Friday, February 27, 2015

Disabled Rap

From Yahoo:
"Dad's rap for disabled son inspires the Web"
A dad in Connecticut is pulling at the heartstrings of the Web with a beautiful rap song dedicated to his son. Jayce Correia’s 8-year-old boy, Jared, was born with cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and other serious medical conditions. He told Yahoo News, “Jared suffered a stroke in utero. He was born with hydrocephalus and had his first of seven brain surgeries at only three days old. Shortly after, the diagnoses just poured in — septo-optic dysplasia, cerebral palsy, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, schizencephaly, and more.” Jayce used his passion for rapping and his love for his son to produce an original video. “I wrote this song for Jared because Jared is my hero,” he said. “I have been a firsthand witness of what he goes through and how strong he is. He is the inspiration.”  On Monday, Jayce posted the video to Facebook, where it has been viewed more than 600,000 times. Jayce and Jared’s song has been inspiring other parents of  special-needs children across the country, who have been sharing photos of their families in the video’s comments section. Jared’s dad also launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for a van equipped with a handicap ramp to help get the brave little guy to medical appointments and family outings. He told us: “Jared is only getting bigger and has outgrown the typical car seat. We need a safer way to transport him.” That’s a worthy cause for someone who — even at such a young age — is inspiring so many.  
^  I don't usually like rap, but this video was good. ^;_ylt=AwrTWf2B_.9U0hcAcVTQtDMD

Double-Decker St. Pete

From Sputnik News:
"Russian-Made Double Decker Train Ready for New St.Petersburg-Moscow Route"
A new St. Petersburg-Moscow passenger train route being introduced Sunday evening will feature bilevel (two-storey or 'double decker') rail cars, local media has reported. The new trains, featuring four person sleeping compartments with 64 passenger capacity (compared with the usual capacity of 36 persons) are also equipped with modern conveniences. These include comfortable sleeping places, roomier storage compartments, several power outlets, Wi-Fi, air conditioning, magnetic card-based locks, energy-saving windows and bright energy-saving LED lighting. The cars also feature satellite communications and navigations equipment. Steps to the second level are located at either end of the car. The train will include sleeping cars, a so-called staff car and a dining car. The staff car, with space for 50 passengers, is equipped with spaces for people with disabilities, including special spaces for the disabled and their carers, along with a wheelchair lift. The dining car, with room for up to 44 people at a time, features a six-cooker convection oven and a roomy freezer, allowing for meals to be cooked fresh right on the train. The trains are set to set off from St. Petersburg daily at 8:50 pm, arriving in Moscow around 7:00 am the next morning. The first train departing Sunday night from St. Petersburg will see a departure ceremony, with passengers being given special commemorative certificates to mark the event. Tickets for the new route, starting from 1299 rubles (about $20 US), sold out quickly, presumably out of interest in the new cars, designed by the Tver Carriage Works (TVZ), a holding of Transmashholding, for Russian Railways.
The TVZ designs were first introduced in October, 2013 on the Moscow-Adler, Sochi route, in preparation for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Russian Railways purchased 50 of the double-decker cars in 2011, and is planning the purchase of dozens more for the St. Petersburg-Moscow, as well as for the Moscow-Kazan route to be introduced later this year, Kommersant explains. The company has also purchased cars for shorter distance routes featuring sitting places, including for the Moscow-Voronezh corridor. Business-class carriages in these trains will have 58 places, with 104 spaces in the economy class. The new trains are part of a plan to reduce strain on the country's infrastructure of the most heavily used arteries. In addition to the double-decker train cars, Transmashholding has also signed agreements with Russian Railways subsidiaries on the creation of new, modern designs for electric trains for shorter distance intraregional travel.
^ I once took the train from Yaroslavl to Saint Petersburg and it was a typical old Russian sleeping train. I would love to try this new one. The fact that it was made in Russia is a big step for the country. ^

Leonard Nimoy

From Yahoo:
"Leonard Nimoy, Actor, Director, and 'Star Trek' Icon, Dies at 83"

I Am Not Spock proclaimed the title of Leonard Nimoy's 1975 autobiography, in which the veteran actor tried to distinguish himself from his most iconic role, as Star Trek's emotionless half-human, half-Vulcan science officer. Twenty years later, he published a follow-up entitled, I Am Spock, in which the actor-director warmly embraced his pointy-eared alter ego. Like it or not, Nimoy — who passed away on Feb. 27 at the age of 83 from end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — was Spock to generations of sci-fi fans, so much so that when J.J. Abrams rebooted the franchise in the 2009 blockbuster, Nimoy was the one original cast member he made sure to bring back. Even though the role defined his career for those of us watching him at home and in theaters, Spock was only one small part of Nimoy's overall life. An actor from childhood, the Boston-born Nimoy worked steadily on television before and after Star Trek, appearing on such disparate shows as Sea Hunt, Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible and In Search Of…, a five-season series that explored the mysteries of the paranormal. In the '80s, he became an established film director, overseeing back-to-back big-screen Star Trek installments (The Search for Spock and The Voyage Home) followed by the 1987 hit, 3 Men and a Baby. Nimoy parlayed his eye for the camera into a respected career as a photographer, snapping pictures that hung in galleries and were collected in books like The Full Body Project — a collection for which he shot nude photos of plus-sized and obese women. "The first time I had photographed a person of that size and shape, it was scary," he remarked in a 2007 NPR interview. "I didn't know quite how to treat this figure. And I think that's a reflection of something that's prevalent in our culture. I think, in general, we are sort of conditioned to see a different body type as acceptable and maybe look away when the other body type arrives. It led me to a new consciousness about the fact that so many people live in body types that are not the type that's being sold by fashion models."
That's the kind of eminently logical argument that Spock would make and speaks to how being involved in a progressive, socially-conscious series like Star Trek must have helped shape Nimoy's worldview going forward. One of the reasons the franchise has endured is that it imagines a future Earth free of prejudice and strife. Through his life and work on-screen and off, Nimoy sought to make that world of tomorrow possible today.

^ I am not a huge fan of Star Trek (I have never gone to a convention) but I did like watching them and Spock (Leonard Nimoy) was one of my favorite. I especially liked him in the 2009 Star Trek movie. ^

Saudi Disabled Training

From Yahoo:
"Disabled Saudi students to get training in US"

The King Salman Center for Disability Research (KSCDR) signed a deal on Sunday with an American university to provide special training for disabled Saudi students, including high school graduates. This was disclosed by Prince Sultan bin Salman, chairman of KSCDR, who said that the Compass Program, focusing on the transition from secondary to higher education, would take place at Beacon College in Leesburg, Florida, in June this year. It is a short-term, intensive college preparatory program that will take place over five weeks. Beacon College is the first accredited institution in the world to offer a four-year degree course exclusively for students with learning disabilities. Speaking at the signing event, KSCDR Executive Managing Director Sultan Al-Sedairy, said the center has been considering US academic programs for some time. “As part of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, we annually provide tuition support for about 100 students with learning and other disabilities at universities around the world,” Al-Sedairy added. George Hagerty, president of Beacon College, said: “We are taking a holistic approach based on our cutting edge approach and integrating our best collaborative effort with the ideas of experts from Saudi Arabia.” He said Beacon’s faculty would offer courses to meet the contemporary needs of Saudi students with world-class teaching methods for individual learners. This includes a new concept known as metacognition, or self-understanding. It is a novel way of looking at oneself, at the learning experience, and at the individual, said Hagerty. The program is the first of its kind to be offered anywhere in the world. It is designed for talented and motivated students who aspire to attend university, but who have struggled in traditional academic settings. It will also target those whose performance is inconsistent with their perceived potential as learners. Selected students will be accompanied by Nabil Hab Rumman, KSCDR staff member, who will serve as a chaperone and mentor. He is a former staffer at Saudi Arabia’s Embassy in Washington, DC. He will also serve as a cultural liaison, arriving several weeks before the program begins so that he can provide lectures and presentations about Saudi Arabia’s culture and history to community groups.

^ It's always a good thing when the disabled are given the opportunities to better themselves. I wonder if this has anything to do with the new King in Saudi Arabia. I have to admit I don't know much about him, but am now really interested. ^

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Dog's Win

From Disability Scoop:
"In Fight Over Service Dog, School Board Is Brought To Heel"

Stevie is a good dog. He doesn’t eat from the table or have accidents in the house. And he never pulls on his leash. The white-and-tan Staffordshire terrier also has a special talent: He alerts caregivers when his little boy, Anthony Merchante, is going to have a seizure or has trouble breathing. Anthony’s mother, Monica Alboniga, tried for two years to persuade the Broward County School Board in South Florida to permit Stevie, a trained service animal, to accompany the 7-year-old on campus. But school administrators repeatedly said Stevie didn’t belong at school. And they hoped that a Fort Lauderdale federal judge would agree with them. Instead they got a scolding. Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Beth Bloom ruled that Stevie should be allowed to join his human friend at Nob Hill Elementary — and without a series of requirements the school district had tacked on. Stevie, Alboniga said, “has saved Anthony’s life. I feel completely safe every time he is with the dog, because I know the dog will look for help.” As the lawsuit progressed in federal court, the school board allowed Stevie to go to school every day, but administrators continued to fight the case. “The district has always permitted the service dog at the school,” said the district’s spokeswoman, Tracy Clark. Alboniga “pursued the lawsuit as the parties [the district and the plaintiff] differ somewhat in the interpretation of the federal regulations governing service animals. The district’s legal department is reviewing and analyzing the order.” Had the district won, Alboniga’s lawyer said, 4-year-old Stevie almost certainly would have been expelled. Anthony suffers from a host of serious disabilities: He has cerebral palsy, spastic paralysis, a seizure disorder, and he cannot speak. To get around, he depends on a wheelchair, to which Stevie is tethered most of the time. Alboniga, 37, who is raising her son alone, paid to obtain and train a dog up to the specifications of Assistance Dog International Standards, records say. Stevie can aid caregivers in a variety of ways: He can step onto Anthony’s wheelchair and lay across the boy’s lap; once there, the dog is trained to help stabilize Anthony’s head so his airway isn’t impeded. “Stevie was also trained to ‘tell’ or ‘alert’ human responders in the event that [Anthony] was experiencing a medical crisis,” Bloom wrote. The dog can jump on a sensor mat that activates an alarm, or bark to get the attention of caregivers. He also wears a red service dog vest that holds medical supplies, as well as detailed instructions on how to respond to medical emergencies. “Stevie lets me know when he has seizures or problems breathing. He pushes me toward Anthony. He barks,” Alboniga said. “When Anthony is having convulsions, he starts barking and goes looking for us. Then he goes back to Anthony and stays with him.” Alboniga first approached the school board in May 2013, and submitted a formal request for the dog two months later. In its reply in August 2013, the school board said Stevie must obtain a host of vaccinations that rarely are applied to dogs, required Alboniga to obtain costly liability insurance, and mandated that she provide, at her own expense, a “handler” for Stevie. The requirements, said Alboniga’s lawyer, Matthew Dietz, amounted to “an impossible barrier,” and violated federal civil rights laws that give preference to the choices of people with disabilities. “The fact that the judge said the school board’s rules made no sense vindicates this woman’s belief that what she was doing for her son was the right thing,” Dietz said. For the first four months that Anthony attended Nob Hill Elementary School as a kindergartner, beginning in August 2013, Alboniga worked, at the district’s requirement, as Stevie’s handler herself. Later, the school board appointed a custodian to work as Stevie’s handler. His responsibilities were “to walk Stevie alongside [Anthony] with a leash, instead of allowing Stevie to be attached” to the boy’s wheelchair, and to take the dog outside to urinate. The custodian also ensured that other children did not try to play with the dog. “While at school,” the judge wrote, “Stevie does not eat or drink. Nor does Stevie defecate or make stains, or require cleaning or exercise.” Alboniga, the judge said, “attends to Stevie’s daily feeding, cleaning and care needs.” But administrators continued to assert in the lawsuit that it was not the district’s responsibility to help the boy keep Stevie at school. Anthony’s “individual educational plan” — a detailed accounting of the school’s accommodations to the child — does not mention Anthony’s use of a service dog, Bloom wrote. Anthony found a friend in the U.S. Department of Justice. The department’s civil rights division enforces the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation passed by Congress in 1990. Last month, the DOJ weighed in on the lawsuit, arguing that the school board “fundamentally misunderstands” ADA regulations, which require that “public entities generally must permit individuals with disabilities to be accompanied by their service animals.” “Congress specifically intended that individuals with disabilities not be separated from their service animals, even in schools,” the DOJ wrote. The school board contended that it wasn’t necessary for Stevie to accompany Anthony to school since the elementary’s staff already was trained to perform the same tasks as Stevie. The district also argued that, even if Stevie was permitted on Nob Hill’s campus under the ADA, it was not reasonable for the district to bear the costs of the dog’s handler. The judge wrote that the dispute pivoted on whether it was reasonable to expect the district to allow Stevie on campus under the federal civil rights law. The judge ruled that it was indeed reasonable, “in the same way a school would assist a non-disabled child to use the restroom, or assist a diabetic child with her insulin pump, or assist a physically disabled child employ her motorized wheelchair.”
^ It is disgusting to see a school, that is supposed to teach tolerance to their children, openly discriminate against a disabled child. There should be Federal and State penalties for doing this. I wouldn't want my child (whether he/she was disabled or not) to be taught in such a bigoted place. I understand that the teachers can't decide what the school does, but I haven't heard a thing about any of the teachers standing up for Anthony or his service dog and not standing-up for what is right makes you just as guilty as the person/group doing the open discrimination. I hope Anthony and Stevie thrive in school and show the unintelligent people there who fought hard to discriminate against a disabled boy and his dog just how stupid they really are. ^

Tatars Today

From Yahoo:
"Crimean Tatars living in fear in homeland ruled by Russia"
The day after her husband was arrested, Elvira Ablyalimova woke up to find her home in Crimea surrounded by snipers while a squad of men combed through her belongings for 10 hours, letting nobody in or out. Russia's takeover of the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine a year ago was hailed by many ethnic-Russian locals, but for Ablyalimova and others from the indigenous Crimean Tatar minority, the new rulers have brought little but fear. Ablyalimova's husband Akhtem Chiygoz is a deputy head of the Tatars' traditional decision-making assembly, the Mejlis. But he is now under arrest for allegedly organising riots, inciting violence and committing involuntary manslaughter. And those charges are only part of a sweeping probe that has already seen over 150 people questioned and saw Ablyalimova's family home raided in January. A Muslim community that comprises about 13 percent of the province's population, the Crimean Tatars were opposed to Moscow's takeover from Ukraine.  They boycotted en masse the hastily-organised March referendum in which the pro-Russian majority voted to join Russia. Native to the peninsula, the Crimean Tatars were brutally deported to Central Asia in 1944 by Joseph Stalin for alleged collaboration with the invading Nazis during World War II. The return of Russian rule has triggered anxiety.  "After the Russian authorities came to Crimea, things that had never happened in Crimea before started to happen," said Mejlis member Ilmi Umerov, a longtime head of the Bakhchysaray district who quit when it moved under Moscow's control.  "These actions are meant to teach us loyalty to these authorities." Umerov said four young men remain missing after suspected kidnappings and that four others who disappeared were later found dead. Crimean Tatar survivors of Stalinist repression were not allowed to return and settle on the peninsula until the 1990s, when they began building fragile cooperation with the post-Soviet Ukrainian authorities. But now, their homeland doesn't feel much like home anymore. An estimated 10,000 to 20,000 Tatars have opted to leave, heading to mainland Ukraine, Umerov said.  "In every Crimean Tatar family there is a feeling of fear and lack of security while living in our own homeland," Ablyalimova said, listing "disappearances, sadistic murders... attacks on media, and arrests on trumped-up charges." The probe against Chiygoz stems from a rally the Mejlis called on February 26 last year near the Crimean parliament, just hours before heavily armed soldiers in unmarked uniforms occupied the building, raised the Russian flag and forced the lawmakers to vote for installing a new pro-Russian government.  Clashes broke out when pro-Russian activists turned up at the same location. Footage shows two groups facing off, ignoring calls for order, yelling "Referendum!" or "Crimea is not Russia!" In the ensuing disorder, two people died. However, the probe only targets Crimean Tatars and applies Russian law to events that preceded Russia's jurisdiction, Ablyalimova said. "It was a different reality, a different state," she said incredulously, calling the case illegal. The authorities say that arrests and searches are well-founded and directed against political troublemakers rather than Crimean Tatars as a whole.
^ The media only seems to focus on what is happening within Russia right now because of the Western-imposed sanctions and the Russian self-imposed food bans, but the real victims in all of this are the Crimeans (Ukrainian, Russian and Tatar.) ^

Prince's Comments

From Yahoo:
"Japan crown prince warns on 'correct' history"

Japan's crown prince has warned of the need to remember World War II "correctly", in a rare foray into an ideological debate as nationalist politicians seek to downplay the country's historic crimes. In an unusual intervention in the discussion, Naruhito's mild-mannered broadside was being interpreted in some circles as a rebuke to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a key figure in the right-wing drive to minimise the institutionalised system of wartime sex slavery. "Today when memories of war are set to fade, I reckon it is important to look back our past with modesty and pass down correctly the miserable experience and the historic path Japan took from the generation who know the war to the generation who don't," Naruhito said. The comments, released Monday on the prince's 55th birthday come as Abe's controversial views on history roil relations with China and South Korea, and cause unease in Washington. Abe has openly said he wants a more sympathetic telling of the history of the first half of the 20th century, a period marked by brutal expansionism in Asia and warring with China and the West. The prime minister last week appointed a 16-member panel to advise him on a statement he is set to make later this year to mark the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender.  Abe has said he will largely stand by Tokyo's previous apologies, but amid growing anger in China and South Korea over the "comfort women" system, speculation is mounting that he will seek to downplay the issue. Mainstream historians agree that up to 200,000 women, predominantly from Korea, were forced into sexual slavery during WWII. Right wing Japanese insist there is no documentary proof that the Japanese state or its military were involved in the system on the Korean peninsula and reject official guilt. That position, which is hardening, angers South Korea and China. Both countries will be carefully watching any official pronouncement on the war. While Japan's newspapers remained staid in their coverage of Naruhito's comments, social media users leapt on them.
^ Denying the war crimes the Japanese did during World War 2 is the same as denying the war crimes the Germans did. None of it should be allowed. It's good to see the crown prince making a rare statement about his country's role during the war. (especially considering his grandfather was king at that time.) It is very important for officials as well as regular people to remember the good and the bad of their country's past. The Japanese Government tends to try and brush everything under the rug and hope no one notices or remembers. It is only through great people like the crown prince that Japan can fully make amends for their dark past and gain the respect of the whole world. ^

Austrian Reform

From the BBC:
"Austria passes controversial reforms to 1912 Islam law"
The Austrian parliament has passed controversial reforms to the country's century-old law on Islam.
The bill, which is partly aimed at tackling Islamist radicalism, gives Muslims more legal security but bans foreign funding for mosques and imams. Austria's Integration Minister, Sebastian Kurz, defended the reforms but Muslim leaders say they fail to treat them equally. The 1912 law made Islam an official religion in Austria. It has been widely held up as a model for Europe in dealing with Islam.  The new measures, first proposed three years ago, include the protection of religious holidays and training for imams. But Muslim groups say the ban on foreign funding is unfair as international support is still permitted for the Christian and Jewish faiths.  They say the legalisation reflects a widespread mistrust of Muslims and some are planning to contest it in the constitutional court. Mr Kurz told the BBC the reforms were a "milestone" for Austria and aimed to stop certain Muslim countries using financial means to exert "political influence". "What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values," he said.  Roughly half a million Muslims live in Austria today, around 6% of the population. Many of them have Turkish or Bosnian roots.
^ The first law was made in 1912 when Austria was the Austro-Hungarian Empire mainly because of the large Muslim population then living within their borders (ie the Balkans.) I don't see an issue with these new rules. It aims to give them some more protections (religious holidays, etc) but it also aims to stop the radicalization of Islam that has plagued the whole world in recent history. Muslims may complain that the Jews and Christians aren't affected by laws like these ones, but in the past 20+ years the main source of world terrorism is radical Muslims. It's clear that the policies of the past haven't helped to stop groups like Al-Qaeda or IS and so more needs to be done (by every country and every religion.) I always hear Muslims say that what these groups are doing doesn't represent them or their religion yet the majority do little to nothing to prevent the attacks and more and more people are running off to join the radicals - yet they all seem to go to arms if you print a cartoon. Tha doesn't seem like a good priority. It's not as though Austria is putting any Muslim in a camp. They are doing what any reasonable country would do to try and prevent the kind of radicalization of Islam that is happening and to stop an attack on their soil. ^

DC Pot

From the BBC:
"Washington DC legalises marijuana possession and use"
Washington DC has become the latest place in the United States to legalise the possession of small amounts of marijuana. As of midnight on Thursday (05:00 GMT), people who use the drug in private no longer face prosecution.  The change has created tension between the city's mayor and Congress.
Washington DC joins Alaska, Colorado, and Washington state as the only places in the US that allow the use of the drug for recreational purposes. Residents and visitors to the city over the age of 21 can possess as much as 2oz (56g) of cannabis, and may grow a few plants at home.  Buying and selling the drug remains illegal, as does smoking it in public.  Washington DC - a federal district, not a state - is required to seek congressional approval for much of its legislation. In a letter sent on Tuesday, two members of Congress warned Mayor Muriel Bowser that she would be breaking US law by proceeding. They said that a national budget bill passed in December prevents the legalisation of marijuana in Washington.
 ^ DC tries and acts like they are independent, but in reality everything they do is governed by Congress. I said it before  - I don't think recreational marijuana should be legal - only medical marijuana. ^

Vet Bonus

From the MT:
"Putin Orders Payment of $115 to WWII Veterans"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered a one-time payment of 7,000 rubles ($115) to World War II veterans in Russia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, news agency RBC reported Thursday. The payment will be made between April and May as part of the 70th anniversary of the end of the war. Widows of soldiers who died in the war will also be given 7,000 rubles.  Residents of the four countries who were held in Nazi concentration camps and were adults at that time will be given 3,000 rubles ($50). Concentration camp survivors who were children will be given 7,000 rubles.  The end of World War II, in which an estimated 11 million Soviet citizens died, is a major source of national pride in Russia. Moscow has invited heads of state from all over the world to attend celebrations in May.
^ While I think it's good for a country to give extra benefits to its veterans I don't think there should be a price discrepancy when giving money benefits to those that were soldiers over those that were in concentration camps. They all had to suffer to survive and should be given the same amount., Also, Russia (as the successor state of the Soviet Union) should give the money to EVERY person throughout the world that served in the Soviet military regardless if they live in Russia or not. They still served their country and deserve the same respect and recognition. ^

New Net

From the BBC:
"Net neutrality rules passed by US regulator"

New rules on how the internet should be governed have been approved by the Federal Communications Commission. In what is seen as a victory for advocates of net neutrality, the commission voted in favour of changes proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler. Three commissioners voted in favour and two against. The US Telecommunications Industry Association said that broadband providers would take "immediate" legal action over the rule changes.
The main changes for broadband providers are as follows:
  • Broadband access is being reclassified as a telecommunications service, meaning it will be subject to much heavier regulation
  • Broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee
  • Internet providers cannot strike deals with content firms, known as paid prioritisation, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers
  • Interconnection deals, where content companies pay broadband providers to connect to their networks, will also be regulated
  • Firms which feel that unjust fees have been levied can complain to the FCC. Each one will be dealt with on a case by case basis
  • All of the rules will also apply to mobile providers as well as fixed line providers
  • The FCC won't apply some sections of the new rules, including price controls
Ahead of the vote, commissioners heard from a variety of net neutrality advocates, including the chief executive of online marketplace Etsy and a TV drama writer. Web founder Sir Tim Berners-Lee also contributed via video link. Columbia Law School Prof Tim Wu, who originally coined the phrase net neutrality, welcomed the ruling. "It is a historic day in the history of the internet," Prof Wu said. "Net neutrality, long in existence as a principle, has been codified in a way that will likely survive court scrutiny. More generally, this marks the beginning of an entirely new era of how communications are regulated in the United States." But broadband provider Verizon said that the rules being adopted by the FCC were "written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph".
"Today's decision by the FCC to encumber broadband internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors," it said in a statement. US broadband providers are estimated to spend around $73bn (£47bn) a year on upgrading infrastructure. Net usage is expected to double over the next 10 years and data transmissions to increase eight-fold.
^ Not that it affects me as broadband is not available in my area, but it seems like a good thing to make a unified rule. ^

Qath Allowed

From the G & M:
"Supreme Court won’t hear oath to Queen challenge"

A group of three permanent residents who have for years refused to swear an oath to the Queen and become Canadian citizens have lost a bid to have their constitutional challenge heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Supreme Court announced on Thursday that it would not hear an appeal of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision issued last year dismissing the group’s arguments that the oath violates their constitutional rights to freedom of expression and religion.  As is customary, the Supreme Court did not provide reasons. Last August, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the group was wrong to take the oath literally. The decision, citing previous rulings, says that would-be citizens are not actually swearing allegiance to the Queen herself because “the reference to the Queen is symbolic of our form of government and the unwritten constitutional principle of democracy.” Irish-born retired journalist Michael McAteer, one of those who challenged the oath, had argued that being forced to swear allegiance to the Queen would be a betrayal of his anti-monarchy views, calling the institution of monarchy an anachronism in a multicultural country like Canada. He has lived here since 1964. Another applicant claimed swearing an oath to the Queen would violate her Rastafarian religious beliefs, while another held that the Queen was a symbol of inequality. Lawyers for the group also argued that the citizenship oath requirement was unfair since native-born Canadians, many of whom also oppose the monarchy, are not required to swear it. Lawyers for the federal government argued that those who refuse to support Canada’s “foundational constitutional structure” are not entitled to the benefits of citizenship, such as the right to vote, and that the Queen and the constitution protect the right to dissent.
^ I've written about this before and agree with the Supreme Court's decision to not hear this case. ^

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Smoking Alaska

From Yahoo:
"Alaska becomes 3rd state with legal marijuana"

Smoking, growing and possessing marijuana becomes legal in America's wildest state Tuesday, thanks to a voter initiative aimed at clearing away 40 years of conflicting laws and court rulings. Making Alaska the third state to legalize recreational marijuana was the goal of a coalition including libertarians, rugged individualists and small-government Republicans who prize the privacy rights enshrined in the state's constitution. Meanwhile, Alaska Native leaders worry that legalization will bring new temptations to communities already confronting high rates of drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and suicide. Initiative backers promised Native leaders that communities could still have local control under certain conditions. Alaska law gives every community the option to regulate alcohol locally. From northern Barrow to Klawock, 1,291 miles away in southeast Alaska, 108 communities impose local limits on alcohol, and 33 of them ban it altogether. But the initiative did not provide clear opt-out language for tribal councils and other smaller communities, forcing each one to figure out how to proceed Tuesday. November's initiative also bans smoking in public, but didn't define what that means, and lawmakers left the question to the alcohol regulatory board, which planned to meet early Tuesday to discuss an emergency response. As of Tuesday, adult Alaskans can not only keep and use pot, they can transport, grow it and give it away. A second phase, creating a regulated and taxed marijuana market, won't start until 2016 at the earliest. And while possession is no longer a crime under state law, enjoying pot in public can bring a $100 fine.
^ I've been to Alaska and it seems the majority of people up there are former-hippies who were kicked-out of the lower 48. It doesn't surprise me that they would legalize marijuana. I think marijuana should only be legal for medical uses. I know many states are making medical marijuana legal, but they are doing so very slowly and making it so that those who are sick and need it to help ease their pain wait in agony. ^

Russian Stamps

From the MT:
"Food Stamps to Help Low-Income Families in Russian Regions"

The Russian region of Ulyanovsk will introduce food stamps in May to help low-income families amid the severe economic downturn, state newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta reported Tuesday.  Eligible residents will be given cards with 1,000 ruble ($15) monthly allowances to be used on staple foods such as bread, buckwheat, vegetables and eggs.  Authorities expect residents to be able to buy up to 20 items with the allowances, the report said. Ulyanovsk is a rural region about 900 kilometers east of Moscow. Other Russian regions are also developing anti-crisis initiatives to help residents amid the economic slump, with food stamps being introduced in the Kirov region as well.

^ I don't believe food stamps have been used in Russia up until now. They have had food rationing many times throughout their history (when there was no food to buy and everyone had money.) Now there's food to buy and no one has money. ^

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CP Lottery

From Disability Scoop:
"Lottery Winner Hopes To Boost Cerebral Palsy Awareness"

Marie Holmes of Shallotte, N.C. is about $88 million richer after claiming her Powerball prize Monday in Raleigh. Her $188 million winning ticket was sold Feb. 11 at a local Scotchman convenience store. After consulting with her attorney, Holmes opted for the $127 million lump sum payment, for an after-tax winning of $87.9 million. At a press conference Monday afternoon at the North Carolina Education Lottery headquarters, Holmes, a single mother of four, said she is grateful for the opportunities the win has created for her family. “This is gonna make a huge difference for them,” she said speaking about her children. “They are going to live a comfortable life without struggling. Anything my kids ask for, I can get it for them.” Until recently, Holmes said she supported her family by working jobs at Wal-Mart, Food Lion, KFC, McDonald’s and Subway. While Holmes said she has not fully processed the win just yet, she said the jackpot will not change her as a person. She said with the money she wants to finish her college degree in nursing and hopes to travel, having never been outside the United States. Holmes also plans to tithe at church and charitable organizations for cerebral palsy, a disorder her 7-year-old son has. “I hope that this moment can shine a light on the challenges faced by children and adults with cerebral palsy,” Holmes said. “Not everyone understands what cerebral palsy is, and what it means to a family. I hope our story can help change that.” Holmes becomes the largest jackpot winner in North Carolina history. Her win eclipses the previous jackpot record-holder Frank Griffin, a retired firefighter from Asheville who held a $141.4 million winning Powerball ticket in February 2010.

^ Even though she is doing this because she has a personal connection to cerebral palsy (ie her son) it is still a good way to bring awareness to both cp and to the charities and organizations that work with people who have it. I worked at an overnight summer camp for 4 summers during college that had a name whose initials were cp because when the camp first started in the 1960s it only dealt with people with cerebral palsy and today it takes in people with all sorts of disabilities.  ^

Seeing Dog

From the Daily Mail:
"Blind man keeps his old guide dog after it loses its sight... and then gets a new one who now leads them both around"
After six years of loyal service, Graham Waspe was devastated when his guide dog Edward was left blind after developing cataracts. But his devastation turned to joy when his replacement Opal turned out to be a real gem. Mr Waspe's new dog is not just aiding his owner to carry out everyday tasks, but also helping Edward to get around.  Mr Waspe, of Stowmarket, Suffolk, received his new dog last November after Edward developed the inoperable problem which resulted in him needing both eyes removed. And the two-year-old bitch has stepped in where Edward left off as they tour their old haunts together. While Edward is well know across the schools and community groups of Suffolk,
Opal is now building his own reputation as their owners give talks about the Guide Dogs charity, training for such special dogs and the incredible ways they help their owners.  Graham said: 'Opal's been great for both of us. I don't know what we'd do without her.' And his wife Sandra, 58, said that despite the loss of his eyes, Edward still loved nothing more than to be around children, have his tummy tickled and receive lots of attention. The eight-year-old has been retired for four months but the loss of his eyesight has shown no sign of slowing him down.  Sandra said: 'We were both devastated and cried buckets on the night they told us they were going to remove his first eye. 'Graham said then "do you think he will ever be happy again?" and then they said they would have to remove the second eye.' She added: 'He is still very popular - just as much, if not more than before. 'People ask lots of questions about how he copes and he is probably more famous now because even more people stop to talk to him.' Sandra said Opal had arrived shortly after Edward retired and the two dogs got along fine. 'Opal arrived far quicker than expected because, sadly, a couple of people in the Stowmarket area with fairly young guide dogs had died,' she said.   'We got Opal on November 12 and she started training with Graham on the 16th and they were qualified in early December.'
Mr Waspe has limited vision in only one of his eyes following two separate incidents earlier in his life and coped without a guide dog until 2004. As well as carrying out their school visits to raise awareness, the Waspes also do vital fundraising and run a local group.
^ This is a nice story. I like that they didn't simply return the seeing eye dog when he could no longer see. ^

Lithuania's Draft

From the G & M:
"Lithuania to bring back conscription over fears of Russian aggression"

Lithuania plans to restart military conscription, which it ended in 2008, to address growing concerns about Russian assertiveness in the Baltic region, President Dalia Grybauskaite said on Tuesday. “Today’s geopolitical environment requires us to strengthen the army, and do it as fast as possible,” Grybauskaite said after a meeting of the country’s defence council.  The Baltic states are concerned that Russian annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in east Ukraine may be a foretaste of it reasserting itself in other former Soviet territories. Latvia’s defence minister has suggested increasing army numbers by 2,000 to 7,000 people, but there are no plans to introduce the draft. Estonia has maintained conscription. Lithuania’s new conscription would apply to men between the ages of 19 and 26 with exemptions for certain categories, such as university students and single fathers and would recruit around 3,500 men per year. It would be up for renewal after a five-year period.
Lithuania’s parliament still needs to approve the plan. The Baltic states spent much of the last century incorporated into the Soviet Union, and upon independence in 1991 quickly sought to join NATO and the European Union. Lithuania borders the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, where Moscow carried out a military drill in December with 9,000 soldiers and more than 55 naval vessels. NATO has increased the number of fighter planes patrolling the Baltic skies, intensified military drills and agreed to set up command centres there to protect the region in the event of any threat from Russia.
^ A few years ago I said that they draft (conscription) was only needed in two countries; Israel and South Korea due to the constant threat of invasion and attack. I now feel the list of countries has grown with Russia's invasion and annexation of the Crimea and supplying the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine to include: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, Moldova, the Ukraine, Georgia. All of these countries were once under Russian/Soviet domination and all but one (Poland) were part of the USSR and do not want to loose their independence again. Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have distanced themselves greatly in the past 20 years to join the EU, NATO and Eurozone. Poland joined the EU and NATO. Georgia, Moldova and the Ukraine have Russian troops in parts of their country. If the Ukrainian War has shown us anything it's that you can't count on outside forces (NATO or EU member countries) to come to your aid.  It is a sad fact but one that those who are threatened need to realize. They may not win against a Russian attack, but at least they are willing to put up a symbolic stand to not go through 40 more years of occupation. ^

Ukrainian Tomorrow

From the MT:
"Ukraine to Counterbalance RT With New Channel 'Ukrainian Tomorrow'"

Ukraine next month will launch a television channel called Ukrainian Tomorrow, partially funded by U.S. sources, in an effort to counterbalance the Kremlin-funded network RT, Ukraine’s information policy minister told reporters in Lviv. “They have only today, but we have tomorrow,” Minister Yury Stets said last week at a conference, in an apparent play on RT’s former name, Russia Today, the Interfax-Ukraina news agency reported. The Ukrainian national bank’s television channel BTB will be transferred to the Information Policy Ministry within two weeks and then transformed into Ukrainian Tomorrow, the minister said. “Financial support will be provided by our partners from Europe and the United States. The channel should be high-quality and broadcast all over the world,” he said in comments carried by Kiev-based news agency UNIAN. The channel will also be funded by the Ukrainian government as well as local businesspeople, the minister said in comments carried by Interfax. It was not immediately clear in what language the channel would broadcast. The minister said that he had recently met with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, who “confirmed” that U.S. sources would provide financing for the project, Interfax reported. The Information Policy Ministry was established in Ukraine in December in part to counteract Russian media’s portrayal of the Ukraine crisis. Viktoria Syumar, the deputy head of Ukraine’s National Security Defense Council, said last year that the government was considering making an English-language channel that would have “no lies and staged videos like RT.” Ukraine earlier this month moved to deny accreditation to more than 100 Russian media outlets as threats to national security. Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week that Russia will not reciprocate with a similar ban. Russia will not “limit the right of people to receive information from various media sources,” Peskov said in comments carried by state news agency TASS.

^ I'll check out the new site. I don't care for the RT or Pravda - they clearly only make-up news to feed the party line. ^

Monday, February 23, 2015

One Germany?

From the DW:
"One people?: Study looks at Germany, 25 years after the Wall fell"
Disaffection with the political system appears greater in the former East German states than their western counterparts. Reunification wasn't easy, says the government's representative for the old GDR. Iris Gleicke, the German government's representative for the "new," or eastern, federal states, on Wednesday presented a report on attitudes towards reunification a quarter of a century after the fall of the Wall. The 50-year-old Social Democrat from the state of Thuringia, who has a background in East Germany's protest movement, entered politics after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Ever since, she has been working to promote the acceptance of reunification among Germans. According to the report, East Germans tend to be more distrustful of politics, which, Gleicke says, is based on what they experienced after the fall of the wall. It's also evident in the greater approval - compared to western German states - of political protest movements like PEGIDA or parties like the rightwing populist AfD.  Gleicke understands East Germans who say they don't feel they are being noticed, and rail at "the top brass." However, she declares it's no excuse for people in eastern Germany to fall for "far- right rabble-rousers." The recent debate about the East German "unjust state" is a good example of how such attitudes evolve, she says. Of course, East Germany was a dictatorship, she adds, but that only describes the system, and not its people, who could perceive the debate as a "depreciation of their own biographies." As far as living conditions are concerned, too, many things are still not equal, stressed Gleicke. When the public debate ignores ignore this people in eastern Germany can only shake their heads. Wages, old-age pensions, pensions for mothers are all different in east and west, notes Gleicke. The minimum wage recently adopted for all of Germany, she said, was a "long overdue signal." In addition, the experience of post-Communist privatization in East Germany continues to have an effect. This should have seen the planned economy-controlled companies of the former East Germany converted to operate successfully in the market economy. The Treuhandanstalt, the agency charged with the task, instead became a byword for winding-up and collapse. The "Treuhand" (trust) - as it was colloquially known - was not only responsible for errors, according to Gleicke, but also for "grandiose failures." The assessment is not only hers, but also that of the researchers who produced the report. Ahead of the 25th anniversary of German reunification, they conducted a representative telephone survey of 2,000 people.  It was found that, while people in the former East and West assess their living conditions similarly well, they take different political positions. And, those in the East who are middle-aged are much more concerned about issues like retirement provision, children, immigration and integration. Almost three-quarters of those in the former West felt politically "at home" in today's federal republic, compared with barely 50 percent of easterners, said study leader Everhard Holtmann. In the former East, 28 percent of people said they had no confidence in democracy. "This is a potential from which from social movements can arise," said the University of Stuttgart's Oscar W. Gabriel. Gleicke summarizes the perceptions of easterners as "consistently more skeptical, more critical and more detached." However, she emphasizes that German reunification has been a "good and successful development." The study shows that has much has been achieved, but Gleicke is keen not to gloss over the problems. For example, economic strength remains far from even. She wants a broad debate on the question: "Are we one people?" - the title of the study - and wants to push for the equalization of pension provision in the former East and West, as set out in the coalition agreement of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and their partners, the Social Democrats.
^  It is 20+ years since Germany reunified and it seems that Germany only really starts looking at its recent history 20 years after it happens. It wasn't until the 1960s that the German youth started questioning what their parents and grandparents did during World War 2 - of course that didn't stop the German Government and others to allow former Nazis to live openly and receive government benefits. Those in power in East Germany have been allowed to do the same. former Stasi and other Communist officials see no need to hide and receive government benefits. If I was German (whether from the eastern or western part) I would question why German society as a whole allows criminals (whether Nazi or Commies) to continue to flourish. What does it say about the current Germany? That is a bigger question than whether an eastern or western  German likes being part of a reunified Germany. ^

Moody Russia

From Yahoo:
"Russia cut to 'junk' by Moody's"
In a release late Friday, the ratings agency downgraded Russia's sovereign debt rating to Ba1/Not Prime (NP) from Baa3/Prime-3 (P-3). The rating outlook is negative. For Moody's, any bond rated Ba1 or lower is below investment grade, and considered a "junk" bond.  Friday's action from Moody's follows a move from S&P to cut Russia's rating to "junk" late last month.  In cutting its rating on Russia, Moody's cited the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, as well as the decline in oil prices and significant weakening of the Russia ruble this year as drivers of the downgrade. Moody's also said Russia's economic woes won't just disappear, saying it's " unlikely that the impact of recent events will be transitory." Moody's also cited unpredictable political dynamics, writing that there is a, " very low but rising risk that the international response to the conflict in Ukraine triggers a decision by the Russian authorities that directly or indirectly undermines timely payments on external debt service."
Moody's downgrade of Russia's government bond rating to Ba1 is driven by the following factors:
(1) The continuing crisis in Ukraine and the recent oil price and exchange rate shocks will further undermine Russia's economic strength and medium-term growth prospects, despite the fiscal and monetary policy responses;
(2) The government's financial strength will diminish materially as a result of fiscal pressures and the continued erosion of Russia's foreign exchange (FX) reserves in light of ongoing capital outflows and restricted access to international capital markets;
(3) The risk is rising, although still very low, that the international response to the military conflict in Ukraine triggers a decision by the Russian authorities that directly or indirectly undermines timely payments on external debt service.
^ This didn't come as a surprise, but it's still not good. ^

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Anne's Dad

From the DW:
"German film tells Anne Frank's story through her father's eyes"
Filmmaker Raymond Ley, 56, casts Anne Frank's family in a new light in his docudrama "Meine Tochter Anne Frank" (My Daughter Anne Frank). He not only focuses on the adolescent's final years hiding in an Amsterdam apartment, her hopes and fears, and her capture by the Nazis - but also on the fate of her father. Otto Frank was the only family member to survive the Holocaust. After the war, he had Anne's diary published. The first edition was printed over 30 million times. Over the years, it has been translated into 70 languages and been the subject of numerous films. In Ley's docudrama, historical footage is mixed with eyewitness interviews.
DW: Mr Ley, you tell the story of Anne Frank from the perspective of her father, Otto Frank, who survived Auschwitz. Why?
Raymond Ley: I would have thought there would already be at least 52 television films and three series on the topic, but that wasn't the case. Maybe it has to do with the significance of the literature and the discussion about it as "girls' literature." But that's just a presumption. Telling the story through Otto was an idea that developed between me, the producer and the editorial department.
March marks the 70th anniversary of Anne Frank's death in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. So much has already been said: What don't we already know about her?
I think it's about showing the various perpetrator and traitor perspectives on this story. No film before has gotten together so many eyewitnesses and given them a voice. I had the feeling after we had finished the film that it's pretty unique. Our approach was to focus on the text - to portray Anne's growing up, her literary approaches, and her relationship to her mother in a contemporary way.
Your film doesn't just recount Anne Frank's diary, but shows the circumstances in which she lived and the era in which the book was written… 
Yes, we show that too. But we cannot show Amsterdam in 1944. We can only imagine the pressure on those in hiding, the persecution, the betrayal in the surrounding streets that cost many people their lives. We tell the story in the form of a small play, in the form of the confrontations that those in hiding had among themselves in order to deal with each other. But always against the backdrop of Anne's great will to live. She viewed the situation as an interruption in her life and was always hopeful. At the end, she says, "Maybe in September, when the war is over, we can go back to school."
We get to know Anne Frank, who is played by Mala Ende, as a happy teenager. Does depicting her as a normal girl downplay the significance of her story?
I think we wanted to emphasize loss - the loss of a girl. We wanted to bring viewers to the point that they consider her and find her special - that they are worried about Anne. We wanted, as you say, to take her out of the bigger picture of the Holocaust and portray her as a person.
You chose the genre of a docudrama and mix acted scenes with historical footage - for example, from the Nazi invasion of Holland. And you mix in interviews with eyewitnesses, including Anne's best friend. Why did you choose this collage-like approach?
A docudrama is always a kind of collage comprised of acted scenes and eyewitness situations. For the viewer that wants to experience a story puristically, it might take some getting used to - also to be confronted with authentic proof. But I think it's helpful to hear Anne's friend say, "That's how it really was." If you say, I want to experience the full tragedy with emotional density, then the eyewitnesses allow for reflection. You step out of the story, see the person, and then step back into the story. I like that. And I hope that viewers will like it too.
In the film we see a Nazi SS officer who arrests Anne Frank and the others after they were betrayed. Did you have a clear image of the perpetrator - of the "typical" Nazi criminal?
Not at all. I knew that Karl Josef Silberbauer, who arrested Anne Frank and all the others in the house, went on trial. But I knew relatively little about this man. We came upon an interview with him by chance. A journalist named Huf conducted it in 1962 during the trial in Vienna. We had it translated from the Dutch and realized that is was a crystal clear encounter that shows how the perpetrators saw their victims after National Socialism had come to an end. The docudrama genre made it possible to jump ahead a few years and take a look at those who had been involved in the arrest.

^ I'm interested in seeing this new movie. Not only to see how it portrays Anne Frank, but also her father and all the others in hiding along with their helpers. The interview also says it shows Otto Frank's experiences after their arrest and that is something I am curious to learn more about.  ^

Ukrainian Ousted

From the MT:
"Ousted Ukraine Officials Enjoy Life of Luxury in Moscow"

One year ago, when Ukraine's beleaguered fourth President Viktor Yanukovych fled Kiev, he had limited options in terms of where he could seek refuge. His exit from the capital on Feb. 21 was preceded by three dark days in which 77 protesters and 18 police officers died in street clashes in circumstances that are still not entirely clear, many of them shot by snipers. The deaths were the tragic climax of mass-scale street protests sparked three months earlier over Yanukovych's decision to postpone the signing of an Association Agreement with the European Union.  While Yanukovych argued that he had fled out of fear for his personal safety, his power base in Kiev had effectively collapsed, with most major government buildings occupied by protesters.  On Feb. 21 he flew by helicopter to Ukraine's second-largest city of Kharkiv in a last-ditch attempt to retain at least some scraps of his waning power over the country, according to news reports and the recent book "Maidan: The Untold Story," published in Ukraine this week to coincide with the first anniversary of the climax of the popular uprising in central Kiev that swept away the government.  After realizing that he had lost the support of even his closest allies, he reportedly then flew to the city of Donetsk, now the capital of the self-proclaimed separatist Donetsk People's Republic. From there, he attempted to fly to Russia, but his plane was not given permission to take off. He then drove to Crimea, which would be annexed by Russia less than a month later.  From Crimea, Yanukovych was escorted to Russian territory by military boat and on Feb. 25, together with Ukraine's former Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and former Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko, he was already ensconced on the 11th floor of Moscow's luxurious Hotel Ukraina, according to the book.  All three men, together with another trio of disgraced former officials, are now included on the EU sanctions list because they are wanted in Ukraine in connection with the embezzlement of state funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine. They are also all reportedly now living in Moscow."I'll say openly that he [Yanukovych] asked us to get him to Russia, and we did that," President Vladimir Putin told Russia-watchers at a Valdai discussion club meeting in October.  In Moscow, Yanukovych moved to Barvikha, one of the most expensive neighborhoods in Moscow's suburbs, the RBC news website reported. Novo-Ogaryovo, one of Putin's official residences, is nearby.  In an interview with Ukraine's news website last July, Yanukovych's son Alexander said that his father was now "meeting with people and analyzing the situation all the time." One of those meetings was with U.S. film director Oliver Stone, who interviewed Yanukovych in December for his upcoming documentary about the mass protests in Kiev.  "I am confident that my father, with his experience and knowledge, will be useful to our country, no matter how unrealistic it sounds today," Alexander Yanukovych said in the interview. Alexander Yanukovych himself fled Ukraine via a similar path to his father's, but stayed in Crimea for more than a month until the peninsula became Russian territory, only then moving to Moscow. Mykola Azarov, Prime Minister under Yanukovych in 2010-2014, also fled to Moscow via Kharkiv. Earlier this month, Azarov convened a news conference in Moscow at which he presented his book on the political crisis in Ukraine. He did not specify how he spends his time in Russia apart from writing. The RBC news website reported last October that Azarov might be the owner of a land plot occupying 4,000 square meters in the prestigious Istra district of the Moscow region. Former Interior Minister Alexander Zakharchenko, who is suspected by the current Ukrainian authorities of organizing the mass killing of protesters on Maidan, has received Russian citizenship and became a senior consultant at Russia's Rostec state corporation, established to develop hi-tech industrial production in the country, the TASS news agency reported last month.  Former Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Arbuzov also lives in Moscow, according to RBC, but works in St. Petersburg, where he presides over the Center for Research into Economic, Social and Cultural Development of the Countries of the CIS, Central and Eastern Europe. According to the center's website, the center is located in the Russian Academy of Sciences' building in St. Petersburg.
Former Prosecutor General Pshonka, infamous for his ostentatious house on the outskirts of Kiev, has mostly flown under the public radar since the toppling of the regime. But in the case he brought against the European Union in its General Court over the sanctions imposed against him, he says that he currently resides in Moscow.  The current Ukrainian government that came to power following the flight of these men has issued arrest warrants against all of them, and Interpol followed suit: Yanukovych and Azarov are wanted by the international police agency on suspicion of misappropriation and embezzlement. Russia has extradition agreements with Ukraine and other CIS countries, but last week, Russia's Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said that Russia would not grant extradition requests for the former president, saying he was being prosecuted in Ukraine for political reasons.

^ It must be a "great" feeling knowing you were once leader of a whole nation and now you and your family are in exile and probably won't be allowed into your former country ever again (not to mention travelling to any Western country.)  ^

Wednesday, February 18, 2015


It's now the start of Lent and I plan on giving up: Snow. In the past 17 days we have received 8 feet of new snow and it has just started snowing again tonight.

Blind Bath

From the DW:
"'I am not a child,' says blind woman restricted from thermal bath"

How many years can one woman swim, before she has proved that it's safe? Rhetorical or not, this is the question being posed to authorities in Germany at the moment. It concerns a spa in a pastoral Bavarian town.  It's a 20-minute bus ride from Horgau to the Titania station in Neusäß, a trip Angelika Höhne-Schaller knows like the back of her hand. The 55-year-old has been making the trip between these rural towns near Augsburg for almost 10 years now, because there's a thermal bath at the Titania Spa with the perfect temperature for her degrading arthritic condition. "I need this bath multiple times a week for treatment," Höhne-Schaller told DW, "and I won't be told when I can use it," she added. Or with whom, to be more specific. Höhne-Schaller is blind. And the spa, which has just changed hands and is now under the control of the Neusäß municipality, says she can't use the thermal bath on her own. With reference to ordinance rules, the spa says Höhne-Schaller must be accompanied by a "responsible adult" because of her disability. "I am a responsible adult! That's the thing they don't get. I am not a child and will not be made into one just because of my vision problems," an emphatic Höhne-Schaller said. Indeed, apart from the blind, the only other people who aren't authorized to use the spa on their own are those under nine years of age. "We have a certain sense of responsibility for our patrons," said Dietmar Krenz, Neusäß's building authority representative, to the German press agency (dpa). Krenz was unavailable to comment on whether Höhne-Schaller reserved the right to "take responsibility" for herself; from his statements to dpa, it appears the Neusäß municipality is simply concerned for the safety of blind patrons at Titania because of its unconventional design. "We're not talking here about a normal swimming pool," he explained. "And for blind people, this can be a serious problem. There might be a bag on the floor, for instance, or on the stairs, and there are also dangers posed by waterslides," he added. "We cannot protect blind patrons on their own with our personnel," Krenz concluded, saying also that the size of the pool, which has a maximum capacity of 1,000 people, makes it unfit for blind guests. Before taking any steps in the matter, the municipality has ordered a risk assessment by an independent firm, which could take up to six months. And before those results are in, Höhne-Schaller says she is going to pursue any legal avenue she can. "If this goes to court she will most likely win," Andreas Jürgens, perhaps Germany's leading political authority in disability matters, told DW. "It won't take long for any judge to see that she can manage herself safely. She's been doing it for 10 consecutive years without problems," he added. Jürgens, who is credited with having forced the inclusion of the disability-equality clause into the German constitution, "No person shall be disfavored because of disability" (Basic Law, Article III), called the Neusäß case a "clear contravention" of that law and perhaps even the UN Charter on Human Rights. "I'm furious. That's why. I'm just furious," Höhne-Schaller told DW when asked why she was taking her municipality to court. "As far as German law is concerned, I could be president here. There is no reason why I couldn't become president of this country. But can I go swimming in the next village over? No." Conceding that she most likely wouldn't be campaigning anytime soon for the desk in Berlin's Bellevue Palace, she did say there wasn't any hurdle she wouldn't consider jumping over to win her fight.
^ This is clearly open discrimination. I hope this does go to court and that the woman wins. People, companies and organizations think they can continue to treat the disabled as sub-humans (that word is not lost on me especially when referring to something dealing with Germany.) I have been to many German swimming pools and do not see why a blind person can't use them by themselves. ^

Russian Secrets

From the MT:
"Russians With Relatives Living Abroad Could Lose Access to State Secrets, Court Rules"

Russians working for state agencies or state-owned enterprises who have relatives living abroad may be denied access to sensitive government information and secrets, the Constitutional Court has ruled.
The court was acting on an appeal by an officer with the Border Agency of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who argued that his constitutional rights were violated when a supervisor revoked his security clearance after learning that his teenage son had left to study in New Zealand. The court upheld the decision, arguing that the restriction was necessary "for the purpose of protecting the foundations of constitutional order, ensuring the country's defense and security," according to the verdict published on the court's website. The court also ruled that officials could be stripped of security clearance if they have close relatives who spend more than six of every 12 months outside of Russia, according to the ruling reached in January. Sergei Pushkin, the officer involved in the court case, had argued that his son's study overseas should not affect his own standing because the boy did not have a foreign residence permit or citizenship to another country, according to Constitutional Court materials published online. The ruling sided with a decision by a lower court that had denied Pushkin's appeal last year, and it could have implications for government officials who send their children abroad to study at Western schools. The Constitutional Court saw no human rights violations in the decision, arguing that access to state secrets is a privilege that is not supposed to be granted to every citizen. The Constitutional Court ruling is final and cannot be appealed, the verdict said.

^ I know several people this could affect. It's a shame. ^

Canadian Aid

From Wikipedia:
"Canada–Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement"

The Canada–Australia Consular Services Sharing Agreement is a bilateral agreement between Her Majesty's Governments of Australia and Canada for each of these countries to provide consular assistance to the citizens of the other in situations which are from time to time agreed between the two countries. This agreement has been in place since 1986 when the Right Honourable Joe Clark, P.C., M.P., Secretary of State for External Affairs of Canada and the Honourable Bill Hayden, M.P., Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia exchanged notes to create the agreement. The agreement was renewed in 2001, specifying in particular 14 Canadian posts (mostly in Africa) and 14 Australian delegations (mainly in the Pacific), where consular services are shared.

Australian Missions:

Canadians can seek consular assistance from the following Australian diplomatic missions:

Canadian Missions:

Australians can seek consular assistance from the following Canadian diplomatic missions:

^ This is something I have written about before, but have received several questions regarding actual assistance. This provides a little more info on where Canadians and Australians can get help in a country that doesn't have their embassy/high commission. It should also be stated that in a country that has no Canadian or Australian embassy/high commission (an embassy in a Commonwealth of Nations country) Canadians can go to a British embassy/high commission. ^