave the country. Arkady Gyngazov, the former manager of a Moscow gay club, said he would be seeking asylum in the U.S. because he feared for his safety. Musicians Oleg Dussayev and Dmitry Stepanov fled to New York from Moscow after being beaten in October. LGBT activist Vyacheslav Revin applied for political asylum to the U.S. in late 2013. The adoption of the law has also sparked an online witch-hunt for gay teachers. An organization known at "Parents of Russia" claimed it had 1,500 activists who search for pro-LGBT teachers online. At least six teachers and college professors have been fired or investigated for their sexual orientation, according to Human Rights Campaign. Members of Russian LGBT movements have also faced formal and informal pressure to terminate their activities. Elvina Yuvakayeva, a member of the organizing committee of the Russia's first Open Games, said that the state's administrative resources had been mobilized to sabotage the event. The Open Games, a small-scale athletic festival geared toward the LGBT community, was held in Moscow in February.
"Venues would cancel on us at the last minute, hotels refused our bookings after receiving phone calls from authorities saying they should turn us down," she claimed. "The police would always show up where we were. We were pressured to cancel our activities in all kinds of ways." A man who identified himself as a Federal Security Service employee cut short the basketball event of the Open Games after apparently detonating a smoke bomb at the venue, according to the organizing committee. "When Putin responds that LGBT people are not discriminated against in Russia, this is not an adequate answer," Yuvakayeva said. "Because there is discrimination."

^ The same people who were die-hard Communists during Soviet times are now the die-hard ultra-religious zealots who backed the anti-gay law (and who attacked homosexuals even before it was "legal.") There is something wrong with people when they can change their bi-polar beliefs so quickly. One minute they are atheists, to the end and the next born-again religious fanatics. I have read and heard that things for homosexuals in today's Russia are far worse then they ever were even when homosexuality was illegal and a mental issue in the Soviet Union. That's saying a lot. While the majority of the world is foreward-thinking and giving homosexuals equal rights there are other places (in the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East and eastern Europe) that are moving backwards in time. ^

Friday, June 27, 2014

Kazakh Visa Free

From the Kazakh Embassy in DC:
"Kazakhstan Announces Unilateral Visa-Free Regime for Citizens of Top 10 Investor nations, including the United States "

At the at the 27th meeting of the Foreign Investors' Council, President Nazarbayev announced visa-free entry for citizens of the United States, the Netherlands, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, the UAE, South Korea, and Japan. It should be noted that currently Kazakhstan and the United States issue 5-year visas to citizens of each other. “Today we are unilaterally introducing visa-free entry for citizens of ten nations. All the ten nations have been actively investing into the Kazakhstan’s economy," the President said, emphasizing that “removal of visa barriers is of great importance to expand business ties and international engagement”. The Foreign Investors’ Council (FIC) chaired by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan is an advisory body established in 1998 to promote direct dialogue between the Government of Kazakhstan and foreign investors in order to efficiently improve business climate and keep Kazakhstan open to the world's best practices in doing business Kazakhstan and South Korea plan to sign an agreement to create a visa- free regime between the two countries, according to Fox News Latino. The signing will take place when the South Korean President, Park Geun-hye visits Kazakhstan from June 19-20.

^ I have some friends in Kazakhstan so it is nice to know I could go visit them without needing to get a visa first. Apparently, this is only a trial period that goes for around a year and in 2015 the Kazakh Government will then see if it was worth it. ^


From the BBC:
"US halts work for Germany clash"

Parts of the US came to a standstill as people took time out from work to watch their team's crucial World Cup match against Germany. Despite losing 1-0 to one of the giants of world football, USA advanced through the so-called Group of Death to the knock-out stages. A record 24.7 million Americans tuned in for Sunday's 2-2 draw with Portugal, but Thursday's game was during the day.
USA's German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, tweeted a "get out of work letter". "I understand that this absence may reduce the productivity of your workplace but I can assure you that it's for an important cause," he wrote. In response, New York governor Andrew Cuomo gave state employees an extra hour for lunch. Some fans took the liberty of taking time off work without authorisation, filling bars, parks and other public viewing areas across the country. Among up to 500 fans watching the game at The Archway Under Manhattan Bridge in New York's Brooklyn borough was one USA fan, 21 years old, who said he had skipped work to watch the game with his girlfriend. Around him, chants of "U! S! A! U! S! A!" filled the air and the famous Stars and Stripes were draped over people's shoulders or painted on their faces.  On the way to Dupont Circle before the match a restaurant with outdoor seating is blaring Born in the USA, Bruce Springsteen's hit, and every diner is facing the televisions.
The circle itself is half-full but it's packed tight and tough to get a good view of the two large TV screens broadcasting. There are American flags worn as capes, Lady Liberty foam tiaras, plenty of face paint and not an insignificant number of German flags. The chants are "U! S! A! U! S! A!", "I will believe that we will win", and of course "Ole, ole, ole."  "I started playing soccer when I was five years old," says Gino Gallardo, whose American flag face paint design is cracking in the summer heat. He's convinced he'd still be a fan even if he hadn't played as a child. "It's the world's sport."
^ I don't understand why Americans would take any time to watch the World Cup. Soccer is only popular and played by little kids here and then you move on to baseball and basketball. I guess people just didn't want to go to work/school and it was an excuse to not get fired or in trouble. ^

Power Restriction

From Yahoo:
"High court limits president's appointments power"

The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the president's power to fill high-level vacancies with temporary appointments, ruling in favor of Senate Republicans in their partisan clash with President Barack Obama. The high court's first-ever case involving the Constitution's recess appointments clause ended in a unanimous decision holding that Obama's appointments to the National Labor Relations Board in 2012 without Senate confirmation were illegal. Obama invoked the Constitution's provision giving the president the power to make temporary appointments when the Senate is in recess. Problem is, the court said, the Senate was not actually in a formal recess when Obama acted.
Obama had argued that the Senate was on an extended holiday break and that the brief sessions it held every three days were a sham that was intended to prevent him from filling seats on the NLRB.
The justices rejected that argument Wednesday. Justice Stephen Breyer said in his majority opinion that a congressional break has to last at least 10 days to be considered a recess under the Constitution.
The issue of recess appointments receded in importance after the Senate's Democratic majority changed the rules to make it harder for Republicans to block confirmation of most Obama appointees.
But the ruling's impact may be keenly felt by the White House next year if Republicans capture control of the Senate in the November election. The potential importance of the ruling lies in the Senate's ability to block the confirmation of judges and the leaders of independent agencies like the NLRB. A federal law gives the president the power to appoint acting heads of Cabinet-level departments to keep the government running. Still, the outcome was the least significant loss possible for the administration. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a sweeping lower court ruling against the administration that would have made it virtually impossible for any future president to make recess appointments. The lower court held that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. It also said that only vacancies that arise in that recess could be filled. So the high court has left open the possibility that a president, with a compliant Congress, could make recess appointments in the future. A recess appointment can last no more than two years. Recess appointees who subsequently won Senate confirmation include Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, two current NLRB members and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is among recess appointees who left office because they could not win a Senate vote.  The issue of recess appointments receded in importance after the Senate's Democratic majority changed the rules to make it harder for Republicans to block confirmation of most Obama appointees. But the ruling's impact may be keenly felt by the White House next year if Republicans capture control of the Senate in the November election. The potential importance of the ruling lies in the Senate's ability to block the confirmation of judges and the leaders of independent agencies like the NLRB. A federal law gives the president the power to appoint acting heads of Cabinet-level departments to keep the government running. Still, the outcome was the least significant loss possible for the administration. The justices, by a 5-4 vote, rejected a sweeping lower court ruling against the administration that would have made it virtually impossible for any future president to make recess appointments. The lower court held that the only recess recognized by the Constitution is the once-a-year break between sessions of Congress. It also said that only vacancies that arise in that recess could be filled. So the high court has left open the possibility that a president, with a compliant Congress, could make recess appointments in the future. A recess appointment can last no more than two years. Recess appointees who subsequently won Senate confirmation include Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, two current NLRB members and Consumer Financial Protection Bureau director Richard Cordray. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton is among recess appointees who left office because they could not win a Senate vote. The Supreme Court has limited a president's power to make temporary appointments to fill high-level government jobs. The court said Thursday that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he invoked the Constitution's provision on recess appointments to fill slots on the National Labor Relations Board in 2012. The justices said in their first-ever consideration of the Constitution's recess appointments clause that Congress gets to decide when it is in recess and that there was no recess when Obama acted. The president said he made the appointments in the face of Republican refusal to allow the NLRB to function.

^ It's nice to see that the checks and balances are finally being done on the President (even if it took several years.) He will finally see that he doesn't have Carte Blanche to fulfill his wishes. It seems that both the American people and the US Government are finally seeing Obama for what he is and what he has done (or hasn't done) and are getting sick and tired of his excuses. ^


From the BBC:
"Ukraine: Putin aide brands Poroshenko 'Nazi' ahead of EU deal"

A senior adviser to Russian President Vladimir Putin has lashed out at Ukraine's president ahead of the signing of a controversial EU deal.  Sergei Glazyev said Petro Poroshenko was a "Nazi" and his endorsement of the deal was "illegitimate". Mr Poroshenko is expected to sign the full association agreement at the EU summit in Brussels later.  A shaky ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russian rebels are fighting government forces, is also due to end. In another development early on Friday, rebels released four international observers captured more than a month ago. Alexander Borodai, head of the self-styled Donetsk People's Republic, said the members of the Vienna-based Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) had been freed as a goodwill gesture. "We don't expect anything in return - we freed them without any pre-conditions," he said.
The OSCE said it remains concerned about four other observers captured at about the same time.
Mr Glazyev, Mr Putin's presidential adviser on regional economic integration, told the BBC: "Europe is trying to push Ukraine to sign this agreement by force. "They organised [a] military coup in Ukraine, they helped Nazis to come to power. This Nazi government is bombing the largest region in Ukraine." Asked if he believed Mr Poroshenko was a Nazi he replied: "Of course." Mr Poroshenko's predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, was overthrown in February after refusing to sign the EU deal under pressure from Russia. Russia went on annex Ukraine's Crimea region and pro-Russia separatists in eastern regions declared independence, claiming that extremists had taken power in Kiev. Political parts of the association agreement, aiming at forging closer ties with the EU, were signed by Ukraine's interim government in March. Mr Poroshenko previously announced he would sign the crucial trade and economic relations portion of the pact on Friday. Mr Glazyev added: "I think after the signing of the agreement with EU, [the] European public will be... surprised when this Nazi Frankenstein, which was born by the Euro bureaucrats and some politicians, will knock on the European countries' doors." He said Mr Poroshenko was an "illegitimate" president because parts of Ukraine did not vote in May's elections. His claims come despite President Putin engaging with the Ukrainian leader on peace negotiations. Fighting is said to have continued in some areas of eastern Ukraine despite a temporary ceasefire this week.  Talks on extending the truce in in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are also set to take place on Friday. More than 420 people have been killed in fighting between pro-Russia rebels and government forces in eastern Ukraine since mid-April, the UN estimates. Russia denies it has allowed militants and heavy weaponry to cross its border into eastern Ukraine. The US and EU are threatening to impose further sanctions if Russia does not act to defuse the situation.

^ I guess Putin can not stop complaining that a Ukrainian minister called him a "dickhead" since one of his (Putin) advisors just called the Ukrainian president a "Nazi." ^

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Country Stripping

From the Globe and Mail:
"Government challenged on right to revoke citizenship"

A Toronto lawyer is challenging the Conservative government’s right to revoke the citizenship of Canadians with dual nationality, including those born in this country, if they commit serious crimes such as terrorism here or abroad. Rocco Galati filed the challenge in Federal Court on Wednesday, citing two cases from the turn of the 20th century in which the government of British Columbia tried to deny certain rights of citizenship to Chinese and Japanese immigrants and their Canadian-born children. He says that nothing in Canada’s 1867 or 1982 Constitution allows Parliament to revoke the citizenship of the native-born. “They don’t have the constitutional authority to touch this,” he said in an interview. “Certain things can’t be touched.” The government did not respond directly to the issues raised by the challenge on Wednesday. The Strengthening Canadian Citizenship Act, which became law this month, allows the government to revoke the citizenship of dual nationals convicted of crimes such as terrorism, treason and espionage, or who take up arms against Canada. “We’re talking about revocation of dual nationals, wherever they’re born, for very rare and very serious crimes,” Mr. Alexander has said. (Citizenship can also be taken away if people lie, or commit fraud, on their application.) Britain passed a law last month that goes even further, allowing the government to take away citizenship from those with only one nationality, leaving individuals stateless. The country has stripped 42 people of their citizenship since 2006, under a previous version of the law.

^ I think a country should be able to revoke the citizenship of something who is a naturalized citizen of that country (ie someone who too a test to be made a citizen), but not of anyone who is considered a native-born citizen of that country regardless if they are also a citizen of another country. I am considered a native-citizen of both the US and Canada (as are hundreds of thousands of others) While I am interested in learning all that I can about Canada I admit I considered myself an American first (mostly because from the time I was born until 2009 I was not considered a Canadian citizen by the  Canadian Government due to their discriminatory citizenship laws that lasted until 1977 and weren't changed to include those whose relatives or themselves were stripped of their citizenship before 1977. I'm sure had I grown-up knowing I was a dual citizen I would have tried to learn about both countries equally.It seems the Canadian Government is simply moving their citizenship laws to the old discriminatory pre-1977 ways. Of course I don't like terrorists, criminals, etc but just because I don't like them or what they stand for doesn't mean I think a Government should give itself Carte Blanche to do whatever it wants to do (especially when you consider that it would mostly affect ordinary people or those with minor abuses (vs terrorism) ^

WW 1 Start

From the BBC:
"EU leaders gather for WWI memorial ahead of Juncker battle"

EU leaders have held a ceremony in Ypres, Belgium, on the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One, ahead of an EU summit.  In Ypres, the 28 EU leaders joined in one minute of silence remembering the fallen of WW1 at the Menin Gate.  Ypres is close to Western Front battlefields where hundreds of thousands lost their lives, and the gate bears some 54,000 names of the missing.
In a moving ceremony, the leaders dedicated a memorial bench stamped with the word "peace" in the EU's 24 official languages. European Council President Herman van Rompuy read the poem The Fallen which was first published in 1914.

^ I left out the part about Juncker because it doesn't really have anything to do with the World War 1 Remembrance Ceremony. It has been 100 years since the war started (whose mishandling of the Peace Treaty helped lead to World War 2.) I am curious to see how the EU and Germany in particular remember the 100 years of the start and end of World War 2 in 2039 and 2045. ^

What's In A Name?

From the BBC:
"What would the UK be called without Scotland?"

The UK crops up on postcards, passports, in the United Nations and the Eurovision song contest. Would its name change if Scotland says "Yes" to independence, asks Esther Webber.
In reality the country could, and probably would, continue to be known as the UK. It's difficult to imagine a Westminster government advocating anything else. But the suggestion that "UK" might need replacing if Scotland becomes independent after the referendum on 18 September has already led to some alternative shorthands being bandied about.  "The rest of the UK" is the handle used most commonly - it appears 293 times in the Scottish Government's white paper on independence - but leaves England, Wales and Northern Ireland in danger of sounding like Scotland's cast-offs. It's also a bit of a mouthful.    Its abbreviation, rUK, is already used by Scottish universities to differentiate between students from Scotland and those from the rest of the UK in relation to tuition fees. It regularly appears in Scottish newspapers such as the Herald and Scotsman. Meanwhile, several Scotland analysis papers published by Whitehall favour the onward plodding of "continuing UK".
"Future UK" has been floated as an idea by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books and "Former UK" by the Spectator columnist Charles Moore. Snappier perhaps, but as both writers have pointed out, the abbreviation - fUK - is somewhat unfortunate.   The UK has had its fair share of makeovers in the past and the different names used are often loaded, Prof Linda Colley of Princeton University points out in her book Acts of Union and Disunion. Jonathan Swift wrote in 1738: "Pox on the modern phrase Great Britain," unhappy that it excluded his native Ireland. For a time Scotland was sometimes referred to as "North Britain" - a term coined in the 17th Century by unionists which would now be considered highly derogatory by most Scots. The 1706-7 acts of union joined England and Scotland (previously separate states with separate legislatures, but with one monarch) into a single, united kingdom named "Great Britain".
  • The United Kingdom came into usage with the 1801 Act of Union, which brought together the Kingdom of Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) with the Kingdom of Ireland.
  • In 1922 the Irish Free State came into being. After World War Two, it became a republic.
But according to Prof Daniel Szechi, a historian of early modern Britain at Manchester University, Scottish independence might take us even further back, to a very "retro" constitutional arrangement.
"In the event of independence, we are getting back to a pre-1530s point - where England had indirect ruling powers over Ireland and Wales but not Scotland. "Before that, Ireland and Wales were part of an Angevin empire that included parts of modern France. I think renaming the UK 'the English empire' would not, however, sit well with the Welsh and Northern Irish." Alan Trench, politics professor at the University of Ulster and author of the Devolution Matters blog, says it's "probably right" that the term UK would endure beyond Scotland's membership. "There are good reasons why the rest of the UK might choose to keep its name - but ultimately that would be up to the rest of the UK to decide, post-independence," he says. erhaps England, Wales and Northern Ireland should take comfort in observing that Scotland is not immune from the rebranding question. Newspaper readers north of the border are by now used to seeing references to an independent Scotland as "iScotland".

^ I could see London keeping the shortened name: the United Kingdom, but not it's current Great Britain or even the long form: the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. If Scotland becomes independent then there wouldn't be a Great Britain (Scotland, England and Wales) so you couldn't really continue to use that as your country's name. You could still call yourself the UK or find a new name for the current state of your country. ^

Princip's Principle

From the BBC:
"Bosnia and WW1: The living legacy of Gavrilo Princip"

Tourists, historians and diplomats have been arriving in Sarajevo to commemorate the shots fired by a young Bosnian Serb assassin on 28 June 1914 - shots that sparked World War One. But the city and country are uneasy in the historical spotlight, as the tensions behind those events are still alive today.
Gavrilo Princip fired twice at close range into the open-topped car carrying the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Franz Ferdinand, and his wife Sophie. He could hardly miss - two of the bullets found their targets and the royal couple were killed.  After 37 days of increasingly paranoid diplomacy, the Great Powers went to war. The Austrians hoped this would solve the problem of Slavic separatism, and it did - but only after four years of war that destroyed their empire.  With such a momentous event to commemorate, you might have thought the city and national authorities would be filling the streets with historical re-enactments and using any available venue to stage cultural events exploring the many human stories and tragedies unleashed by the Sarajevo shooting. But they are not.   Almost all the historical conferences and pan-European reconciliation concerts have been set up by outsiders, or on private initiatives. The reason can be guessed at by looking at the sign outside a building by the Miljacka River. This used to be the Muzej Mlada Bosna, the Young Bosnia Museum, set up after WW2 by Tito's Communists to glorify Princip and his co-conspirators as freedom fighters. Now the sign is a lesson in political correctness - Museum of Sarajevo 1878-1918. You need to be more historically aware than most of us to know those dates mark the start and finish of the Austro-Hungarian occupation of Bosnia.  Tour guide Vedran Grebo told me: "It's absolutely political. The different communities here - Bosniak Muslim, Orthodox Serb and Catholic Croat - just don't agree on what to call what Princip did, 'heroism' or 'terrorism'." Although Princip claimed to be acting on behalf of all southern Slavs, in attempting to liberate Bosnia away from Austro-Hungary, it is principally among Serbs that he is lionised. Bosniaks and Croats had little desire a century ago for unification with Serbia - just as in the 1990s many were keen to break away from Serb-dominated Yugoslavia.  When I was reporting from Sarajevo during the siege that killed more than 11,000 from 1992 to 1995, the Young Bosnia museum was in range of sniper fire from the surrounding hills. But if you took your chance, you could still find a broken paving stone outside with footprints embedded, supposed to mark the spot where Princip took aim. "It was a treat for every young Yugoslav to come here on a school trip and stand in those heroic footprints," says Vedran Grebo. "Now they are gone." The political arrangement left behind by the Dayton Peace Agreement ended the fighting in 1995. But it has not healed the divisions created by the nationalist ideologies on which that war was started, first in Slovenia and Croatia in 1991, and then most bloodily in Bosnia the following year. Inspired by Serbia's Slobodan Milosevic as he turned from Communism to nationalism, Bosnia's Serbs set about trying to unite Bosnia with Serbia, in an echo of Princip's dream. They failed, but Dayton gave them political control over just under half of the territory and a veto over national policy for Bosnia-Herzegovina.  That has hampered the development of Bosnia's economy and created space for corruption. Unemployment is 44% and infrastructure is creaky.  The inability to agree on the facts surrounding the events of 1914 is just another symptom of political failure, according to centre-left politician Dennis Gratz from the Nasa Stranka party.  To try to teach history in Bosnia's schools is to wander into a political minefield, according to history teacher Senada Jusic. "As teachers we are supposed to teach facts and recognise that there are different interpretations. I do that when I'm talking about Princip. But I have met teachers from other parts of Bosnia, even other parts of Sarajevo, who say they can't do that. They have to say he was a hero." While Bosnia itself, the scene of the shootings, remains trapped - "doomed," says Dennis Gratz - by unresolved history, in Serbia's capital, Belgrade, where Gavrilo Princip received his training and his gun, I found much more willingness to leave history in the past.
Student Marko Jovanovic told me Princip "did not do the smartest thing, when I see all the millions of people - Serbian, Austro-Hungarian, French, German, British, Russian, killed." The view that Serbia may have been on the side of the victors in 1918 but did not "win the war" - is growing. "With one-fifth of the population killed, could you really call that nation a winner? And people for the first time are asking that question here," historian Slobodan Markovic told me. In Sarajevo, historical emotions will be stirred up this week. Vedran Grebo took me to the mausoleum on a hillside where the bones of Gavrilo Princip, who died of TB in an Austrian prison, and his co-conspirators are laid. He read me the inscription, a quote from the Montenegrin poet Petrovic-Njegos: "Blessed is he who lives forever, he did not die in vain." Politicians in Bosnia will keep Princip's memory alive while it suits them. Perhaps they should take note of the other inscription on the Mausoleum - the date of its construction, 1939, at the start of World War Two, which was itself a consequence of World War One.  Little wonder, perhaps, that the people of Sarajevo aren't overjoyed with the 1914 commemorations. They can't be sure Princip's legacy is all spent.

^ I can understand why this person in particular would be so controversial in a country like Bosnia. He was a Bosnian Serb in Sarajevo whose violence led to a war and 78 years later Bosnian Serbs (along with Serbs from Serbia) started a siege of Sarajevo that lasted until 1995 and killed thousands. The Bosnian Serbs (as did the Yugoslavian Government - made up of mostly ethnic Serbs) tend to see him as a Serbian freedom fighter whereas all the other ethnic groups of Bosnia (the Bosniaks and Croatians) tend to see it as merely another example of Serbian aggression that led to the murder of hundreds of thousands. It is interesting to see that Serbs in Serbia (especially the young who probably didn't live through the war or were too young during it) make the distinction that he helped lead to the death of millions around all of Europe and many other parts of the world. It seems like the generation of Germans who were in their 20s in the late 1960s who started to question what their parents, grandparents and government did during World War 2 and what their current government (in the 1960s) was doing/not doing to bring the Nazis to justice.) For years after the Yugoslav and Bosnian Wars Serbia has help to hide potential war criminals from going to court, It has only really been in the past several years that the Serbian Government has tried to make amends for their role in the wars. Hopefully that trend will continue. ^