Sunday, December 28, 2014

New Year's!

This will be my last entry until 2015. I will be away on family business and so won't have time to post. I can only say that 2014 was a bust and I only hope to be able to completely forget the whole year. I also hope 2015 will be much better.

2014 Review

From the BBC:
"John Simpson: 2014 was the year of self-doubt"

Years are like city crowds: for the most part they push their way past you in the street without leaving any real impression.    A few, though, imprint themselves heavily on your consciousness, and on history.   2014 was just such a year. Its events jolted us out of our lazy assurance that things will carry on pretty much as usual.    Here are some of them. On the night of 21 February the violent clashes in Ukraine between the pro-Russian government of President Yanukovych and demonstrators in the streets who wanted Ukraine to join the European Union and Nato reached a climax    The demonstrators in the Maidan, Kiev's central square, threatened to take up arms against the government. The riot police withdrew, and President Yanukovych fled to Russia A right-wing coup d'etat or a popular revolution? The Russians, the Europeans and Americans naturally disagreed
Soon, the Crimean peninsular was blocked off by soldiers who wore Russian uniforms, but claimed to be local volunteers.   Crimea, which had always seemed like a detached part of Russia anyway, voted (genuinely) to join the Russian Federation. Russia was overjoyed. In eastern Ukraine, there was outright civil war, with Russian forces taking part under various guises.   An Malaysian Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur crashed after being hit by a Russian-made missile as it flew through Ukrainian airspace. The 298 entirely innocent people on board died. These things were unprecedented in Europe, and the US, the EU and various other countries and international organisations started imposing sanctions on Russia to punish it.   Increasingly damaged economically, Russia became more strident in its defiance of the West. It was the start of a second, though milder and less dangerous, Cold War. But 2014 still had its chief shock in store. On the night of 9-10 June a motorised column of 1,300 not very well trained religious extremists charged into one of Iraq's biggest cities, Mosul, and captured itPeople across the world suddenly became aware of the black flag of Islamic State (IS). An extraordinary force had been unleashed in Iraq as well as Syria, and threatened to spread across entire sections of the Muslim world. The Iraqi army, and particularly its officers, simply ran for it. The next day the black flag was flying over the city of Tikrit as well. IS seemed set to capture Baghdad itself.  But Baghdad stood firm. IS went on to capture headlines rather than towns and cities, carrying out a series of disgusting murders of defenceless prisoners, skilfully filmed and set to music.   Gradually, the opponents of IS pulled themselves together. The highly sectarian government in Iraq changed. An unlikely, unspoken coalition of Western countries, Iraqi Kurds and Iran joined Syria in fighting IS. Now, no one seriously thinks the black flag will fly over the entire region; but IS is influencing and attracting extremists in countries from Pakistan to Libya, and in Nigeria the crazy-seeming Boko Haram movement is copying its worst features.  There were moments in 2014 when it looked as though the world might succumb to another pandemic: this time EbolaIn fact it was never really on the cards, partly because the world's medical resources were too strong, and partly because the disease itself didn't quite lend itself to that kind of spread. 
Still, it terrified a lot of people; and as always in these circumstances governments and individuals didn't always behave wisely or decently. It was a year of turnarounds. Britain and the US, having apparently pulled out of Iraq and Afghanistan, found themselves sending soldiers back there to shore up the local forces. Separatist feelings grew in Europe, whether in Scotland or Spain, or expressed as a dislike of the European Union itself.   In Hong Kong, the desire to keep a separate identity has goaded China into a new sternness, while President Xi Jinping has continued to show a steely determination to assert his control over the Communist Party.    As 2014 fades, some of the big world issues seem to be reflected in the streets. Deranged characters from Sydney to Dijon and Tours have attacked people in the name of Islam. Racist assaults on Muslims have increased.    In Britain, policemen and politicians alike worry that terrorist attacks are inevitable. In the US, trust in the police has been severely shaken by a series of deaths of black people at the hands of individual policemen.
Time magazine has decreed that 2014 was the year of the selfie. Maybe.  To me it seems it was the year of nervousness and instability. The real selfie of 2014 was self-doubt.

^ A good review of the major events of the year. ^

Drone Wars

From Yahoo:
"Key decisions on drones likely from Congress"

The Obama administration is on the verge of proposing long-awaited rules for commercial drone operations in U.S. skies, but key decisions on how much access to grant drones are likely to come from Congress next year.  Federal Aviation Administration officials have said they want to release proposed rules before the end of this month, but other government and industry officials say they are likely to be delayed until January. Meanwhile, except for a small number of companies that have received FAA exemptions, a ban on commercial drone flights remains in place. Even after rules are proposed, it is likely to be two or three years before regulations become final. That's too long to wait, say drone industry officials. Every year the ban remains in place, the United States loses more than $10 billion in potential economic benefits that drones could provide, according to the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, a trade group. "We need some sort of process that allows some of the low-risk operations," said Jesse Kallman, the head of regulatory affairs for Airware, a drone technology company backed by Google Ventures. "I think Congress understands that, and hopefully they'll take steps in the coming year to address that." That appears to be what some key lawmakers have in mind. "We in Congress are very interested in UAS," Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said at a hearing this month, referring to unmanned aerial systems, or drones. "We understand UAS are an exciting technology with the potential to transform parts of our economy. ... It is our responsibility to take a close look."
One of the committee's first priorities next year is writing legislation to reauthorize FAA programs and overhaul aviation policy. The bill is expected to include directions from lawmakers on how to integrate drones into the nation's aviation system. The last reauthorization bill, passed in 2012, directed the agency to integrate drones by Sept. 30, 2015, but it's clear the FAA will miss that deadline.  The FAA is expected to propose restricting drones weighing less than 55 pounds to altitudes below 400 feet, forbid nighttime flights and require drones be kept within sight of their operators. Drone operators may also be required to get pilot's licenses, a possibility already drawing fire from critics who say the skills needed to fly a manned aircraft are different from those needed to operate a drone. Shuster indicated he's concerned that requiring pilot's licenses might be burdensome and unnecessary. And keeping drones within sight of operators would be too strict and limit their usefulness, he said.  The reason for keeping drones within line of sight is that they don't yet have the ability to detect and avoid other aircraft. FAA officials have been working on drone regulations for nearly a decade. The agency twice drafted regulations that were later rejected by the White House or Transportation Department. The FAA has long maintained that unmanned aircraft must meet the same regulations as manned aircraft unless waiving or adjusting those regulations doesn't create a safety risk. However, FAA officials more recently have begun talking about "risk-based" regulations, giving industry officials hope the agency might propose a blanket exemption from regulations for the smallest drones — usually defined as weighing under 5 pounds — as long as operators follow a few basic safety rules. Canadian authorities recently approved a blanket exemption for very small drones.
Congress already is getting pushback from private and commercial pilots who worry about possible collisions. The FAA receives reports nearly every day about drones sighted flying near manned aircraft or airports.
^ It's a little weird to think of anyone being able to fly a drone anywhere. Even when rules are made I doubt they will be followed. ^

Prisoner Swap

From the BBC:
"Ukraine crisis: Separatist rebels free more soldiers"

Pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine have freed four Ukrainian prisoners a day after the two sides exchanged hundreds of captives. The release was announced by a Ukrainian defence ministry adviser, Vasyliy Budik, who said three were soldiers and the fourth a civilian. On Friday, rebels freed 146 prisoners for 222 people held by the government, in the biggest such swap to date. President Petro Poroshenko greeted those freed on Friday at an airport. Elsewhere, Ukraine has frozen vital bus and rail links with Crimea, its southern peninsula annexed by Russia in March. Crimea has no land corridor to Russia, and relies on a ferry in the Azov Sea and flights from Russia. The latest moves come ahead of the traditional holiday season in the region, when people travel to be with their families for New Year.  The releases are part of a 12-point peace plan agreed in September, which also included a ceasefire. Fighting continues, however, and more than 1,300 people have died since the truce was announced.  The latest releases took place without any rebels being freed in return, Mr Budik wrote on his Facebook page (in Russian). He added that the three soldiers had spent around four months in captivity after being captured at Luhansk airport. The fourth person freed was the head of a factory security guard service, he said.   According to the defence adviser, a further 10-12 Ukrainians could be freed shortly.   Friday's prisoner exchange took place near the town of Avdiyivka, about 35km (22 miles) north of Donetsk.  Ukrainian and Russian media showed rows of men in civilian clothes standing on a road, supervised by armed men. Among the rebels released by the government are a number of civilians from eastern Ukraine, detained as suspected rebel sympathisers, according to the pro-rebel Donetsk News Agency. Those released include 35 women, the same source said. The rebel leadership in Donetsk region has appealed to observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Red Cross to investigate allegations of maltreatment by the Ukrainian authorities. Inconclusive talks were held this week in Minsk, Belarus, on ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has claimed 4,700 lives. Ukraine accuses Russia of actively supporting the militants with Russian soldiers and heavy artillery.
The Kremlin denies this but says its regular forces are fighting in eastern Ukraine as volunteers. People queued at railway stations in Crimea on Saturday to return unused train tickets.  Col Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for Ukraine's security council, told reporters on Saturday that the freeze on public transport traffic to Crimea was expected to be only a temporary security measure.
The Crimean peninsula - which is also heavily dependent on Ukraine's power supplies - has also seen blackouts in recent days.  Kiev says it has to limit supplies, because Ukraine itself is experiencing power shortages.  The world's two largest credit and debit card companies, Visa and Mastercard, have said they can no longer support bank cards being used in Crimea, following fresh US sanctions imposed this month. Russian media reported that a number of people in Crimea on Friday were unable to withdraw cash or pay for goods bought in local supermarkets.

Ukraine: The human cost
  • 5,200,000 affected by conflict
  • 4,707 people killed including 36 children
  • 10,322 wounded including 102 children
  • 542,080 people displaced inside Ukraine
  • 597,956 refugees and asylum seekers outside Ukraine
^ I am glad that the prisoners were released - more so that the Ukrainians were and not so much for the pro-Russian terrorists. I also feel no sympathy for the people in the Crimea that illegally voted to join Russia - while Russian guns were pointed at them. The Ukraine has been more than generous with Russia considering that Russia invaded, occupied and annexed part of the Ukraine and continues to support the pro-Russian terrorists in the eastern Ukraine. I don't know of any other country in the same situation in the history of modern warfare where a country that is both occupied and still in the mist of fighting for its freedom to be so generous and doing everything by themselves. ^

Married Pride

From USA Today:
"Heroine of gay marriage movement feels pride in progress"

The subject is same-sex marriage, but the vivacious blonde who has come to personify the issue stops her interrogator with a scolding. "Could I suggest that you don't say same-sex marriage anymore?" Edie Windsor asks politely. "Because it's not. It's marriage." As in her own marriage to the late psychologist Thea Spyer, which followed a 40-year engagement. As in the wedding ceremonies she attends or is forced to skip because she can't keep up with all the invitations. As in the marriages sanctioned by judges in 27 states this year, all of which mention Windsor by name. While 2013 brought the landmark ruling in United States v. Windsor that forced the federal government to recognize legally married gay men and lesbians, 2014 was the year that the case spurred a judicial juggernaut. From Oklahoma in January to Mississippi in December, federal judges in the nation's most conservative states declared that what this 85-year-old widow started can't be stopped. From the comfort of her apartment at the foot of Fifth Avenue in Greenwich Village, Windsor recalls the "mind-blowing days" when state laws and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage were falling like so many dominoes. "The statistics were changing every night," she says. Even now, Windsor has trouble with the math – 35 states where marriage is legal for two men or two women, and 10 others where lower court judges have said it should be. "I didn't expect any of it," she says, "and certainly not in the time frame." To be sure, several recent decisions upholding gay marriage bans in Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana and Puerto Rico have slowed progress and put the ultimate resolution in doubt. The Supreme Court that brought Windsor instant fame on June 26, 2013, will have to make the final call – perhaps next year. But the court may have tipped its hand in October when it refused to hear appeals from Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, Indiana and Wisconsin challenging lower court rulings that struck down gay marriage bans. Now most Americans live in states where such marriages are legal. Windsor, a former IBM computer systems programmer, isn't discouraged by the setbacks. She never expected the fight she began in 2009 to be easy. At least one part of the progress made to date cannot be taken away, she insists. "They can't reverse the marriages," she says. "People who are married are married."  When Windsor and her lawyer, Roberta Kaplan, filed the lawsuit that would change the arc of history, only a handful of states allowed gays and lesbians to marry. By the time they won their case, there were a dozen. After Windsor came the deluge. In the 18 months since, as gay marriage moved from seeming incredible to inevitable, Windsor has been feted by the likes of President Obama and former president Bill Clinton. Plaques and trophies adorn her harpsichord. A 2014 photo album rests atop her coffee table. So many letters pour in from around the country and the world that she now responds with a pre-printed card.
Most fulfilling, however, has been the rapid pace of court decisions that have enabled tens of thousands of couples to marry or have their marriages recognized in their home states. Neither has the steady progress in public opinion polls, which show that about 55% of Americans say gay marriage should be legal.

0 – Number of states where same-sex marriage was legal in 2002
9 – Number of states with gay marriage when Edie Windsor's case was heard at Supreme Court in March 2013
13 – Number of states with gay marriage when Edie Windsor's case was decided in June 2013
18 – Number of states with gay marriage at end of 2013
35 – Number of states with gay marriage after 9th Circuit appeals court struck down gay marriage bans on Oct. 7
4 – Number of states where marriage bans have been upheld by a federal appeals court
15 – Number of states where same-sex marriage remains illegal

^ Many people don't know the history or the case that first brought about the Supreme Court into the gay marriage debate, but I think it's important. It's a long the same lines as the black/white couple that wanted to marry and challenged the inter-racial marriage laws or the groups that fought the "separate, but equal" racist Jim Crow laws of the South in the 1950s-1960s. With that said it is not a gay issue. I believe in the "Straight, but not Narrow" stance. Things wouldn't have changed for gay people if it wasn't for the help and support of straight people the same way blacks wouldn't have been given their freedom if it wasn't for the help and support of white people. It's sad to say, but true. I'm just glad that things are changing for the better and hope the trend continues. ^

Hitler's Place

From the BBC:
"Hitler's old house gives Austria a headache"

What do you do with the house Hitler was born in? For years the building in the Austrian town of Braunau am Inn has been rented by the Austrian interior ministry to prevent misuse by neo-Nazis.
It was once a day-care centre for the disabled. Now it is empty, as the owner has not agreed to any plans for its future use.  Braunau am Inn is a pretty little town in northern Austria, right on the border with Germany. But it has a heavy legacy.  Just off the main square is Salzburger Vorstadt 15: a solid, 17th-Century former inn, where Adolf Hitler was born in 1889.  Hitler's family, who rented rooms upstairs, was not originally from Braunau. His father Alois, had been posted there for his job as a customs official.  Adolf Hitler only lived in Salzburger Vorstadt 15 for a few weeks, before his family moved to another address in Braunau. They left the town for good when Hitler was three years old. He returned briefly to Braunau in 1938, on his way to Vienna, after he annexed Austria to Nazi Germany. Locals say the house still attracts some neo-Nazi sympathisers.  "I've even witnessed people from Italy or from France coming here… for adoration purposes," Josef Kogler, a teacher in Braunau, said.  "One Frenchman, a history teacher I think it was, came and asked me for Hitler's birthplace… It's hard to understand." These days, the house is locked up and empty.  The Austrian interior ministry was so concerned about the possibility of neo-Nazis using the building as a site of pilgrimage that, since 1972, it has rented it from the owner, Gerlinde Pommer, to prevent any misuse.
Mrs Pommer currently receives almost €5,000 (£3,925; $6,140) a month, according to town officials.
For many years, the house was used as a day-care centre for people with special needs. But in 2011, they had to move out.   Florian Kotanko, a local historian, says Mrs Pommer will not agree to renovations. "She does not accept any proposal of using the house for offices or other purposes," he said.  "She does not allow any changing of the house, so you can't rebuild any rooms, you can't build modern bathrooms or put in a lift. It is difficult."  Over the past three years, various proposals have been put forward about how to use the house.  These include turning it into flats, a centre for adult education, a museum or a centre of responsibility, for confronting the Nazi past. One Russian MP even offered to buy the house and blow it up.   With no agreement in sight, the interior ministry recently appealed to all the other federal and regional government ministries to help decide what to do with the house.  Braunau's deputy mayor, Guenter Pointner of the Social Democrats, says the ministry is now considering terminating the rental contract with Mrs Pommer. She was not available for comment.  The row over the house has stirred up uncomfortable memories for the prosperous little town.  Some, including Braunau's second deputy mayor Christian Schilcher of the far-right Freedom Party, think it is time to move on. "The people are fed up," he said. "This theme is a problem for the image of Braunau. We want to be a beautiful little town, with tourism and visitors. We are not the children of Hitler."  But others, including Florian Kotanko, say ignoring history makes things worse. Braunau now has plans to put up an exhibit about the house and the links with Hitler in the local museum.  For many years, Austrians and the people of Braunau were reluctant to discuss the Nazi past, but Florian Kotanko says that is changing.  "Once people refused to talk about the facts... but now they speak about it," he says. "It's a matter of how to deal with the heritage."

^  I think the Austrians have four options with regards to this house. They can either ignore their past (for decades they played Hitler's first victim despite the fact that the majority of Austrians voted for the union with Nazi Germany and for Hitler - just as the Germans elected Hitler) and hope no one makes the connection between their town and Hitler - which hasn't worked in the nearly 70 years since 1945. They can make the building a center or memorial on Nazi crimes, they could destroy the whole  building as the East Germans did with the Furtherbunker in East Berlin in the 1980s or they can keep the building and let it be a place that houses some of the groups Hitler targeted: like the disabled. I personally, think the last option is the best one since everyday it would be an affront to everything Hitler stood for. ^

NATO Changeover

From the BBC:
"NATO marks transition to new Afghanistan mission"

Nato has formally ended its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan - heralding the start of a new phase of support for local Afghan troops. Commanders lowered the flag during a ceremony in Kabul - raising the flag of the new mission named Resolute Support. "We have lifted the Afghan people out of the darkness of despair and given them hope for the future," mission commander Gen John Campbell said. Nato's Afghan deployment began after the 9/11 attacks against the US. From 1 January the alliance's role will shift to a mainly training and support mission for the Afghan army.
Sunday's ceremony was low-key - held inside a gymnasium at the alliance headquarters away from the public.  A military band played as the flag of the International Security and Assistance Force (Isaf) was lowered in the presence of senior military personnel from both sides.   Unfurling the new flag, Gen Campbell said the mission "will serve as the bedrock of an enduring partnership" between Nato and Afghanistan. "We honour coalition and Afghan fallen in this mighty struggle, those who paid the price for Afghanistan's freedom," he said, adding: "The road before us remains challenging but we will triumph." At its peak, the US-led Isaf deployment involved more than 130,000 personnel from 50 countries. But from 1 January, it will bring together around 12,000 men and women from Nato allies and 14 partner nations. "The security of Afghanistan will be fully in the hands of the country's 350,000 Afghan soldiers and police. But Nato allies, together with many partner nations, will remain to train, advise and assist them," said Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a statement. More than a decade after this long and expensive mission began, the Taliban are still active and gaining in strength, launching a number of attacks in recent months, says the BBC's Sanjoy Majumder in Kabul. This year has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan since 2001, with at least 4,600 members of the Afghan security forces dying in the fight against the Taliban. It underscores the challenges that lie ahead of the Afghan security forces, our correspondent says. Nearly 3,500 foreign troops have been killed since the beginning of the Nato mission.

^ I am not sure the world is safer after these 13 years. I do not fault the men and women of the NATO militaries (especially those that were wounded or killed) but the government officials of those countries for not doing what was really needed. Having soldiers on the ground is not enough. You need to have the will-power to do what is necessary to destroy the threat (ie the Taliban) and that wasn't done. Afghanistan is just going to crumble back into the poor, sad existence it had before. I'm sure another civil war will occur between the Taliban and Afghani Government and the Taliban will probably win again. While the Afghani Government and military did nothing during the last 13 years except criticize the US and other Western countries and blame us for their country's problems while they (the Afghanis) got rich and power-hungry from bribes. There are two things I hope do not occur with this change-over: 1) I hope no US or NATO soldier gets killed and 2) I hope ISIS, Taliban or any other Muslim extremist group gains a foot-hold that will then be able to hurt other countries. ^

Orders Of Canada

From the G & M:
"Bob Cole, Mark Carney among 95 new Order of Canada appointments"

They have tasted Grey Cup victory, piloted the country’s banking system through economic upheaval, sketched an internationally beloved cartoon turtle, called the greatest goal in hockey history and, to a person, worked to improve the country in ways great and small. Rideau Hall announced 95 new appointments to the Order of Canada on Friday. As usual, the list contains a balance of luminaries and relative unknowns whose lives, taken together, tell the story of a nation. For every legendary sports figure like broadcaster Bob Cole or football coach Wally Buono, there is a Thomas Jon Harle, who provides free dental services to homeless and vulnerable people in Ottawa and around the world. For every celebrity bureaucrat like Mark Carney, there is a Brenda Clark, illustrator of the internationally beloved Franklin the Turtle books. And for every captain of industry like Bell CEO and president George Cope, there is a Diane Morin, whose psychology research is devoted to people with intellectual disabilities. Whether by design or accident, the recent appointments are uniquely qualified in three fields: mental health, medical research and cultural promotion. The Order recognized Catherine Zahn, president and CEO of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, Michael Phillips, a pioneering suicide researcher, Lisa Brown, founder of an arts organization devoted to people with mental-health issues, and Mr. Cope, who launched Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign devoted to destigmatizing mental health. Twelve appointees were chosen for breakthrough health research, including Laurence Klotz, who developed the active monitoring approach to prostate cancer that is emulated around the world, and Julio Montaner, a pioneer in the use of antiretroviral therapy to treat HIV/AIDS.Artists and their benefactors make up the biggest cohort on the list, with 19 spots earned by the likes of singer Chantal Kreviazuk and her husband, Raine Maida, frontman of the band Our Lady Peace. The latest Order of Canada announcement concludes the official honours handed out by the Governor-General for 2014, a year that has seen first responders in Moncton and Lac-Mégantic recognized for work during tragedies in both communities and decorations of bravery handed out to search-and-rescue technicians involved in a daring, tragic Arctic Ocean rescue in 2011.

^ It's important for a country to recognize the people that help make the country a great nation. Canada has the Order of Canada. ^

Friday, December 26, 2014

My Travels

It's that time again. The list is pretty short this year. That  doesn't mean I wasn't very busy, it just means I didn't get to go on many trips as I would have liked to. Some of them I would rather not have had to do (like May's.) Hopefully next year will be a better year with lots of fun trips.

January:   None

February: None

March:  None

April: None

May: New York

June: None

July: None

August: None

September: None

October: New York

November: None

December:  Germany, New York

2014 Military

From the Stars and Stripes:
"2014: Military efforts span the globe"

"It’s time to say goodbye to 2014. And for the military, goodbye to VA head Eric Shinseki and defense secretary Chuck Hagel. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was released after five years in captivity and awaits his fate, and the 13-year-old war in Afghanistan continues to wind down. Army Maj. Gen. Harold Greene, the highest ranking U.S. officer to die in an attack since 9/11, was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery after he was shot and killed by an Afghan soldier at a Kabul training center. The VA medical system was diagnosed with a disease that some say turned fatal, with veterans dying while waiting for care on secret wait lists designed to hide failures. Sexual assault also made headlines, for those who perpetrated it and those who worked to prevent it. Tensions simmered in Ukraine and North Korea. A deadly Ebola outbreak drew troops to Africa on a humanitarian mission, and violence drew the National Guard to Ferguson, Mo. The Islamic State militants burst on the scene with attacks in Syria, Iraq and Pakistan, and the United States joined the fight in limited ways. And then there was Congress, which couldn’t agree on troop benefits, force readiness, military cuts and a budget for the year ahead. Finally, on the last day of the 2014 session, they passed a compromise funding bill.

^ For those that think our military doesn't deal with enough  here's a short summary of 1 year. ^

2014 Deaths

Here are some of the deaths that happened in 2014:


1st:          Higashifushimi Kunihide, 103, Japanese Buddhist monk

1st:          Juanita Moore, 99, American actress (Imitation of Life)

2nd:         Harald Nugiseks, 92, Estonian war veteran and anti-communism activist

3rd:         Phil Everly, 74, American singer and musician (The Everly Brothers), pulmonary disease

3rd:         Alicia Rhett, 98, American actress (Gone with the Wind) and portrait painter

5th:          Carmen Zapata, 86, American actress (Sister Act, Santa Barbara)

8th:          Jacques Lazarus, 97, Swiss-born French military officer, Jewish resistance leader in France during World War II.

9th:          Franklin McCain, 73, American civil rights leader, member of the Greensboro Four

10:          Sam Berns, 17, American high school student, progeria sufferer and documentary subject (Life According to Sam), progeria

12th:       Frank Marth, 91, American actor (The Honeymooners, Hogan's Heroes), heart failure and Alzheimer's disease

16th:       Ruth Duccini, 95, American actress (The Wizard of Oz), natural causes

16th:       Russell Johnson, 89, American actor (Gilligan's Island), kidney failure

22nd:       Serhiy Nigoyan, 20, Ukrainian protester (Euromaidan), shot

26th:       Margery Mason, 100, English actress (The Princess Bride, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Love Actually)

26th:       Doris Witiuk, 84, American AAGPBL baseball player (Racine Belles, Battle Creek Belles)

27th:       Pete Seeger, 94, American folk singer and songwriter ("Turn! Turn! Turn!", "If I Had a Hammer")

31st:        Christopher Jones, 72, American actor (The Legend of Jesse James, Ryan's Daughter, The Looking Glass War), cancer



1st:          Vasily Ivanovich Petrov, 97, Russian military officer, Marshal of the Soviet Union

1st:          Maximilian Schell, 83, Austrian-Swiss Oscar-winning actor (Judgment at Nuremberg, Julia, Deep Impact), pneumonia

2nd:         Philip Seymour Hoffman, 46, American Oscar-winning actor (Capote, Magnolia, Doubt), mixed drug intoxication

3rd:         Richard Bull, 89, American actor (Little House on the Prairie), natural causes

4th:          Hazel Sampson, 103, American Klallam elder and linguist, last native speaker of the Klallam language

11th:       Seán Potts, 83, Irish musician (The Chieftains)

12th:       Sid Caesar, 91, American Emmy-winning comedian and actor (Your Show of Shows, Grease, Silent Movie)

13th:       Ralph Waite, 85, American actor (The Waltons, Roots, NCIS, Cliffhanger)

14th:       John Henson, 48, American puppeteer (The Muppets), heart attack

15th:       Mary Grace Canfield, 89, American actress (Green Acres, Bewitched, General Hospital), lung cancer

15th:       Christopher Malcolm, 67, Scottish actor (The Empire Strikes Back, Highlander, Absolutely Fabulous).

18th:       Maria Franziska von Trapp, 99, Austrian-born American singer, portrayed in The Sound of Music

19th:       Valeri Kubasov, 79, Russian cosmonaut (Soyuz 6, Apollo-Soyuz Test Project/Soyuz 19, Soyuz 36)

19th:       Miroslav Štandera, 95, Czech World War II fighter pilot (Royal Air Force, French Air Force), recipient of the Order of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk.

19th:       Malcolm Tierney, 75, British actor (Doctor Who, Star Wars, Braveheart)

20th:       Walter D. Ehlers, 92, American World War II soldier, recipient of the Medal of Honor (1944)

25th:       Jim Lange, 81, American game show host and disc jockey (The Dating Game, Name That Tune), heart attack

28th:       James Tague, 77, American writer, key witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.



1st:          Alain Resnais, 91, French film director (Night and Fog, Hiroshima mon amour)

3rd:         Kurt Chew-Een Lee, 88, American military officer, first Asian-American officer in the Marine Corps, recipient of the Navy Cross, suspected heart attack

5th:          Geoff Edwards, 83, American game show host (Starcade, Treasure Hunt) and actor (Petticoat Junction), pneumonia

6th:          Sheila MacRae, 92, English-born American actress (The Honeymooners)

8th:          Leo Bretholz, 93, Austrian-born American Holocaust survivor, activist and writer (Leap into Darkness)

8th:          William Guarnere, 90, American World War II non-commissioned officer and author, key figure in Band of Brothers.

9th:          Glenn McDuffie, 86, American World War II sailor, claimant to subject of V-J Day in Times Square photograph, heart attack

10th:       Eileen Colgan, 80, Irish actress (Far and Away, My Left Foot, Angela's Ashes)

10th:       Cynthia Lynn, 76, Latvian-born American actress (Hogan's Heroes), multiple organ failure

12th:       Ola L. Mize, 82, American army officer, Korean War recipient of the Medal of Honor

12:          Jenny Romatowski, 86, American AAGPBL baseball player

14th:       Hugh Lunghi, 93, British military interpreter (Winston Churchill), one of the last living Big Three participants, first British soldier to enter Hitler's bunker

19th:       Robert Butler, 70, American artist, member of The Highwaymen, complications from diabetes

21st:        James Rebhorn, 65, American actor (Scent of a Woman, Independence Day, Homeland), melanoma

27th:       Jeffery Dench, 85, British actor (First Knight).

29th:       Marc Platt, 100, American dancer and actor (Oklahoma!, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers)



5th:          John Pinette, 50, American comedian and actor (The Punisher, Junior), pulmonary embolism

6th:          Mary Anderson, 96, American actress (Gone With the Wind).

6th:          Mickey Rooney, 93, American actor (Boys Town, The Black Stallion), Emmy Award winner

6th:          Chuck Stone, 89, American navigator, journalist and academic, Tuskegee Airman during World War II, co-founder of the NABJ

11th:       Darrell Zwerling, 85, American character actor (Chinatown, Grease, Capricorn One).

21st:        Roy Matsumoto, 100, American World War II veteran, recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal (2011)

29th:       Bob Hoskins, 71, English actor (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Mona Lisa, Hook), pneumonia



1st:          David Stoliar, 91, Romanian World War II soldier, sole survivor of the Struma disaster

2nd:         Jessica Cleaves, 65, American singer (The Friends of Distinction, Earth, Wind & Fire).

2nd:         John E. Dolibois, 95, American diplomat, Ambassador to Luxembourg (1981–1985), last survivor of Nuremberg trials interrogation team

3rd:         Leslie Carlson, 81, American-born Canadian actor (A Christmas Story, The Fly, The X-Files), cancer.

4th:          Tatiana Samoilova, 80, Soviet-born Russian actress (The Cranes Are Flying, Anna Karenina), People's Artist (1993), heart condition

8th:          Beverly Long, 81, American actress (Rebel Without a Cause, Father Knows Best)

12th:       Cornell Borchers, 89, Lithuanian-born German actress (The Big Lift, Istanbul)

12th:       Ralph Peduto, 72, American actor (The Rock, Mrs. Doubtfire) and playwright, leukemia

15th:       Robert J. Flynn, 76, American naval officer, Vietnam War POW held in China (1967–1973)

17th:       JeanAnn Guyette, 59, Canadian-American, computer specialist

20th:       Barbara Murray, 84, English actress (Passport to Pimlico, The Plane Makers), heart attack

24th:       Stormé DeLarverie, 93, American LGBT activist, involved in the Stonewall Riots, dementia

28th:       Maya Angelou, 86, American author (I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), poet ("On the Pulse of Morning") and civil rights activist.



1st:          Ann B. Davis, 88, American actress (The Bob Cummings Show, The Brady Bunch), Emmy winner (1958, 1959), subdural hematoma from a fall.

1st:          Karlheinz Hackl, 65, Austrian actor (Sophie's Choice), malignant brain tumor

8th:          Eva Kløvstad, 92, Norwegian World War II resistance member (Milorg).

14th:       Terry Richards, 81, British actor and stuntman (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Tomorrow Never Dies, The Princess Bride)

15th:       Casey Kasem, 82, American radio jockey (American Top 40) and voice actor (Scooby-Doo, Super Friends), Lewy body dementia.

20th:       Michael Coetzee, 54, South African anti-apartheid activist and civil servant, cancer

22nd:       Chuck Tatum, 87, American soldier, WWII Marine Iwo Jima combatant, provided source material for The Pacific.

28th:       Meshach Taylor, 67, American actor (Designing Women, Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide), colorectal cancer

30th:       Christian Führer, 71, German Protestant pastor and political activist, an organiser of the Monday demonstrations in East Germany, respiratory failure.

30th:       Bob Hastings, 89, American actor (McHale's Navy, The Munsters, Batman: The Animated Series), prostate cancer

30th:       Jean-Pierre Renouard, 91, French writer, member of the Resistance



2nd:         Louis Zamperini, 97, American Olympic long distance runner (1936), military officer, prisoner of war, subject of Unbroken, pneumonia

5th:          Rosemary Murphy, 89, American actress (To Kill a Mockingbird, Eleanor and Franklin), Emmy winner (1976), esophageal cancer

7th:          Eduard Shevardnadze, 86, Soviet Georgian politician and diplomat, President (1992–2003), Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs (1985–1990, 1991)

16th:       Szymon Szurmiej, 91, Polish actor and theatre manager (Jewish Theatre, Warsaw)

17th:       Henry Hartsfield, 80, American NASA astronaut and test pilot (Columbia), commander for Discovery and Challenger missions, complications from back surgery

19th:       Skye McCole Bartusiak, 21, American actress (The Patriot, The Cider House Rules, Boogeyman)

19th:       Yehuda Nir, 84, Polish-born Israeli-American psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor (The Lost Childhood)

28th:       Theodore Van Kirk, 93, American military officer, Army Major, navigator and last surviving crew member on the Enola Gay.


2nd:         Eroni Kumana, 93, Solomon Island fisherman, rescued John F. Kennedy after PT-109 sinking

8th:          Danny Murphy, 58, American actor (There's Something About Mary, Me, Myself and Irene), cancer

8th:          J. J. Murphy, 86, Northern Irish actor (Mickybo and Me, Angela's Ashes, Game of Thrones)

9th:          Ed Nelson, 85, American actor (Gunsmoke, Murder, She Wrote, Peyton Place), heart failure

11th:       Robin Williams, 63, American comedian and actor (Good Will Hunting, Hook, Aladdin), Oscar winner (1998), suicide by hanging.

12th:       Lauren Bacall, 89, American award-winning actress (Key Largo, The Mirror Has Two Faces, Misery), stroke.

12th:       Arlene Martel, 78, American actress (Star Trek, Hogan's Heroes, The Twilight Zone), heart attack

18th:       Don Pardo, 96, American radio and television announcer (Saturday Night Live, Jeopardy!).

19th:       James Foley, 40, American,  Journalist, beheaded by ISIS, (date death reported)

24th:       Richard Attenborough, 90, English award-winning actor, producer and director (Gandhi, The Great Escape, Jurassic Park

28th:       Hans Hoets, 93, Dutch WWII resistance fighter



1st:          Joseph Shivers, 93, American textile chemist, developed spandex

4th:          Joan Rivers, 81, American comedienne, actress (Spaceballs) and television host (Fashion Police), cardiac arrest

8th:          Kent Nolan, 24,  Canadian, actor (Christmas Song)

10th:       Richard Kiel, 74, American actor (The Spy Who Loved Me, Happy Gilmore, Tangled), heart attack.

14th:       Angus Lennie, 84, Scottish actor (The Great Escape, Crossroads, Doctor Who).

20th:       Polly Bergen, 84, American singer and actress (Cape Fear, Cry-Baby, Desperate Housewives), Emmy Award winner (1958).

27th:       Sarah Danielle Madison, 40, American actress (7th Heaven, Jurassic Park III, Training Day), natural causes


4th:          Jean-Claude Duvalier, 63, Haitian politician, President (1971–1986), heart attack

4th:          Paul Revere, 76, American musician (Paul Revere & the Raiders), cancer

5th:          David Watson, 74, British-American actor (Beneath the Planet of the Apes

9th:          Jan Hooks, 57, American comedienne and actress (Saturday Night Live, Designing Women, Batman Returns), cancer.

13th:       Elizabeth Norment, 61, American actress (House of Cards, Party of Five, Doogie Howser, M.D.), cancer

19th:       Gerard Parkes, 90, Irish-born Canadian actor (Fraggle Rock, The Boondock Saints)

24th:       Marcia Strassman, 66, American actress (Welcome Back, Kotter, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) and singer, breast cancer.



4th:          Richard Schaal, 86, American actor (The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Phyllis, Trapper John, M.D.)

7th:          Bill Green, 97, English Battle of Britain fighter pilot

9th:          R. A. Montgomery, 78, American author (Choose Your Own Adventure).

10th:       Steve Dodd, 86, Australian actor (Gallipoli, The Matrix, Quigley Down Under).

11th:       Erik Sture Larre, 100, Norwegian Resistance member during World War II.

11th:       Carol Ann Susi, 62, American actress (The Big Bang Theory, Cats & Dogs, Just Go with It), cancer.

16th:       Jadwiga Piłsudska, 94, Polish pilot and architect, WWII flying officer for the Air Transport Auxiliary.

25th:       Joanna Dunham, 78, English actress (The Greatest Story Ever Told)



1st:          Alexey Larionov ,92, Russian Soviet-era military officer, Hero of the Soviet Union (1945)

2nd:         Bobby Keys, 70, American saxophonist (The Rolling Stones), cirrhosis

5th:          Ernest C. Brace, 83, American pilot, longest civilian POW in Vietnam War.

7th:          Nikolai Vasenin, 95, Russian World War II veteran, Legion of Honour recipient

7th:          Ken Weatherwax, 59, American actor (The Addams Family), heart attack

9th:          Mary Ann Mobley, 77, American actress (Diff'rent Strokes, Falcon Crest) and television personality, Miss America (1959), breast cancer

11th:       Tom Adams, 76, English actor (The Great Escape, Licensed to Kill, Doctor Who), cancer

15th:       Booth Colman, 91, American actor (Planet of the Apes, Norma Rae, Intolerable Cruelty)

16th:       Boris Belyavsky, 90, Russian Soviet-era military officer, Hero of the Soviet Union

17th:       Lowell Steward, 95, American World War II veteran, member of the Tuskegee Airmen.

21st:        David Guyette, 90, American, World War 2 veteran

21st:        Billie Whitelaw, 82, English actress (The Omen, The Dark Crystal, Hot Fuzz)



Cancelled Holiday

From Yahoo:
"Putin Cancels New Year's Holiday for Government Workers"

Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled the extended New Year holiday for government ministers because of the ongoing financial crisis, informing the agencies they must work to help strengthen the economy and take protectionary measures in the face of a combination of governmental mismanagement, dropping oil prices, and economic sanctions that have caused considerable panic in Moscow in recent weeks. In a televised government session, Putin told ministers that they could not take off the customary period from January 1st through the 12th, saying,  "For the government, for your agencies we cannot afford this long holiday, at least this year—you know what I mean."
Just a few weeks ago, the ruble had lost 50 percent of its value, as Russia has been hurt by international economic sanctions over its role in the Ukraine crisis, as well as by sharp drops in oil prices which have recently been below $70 a barrel—down from well above $100 a barrel at the beginning of the year. In what is perhaps an attempt to save face as a new round of economic sanctions are applied to the country, Putin also blamed the government for mistakes it has made that have led to the current crisis.   "The hardships we are facing are not only external, they are caused not only by the sanctions restrictions or by restrictions linked with the objective international situation, they are also caused by our mistakes that have been made over the years," said Putin. However, he noted that the government has responded well to the crisis, saying they have "been doing a decent job by and large.” Last week, Russia's gold and foreign currency reserves dropped by as much as $15.7 billion to below $400 billion, down from over $510 billion at the start of the year. And, according to Putin economic aide Andrei Belousov, the annual inflation rate was at 10.4 percent and is expected to continue rising. Meanwhile, Russia's finance minister, also on Thursday, seemed to contradict Putin, saying that the currency crisis is over after the ruble hit a three-week high. "We think that now this period has come to an end, the period of instability," said Russian finance minister Anton Siluanov, according to Russian news agencies. "We think that the ruble is still undervalued at the current price of oil."

^ Even if there wasn't an economic crisis 12 days is still too long to have everything closed.  ^

Thursday, December 25, 2014


This Christmas was the first time I have ever been by myself  to celebrate. It was a huge change from years past yet I tried to make the best of it. After coming back from Germany two weeks ago I decorated the house (while I didn't take out all the boxes I did use a lot - including my favorite decorations.) I even bought a real Christmas tree in town and put it up. An important part of the holiday is the traditional food. For Christmas Eve I made the following: tourtiere (French-Canadian meat pie), spinach and artichoke dip and French onion soup. I had planned to make a big Christmas dinner today too, but with my dad and sister coming here next week I thought I would save the prime, prime roast for then. Instead, I had leftovers from last night as well as Hungarian goulash.
For presents I received: DVDs, books, a t-shirt, a sweater, candy, a gift certificate and money. I then bought myself many of the items on my Amazon Wish List so I could have more items. I also got several cards (some from people I have never met before - one of my German friends knew I love getting cards and post cards and so asked her friends to send them to me - ironically I never got a card from her, but the other ones will make up for it. ) One thing that I would have liked would be to get more e-cards. They are free and especially good when you can't send a regular card or present. It's a nice, easy way to let someone know you are remembering them.
 One thing that really annoyed me is all those fake holiday cheer that people over-do this time of year. Usually I can tolerate it, but with everything that I have gone through this year I just didn't want to and so I didn't. That may have made some people upset, but you can't always live in a world of "lemon drops and moon beams" sometimes you have to live in reality - even during the holidays. That doesn't make me a Scrooge (since I don't try to stop others from having a good celebration - I just don't want to be a part of it - not that anyone invited me to join them.)
While, I won't say this Christmas was one of the better ones I've ever celebrated I will say it was an ok one. I did my best to keep a promise to someone close to me and hopefully I did them proud. I also hope that next year (especially next Christmas) is much better than 2014 was,