Thursday, April 30, 2015

New Holiday

From MT:
"Victory Day Added to Jewish Calendar on Russian Suggestion"

A new date, marking the 1945 defeat of Nazi Germany on May 9, has been added to the Jewish calendar, the Russian Jewish Congress said Wednesday. It is the first time in 2,000 years that a new holiday has been formally added to the calendar, according to a statement from the Russian Jewish Congress. "Jews are preparing for the first time to mark a new annual holiday — the Day of Rescue and Liberation," the Russian Jewish Congress said. "The initiative to found the new Jewish holiday came from Russia." Russia is preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the capitulation of Nazi Germany to Allied Forces in 1945. Soviet troops liberated many Nazi death camps for Jews in Eastern Europe in the last years of the war.
^ I'm not sure how I feel about this. World War 2 is an important event for the Jewish people in many ways: ie the Holocaust and its aftermath helped the Jews to make Israel their own country. Rather than May 9th being made the date of remembrance it probably would have been a more appropriate date to choose what Israel chose: Yom Ha Shoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day.) May 9th is purely for the Russians and other former Soviet Republics. The US and most of Europe celebrate the end of the war in Europe on May 8th - because of the time difference. It's true the Russians and other former Soviets did a great deal to liberate the concentration and death camps they found in eastern Europe, but the British and Americans also liberated the camps they found in western Europe (ie Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, etc.) Choosing Yom HaShoah as the date to add to the Jewish Calendar (which supposedly all Jews and not just those in Israel follow) shows what the Jewish people - not their liberators - endured and the 'holiday' should be about the Jewish people. The world remembers Holocaust Memorial Day in January to remember when the Soviets liberated Auschwitz while Israel's Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is in April to remember the Jews that fought and died standing up to the Nazis during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in Poland. One date (January) shows the Jewish victims having outside aid to liberate them while the other (April) shows the Jewish fighter taking a stand. Whatever date (January or April) that people remember the Holocaust on  - some remember it on both dates - doesn't matter. What does matter is that people remember the Holocaust and that innocent men, women and children were murdered. That's why I don't think including a Russian holiday to the Jewish Calendar instead of a Remembrance Day that is solely about the Jewish people is a good choice. ^

Marines Recount

From the Stars and Stripes;
"Last US Marines to leave Saigon describe chaos of war's end"
As the Marines scrambled to the roof of the U.S. Embassy, they locked a chain-link gate on every other floor to slow the throng of panicked Vietnamese civilians sure to come behind them. They knew if the crowd pushed through to the top, they could easily be overrun by hundreds of people desperate to get a seat on one of the last helicopters out of Saigon. The men barricaded the rooftop door using heavy fire extinguishers and wall lockers and waited nervously as Vietnamese gathered outside rammed a fire truck through an embassy entrance. They could hear looting going on below and watched as cars were driven away and everything from couch cushions to refrigerators was carted out of the offices. South Vietnamese soldiers stripped off their uniforms and threw them into the street, out of fear they would be shot on sight by the northern enemy. It was still dark when the U.S. ambassador left the roof on a helicopter around 5 a.m. April 30, 1975. A message went out over the radio with his code name, "Tiger, Tiger, Tiger," followed by "Tiger out," to signal that the diplomat was en route to safety. As the sun came out, the remaining Marines realized they had been forgotten. The pilots mistakenly believed that the call meant everyone had been evacuated. The Marines had no way to contact U.S. airmen ferrying Vietnamese allies and Americans to aircraft carriers offshore because their radio signals didn't carry that far. The last U.S. servicemen in Vietnam were stuck alone atop the embassy, hoping someone would realize they were there before the city fell to rapidly advancing communist forces. On the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon on Thursday, a group of Marines who were there that day returned to what is now Ho Chi Minh City for a memorial ceremony at the site of the old embassy, which is now the U.S. Consulate. They had been in charge of guarding the embassy and the defense attache office beside Tan Son Nhut airport, and were tasked with helping to get the last Americans out. The days leading up to the end of the Vietnam War were chaotic and exhausting. Northern enemy forces had been sweeping southward for weeks, capturing major South Vietnamese strongholds as they went. Everyone knew it was only a matter of time before the capital, Saigon, also fell. Rumors of a looming bloodbath gripped the city, and Americans along with their South Vietnamese allies were being evacuated on cargo planes from the airport. Lance Cpl. John Stewart, now 58, of Nacogdoches, Texas, was assigned to take a bus through Saigon to pick up those eligible to leave. He was just 18 and had only been in the country a couple weeks, but he saw anger growing among those on the streets as people realized the end was near and the U.S. was pulling out its last remaining citizens. At one point a rocket hit near the bus and it was shaken by shrapnel, but no one was injured and the evacuation continued. "We were having to pull people off or physically keep them from getting onto the buses," he said. "You couldn't blame them for wanting to get out, but it had gotten to the point where we could only take those that we absolutely had to. We couldn't take everybody. That's when your brain tells you this is really happening and we've reached the end, and hopefully we'll get out before the end gets here." Stewart and the others were already shaken after a rocket attack killed two Marines — Cpl. Charles McMahon and Lance Cpl. Darwin Judge — early April 29 while they stood guard at the defense attache compound. They would be the last U.S. servicemen to die in a war that killed some 58,000 Americans, up to 250,000 South Vietnamese allies and an estimated 3 million North Vietnamese and civilians. Thirteen of the original Marines on Thursday placed red roses in front of a plaque and saluted it on the old embassy grounds as taps played. The bodies of McMahon and Judge were found by Sgt. Kevin Maloney, now 62 of Hollywood, Florida. But there was no time to mourn. Like Stewart, he had to help load buses. While in the city, he locked eyes with a little boy with light brown hair. He was only supposed to pick up Americans, but he shoved the kid and his mother into one of the front seats anyway, knowing that the child was most likely the son of a GI. He has no idea whether they made it onto a plane and on to America, as many Vietnamese did after being evacuated. Once the airport became too bombed out to continue operations there, helicopters were ordered to land at the embassy for the final flights. Maloney was later moved there to help. He spent hours going over the wall to help pull Americans and allies from other countries out of the mob and into the compound so they could be airlifted. He grabbed their hands to pull them up, while beating back the Vietnamese. He left his pistol inside the compound, fearing someone might grab it from his holster and fire shots into the thousands of people.
The scene became so insane that Sgt. Don Nicholas, now 62, of Green, Ohio, was sent to the attache office to guard millions of U.S. dollars before the cash was burned and the compound blown up by the Americans to keep the enemy from raiding it and obtaining classified documents. He later stood watch at the embassy and was shocked when a Vietnamese man, desperate to get into the compound, ran a spike from the gate into his foot as he climbed over the wall.  Once the Marines got word that they were to abandon their posts and prepare to evacuate, they moved up to the roof, where they could see parts of the city burning. Many had not slept in two or three days and were running only on adrenaline. No one knew what would happen when the Americans finally left and the city was overtaken by the enemy. There were about 80 men crowded on the rooftop. One stood guard next to a small window where Vietnamese, who had forced their way inside and through all of the locked gates in the stairwell, were pressed — hoping and waiting more helicopters were coming for them to board.
A couple of hours passed. No choppers. "They literally forgot about us," said Master Sgt. Juan Valdez, now 77, of Oceanside, California, who was the detachment commander. "Everybody was in their own thoughts. I was on one side thinking, 'What was going to happen next?' My worst thought was if they were able to direct artillery fire to (the air base), what was to keep them from directing artillery fire on the roof?" The men passed around a bottle of whiskey and waited. Finally, they heard the whirring of helicopter blades. They stripped off their flak jackets, helmets and packs to save weight and stuffed as many people as possible into the last birds that landed. After one last glace to make sure all of his men were gone, Valdez was the last man to board the last helicopter. On the chopper out ahead of him, Sgt. Douglas Potratz, now 60, from Fullerton, California, watched Saigon burn. "I felt sad because I felt like we had lost the war and so many lives had been spent on the war here," he said. "I felt like we were entrusted to keep the traditions going and to not let the country go to communism and we had failed, and I felt very low at that time. I felt like it was the end of the world." The scenes of the women with wailing babies frantically begging to be saved outside the embassy walls haunted his dreams for years, but he said coming back four decades later to what is now called Ho Chi Minh City with the same men he left with so long ago has helped him heal. "When I saw that that the country had moved forward, it gave me a little peace in my mind and let me move forward mentally knowing that it wasn't frozen in time anymore," he said. "Things do progress. Things do move forward, and I could put the past away and have better memories instead of just bad memories about this country."
^ It's important to remember these key historical events - especially during their anniversaries. I know it seems like there are a lot lately. The 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide and the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration/death camps and the end of World War 2 in Japan and in Europe. The 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon is also important because of how the Vietnam War changed the US and the world. The US ground forces may have left South Vietnam in 1973, the Draft had ended as did the anti-war protests, but the Communist victory  and US Embassy evacuation  in 1975 truly ended the US' involvement with Vietnam (North and the South - which were eventually reunited into one Communist country.) The events described here were also on a documentary I watched a few days ago about the US Embassy, the evacuations of both Americans and Vietnamese and the Fall of Saigon. ^


From Yahoo:
"US commander: Russia seems set for new offensive in Ukraine"

The top U.S. commander for NATO said Thursday that America needs better intelligence on the ground in Ukraine, but that it appears Russian forces have used a recent lull in fighting to reposition for another offensive. Gen. Philip Breedlove, commander of NATO forces in Europe, told the Senate Armed Services Committee, that the situation in Ukraine is volatile and fragile and urged Congress to bolster U.S. intelligence capabilities to better understand President Vladimir Putin's intent in the region. "Russian military operations over the past year in Ukraine, and the region more broadly, have underscored that there are critical gaps in our collection and analysis," Breedlove said. "Some Russian military exercises have caught us by surprise and our textured feel for Russian involvement on the ground in Ukraine has been quite limited." He said the number of Russia intelligence experts has dwindled since the Cold War and intelligence assets of all kind have been shifted to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We cannot be fully certain what Russia will do next and we cannot fully grasp Putin's intent. What we can do is learn from his actions," Breedlove said. "What we do see suggests growing Russian capabilities, significant military modernization and an ambitious strategic intent." "Russian forces used the opportunities presented by the recent lull in fighting to reset and reposition while protecting their gains," he said. "Many of their actions are consistent with preparations for another offensive." The United States now sees the Ukrainian rebels as a Russian force. American officials briefed on intelligence from the region say Russia has significantly deepened its command and control of the militants in eastern Ukraine in recent months, leading the U.S. to quietly introduce a new term: "combined Russian-separatist forces." The State Department used the expression three times in a single statement last week, lambasting Moscow and the insurgents for a series of cease-fire violations in Ukraine. The shift in U.S. perceptions could have wide-ranging ramifications, even if the Obama administration has cited close linkages between the pro-Russian separatists and Putin's government in Moscow since violence flared up in Ukraine a year ago. By describing them as an integrated force in the east of the country, the U.S. is putting greater responsibility on Russia for the continued fighting. That will make it harder for Russia to persuade the U.S. and Europe to scale back sanctions that are hurting its economy, and for Washington and Moscow to partner on unrelated matters from nuclear nonproliferation to counterterrorism. U.S. intelligence agencies signed off on the new language last week, after what officials outlined as increasing evidence of the Russians and separatists working together, training together and operating under a joint command structure that ultimately answers to Russia. The officials weren't authorized to be quoted by name and demanded anonymity. Some of that evidence was presented in a statement released by State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf on April 22 after Secretary of State John Kerry raised his concerns by telephone with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Harf spoke of Russia's deployment of air defense systems closer to the front lines, increased troop levels near Kharkov, Ukraine's second largest city, and intensified training sessions involving the use of Russian drones. She called the unmanned aerial vehicles "an unmistakable sign of Russia's presence." The uprising began after protesters chased Ukraine's pro-Russia president out of power and Moscow responded by annexing the Ukrainian region of Crimea. The insurgency started with miners, farmers and others without military training rebelling against the new government, and quickly expanded. More than 6,000 people have died and a million have been displaced by the conflict. Russia's air defense concentration in eastern Ukraine is now at its highest level since August, the U.S. says. Russia has more ground forces at the border than at any point since October. These developments and others have American officials fearful that Moscow and the separatists may be planning an offensive in the coming weeks.
^ It seems the reality of the war in the Ukraine is finally coming out. This may be a game-changer. ^

North Vs South At 40

From USA Today:
"40 years later, Vietnam still deeply divided over war"

This bustling city of 8 million that is still called Saigon by many is going all out to celebrate Thursday's 40th anniversary of its fall — the day North Vietnam's Communist army captured South Vietnam's capital.    Propaganda posters and billboards marking Liberation Day blanket a downtown brimming with construction cranes and new high-rise buildings. City landmarks such as the old French colonial city hall and post office have gotten fresh coats of paint. A massive military parade is in the works and a shiny new statue of the North's iconic leader, Ho Chi Minh, waits to be unveiled on a renovated central square. Yet even as the now-united country trumpets the North's victory over American invaders during a devastating conflict that left more than 3 million Vietnamese and nearly 60,000 American troops dead, bitter rifts over the civil war remain deep and unresolved. For journalist and author Huy Duc, the first step towards reconciliation is to acknowledge the very different perspectives on why the war was fought. That has yet to take place.  "Vietnamese people from both sides have to agree on what happened," he said. "People who were sent from the North believed that they fought against the invading Americans and were liberating the South. And many people from the South ... believe it was a civil war, that the South was invaded by the North. Architect Nguyen Huu Thai, 75, had a front-row seat for the last moments of the war. A student leader in Saigon in the 1960s, he later secretly worked for the North as a member of the National Liberation Front, or Viet Cong, that fought U.S. troops in South Vietnam. "The reconciliation clock stopped in 1975," said Thai. "Even 40 years later, I still search for real reconciliation." At noon on April 30, 1975, Thai was at Independence Palace, home to the South Vietnamese president, as the first North Vietnamese tank came crashing through the front gate — an image memorialized on banners all over the city. He helped a soldier find his way to the roof of the building to hang the NLF flag.  "When we raised the flag, I thought: 'This is not only 30 years of fighting ending, but 117 years,'" he said, counting back to the arrival of French colonial troops in 1858. "Tears were running down my face. It was so emotional, so important." Afterwards, Thai helped organize the radio broadcast in which South Vietnamese President Duong Van Minh announced his surrender over the airwaves. As the day came to a close, he recalled it being the quietest night he had ever experienced:
The tranquil early moments after the end of the war did not last long, however, as the new regime quickly began a period of harsh crackdowns and waves of desperate Vietnamese fled the country. "The winners still had the mentality of war," said Thai. D.M. Thanh, a lieutenant in the South Vietnamese army, faced the morning of April 30 with dread. "The bright side was that the war had ended, and there wouldn't be any more fighting," he said. "On the other hand, I was very worried. I didn't know what my future would be." Thanh, like thousands of other South Vietnamese officers, was sent to a re-education camp, where he spent 12 years subject to backbreaking labor, extreme deprivation and Marxist indoctrination. His wife was pregnant with their son when he was sent away and Thanh only saw them twice during his confinement. After he was released, he took over a flower shop his parents owned and has lived quietly since. Thanh said he doesn't talk about the past with his son, but the memories haunt him. "I forgive, but I can never forget," Thanh said, his eyes welling up.
Vietnam's lack of reconciliation is a theme Duc addresses in his book, The Winning Side, a far more frank and open look at the final days of the war and its aftermath than is found in official Vietnamese literature. The book has not been published in tightly censored Vietnam, but it has been widely read around the country online and in bootleg editions.  "After the war, the winning side did nothing to reconcile the people," Duc said. "They dug the divisions deeper and deeper, even inside the families of the losers of the war. So reconciliation has now become more difficult than on the day of April 30."
One reason the divisions persist is that the ruling Communist Party keeps tight control over the news media so there is no free discussion of the country's past. A recent report by the Committee to Protect Journalists ranked Vietnam the sixth most censored country in the world, worse than China, Iran and Cuba. Many born after the fall of Saigon pay little attention to the anniversary or the lasting political wounds. They are more focused on enjoying the country's new found prosperity.
The Communists may have won the war, but the capitalists have won this cosmopolitan city that buzzes with entrepreneurial energy. Alongside the hammer-and-sickle flags are Chanel and Cartier boutiques. Young Vietnamese are as selfie- and Facebook-obsessed as peers around the world, and their focus is on how to take advantage of a growing economy. 
"Ho Chi Minh City pays more attention to the economy than political issues," said Nguyen Tuan Thanh amid the whir of blenders and espresso machines in Caztus Coffee, a small café he owns. The 25-year-old, with tattooed arms and a Bluetooth receiver in his ear, was inspired by books written by Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz to start a chain of cafés specializing in ice-blended drinks.  It would have been much more difficult to start his business — three shops so far — in the North, where personal connections and relationships still dominate the business landscape. "It's much easier to get things done here than Hanoi," he said. Journalist Duc argues that the future won't be as bright if Vietnam fails to confront the past and address its long-lasting divisions."No matter how strong our economy is, the conflict among Vietnamese people on both sides is still very strong," he said. "So the thing we have to do is not only unify the different parts of the country, but also unify people's hearts."
^ It seems that not much has really changed in Vietnam in the past 40 years. The northern part is still staunchly Communist while the southern part is very capitalistic. It's not surprising that the past isn't really discussed since it is a Communist country and any discussion would show the crimes committed during and - especially - after the war ended with the re-education camps, etc. The same thing can be found in China with the Cultural Revolution, etc. The Soviet Union "opened" itself up to discussion in the 1980s and that helped lead to its collapse in 1991. ^

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Commie Revamp

From MT:
"Preservationists Warn Over New Status for Soviet Ensemble VDNKh"

A Stalinist complex built in the 1930s on a swamp on the outskirts of Moscow to champion the achievements of communism will soon receive a new heritage designation that critics fear will legalize buildings erected without proper designation and will pave the way for new construction work. The Culture Ministry has issued an order to redesignate Moscow's VDNKh as a "tourist zone," the complex's press service said in a statement. The order is likely to be implemented after a period of public discussion that is scheduled to last until May 6. VDNKh, formerly known as the All-Russian Exhibition Center, or VVTs, is being transformed as part of a redevelopment project under the personal supervision of Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin. Ongoing changes to VDNKh have provoked the ire of preservationists who accuse developers of looking to drastically alter aspects of the 1930s complex that has been dubbed a "Soviet Versailles." "All the new regulations legalize buildings that have appeared in the last three to four years," said Konstantin Mikhailov, the head of architectural preservation group Arkhnadzor. "And it does not protect VDNKh from new buildings … there are big opportunities for construction." The order from the Culture Ministry initiating the change in designation was welcomed by VDNKh, which said that it would allow for a better coordinated approach to development, and will allow some buildings, including an Oceanarium, that were reportedly constructed illegally, to be officially opened and put to use. "The new status will allow the exhibition to develop as the country's major cultural and recreational complex," VDNKh said in a statement. The city of Moscow in conjunction with private investors could spend up to 163 billion rubles ($3.2 billion) on developing VDNKh through 2020, the Vedomosti business newspaper reported last week. Aside from some superficial repairs, VDNKh has enjoyed little investment since the collapse of communism, and in the 1990s its 70 pavilions were colonized by petty traders. Redevelopment projects at the site have been repeatedly derailed in the last decade because of the huge sums of money required. But this time the project appears to be more serious and reconstruction work is already under way.

^ This was made to showcase the achievements of communism in the Soviet Union. Since communism helped lead to the collapse of the USSR in December 1991 it only makes sense to update this complex. It is ironic that it is being designated a tourist zone considering internal and international travel was highly restricted for both Soviets and foreigners. While it is still very difficult to get a Russian visa (you need a Russian sponsor, official invitation, migration card and to register every time you change your residence or go to a new town) it is easier than it was during Soviet times. I have seen TV shows that go to the former USSR and other eastern European countries and show parks and other open areas that now house all the communist statutes that used to be on buildings and in other prominent places. They have become communist graveyards. I think it could be a good thing to revamp (or as the Russians say "remont") this old communist symbol into something new and fresh for the 21st century. ^

Abe's Stand

From the USA Today:
"Japanese prime minister stands by apologies for Japan's WWII abuses"

In the first address to a joint session of Congress by a Japanese leader, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday stood by previous leaders' apologies for his nation's World War II abuses. He also expressed "eternal condolences" for the American lives lost fighting Japan in the war, contrite statements that set to rest a pre-speech flap over whether he would avoid acknowledging Japan's wartime atrocities, as he had appeared to do previously. "On behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II," he said. Abe received repeated standing ovations by members of Congress. Watching from the gallery was Caroline Kennedy, the U.S. ambassador to Japan. "Our actions brought suffering to the peoples in Asian countries," Abe said, speaking in English. "We must not avert our eyes from that. I will uphold the views expressed by the previous prime ministers in this regard." The Japanese leader, however, did not personally apologize for Japan's atrocities toward its Asian neighbors. "History is harsh. What's done cannot be undone," Abe said in recalling his visit to the National World War II Memorial before arriving on Capitol Hill. "With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time." Abe's past comments have appeared to gloss over Japan's wartime atrocities and cast doubt on his commitment to official apologies issued by previous prime ministers for war crimes.
^ It's a good thing that the Japanese Prime Minister said what he said to Congress and the American people. It may have been based on trying to get a new trade deal between the two countries signed, but nevertheless it is a big step forward. It has been 70 years since World War 2 ended, but that doesn't mean the effects of the war aren't still felt especially when a country tends to zig-zag around their role in the war and its crimes during it. Hopefully, the rest of this year's ceremonies will follow this speech. ^

Nepal Relief

From the BBC:
"Nepal earthquake: Official mourning declared for victims"

Nepal has declared three days of mourning for the victims of Saturday's earthquake in which more than 5,000 people are now known to have died. Prime Minister Sushil Koirala says the government is doing all it can but is overwhelmed by the scale of the catastrophe.  Rescuers are still struggling to bring aid to remote Himalayan areas. Heavy rain is worsening the plight of hundreds of thousands of people camped out in the open.  The UN estimates that eight million people in 39 districts have been affected by the 7.8-magnitude quake - more than a quarter of the population.  More than 10,000 people have been injured. Among the dead are 18 climbers who were at Mount Everest base camp when it was hit by an avalanche triggered by the quake. In a televised address, Mr Koirala said: "In memory of the Nepali and foreign brothers and sisters and elders and children who have lost their lives in this devastating earthquake, we have decided to observe three days of national mourning from today." Earlier, he said a lack of equipment and expert personnel meant the "appeals for rescues coming in from everywhere" in many cases could not be met. Landslips and aftershocks in remote mountainous areas around the epicentre of the quake are hampering rescue and relief teams. A government spokesman told the BBC that helicopters had been dropping tents, dry food and medicine to remote villages but they were yet to reach many isolated communities. When helicopters have managed to land, they are often mobbed by villagers pleading for food and water, or to be evacuated.
Sita Gurung, a resident in the village of Lapu, told AFP news agency: "The ground keeps shaking. Every time it feels like we will be swallowed, that we will die. I want to get out of here." Military aircraft from several countries including the US, China and Israel have joined the rescue effort. A British RAF plane carrying aid supplies and troops is also on its way to Nepal. However, a logjam has been reported at the airport in the capital Kathmandu, with individuals trying to fly out while aid flights and rescue teams wait to land. Many families are spending another night in the open in the city, either having lost their homes or because they are too terrified of aftershocks to return. Other residents have packed on to buses to flee the city.

^ I've seen pictures of the aftermath and it seems that Nepal needs as much help as the world will offer it. There was a big push a few years ago to help Haiti after their earthquake, but I haven't noticed much being done on TV, social media, etc for Nepal. ^

40: Refugees

From Wikipedia:
"Indochina refugee crisis"

To go along with the 40th anniversary of the Communist victories in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in 1975 I wanted to include those that fled the Communists from those countries from 1975 to 1997 (since 1997 several thousand people fled and went to the US) and the countries that took them in. The fled by land, sea and air. Many did so after the Communists took control and implemented their re-education camps (with its torture and death.)
The United States took the majority of refugees in: 883,317 Vietnamese, 251,334 Laotians and 152,748 Cambodians for a total of:        1,287,399 people
Canada took in: 163,415 Vietnamese, 17,274 Laotians and 21,489 Cambodians for a total of:  202,178  people
France took in: 46,348 Vietnamese, 34,236 Laotians and 38,598 Cambodians for a total of 119,182  people.

Australia, West Germany/Germany, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Japan, Norway, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Malaysia, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium also took in thousands of refugees.
All in all 1,642,179 Vietnamese, 324,107 Laotians and 580,884 Cambodians fled their countries for a total of   2,547,170 people. That may seem like a lot of people, but considering an estimated 2 million Cambodians were killed by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1979 the number of refugees is very small. You would think that more refugees would have gone to France considering all three countries were French colonies until the 1950s, but they didn't. I don't know if it was because the French didn't want more or the Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians didn't want to go there. At least the US finally accepted many refugees considering what we did and didn't do for them during the war.

40: Saigon

From the Observer-Reporter:
"Fall of Saigon remembered on 40th anniversary"
The Fall of Saigon that ended America’s involvement in the Vietnam War proved to be a bittersweet moment for veteran John Tecklenburg II.  The Amwell Township man was earlier assigned to a U.S. Army construction and engineering branch that built about 40 miles of Highway 1 from Saigon to Xuan Loc, the same road the communist forces would use to retake the city and South Vietnam in 1975.  “I have some mixed feelings …” Tecklenburg said, recalling the two-day attack on Saigon that many Americans watched on television news programs 40 years ago Wednesday and Thursday.  “I was watching it on TV, and I really thought what a waste of human effort it was,” said Tecklenburg, who became a corporate investment attorney after the misbegotten war came to an end.  It would take the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army two more years to capture what is now known as Ho Chi Minh City after the last U.S. combat soldiers left South Vietnam in March 1973. Some U.S. Marines remained behind that year, along with those advising the South Vietnam Army, until the North Vietnamese closed in on Saigon on April 29, 1975. American Ambassador Graham Martin procrastinated in ordering an evacuation of the embassy in Saigon, before journalists, U.S. staff and members of the military scrambled to flee the country as the city was coming under attack.  Over the next 18 hours nearly 1,000 Americans and thousands of Vietnamese refugees were evacuated to ships by U.S. helicopters. Two Marines were killed in an April 30, 1975, attack on Saigon’s Tan Son Nhat Airport, making them the last Americans to die in the war. There were many South Vietnamese abandoned at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon by the time the evacuation was called off. Those who sympathized with the United States feared for their lives, and many of them would be sent to reunification labor camps after the war’s end. The fall, however, came as no surprise to many American veterans of the war, including Thomas Drewitz, a retired Washington dentist who served in Vietnam.  Drewitz was a U.S. Army lieutenant assigned to a real estate office, and he knew the war’s end was approaching when his unit received orders in 1970 to start turning property back over to the Vietnamese.  “I felt badly about that,” Drewitz said. “I felt if (U.S. troops) were leaving, people were dying for nothing.”  The war resulted in the deaths of 58,300 Americans and countless more Vietnamese.  District Judge Larry Hopkins of Charleroi also knew from his experiences in Vietnam that the North Vietnamese Army would take control of South Vietnam.  “When we left Vietnam we kind of knew Saigon would fall,” said Hopkins, who served in a U.S. Air Force airmail terminal in Danang from 1971 to 1972.  “I believed wholeheartedly we had to stop the spread of communism,” said Hopkins, referring to one of the reasons Congress authorized President Lyndon Johnson to take any actions needed to prevent attacks against U.S. forces in Vietnam in August 1964.  The defeat in the often-misunderstood war was an embarrassment for the U.S. military, a Vietnam War expert said.
The Fall of Saigon took place after a “tortuous few months of a steadily collapsing South Vietnam regime,” said Bob Rodrigues, an adjutant professor at Duquesne University, where he teaches a course on the history of the Vietnam War.  America at the time was recognizing the significance of the 200th anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, that launched the Revolutionary War.  “And (then) 200 years later we were forced to finally abandon a misplaced plan to stop the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and step aside for the independence of Vietnam, a country that had been fighting for its independence off and on for 2,000 years,” said Rodrigues, who also teaches at Chartiers Valley High School. “Given the context of our upcoming celebration of the bicentennial, this was perhaps a low point in United States history that we were leaving a 20-year commitment in such an ignominious manner,” he said. “The United States was experiencing a first taste of defeat in history, and it was less than palatable.”  “It was kind of sad,” said the Rev. George Chortos, a retired Roman Catholic priest in Washington who served two tours as a chaplain in the Southeast Asian country, and left there in 1973.  Chortos said many Americans at the time had misconceptions about “what was going on over there” while support for the war was divided and the nation was seeing anti-war protests.  “Millions of people fled for their lives because if the North took over they would be killed,” he said. “They had to get out of there or they were going to die. We were fighting for people’s lives. Unfortunately the message didn’t get through.”  Many Americans believed in 1965 during the buildup in Vietnam that our military was infallible following the country’s victory in World War II, Rodrigues said.  “Fathers expected their sons to serve the country as they had done; sons sought the opportunity to come home as heroes like their fathers had done,” he said.  Rodrigues said Americans today are more aware of the “machinations of their government,” and that is one of the legacies of the Vietnam War.  “Vietnam is a distant mirror that needs to be revisited again and again and tapped for its lessons,” he said.
^ This is just one of the thousands of accounts what happened 40 years ago tomorrow with the Fall of Saigon and the Communist victory. The TV has had several programs about the war and the aftermath. I've seen many documentaries and movies about the soldiers fighting the war, the protesters against the war, the Vietnamese affected by the war and the war's aftermath for both Vietnam and the US. From the start of the Vietnam War (with the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution) in 1964 to the Fall of Saigon in 1975 the US Government did more lying and deceiving to everyone: Americans, the South Vietnamese and the rest of the world. Presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford all played a key part in these deceptions. I am not one of those people who thinks we shouldn't have gotten involved in Vietnam, but I do believe that we did not succeed in that war because of countless misconceptions, deceptions and mistakes on the part of the Presidents and Congress. If you are going to send in men and women to fight and die for a cause then you need to fully support them and also have an end-game. The US didn't have either of those. The US made countless promises to the people of South Vietnam and then left them high-and-dry in 1975 to face re-education camps, torture and possible death all for believing and helping us in the decade-long war. One of the programs I watched was about the last few days before the Fall in 1975 and how the US continued to not understand what was actually going on and making promises they didn't keep. I know many people who served during Vietnam (some were drafted and some joined voluntarily) as well as people who protested on college campuses and around the US against the war. While I can not say for sure what I would have done if I lived at that time (hind-sight is 20-20) I would like to think I would have supported the soldiers that were sent there instead of calling them baby-killers, etc. - especially because soldiers don't make wars - politicians do. I would also like to think I wouldn't have deserted or fled to Canada (although right now I am a dual Canadian-American citizen so it wouldn't be deserting/fleeing, but going home.) If the US didn't have the Draft during Vietnam then I don't believe the majority of people would have protested or cared so much about the war the same way the majority of people today don't seem to care about Afghanistan or Iraq. That isn't right, but it is the reality. ^

Hungary's Penalty

From DW:
"Hungary's Orban ponders return of the death penalty"

Hungary's prime minster has raised the possibility of reintroducing the death penalty in the European Union member country. Victor Orban made the statement in the wake of a deadly stabbing that made national headlines.  Prime Minister Orban told reporters in the southwestern city of Pecs on Tuesday that existing penalties for serious crimes such as murder were too soft and that something needed to be done to remedy the problem. "The death penalty question should be put on the agenda in Hungary," Orban said. He added that it was necessary "to make clear to criminals that Hungary will stop at nothing when it comes to protecting its citizens." The right-wing politician was speaking a week after the stabbing death of a 21-year-old female clerk in a Trafik tobacco and newspaper shop in the nearby town of Kaposvar, which made headlines across the country. Under current Hungarian law the stiffest sentence that can be handed down is a life sentence with no chance of parole. Hungary, which became a member of the European Union in 2004, abolished capital punishment after the fall of communism in 1990. If Budapest were to seek to reintroduce the death penalty, this would put it on a collision course with the EU, as this would contravene the 28-member bloc's Charter of Fundamental Rights. Orban is already at loggerheads with the EU over its immigration policy. Last Friday, Orban told the Hungarian public broadcaster that the EU immigration policy was "stupid" and that "immigration should be stopped." This came a day after an emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels agreed on a package of measures aimed at preventing migrants from dying as they try to cross the Mediterranean Sea in an effort to reach EU territory.
^ I don't always agree with what Orban says, but I do now with his stance on the death penalty. I will never understand a country that doesn't have the death penalty for crimes like serial murders, war crimes or terrorism. To me that just shows a very weak country and people. I would have more respect for a country or people that had the death penalty as part of their law and didn't use it than one that simply did away with it. Right now the jury in Massachusetts is deciding the fate of the convicted Boston Marathon bomber. Massachusetts is one of those "weak" places that got rid of the death penalty, but because terrorism in a federal crime in the US and the Federal Government has the death penalty it is being considered for the bomber. Anyone who has had a personal attachment to a crime like murder or terrorism knows what loss is and the only true punishment is the death penalty. You hear millions of cases where a convicted murderer or terrorist is sentenced to life in prison and yet they are released several years later. That's not a punishment for their horrible crimes, but a vacation. In this case I hope Hungary does the correct thing and brings back the death penalty. People complain that it will go against the EU and what it stands for yet the EU already does that in many different areas. The so-called "Freedom of Movement' provision that is supposed to apply to ALL citizens within the European Union has so many exceptions (mostly those from eastern Europe.) The EU is more concerned with a crumbling economy, the possibility of loosing Greece from the Eurozone, etc to fix all the numerous other issues and discrepancies in the member-states. ^

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Disabled Disney

From Disability Scoop:
"Disney Tweaking Disability Access Procedures"

Disney is again updating its program for accommodating guests with disabilities at its theme parks.
Starting Thursday, the Disability Access Service Card is going digital at Walt Disney World in Florida. Rather than write down return times for rides and other attractions on a card, cast members will scan visitors’ tickets or MagicBands, the company said. The change will allow the disability accommodation to be integrated with My Disney Experience, a website and app for park visitors. The switch to an electronic process will not alter procedures for guests utilizing the Disability Access Service Card, however. Disney said visitors with disabilities will still need to visit each attraction in order to obtain a return time based on current wait times. Disneyland previously adopted a digital approach to the Disability Access Service Card in November. Changes in recent years to Disney’s accommodations for people with disabilities have been highly controversial. In 2013, the company did away with its Guest Assistance Card which often let individuals with special needs and those they were traveling with skip to the front of long lines for theme park rides. Instead, the Disability Access Service Card now allows people with disabilities to obtain a return time for one attraction at a time. Dozen of families sued Disney alleging that the current policy violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and does not adequately address the needs of their children with autism and other developmental disabilities. The suit is currently pending before the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Most recently, the Florida Commission on Human Relations found reason to believe that Disney discriminated against theme park visitors with developmental disabilities after changing its access policy. Disney officials have repeatedly insisted that their policies and practices for accommodating those with disabilities are in full compliance with the law.
^ Disney doesn't seem to be the "happiest place on Earth" for everyone. I 've written before about how I have personally experienced being at Disney World with a disabled person.  This electronic switch doesn't really change a thing with the disabled and how they are treated in the park. Disney needs a complete overhaul of it's disabled policies and needs to make the changes willingly. It's not enough for a place like Disney to be in full compliance with the law - they should willingly have policies that treat everyone as a prince or princess while in the park - regardless of the federal, state or local laws. ^

Rioting MD

From the G & M:
"Baltimore declares state of emergency as riots erupt after Freddie Gray funeral"
Baltimore erupted in violence on Monday as hundreds of rioters looted stores, burned buildings and injured at least 15 police officers following the funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died after he was injured in police custody. The riots broke out just a few blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and then spread through much of West Baltimore in the most violent U.S. demonstrations since arson and gunfire in Ferguson, Missouri, last year.  Firefighters battled several blazes on Monday evening, including a fire under investigation that consumed a church’s senior center under construction in East Baltimore. Police said looting and assaults against officers continued into the night. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, declared a state of emergency and sent in the National Guard. Police made at least 27 arrests and Baltimore schools will be shut Tuesday. Democratic Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake imposed a citywide curfew beginning Tuesday night, with exceptions for work and medical emergencies. Gray’s death on April 19 reignited a public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after the killings of unarmed black men in Ferguson, New York City and elsewhere. But after several days of peaceful protests over Gray’s death, things turned violent on Monday. Mayor Rawlings-Blake called the looters “thugs” and said they had nothing to do with protests over police brutality. Looters sacked liquor stores, pharmacies, a shopping mall and a check-cashing store. Rioters smashed car windows outside a major hotel and twice slashed a fire hose while firefighters fought a blaze at a CVS pharmacy that had been looted before it was set on fire. An Orioles baseball game was canceled and businesses and train stations shut down in the city of 620,000 people 40 miles (64 km) from the nation’s capital.
^ This isn't about the death of Gray. It stopped being about that when the rioting started. Now it is a groups of low-lifes trying to get free stuff. Just as happened in Missouri and in other parts of the US these rioters have sullied the cause of peaceful protest trying to call attention to events around the country. These rioters are also fueling the bad stereotypes that have been around for so long. Stereotypes are usually based on a kernel of truth and now the poor are portrayed as lawless idiots who abuse and harm the peaceful. ^

Cultrual Minefield

From Yahoo: "US army walks cultural minefield training Ukraine troops"

US paratrooper Gregory Crocker is giving a group of Ukrainian soldiers lesson one in dealing with an unexploded bomb: don't touch it until the experts arrive. In a mock-up of a house rigged with explosives, the Ukrainian trainees set off alarms when they fiddle with the fake devices -- part of their preparation for fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east. "Don't neutralise the bomb!" Crocker cries, debriefing them afterwards. "But..." replies one of his trainees. "It's in the Ukrainian mentality to do just that." The US 173rd Airborne Brigade started on April 20 training troops of the Ukrainian National Guard at this military base in western Ukraine. Among the 300 US paratroopers and 900 members of Ukraine's National Guard in Operation Fearless Guardian, there is laughter and camaraderie -- but also language barriers and mutual cultural bafflement. Ideas differ on everything from how to handle explosives to how to hold a gun.  "We get on well with the Americans. We train together, we eat together, we play sports together in the mornings," says one 32-year-old Ukrainian soldier, who gave his name as Dmytro. The training is tricky, however, as few of the Ukrainians speak English. Some of those serving as interpreters at times struggle to make sense of the discussions. "Yesterday we had our first day of training and it was really difficult, and now it is (still) difficult," said one of them, Artem Matza, a 19-year-old National Guard cadet. "It is hard to understand the Americans because they speak so fast," he added. "But I think that when we have had one week of training it will be simpler," he added. "We just need practice, that's all."  The US army has brought some of its own interpreters: around 20 of its soldiers on the mission are of Ukrainian origin. "I was born in Ukraine and lived part of my life here, so I understand both sides very well," said one US soldier, Anton Klokun, in Ukrainian. He has lived in the United States for the past seven years and joined the US army two years ago. "I think I am helping both countries this way, and I am delighted to do so," he said. Another member of the US contingent, Oleksandr Skripnichuk, reckons if he hadn't moved to the United States when he was 10, he would be in the Ukrainian army now. "I am sorry that I cannot serve the Ukrainian forces, but I am already enlisted in the US army. I fight for America," he said. But I am happy that I can come here on this mission and help the Ukrainians defend their country." A regular force under the control of Ukraine's interior ministry, the National Guard has absorbed militia groups that took part in last year's uprising against pro-Russian former president Viktor Yanukovych. Many of them lack any formal military training. Yanukovych's ousting was followed by uprisings by pro-Russians in the east. Fighting between those forces and Ukraine's military has killed more than 6,000 people in the past year. The US training mission has angered Moscow, which warned it could "destabilise" the situation in Ukraine. Laughter breaks out as Crocker labours for 10 minutes trying to explain that no one without bomb-defusing training must touch an unexploded device. He sends his trainees on a fresh simulation exercise in the house supposedly rigged with explosives. Gradually he appears to win over the sceptical Ukrainians.

^ I've been to Kyiv and the Ukrainian people, while very nice, do not tend to speak anything other than Ukrainian and Russian. If a tourist or foreigner doesn't speak one of those languages then they will  have a difficult time in the country. That is the situation in the capital 24 years after the Soviet union collapsed and the Ukraine became independent. Even in places that tourists frequent: train stations, the subway, hotels, museums, etc. almost no one speaks English. I found the same thing when I was in Russia - especially the capital - Moscow. The only difference I found between the Ukraine and Russia with regards to language skills is that Russians don't tend to speak a foreign language (even at a basic level) while the Ukrainians do - either Ukrainian for the ethnic Russians or Russian for the ethnic Ukrainians. That comes from their history where ethnic Russians were given special treatment in the "class-less" Communist USSR and the Russian language was mandatory to make a decent living. The Russians didn't have to learn another language  - even when they lived in a non-Russian Soviet Republic (ie ethnic Russians in Latvia, etc) but the other nationalities had to learn Russian even if they never left their Soviet Republic (ie an ethnic Georgian in Georgia.) All of that comes to the forefront now with the US military trying to train the Ukrainians. At least the US (and Canada) are finally doing more than simply talk about the war and maybe their presence will stop the Russians from sending troops and weapons to the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine. ^

Boat Day

From G & M:
"April 30 to mark Vietnamese ‘boat people’ acceptance in Canada"

There were cheers and applause as Stephen Harper stepped on stage at a Mississauga convention centre in early February, facing a room filled with South Vietnamese flags and surrounded by Conservative parliamentarians. Parliament was considering a new proposal, Mr. Harper told the crowd at the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration. Known as the Journey to Freedom Day Act, the proposed legislation would establish April 30 as a day to commemorate the acceptance of some 60,000 Vietnamese “boat people” in Canada after the end of the Vietnam War. “It is a story that more Canadians should know,” Mr. Harper said. That bill came into effect last Thursday, to the delight of some Vietnamese-Canadian associations and the frustration of the government of Vietnam. On Friday, Vietnam’s foreign ministry summoned the Canadian ambassador in Hanoi and publicly denounced the bill as a “backward step” in relations between the two countries. Ottawa’s support for the controversial legislation was widely viewed as an effort to win support from the members of Canada’s 220,000-strong Vietnamese community, many of whom left their home country as refugees after South Vietnam was defeated. Such a strategy could become increasingly apparent as the Conservatives look to secure votes from immigrant communities in Canada ahead of an expected fall election. Much of the bill’s controversy concerns its choice of date and the language that was first used to describe it. Senator Thanh Hai Ngo introduced the bill as the Black April Day Act and said it was meant to mark the day South Vietnam fell “under the power of an authoritarian and oppressive communist regime.” The title was changed to the Journey to Freedom Day, and references to the communist regime were removed, but Hanoi still opposes the choice of April 30. Vietnam’s government has said that April 30 – the day in 1975 when Saigon fell – should be celebrated as marking the end of the war and the beginning of reconciliation between North and South Vietnam. Julie Nguyen, director of the Canada-Vietnam Trade Council, told a House of Commons committee earlier this month the bill could divide the Vietnamese community and impose a history that favours the former South Vietnam regime. She and other groups have called for the date to be changed to July 27, to coincide with the day in 1979 when the first planeload of Vietnamese refugees landed in Toronto. Louis-Jacques Dorais, professor emeritus at the Université Laval, who has studied the Vietnamese community in Canada, said it is likely a majority would support April 30. That’s because many who live in Canada today fled Vietnam after the war or have parents or relatives who did, he said. James Nguyen, president of the Vietnamese Association Toronto, said he sees no reason to choose another date. “April 30 is significant because that’s the date we lost our country and we fled for freedom. And that’s what this bill is all about,” said Mr. Nguyen, whose parents sent him to Canada in 1981, as a six-year-old refugee. Mr. Nguyen said he and others will travel to Parliament Hill on Thursday for an event to commemorate the first Journey to Freedom Day since the bill’s passage.
^ It's kind of ironic that Canada is even doing this considering the only thing they did during the Vietnam War was take in American draft dodgers. April 30th is the 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon with the Communist North winning the war. I don't know much about how many Canadians go to Vietnam or vice versa, but I do know that it is still a very sensitive subject for Americans to even talk about Vietnam much less to visit the country. Whether you were for the Vietnam War or not the fact that the Domino Theory was proven right - Vietnam fell to the Communists and in the same month Cambodia did too (with at least 1 million Cambodians killed by the Khmer Rouge. Neighboring Laos also became communist. Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon messed-up in how they handled the war (with the majority of blame on LBJ.) Had the US military been given the correct means I think we would have won the war. Of course that is 40 years in the past. The main thing now is to learn the mistakes from Vietnam, make sure they aren't repeated and to give aid to the men and women that were sent there by the President and weren't given the help or appreciation they deserved when they came home. As for the boat people - the US and Canada (and other countries) received thousands of them. The people who came did so fleeing Communism and the horrors they either heard about happening in places like China or the USSR or say it first-hand. That says something. Today, the USSR is gone and China and Vietnam are Communist in name, but had to open themselves to the world and to capitalism to survive. Communism is only good on paper and has never been in practice. ^

Saturday, April 25, 2015

WW 2 Movies

Next month is the 70th anniversary of V-E Day (Victory in Europe Day) and this August is the 70th anniversary of V-J Day (Victory in Japan Day.) The best way for those of us who didn't experience World War 2 is to read books and watch movies about it. I have watched many war movies  - especially those about World War 2 - since I was little. Here is a list of the ones that I have seen and think show the war (the military battles, the bombings, the homefront, the Holocaust, the POW camps, the Resistance, the toll on regular people, etc.) I separated them into those made during World War 2, those made during the Cold War and those made Post-Cold War because there's a difference in what is shown and said. The movies made during World War 2 may not have all the facts or be pure propaganda as the war was still going on. The movies made during the Cold War could have a slant (pro or anti-Communist.) The movies made since the end of the Cold War, while they could have a propagandish feel, tend to show more of what happened during the war and its effects on the people involved in it.
Movies Made During War World 2:
- The Lion Has Wings  (UK - 1939)
- Caught in the Draft  (US - 1941)
- A Yank in the RAF   (US - 1941)
- Mrs. Miniver (US - 1942)
- To Be or Not to Be (US - 1942)
- Went the Day Well (UK - 1942)
- Bataan  (US - 1943)
- So Proudly We Hail  (US - 1943)
- The Fighting Sullivans (US - 1944)
- Hail the Conquering Hail  (US - 1944)
- They Were Expendable (US - 1945)
Movies Made During the Cold War:
- The Last Shop  (Poland - 1947)
- Border Street  (Poland - 1948)
- The Search  (US - 1948)
- The Hasty Heart   (US/UK - 1949)
- The Desert Rats  (US - 1953)
- Malta Story  (UK - 1953)
- Stalag 17 (US - 1953)
- Battle Cry  (US - 1955)
- The Colditz Story  (UK - 1955)
- A Town Like Alice  (UK - 1956)
- The Bridge On the River Kwai  (UK - 1957)
- Ballad of a Soldier  (USSR - 1959)
- The Diary of Anne Frank  (US - 1959)
- Kapo   (Yugoslavia/Italy/US - 1959)
- Exodus   (US - 1960)
- Judgment at Nuremberg (US - 1961)
- The Longest Day  (US - 1962)
- The Great Escape  (US - 1963)
- Atentat   (Czechoslovakia - 1964)
-Battle of the Bulge  (US - 1965)
- Is Paris Burning (US/France - 1966)
- Battle of Britain  (UK - 1969)
-  The Bridge at Remagen (US - 1969)
- Tora, Tora, Tora  (US/Japan - 1970)
- Jacob the Liar   (East Germany - 1975)
- The Hiding Place (US - 1975)
- Only Old Men Are Going to Battle (USSR - 1975)
- Midway  (US - 1976)
- A Bridge Too Far (UK/US - 1977)
- Holocaust  (US - 1978)
- Danger UXB  (UK - 1978)
- Sophie's Choice  (US - 1982)
- The Scarlet and the Black (US/UK/Italy - 1983)
-The Battle For Moscow  (USSR/East Germany - 1985)
- Escape From Sobibor (UK/Yugoslavia - 1987)
- Au Revoir Les Enfants  (France - 1987)
- War and Remembrance (US - 1988)
- Stalingrad  (USSR/East Germany - 1989)
- Europa, Europa  (West Germany/France/Poland - 1990)
- Good Evening Mr. Wallenberg  (Sweden/Hungary/Norway - 1990)
- Korczak (Poland/West Germany/UK - 1990)
- For the Boys (US - 1991)
Movies Made Post Cold War:
- Shining Through  (US - 1992)
- Schindler's List  (US - 1993)
-  Swing Kids  (US - 1993)
- Bent  (US/Japan - 1997)
- Paradise Road  (Australia/US - 1997)
- Miracle at Midnight  (US - 1998)
- Saving Private Ryan  (US - 1998)
-Ambush  (Finland  - 1999)
- Band of Brothers (UK/US - 2001)
- Enemy At The Gates   (US/UK/Germany - 2001)
- Enigma (US/UK/Germany/Netherlands - 2001)
- The Grey Zone  (US - 2001)
- Pearl Harbor  (US - 2001)
- Uprising  (US - 2001)
- The Pianist  (France/Poland/Germany/UK - 2002)
- Twin Sisters (Netherlands - 2002)
- Bon Voyage  (France - 2003)
- Babiy Yar  (Germany - 2003)
- Downfall (Germany/Italy/Austria - 2004)
- Island At War  (UK - 2004)
- The Great Raid  (US/Australia - 2005)
- A Love to Hide  (France - 2005)
- Sophie Scholl  (Germany - 2005)
- Black Book  (Netherlands/Germany/UK - 2006)
- Dresden  (Germany - 2006)
- Katyn  (Poland - 2007)
- The Counterfeiters (Germany/Austria  - 2007)
- Australia  (Australia/US/UK - 2008)
- Defiance   (US - 2008)
- Valkyrie   (US  - 2008)
- Winter In Wartime  (Netherlands - 2008)
- The Courageous Heart of Irena Sendler    (US/Poland/Canada - 2009)
- The Round-Up    (France/Germany - 2010)
- Auschwitz   (Germany  - 2011)
- The Flowers of War  (China/Hong Kong  - 2012)
- Emperor   (US - 2013)
- The Monuments Men  (US - 2014)

War Truth

From the Stars and Stripes:
"'The truth needs to be told' about Japan's war history, some vets say"
Lester Tenney endured three hellish years as a Japanese prisoner during World War II, but with the passing of decades and repeated visits, he's made peace with his former enemy. Yet as Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prepares to address Congress next week, in the 70th anniversary year of the war's end, something rankles the U.S. military veteran about Japan's attitude toward its past. "They don't want the young people to know what really happened," complains Tenney, now 94. The Associated Press spoke to three U.S. war veterans about their surrender in the Philippines in 1942 and their exploitation as slave laborers in Japan. It's an episode of history most notorious for the Bataan Death March, when tens of thousands of Filipino and American prisoners of war were forced 65 miles on foot to prison camps. Thousands are thought to have perished. The AP also asked the veterans for opinions about Japan today. The U.S.-allied nation issued a formal apology to American POWs in 2009 and again in 2010 and has paid for some veterans to travel to Japan, leaving them with a more positive view of the Japanese people. All three veterans, however, remain adamant that their wartime experiences, and those of the POWs who didn't make it, should not be forgotten.Tenney, with the 192nd Tank Battalion, U.S. Army, said he was made to march for eight days after his capture. "You had to stand on your own two feet and you had to keep moving. If you fell down, you died. If you had to go to the bathroom, you died. If you had a malaria attack, you died. The Japanese would just kill you, period. You had to stay on your feet ... If you looked at a Japanese soldier in the wrong way, he would beat the hell out of you." After a 28-day journey by ship to Japan, Tenney worked at a coal mine near the town of Omuta run by the Mitsui Mining Co., shoveling coal 12 hours a day for three years. He said British, Australian and Indonesian prisoners also worked there and they had no protective gear, and they'd self-inflict injuries to get days off. His weight dropped from 189 pounds to 97 pounds. He said Mitsui has never responded to his letters calling for an apology. "If Mr. Abe comes here I would like him to say, 'I bring with me an apology from the industrial giants that enslaved American POWs.' He could say that very easily ... I'm afraid that when Mr. Abe leaves here, all of it's going to be forgotten. They're going to forget about apologies to the POWs, they're going to forget they did anything wrong. It's going to like whitewashing the whole thing." "You can't have a high-ranking country today if you're not willing to face your past. They have to admit their failures. If they admit their failures, then by golly they deserve to have the best." After the war, Tenney became a professor of economics at Arizona State University and today lives in Carlsbad, Calif. He has returned to Japan five times and was instrumental in starting Japanese government-supported "friendship" visits by POWs. "The Japanese people were wonderful. They were very kind, they were very hospitable, no question about it. They treated us beautifully ... And there's no reason why they shouldn't. We didn't do anything wrong (in the war)."
Harold Bergbower
Harold Bergbower, 94, was a private with the 28th Bomb Squadron, U.S. Air Force, when he was captured on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao and sent eventually to Davao penal colony. "We could not have been treated any worse in prison camp," he said. "It was inhuman." Intensely sick during the voyage, he can't recall the journey to Japan, in the broiling, closed holds of "hell ships" that carried POWs and Asian laborers. They were starved of food, deprived of water. Only decades after did he learn that the first ship he was on was hit in a U.S. bombing attack and forced to dock for repairs. Thousands died on such voyages. Bergbower spent two years in brutal labor, scooping ore into open furnaces at a steel mill in the city of Toyama. He was very bitter about his experience as a POW, and for more than 50 years he never talked about it, even to his wife and family. "When I got back to the States after the war, I was told to go home and forget about it and that's exactly what I did. I didn't talk to anybody." His view of Japan changed when he went on a friendship visit in 2011 and returned to the factory where he'd been enslaved. Staff there apologized "from the heart" for what the POWs had been through. "I came away with a much different impression of Japan. We couldn't have been treated any better." Bergbower, who lives near Phoenix, said he has forgiven the people of Japan, but not the government. He doesn't dwell on the past but said, "The truth needs to be told ... it needs to be told as it happened."
Darrell Stark
Stark, 93, was a new recruit of the 31st Infantry Regiment, U.S. Army, when he was captured and eventually shipped to Yokkaichi, the city in Japan where he was forced to shovel coal at a copper mill. Five years after the war, Stark received a letter from a Japanese man who showed him kindness and gave him food at the mill. Stark always regretted that he never replied. Stark suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, but he recovered and enjoyed a long career as a corrections officer in Connecticut. He went to Japan on a friendship visit last October, and the current deputy director of the mill clasped his hand and apologized. Stark has also exchanged letters with the son of the man, now deceased, who'd showed him kindness 70 years ago. "I found the people (in Japan) to be very friendly, the country very clean and the people that I talked to were very nice. It is amazing what the two countries have done together to accomplish what we have over all these years. It's also amazing that with all this we have accomplished, they are not completely coming out with the truth." "It really upsets me there are certain individuals who have completely ignored history and rewritten it to make it look like Japan was attacked, and that there was no Bataan Death March and no cruelty at all on their part. That's not all the people. But there are some. "I think when (Abe) comes, and if he really wants to do something great for his nation and maybe for the world, he should make an apology and be grateful, in a way of appreciation, for things the two countries have done together. That would just about wind it up right there, because we need to be allies. "Another reason I would love to see Japan and the United States and all countries get along with each other is that if we ever have a total conflict, the whole world is going to be destroyed. No question about it."

 ^ The truth always seems to  come out in the end no matter who tries to rewrite it. You would think that after 70 years it was long overdue for Japan to fully and completely take responsibility for its role during the war. ^

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Dress War

From the MT:
"Michelle Williams’ Dress Caught In Ukraine-Russia Propaganda War"

Amid Kiev's standoff with Russia over the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, even the latest spring fashion trend can find itself being used as a tool in the so-called “propaganda war” that is playing out on both sides of the border. The offending item? An orange and black leather dress designed by French fashion house Louis Vuitton and worn by American actress Michelle Williams on the cover of the April issue of Elle UK magazine. The dress' orange and black stripes recall the St. George ribbon that was first introduced in the 18th century as the highest Russian military decoration for valor and is often worn by Russians to commemorate the Soviet Union's victory over Nazi Germany. More recently the ribbon has also been adopted by pro-Kremlin patriots and rebels in eastern Ukraine as a symbol of resistance to what they describe as the fascist “junta” in Kiev that rose to power after the ousting of the former pro-Russian government last February. So when a photograph of Williams wearing the leather orange and black dress was reused by Ukraine's Elle for their May edition and promoted on a billboard — just weeks before Russia celebrates the 70th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany — some social media users were quick to spot a case of subliminal messaging.
^ All  I can to is sit-back and laugh. The "Dawson's Creek" star seems to have made quite a fuss. ^

Prescreen Canada

From the G & M:
"Foreigners to undergo prescreening measures before flying to Canada"

Starting early next year, millions of annual visitors who don’t require a visa to enter Canada will nevertheless need to obtain preapproval from Ottawa under a new border-security regime designed to bar unwanted arrivals – including returning jihadis. Air travellers will have to pay $7 and receive an “electronic travel authorization” (eTA) before boarding a flight to Canada under a 2011 deal between Washington and Ottawa to better protect North America from security threats.  The Canadian government announced Wednesday that this new prescreening regime, which has received relatively little public attention, will be mandatory as of March 15, 2016. The eTA will be valid for five years. “These amendments will enable Canada to adopt a strengthened methodology in order to better identify high-risk travellers, such as persons known to be foreign fighters, and prevent them from travelling to Canada,” the federal government said in a notice. It is specifically targeting air travellers from countries whose nationals are permitted to visit Canada without a visa, reasoning that this group receives the least scrutiny from authorities. “Visa-exempt foreign nationals are not systematically screened for admissibility until they arrive at a Canadian port of entry,” the government said. Similar prescreening systems are already in place in the United States and Australia. Americans will be exempt from this new air-travel requirement, as will some categories of foreigners merely passing through Canada, including air crews. The Queen and members of the Royal Family will also be granted a pass. The government concedes the measure could discourage visitors at first. “It is acknowledged that there may be some minimal short-term impacts on tourism associated with the transition to the new eTA requirements,” Ottawa said in a statement. It says this prescreening will save Canada the trouble of turning back unwanted arrivals after they’ve landed. More than 7,000 people from countries other than the United States – people who did not require visas to enter Canada – were found inadmissible after arriving at Canadian airports in 2012 and 2013. The government estimates prescreening will prevent more than 60,000 unwanted arrivals from flying to Canada over the next decade. Rob Taylor, vice-president of public and industry affairs at the Tourism Industry Association of Canada, said it’s crucial this new travel authorization is as easy as possible for visitors to obtain – or tourists frustrated by the requirement could head elsewhere.“The international marketplace for international travellers is extremely competitive,” he said. The new travel authorization will require people planning to reach Canada by air to give the Canadian government biographical details about themselves so authorities can check their names against databases to determine if they pose a “threat to the health … safety or security of Canada.”
^ This is an update on what I reported earlier. It seems things usually get pushed-backed in Canada (the biometric passport kept being moved further out.) This online registration is one thing, but to charge for it - the way the US and Australia does - makes it a visa. Governments can call it what they want, but if you have to pay to enter a country then it's a visa. ^

Armenian Saints

From the BBC:
"Armenian Church canonises '1.5m genocide victims'"

The Armenian Church has held a ceremony near Yerevan to canonise 1.5 million Armenians it says were killed in massacres and deportations by Ottoman Turks during World War One.  The church says the aim of the ceremony was to proclaim the martyrdom of those killed for their faith and homeland.   On Friday commemorations will mark the 100th anniversary of the killings.  After the ceremony, bells tolled in Armenian churches around the world.  The beatification at the Echmiadzin Cathedral did not give the specific number of victims or their names.  It is the first time in 400 years that the Armenian Church has used the rite of canonisation.
^ I've been to a few Armenian Churches (in Russia and the US) and even though I couldn't always understand what they said  - most of it was in Armenian - you could still feel that it was a close-knit group of people. It's nice that the Church remembers those murdered during the genocide. I found a website in several languages that has a lot about the 100th anniversary of the Genocide at the following link:    ^

Happy Canada

From the G & M:
"Canada ranked 5th happiest place on earth"
Where are the world’s happiest people, and what makes them so upbeat? Switzerland is in the top spot – and Canada fares well too, landing in fifth place of 158 nations, according to the third world happiness report, which analyzes well-being through measures such as life expectancy, per capita incomes and perceptions of corruption.  “We are encouraged that more and more governments around the world are listening and responding with policies that put well-being first,” said Prof. Helliwell. “Countries with strong social and institutional capital not only support greater well-being, but are more resilient to social and economic crises.” Canada has moved up a notch from its last report in 2013. Compared to its southern neighbour, “the U.S. is higher on GDP per capita, but Canada is higher on all five of the remaining variables: healthy life expectancy, social support, corruption, generosity, and freedom to make life choices,” noted Prof. Helliwell. “The net effect of the latter is much larger than the former, putting Canada significantly higher than the U.S.” The rankings, based partly on the Gallup World Poll, reflect issues such as social supports, life expectancy, GDP per capita, generosity, perceptions of corruption and “freedom to make life choices.” (One of the indicators, for example, reflects the share of respondents who say they have someone to count on in times of crisis. In this measure, Iceland and Ireland fare best). The findings come in the same month as the release of another global report on well-being, called the Social Progress Index. It looked at measures such as crime, health and social inclusion, and ranked Canada sixth of 133 countries. Wealthier, northern countries lead the rankings in the happiness report. It shows Switzerland is on top, followed by Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland. The United States is in 15th place. Togo, Burundi and war-torn Syria are at the bottom. The report also examined happiness by age and gender. It found men and women report similar levels of life satisfaction in Canada, though women are slightly more happy. “Despite what people may think about gender inequality, on the happiness front [the difference between men and women] is generally very small,” said Nicole Fortin, UBC professor who wrote the chapter on gender and age. In English-speaking countries, levels of happiness tend to rise as people age, with those near or in retirement the most happy. The report comes in the same week Statistics Canada published a study on life satisfaction among Canadian cities. It found people in Saguenay, Trois-Rivières and St. John’s report the highest degrees of satisfaction, while those in big cities – Toronto and Vancouver – are less satisfied.
^ I wonder what other, ordinary Canadians think about this new survey. One survey found that Denmark was the best place to live on the planet and then they had the violence against Jews there so it's clearly not the best place for everyone. Canadians generally do seem happy on the outside, but I think it's a little superficial. No one can be so happy and polite and yet openly discriminate against having a non-Protestant monarch or not allowing Canadians who weren't born in Canada to give Canadian citizenship to their children. ^