Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Got my candy corn ready and going to watch scary movies. Nothing like Halloween on my mountain.

Obama Wrong

From the Stars and Stripes:
"8 times Obama said there would be no ground troops or no combat mission in Syria"
It's generally a bad idea for presidents, or would-be presidents, to make iron-clad promises about foreign policy. And President Barack Obama has been stymied repeatedly when it comes to this. The White House announced Friday that a small number of special forces will be put on the ground in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria — a new strategy that pretty clearly contradicts past Obama and administration statements that U.S. forces would not be put on the ground there. As the United States got drawn into the fight against the Islamic State earlier this year, the White House repeatedly emphasized this point — a move to assure the nation that we wouldn't be drawn into a new war like Iraq or Afghanistan. Asked Friday about the incongruence of Obama's past comments and putting these boots on the ground, White House press secretary Josh Earnest repeatedly emphasized that these are not combat troops — a distinction that many disagree with, we would note — and suggested promises to not put boots on the ground were being taken "out of context." "You've read one quote that, to be fair, is out of context," he said when NBC's Kristen Welker pointed to Obama saying in 2013 there would be no U.S. boots on the ground. But Obama has actually said no boots on the ground repeatedly in 2013, before adjusting his language slightly — but notably — in 2014. Here's a recap of how he — and one of his top foreign policy aides — have talked about it, in 10 quotes.

Aug. 20, 2013

"Again, I repeat: We're not considering any open-ended commitment. We're not considering any boots-on-the-ground approach."
— Obama at a news conference at the White House with Baltic leaders

Aug. 30, 2013

"And in no event are we considering any kind of military action that would involve boots on the ground; that would involve a long-term campaign."
— Obama in remarks with the presidents of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia at the White House

Aug. 31, 2013

"Now, after careful deliberation, I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. This would not be an open-ended intervention. We would not put boots on the ground."
— Obama in a statement on Syria at the White House

Sept. 7, 2013

"What we're talking about is not an open-ended intervention. This would not be another Iraq or Afghanistan. There would be no American boots on the ground."
— Obama in his weekly address

Sept. 9, 2013

"This will not be Iraq or Afghanistan. There will be no American boots on the ground — period."
— National Security Advisor Susan Rice

Sept. 10, 2013

"I will not put American boots on the ground in Syria."
— Obama in a televised national address from the White House
More recently, in 2014, Obama talked less about "no boots on the ground" and more about those hypothetical troops not having a "combat" mission or be actually fighting — a distinction the White House keyed on Friday.

Sept. 5, 2014

"With respect to the situation on the ground in Syria, we will not be placing U.S. ground troops to try to control the areas that are part of the conflict inside of Syria."
— Obama in remarks at a NATO conference

Sept. 10, 2014

"I want the American people to understand how this effort will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It will not involve American combat troops fighting on foreign soil."
— Obama in his plan to destroy the Islamic State

Sept. 19, 2014

"The president has ruled out the option of deploying American boots on the ground in Iraq and in Syria in a combat role."
— Earnest in a press briefing

Sept. 20, 2014

"I won't commit our troops to fighting another ground war in Iraq, or in Syria."
— Obama in his weekly address
Even Friday though, the White House's decision to parse what is and isn't a combat troop is being picked apart.

^ It's surprise that Obama doesn't do what he says he will. In his two terms he has shown time and again that he doesn't have a realistic grasp on most things (domestic or international.) He helped cause the current situation in the Middle East when he sent all US soldiers home from Iraq which allowed ISIS to gain large areas of land in Iraq and Syria. Then he had to admit his mistake and send soldiers back. As reported above he stated many times that there wouldn't be American ground troops (only airstrikes) but sending soldiers (Special Ops or not) on the ground is having American ground troops. I can't wait until we get a new President in 2017 and they can (hopefully) fix the numerous issues he has created - although I don't really care for any of the announced candidates (Republican, Democrat or Independent.) ^

Friday, October 30, 2015

Gulag Museum

From the BBC:
"New Russian Gulag museum recreates Soviet terror"
The Russian authorities have opened a new museum in Moscow dedicated to the millions who were persecuted in Soviet labour camps in 1930-1950 - in the so-called Gulag system. The opening coincided with a national day of remembrance for the victims of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.  Earlier, thousands of victims' names were read out near the Lubyanka, the former base of the KGB secret police.  The new Gulag museum is bigger than a previous one founded in 2001. Under President Vladimir Putin's rule Russian officials have tended to downplay Stalin's crimes, focusing more on Stalin's role in the Soviet World War Two victory over Nazi Germany. Portraits of Stalin have reappeared in public - yet they were taboo for decades after his death and the 1956 denunciation of Stalinism by his Communist successor Nikita Khrushchev.  The new five-storey museum shows personal effects of Gulag prisoners, the dimensions of prison cells, and original doors from camps in remote Magadan, Anadyr and Vorkuta. Up to 170 prisoners were crammed into one cell.  There are also grim discoveries from execution pits - bullets and casings, and wire used to tie up victims. An estimated 20 million people died during Stalin's reign of terror. At the height of the terror, in the 1930s, victims accused of plotting against Soviet power were executed en masse.   On entering the museum visitors hear the chilling clank of cell doors being shut and loud footsteps in prison corridors. "I want visitors to be able to touch the doors and immerse themselves in this theme, to feel it," said museum director Roman Romanov, quoted by the government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta. A huge map of Russia shows the camp locations - described in detail in Alexander Solzhenitsyn's chronicle The Gulag Archipelago, which was banned by the Soviet authorities. And visitors can also read about the experiences and suffering of individual prisoners.  By focusing on the Stalin period the museum does not however include the persecution of dissidents that went on after Stalin's death.

^  This is desperately needed - especially in Russia. Every single citizen in the Soviet Union knew someone (friend or relative) that went into the Gulag - that doesn't even include the millions in the former Soviet satellite countries in Eastern Europe. People today need to know the truth since it was kept a secret until 1991 and then not widely publicized after. The Germans are made to learn about Hitler and his crimes and the Russians and other former Soviets need to learn the crimes of Lenin, Stalin and the other Communists. Even when the Gulag camps were closed in the 1950s people were still tortured and imprisoned in psychiatric hospitals where they were pumped with drugs on a regular basis. There needs to be a museum about those crimes as well. I am interested in visiting the Gulag Museum and see just how in-depth it is. ^

Easing Sanctions

From the BBC:
"EU and US to ease sanctions on Belarus President Lukashenko"
The EU is to suspend most of its sanctions against Belarus including an asset freeze and travel ban on President Alexander Lukashenko. The decision follows the freeing of the country's remaining six political prisoners in August. The US has also said it will ease sanctions, but urged Belarus "to improve its record with respect to human rights and democracy". Mr Lukashenko is believed to want closer ties with Western countries. He is reported to be eager to reduce Russia's leverage as he comes under pressure from Moscow to allow a Russian air base in his country. Russia wants to establish the base to counter what it sees as Nato's eastward advance, but Belarus argues that such a base will not reduce military and political tensions in the region.   In a statement confirming its decision, the EU said that it was taking account of "the context of improving EU-Belarus relations". From Saturday it will suspend "for four months the asset freeze and travel ban applying to 170 individuals and the asset freeze applying to three entities in Belarus," the Council of the European Union statement said.  However an arms embargo will remain in force as will sanctions against four members of President Lukashenko's security services who are suspected of orchestrating the disappearances of political opponents. The move will be reviewed at the end of February and sanctions could be re-imposed if the EU sees a deterioration in human rights, the rule of law and press freedoms. The US Treasury for its part said that from Saturday it would allow most transactions with nine sanctioned entities in Belarus for the next six months. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the US was taking the step "in light of the positive move by the Belarusian government to release all six of its political prisoners on 22 August". Mr Kirby said that the move "opens the door to expanded commercial ties" while urging the government of Belarus to do more "to improve its record with respect to human rights and democracy". Mr Lukashenko, 61, has governed the former Soviet republic almost unchallenged for 21 years.
^ It does seem like Belarus wants to stop its isolation and open itself to EU and the US. They are in a Union with Russia, but still try to forge their own path. I think its difficult for Belarus and other countries neighboring Russia because if they are viewed as a threat then Russia can invade, occupy and annex them as they did the Crimea. I have Belarussian friends and hopefully things will get better for them now. ^

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Hocus Pocus

From Yahoo:
"The Magical Tale of How 'Hocus Pocus' Went From Box-Office Flop to Halloween Favorite"
When Hocus Pocus opened in theaters in July 1993, it didn’t seem to put a spell on anyone. Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the Bette Midler-starring comedy about three Salem witches thrust into present day “an unholy mess.” Roger Ebert’s review said the movie’s three bumbling spell-casters “don’t have personalities; they have behavior patterns and decibel levels.” The Associated Press was even harsher: “The only real curses in this film,” wrote Patricia Bibby, “will be yours as you walk up the aisle to leave.” Ticket sales weren’t any better. The movie debuted in fourth place at the weekend box office, quickly dropped out of the top 10, and ultimately earned just $39.5 million, a disappointment for its studio, Walt Disney. (It probably didn’t help that it opened against the equally family-friendly Free Willy and had to compete against dino juggernaut Jurassic Park.)Almost as soon as it arrived, Hocus Pocus seemed poised to go poof and disappear. But over the past two decades, the movie about a trio of resurrected witchy women has come back from the dead, enchanting old fans and luring in new ones on DVD, streaming video, and annual TV airings;sparking social media love from fans who never met an image of Midler’s Winifred Sanderson they couldn’t turn into a meme; emerging as a central part of Walt Disney World’s Halloween celebration; and possibly spawning a sequel, if the film’s creatorhas his way. What It’s a Wonderful Life is to Christmas, Hocus Pocus has officially become to Halloween. It only took a couple of decades — give or take. How did it happen? We asked two of the men who crafted its story, and others, to explain. Hocus Pocus began as a bedtime story that David Kirschner, producer and co-writer of the film, told his two young daughters in the 1980s. That narrative’s basic elements would, eventually, inform the movie’s plot: A 17th-century boy named Thackery Binx tries to save his sister from three evil witches, who turn him into a cat, but who are eventually put to death by the townspeople of Salem, Mass. Three hundred years later, the witches reappear on Halloween night, after a virgin lights the black flame candle. Kirschner’s ideas sprang from his longtime love of All Hallows’ Eve as well as some personal events from his childhood: Binx the cat, for example, was named after Inks, an actual black cat he took in as a boy. “Halloween is a huge deal in our home, and it has been since our daughters were little,” Kirschner says.  Shooting began in October 1992, with Kenny Ortega — who’d served as the choreographer on Dirty Dancing and recently directed Newsies — at the helm. Other notables were involved as well: John Debney, who would later earn an Academy Award nomination for his work on The Passion of the Christ, composed the score, while James Horner — who had already earned several Oscar nods, and would later win for his Titanic score — co-wrote “Sarah’s Theme,” the “Come little children” siren song Parker croons while riding her broomstick. (Horner died earlier this year in a plane crash.) With so much talent assembled, it seemed like Hocus Pocus couldn’t miss. Then it did. When it came out, it laid a tiny little bit of an egg, so we didn’t expect much,” Midler said last year in a Reddit AMA. “And now look at it! OCTOBER is HOCUS POCUS MONTH!” In the years that followed, Hocus Pocus did indeed achieve a cult status that eventually bled into the mainstream. According to information compiled by movie data site the Numbers, between October of 2008 and Oct. 4 of this year, it generated $21 million in DVD and Blu-ray revenues, the majority of which was earned in the October months. As of this writing, Hocus Pocus is No. 2 on Amazon’s list of bestsellers in the movies and TV category, and second on iTunes’ ranking of most popular movies for children and families. The repeated broadcasts of Hocus Pocus on television, most notably during ABC Family’s annual “13 Nights of Halloween” programming block, also have made the film’s popularity go “amok, amok, amok.” In 2011, 2.8 million people tuned in to the primetime broadcast of the movie on Oct. 29, the Saturday before Halloween. The Oct. 19 debut of Hocus Pocus during this year’s “13 Nights” attracted 1.7 million viewers, according to data provided by ABC Family. This year for the first time, Orlando’s Walt Disney World added a Hocus Pocus show —the “Hocus Pocus Villain Spelltacular” — to its Halloween festivities, making the Sanderson sisters as integral to the Magic Kingdom as Space Mountain. Allison McKinnon, a spokeswoman for the park, says that 22 out of the 25 Halloween party nights sold out in advance, a new record.  Now that Hocus Pocus is universally beloved, will there be a sequel? Midler, Najimy, and Parker have publicly expressed willingness to star in one in the past. Just this week, Midler toyed with a follow-up again, sending out a tongue-in-cheek tweet about the sequel being delayed because Disney is “having trouble finding a virgin.”
^ I was living in Germany when the movie first came out in the US and never got to see it until  years later. I have to say that I now watch it at least once every Halloween. It's got a scary element (albeit Disney scary and not horror movie scary) and also a "feel good" vibe to it. ^

Fewer Shows

From Disability Scoop:
"TV Featuring Fewer Characters With Disabilities"

For the first time in two years, the number of characters with disabilities on prime-time television is on the decline, a new report finds. There are just eight regularly appearing characters with disabilities expected this year on scripted prime-time programs on ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC, representing 0.9 percent of all characters. Last season, by comparison, there were 11 such characters with disabilities. The figures come from an annual report out this week from GLAAD, a media advocacy organization for the gay and lesbian community. The analysis offers an assessment of minority representation on television during the 2015-2016 season, including a look at disabilities. FOX leads the networks with four characters with disabilities on its schedule, while ABC is expected to have two and there are one each at CBS and The CW. NBC will have none, the report found. On cable, ABC Family will feature two characters with disabilities and there is one on Showtime. The streaming service, Hulu, also claims a single character with a disability. For the report, characters were considered to have a disability if they would be covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.Portrayals of disabilities are slated to appear on Fox in “Empire,” “Rosewood” and “Scream Queens” in addition to ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Marvel’s Agent Carter” as well as CBS’s “NCIS: New Orleans” and “The 100” on The CW. Cable shows include “Switched at Birth” and “Pretty Little Liars” on ABC Family and “Shameless” on Showtime. Hulu will feature a character with a disability on the Australian drama “Neighbours,” the report said.
^ This is a sad trend. It should ne the other way around (more shows with the disabled on it) because the country and the world still has a long way to go to accept and to stop discriminating against the disabled.  ^

Monday, October 26, 2015

Suspending Post

From the G & M:
"Canada Post suspending community mailbox installations"
The country’s national mail carrier has halted the installation of community mailboxes, one week after the Trudeau Liberals were elected with a pledge to scrap the move away from door-to-door delivery. “Canada Post is temporarily suspending future deployment of the program to convert door-to-door mail delivery to community mailboxes,” the Crown agency said in an emailed statement. The move means nearly half a million households that were to be converted over the next two months will keep their current mail service. “Efforts are now underway to place the comprehensive program on hold in an orderly fashion,” said the statement. “Customers impacted by this decision will receive a letter within the next few weeks advising them of the status of their mail delivery service.” But those already converted over the last 10 months will not get door-to-door service back — at least not under Canada Post’s current plan. The union representing postal employees said it was elated with the news. But the Canadian Union of Postal Workers will be pushing the Liberal government to reverse the cuts to postal services that have been made so far, said the organization’s national president. CUPW has been pushing Canada Post to expand its business into ventures such as postal banking services, similar to those adopted in other countries including the United Kingdom and France. Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau promised during the election campaign to reverse cuts to door-to-door mail delivery that were begun under the Harper Conservative government. And with the Liberals elected to a majority government, some Liberal MPs said they were getting an earful from constituents who wanted to know why the boxes were still being installed. There were several localized protests against the installations in Ontario and Newfoundland and Labrador, with some people defiantly taking to standing or lying on dirt piles to prevent workers from placing cement foundations for the mailboxes. Canada Post, however, was adamant that it was moving ahead with the mailbox conversions, telling CUPW late last week — after the election results were known — that it would not back away from the plan. It also placed ads to hire door-to-door canvassers to sell the merits of community mail delivery in British Columbia. But late Monday, the Crown agency said it would rethink its plan. “We will work collaboratively with the Government of Canada to determine the best path forward given the ongoing challenges faced by the Canadian postal system,” the corporation said. Canada Post has been warning for some time that it expects home mail delivery revenues to continue to decline. It announced in 2013 a plan to phase out door-to-door delivery and cut up to 8,000 jobs, mainly through attrition. The corporation said it handled nearly 1.2 billion fewer pieces of mail in 2013 than in 2006. Canada Post Group reported in May that letter mail volumes fell 8.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2015, or by 41 million pieces, compared with the same period a year earlier. At the same time, however, the agency said it recorded a 10-per-cent increase in overall revenues and a before-tax profit of $24 million in the first three months of the year, contrasting with a $37-million loss during the same quarter in 2014. Canada Post Group includes the Canada Post mail service, Purolator and other businesses.
^ This is an easy campaign promise for Trudeau to keep (if he had anything to do with the decision other than being elected.) Trudeau has promised Canadians a wide-range of changes (taken from the Liberal Party of Canada's website: fix health care system, helping the middle class, making the Federal Government more "accessible" and "transparent", making the Canada Revenue Agency "fairer," restoring the long-form census, making Statistics Canada fully independent, ending "unfair" tax breaks, provide more affordable housing, fighting poverty for children and the elderly, invest in better, cleaner public transportation, make parental benefits more flexible, supporting caregivers, fix Employment Insurance, invest more in Canada's North, give more retirement security, take in more Syrian refuges, help the world's poor, "renew and repair" relations with the United States and Mexico, restore Canada's leadership in the world, promote international peace and security, invest more in the Canadian military, give veterans more compensation, legalize marijuana, end MSM Blood Donation Ban, etc.) These are a lot of issues that are not all as easy to solve, fix, reform or repeal as this mailbox issue is. Hopefully, Trudeau and the Liberals haven't bitten off more than they could chew. ^


From the Government of Canada:
"Operation UNIFIER"
Operation UNIFIER is Canada’s contribution to support Ukrainian forces through capacity building, in coordination with the U.S. and other countries providing similar training assistance. Military assistance is one component of Canada’s support to Ukraine across development, security, democracy, and humanitarian aid. As part of Canada’s response to requests from the Government of Ukraine, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD), is providing military training and capacity building to Ukraine forces’ personnel to support Ukraine in its efforts to maintain sovereignty, security, and stability. The training mission occurs under the rubric of the Multinational Joint Commission which includes Ukraine, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Canada joined the Joint Commission in January 2015, and co-chairs, with Ukraine, the Sub-Committee on Military Policing.
The Task Force:
Canada is deploying approximately 200 CAF personnel to Ukraine until March 31, 2017. CAF members will come from all parts of Canada, depending on the skillset and capability that they bring to the conduct of a particular training program. In large part, the first group of CAF personnel will come from 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at Garrison Petawawa. Any follow-up deployments will include troops mostly from 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group at CFB Valcartier. CAF members will be deployed on both a sustained and periodic basis depending on the type of training being conducted. The CAF’s primary focus will be on tactical soldier training, also known as small team training, which consists of individual weapons training, marksmanship, moving, communication, survival, and ethics training.
Other training activities will include:
  • explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and improvised explosive device disposal (IEDD) training;
  • military police training consisting of Use of Force and Basic Investigative Techniques courses;
  • medical training that provides casualty evacuation and combat first aid training;
  • flight safety and language training;
  • reconnaissance and mechanized operations training; and
  • logistics system modernization.
The training began in summer 2015 and is taking place primarily at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre (IPSC) in Starychi. Training is also taking place at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky and other locations in western Ukraine. The language and flight safety training will take place in Canada. Furthermore, the CAF are partnered with Ukraine in the Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP), an ongoing engagement that will continue to offer a series of opportunities to enhance peace support operations, interoperability, military capacity building, and professional development. Military assistance is one component of a broad Canadian support in the fields of development, security, democracy and humanitarian aid. Since January 2014, the Government of Canada has announced more than $700 million in additional assistance to Ukraine, including a broad range of initiatives to strengthen security, promote economic stability and growth, advance democracy, human rights, rule of law, and to promote a civil society. Canada’s assistance to Ukraine includes the purchase and shipment of non-lethal military equipment. This includes the ongoing process of procuring and shipping specialized equipment such as tactical communications systems, a mobile field hospital, explosive ordnance disposal equipment, tactical medical kits, and night vision goggles. This type of equipment is helping to enhance the capabilities of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.
Canada and Ukraine
  • 28 November 2014 – The first shipment of donated non-lethal military supplies (cold weather clothing including approximately 3 000 pairs of boots 2 400 coats, 3 500 pants and 3 300 pairs of gloves) arrived in Kyiv Boryspil Airport, Ukraine via Royal Canadian Air Force CC-177 Globemaster.
  • 8 December 2014 – Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence announced that Canada had signed a Declaration of Intent with Ukraine for joint military training and capacity building.
  • 10 January 2015 – The first of two sealift shipments of non-lethal military supplies arrived in the port of Odessa, Ukraine.
  • 29 January 2015 – The second of two sealift shipments of non-lethal military supplies arrived in the port of Odessa, Ukraine.
Mission timeline
  • 14 April 2015 – Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Canada will deploy approximately 200 CAF personnel to Ukraine until March 31, 2017.
  • 13 June 2015 – Approximately 8 personnel in the field of EOD and IEDD departed for Ukraine to liaise with Ukrainian military partners, observe training, and prepare training plans. They were augmented in late August by approximately 12 combat engineers.
  • 20 June to 4 July – A team of approximately 30 CAF personnel in the field of tactical soldier training observed U.S. instructions to Ukrainian forces and further refined the CAF training plans.
  • 5 August to early Sept – A theatre activation team of approximately 90 personnel deployed to Ukraine to set up the CAF facilities and support structure necessary to the deployment of the Task Force.
  • 25 August – Approximately 60 personnel from the main task force – including Headquarters (HQ), Small Team Training unit and support personnel – arrived in Ukraine.
  • 31 August – A second group of approximately 90 CAF personnel, to complete the deployment of approximately 150 CAF personnel as the main Task Force, arrived in Ukraine.
  • 14 September – The beginning of the military training mission was marked with dual ceremonies at the International Peacekeeping and Security Centre in Starychi, and at the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky.
  • 14 September – The Counter Improvised Explosive Devices (C-IED) training portion began at the Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky.
  • 19 September – The first class of Ukrainian military personnel trained by the CAF graduated from C-IED training at the Demining Centre in Kamyanets-Podilsky.
^ It's interesting to see just what the Canadian Military is doing to help the Ukrainians. There has been lots of talk and speeches made by many different people, but this is real concrete aid. The world as a whole has done little more than talk with regards to the Ukraine, the Russian annexation of the Crimea or the Russians supplying soldiers and weapons to the ethnic Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine. Now even less is being done (or said) to support the Ukraine because of the refugee crisis in Europe and the Russians bombing Syria. I am curious to see what will happen now in the Ukraine - will the US, Canada and EU just accept things as fact - which they should never do - or will there ever be real peace in the Ukraine? It will also be interesting to see what the new Canadian Prime Minister (Trudeau) will do with regards to the Ukraine. He already said he will stop the Canadian bombings in Iraq and Syria against ISIS. Of course there is a large and powerful Ukrainian-Canadian population within Canada so he may have to address the situation in the Ukraine along with all his numerous domestic campaign promises he made. ^

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Cheaper Medicines

From Yahoo:
"Drug compounder offers cheap version of costly Turing drug"
Stepping into the furor over eye-popping price spikes for old generic medicines, a maker of compounded drugs will begin selling $1 doses of Daraprim, whose price recently was jacked up to $750 per pill by Turing Pharmaceuticals. San Diego-based Imprimis Pharmaceuticals Inc., which mixes approved drug ingredients to fill individual patient prescriptions, said Thursday it will supply capsules containing Daraprim's active ingredients, pyrimethamine and leucovorin, for $99 for a 100-capsule bottle, via its site: The 3 1/2-year-old drug compounding firm also plans to start making inexpensive versions of other generic drugs whose prices have skyrocketed, Chief Executive Mark Baum told The Associated Press. "We are looking at all of these cases where the sole-source generic companies are jacking the price way up," Baum said in an interview. "There'll be many more of these" compounded drugs coming in the near future. The high price of prescription medicines in the U.S. — from drugs for cancer and rare diseases that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year down to once-cheap generic drugs now costing many times their old price — has become a hot issue in the 2016 presidential race.  News that Turing, Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and other drugmakers have bought rights to old, cheap medicines that are the only treatment for serious diseases and then hiked prices severalfold has angered patients. It's triggered government investigations, politicians' proposals to fight "price gouging," heavy media scrutiny and a big slump in biotech stock prices. At the eye of the storm is former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli, head of Turing Pharmaceuticals, scorned last month for buying rights to and then increasing by more than 5,000 percent the price of Daraprim, a 62-year old drug with no competition. The startup drugmaker paid Impax Laboratories $55 million in August for rights to Daraprim, which treats a rare parasitic infection called toxoplasmosis that mainly strikes pregnant women, cancer patients and AIDS patients. Imprimis, which primarily makes compounded drugs to treat cataracts and urological conditions, will work with health insurers and prescription benefit managers in each state to make its new capsules and other compounded generic medicines widely available, Baum said.
"We're geared up. We're ready to go as soon as the orders come in," he said. Compounded drugs are typically made to fill a doctor's prescription for an individual patient, sometimes because the mass-produced version is in short supply or completely unavailable and sometimes to allow for customized formulations or dosages. Compounders don't need Food and Drug Administration approval to do that, unlike drugmakers making huge batches of drugs on complex production lines. Baum said Imprimis will produce its pyrimethamine/leucovorin capsules, using bulk ingredients from manufacturing plants approved by the FDA, at its own facilities in Allen, Texas; Folcroft, Pennsylvania; Irvine, California, and Randolph, New Jersey. Turing's Shkreli, under fire from all sides, said late last month that he would lower the price of Daraprim, but hasn't so far. A Turing spokesman didn't respond to a request for comment Thursday but recently noted the company is capping patient copayments at $10.

^ The high price of healthcare in the US (for doctors, specialists, hospitals and medicine) is ridiculous. The only reason they  - those in the healthcare system - charge so much is because they can. They tend to be greedy people who would rather make money than help those who need it. I know first-hand how expensive medicines can be and it is just plain wrong. There needs to be more government over-sight to stop the monopolies charging so much for their medicines. ^

ADA Suits

From Disability Scoop:
"Businesses Seek Relief From Congress Over ADA Suits"
Amy Rowland spent Wednesday telling her story on Capitol Hill. The owner of the Bulldog Northeast bar and grill in Minneapolis says she was the victim of a lawyer who charged her business with violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act in hopes of a quick cash settlement. After spending $15,000 in legal fees on a preliminary hearing and facing tens of thousands more for future court dates, Rowland settled her case for $8,000. Now, she’s urging Congress to rein in a legal tactic that has been used on scores of Minnesota businesses and on thousands of businesses across the country. “You have no notice, no time to do remedies,” Rowland said as she sat in the office of Republican U.S. Rep. Ted Poe of Texas. Poe has introduced a bill that would require businesses to be notified of specific ADA violations and be given up to six months to fix them before they can be sued. Poe said the bill’s intent is twofold. First, it would “make sure violations of the ADA are solved,” he said. Second, it would prevent “frivolous lawsuits.” Paul Hansmeier, a Minneapolis lawyer who has brought many ADA-related suits, including the one against Rowland, defended his legal actions and said they would continue. Eric Wong, who has a disability and sued Rowland, was the plaintiff in at least 32 other cases filed by Hansmeier. Hansmeier’s first notice to Rowland came in what appears to be a form letter that provides no specific details of what she might be doing wrong. The letter says only that “your property has issues that prevent persons with disabilities from patronizing your tenant’s business on a full and equal basis.” Rowland denies that her business was violating the ADA. Hansmeier told the Star Tribune that his client couldn’t fit his wheelchair up to tables in the front room of the Bulldog. Making Wong use wheelchair-accessible tables in the backroom smacked of “Jim Crow” laws, Hansmeier said. The attorney denied any wrongdoing on the part of his clients or himself in filing multiple suits for disability law violations ranging from table access to threshold heights on doorways to the slope of parking lots. He offered what he said was a quote from a California judge that “serial litigation is no more about plaintiffs than it is about businesses.” Hansmeier added: “To the extent that businesses keep breaking the law, I’ll keep doing this.” Hansmeier also said that making plaintiffs wait six months to sue was not fair to those being denied access. Poe told reporters that he would consider shortening the “fix-it” period to 90 days. But he maintained that notification protocols and repair opportunities are necessary to discourage lawyers from filing suits that are more about fast cash than human rights.
^ Americans have become lawsuit addicts in the past 20 years. With that said the ADA has been around for 25 years and so there is no reason every business, organization, etc in the country shouldn't know the law and they should make their buildings accessible. I agree that business that are breaking the ADA should be written notice of the violations and be given an initial fine (for breaking the law) and then given 90 days to fix the issues or face stiffer action. The main issue here is making every place open to everyone and I think this proposal would do just that. ^


Korean Reunions

From the Stars and Stripes:
"Koreans celebrate reunions across DMZ, 1st in more than year "
Hundreds of mostly elderly Koreans — some in wheelchairs or leaning on walking sticks, most overcome by tears, laughter and shock — began three days of reunions Tuesday with loved ones many have had no contact with since war divided the North and South more than 60 years ago. About 390 South Koreans traveled to the North's scenic Diamond Mountain resort. Dressed in business suits, formal dresses and traditional hanbok, they brought long johns, medicine, parkas, calligraphy works and cash to give as presents to about 140 family members in the North. The reunions, as always, are a mixture of high emotion and media frenzy. Journalists crowded around South Korean Lee Soon-kyu, 85, as she met with her North Korean husband, Oh Se In, 83. As camera flashes bathed them in glaring white light, she cocked her head and looked with amazement at Oh, who wore a dapper suit and hat and craned backward to take in Lee. The images are broadcast throughout South Korea, where the reunions are big news. North Korea's government, which analysts believe worries that scenes of affluent South Koreans might influence its grip on power, published a report about the reunions through its state media that said the North Korean participants explained to their South Korean relatives how their lives have been "happy" and "worthwhile" under the North's socialist system. The deep emotions stem partly from the elderly reuniting after decades spent apart, partly from the knowledge that this will be their only chance. None of the past participants has had a second reunion. The reunions, the first since February of last year, are a poignant yet bitter reminder that the Korean Peninsula is still in a technical state of war because the 1950-53 fighting ended with an armistice, not a peace treaty. The Koreas bar ordinary citizens from visiting relatives living on the other side of the border and even from exchanging letters, phone calls and emails without permission.
The Korean War separated millions of Koreans from family members for a multitude of reasons. What they have in common is shock that their homeland remains so bitterly split after so much time.
Choi Hyeong-jin, 95, reunites this week with his youngest daughter, who was 2 when he left her and is now 64. "I am not sure if I will even be able to recognize her. I don't even remember how she looked as a baby," Choi said. North and South agreed in August to resume family reunions during talks to end a standoff that began when land mine blasts blamed on Pyongyang maimed two South Korean soldiers. The rivals have a history of failing to follow through with cooperation agreements. These reunions may have been in danger had North Korea gone through with threats to conduct a satellite launch earlier this month. The launch would have likely canceled the reunions because Seoul and Washington see such firings as cover for banned tests of long-range missile technology. South Korea uses a computerized lottery system to pick participants while North Korea reportedly chooses based on loyalty to its authoritarian leadership. Most people who apply for the reunions are elderly and desperate to see their loved ones before they die. Nearly half of the 130,410 South Koreans who have applied to attend a reunion have died. Family reunions were part of a slew of now-stalled rapprochement projects the two Koreas agreed upon following first-ever summit talks between their leaders in 2000. About 18,800 Koreans have since participated in 19 face-to-face reunions and about 3,750 others have been reunited by video.
^ It's sad to hear about these reunions.  The world knows that North Korea will eventually have to open itself up more to the rest of the world (the way Cuba and other Communist countries) have had to. The Communists in North Korea have been desperately clinging to a crumbling system and country because they know that if their citizens found out the truth about their crimes it won't be good for them - the Commies. Whenever people in Communist countries are given the freedom of choice (ie the Soviet Union) they choose anything but Communism. These relatives are in their 80s-90s and may not live to see that day come. ^

Commie Jail

From Yahoo:
"Russian Communists call for 15 days in jail for coming out as gay"
Two senior Russian Communist MPs on Friday presented a draft bill calling for people who come out as gay to serve up to 15 days behind bars. Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev are proposing a fine of up to 5,000 rubles ($80) for people who publicly say they are gay.Those who come out in educational institutions or government offices should serve up to 15 days in police cells, they say. Homophobia is still widespread in Russia, with 37 percent telling the Levada independent polling agency in May that homosexuality is an illness, and 18 percent saying it should be punished by law. The MPs told the pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia they came up with the measure because a hugely controversial ban on "gay propaganda" to minors signed into law by President Vladimir Putin in 2013 was not proving effective. But the proposal appeared extreme even for Russia and was not expected to get passed by parliament. Even Saint Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who is among the strongest backers of the existing gay propaganda law, questioned the need for new measures. "We can't sentence people to 15 days just for admitting (their sexual orientation)," Milonov told AFP. The Communist lawmakers said they plan to submit the bill to parliament later Friday. Nikitchuk, the 71-year-old deputy head of the parliament's natural resources committee, said the bill would only apply to gay men. "We think women are more reasonable people and more able to manage their emotions," Nikitchuk told the Russkaya Sluzhba Novostei radio station. "Lesbians, the threat has lifted, you can reveal yourselves," opposition politician Alexei Navalny joked on Twitter. The proposed legislation prompted criticism both from supporters and opponents of gay rights. "Chewing over this topic of homosexuality is a breach of ethical norms. I'm sure the draft won't get through parliament," pro-Kremlin United Russia party senator Alexei Alexandrov told RIA Novosti. "Those interested in this topic are going too far. I would advise them -- both homosexuals and homophobes -- to leave it in peace."  Under the Soviet Union, homosexuality was a criminal offence punishable by prison.

^ They say that those that protest too much  usually have something to hide. Maybe these Commies are hiding something.  As for the growing homophobia in Russia. The Russians are very superstitious and have always needed a scape-goat to help them feel better about how hard their lives have been throughout the centuries rather than face reality. The traditional Russian scape-goat were the Jews, but since the collapse of the USSR that has moved to homosexuals. Russians have always wanted and needed a strong leader to tell them what to think and do (whether it was/is a Czar, a Communist dictator or Putin) those leaders do as they please and like to play off the ordinary Russians' fears. Russians tend to not want to believe that something bad happen (famine, war, the collapse of their empire, etc) because of their leaders or officials. They tend to want a local scape-goat and so Jews or homosexuals  - found throughout the country - are the "perfect" people to blame. It's sad that a people like the Russians need and want such a thing, but that is how it always was and probably how it will always be. These Commie MPs are trying to add  fuel to the homophobia with this new proposal. ^

Friday, October 23, 2015

Secret Russians

From the DW:
"The silent secession of eastern Ukraine"
Ukraine's Donbass is adopting Russian currency, schoolbooks and, soon maybe, passports. Russia, which annexed the Crimean Peninsula last year, hasn't had to take any formal control to move the secession along.  It is often just a single letter that makes the difference. On the outskirts of Donetsk, separatists have removed a diacritical mark from the sign announcing the city's name - thus transforming a Ukrainian word into a Russian one. Separatists love to have their picture taken here. For the past several months, street and city signs with Ukrainian names have been replaced with signs written in Russian throughout the country's east. "It's another country now," says Igor Martynov, who was named mayor of Donetsk by the separatists. Ukrainian flags and crests will continue to be removed from the public sphere as well. During negotiations in Minsk, it was agreed that the 2-3 million residents of the regions surrounding Donetsk and Luhansk would receive more autonomy but remain part of Ukraine. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande most recently reiterated those points during meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko in Paris this October. Yet, exactly the opposite is taking place. Although guns have been silent since the beginning of September, the separation of the coal mining region Donbass from the rest of Ukraine, which was begun in the spring of 2014, is quietly continuing. Largely unnoticed by the world at large, facts are being created on the ground. This is happening without Russia having to formally take control of the region, or having to annex it like it did with the Crimean Peninsula. The separatists first introduced the Russian ruble alongside the Ukrainian hryvna months ago. Then, on September 1, the ruble was declared the official currency of the Luhansk Oblast. The separatists justified the move with claims that Ukraine no longer sends money to the province. The resumption of retirement and salary payments was agreed to in Minsk; however, the implementation thereof is nowhere in sight. There have also been changes in education. According to media reports, "humanitarian convoys," as Moscow calls them, brought some 500 tons of schoolbooks to the separatist provinces. Students in Donetsk and Luhansk now learn from Russian textbooks, which are different from Ukrainian textbooks, especially in subject areas such as history. Russian curricula are also being widely adopted. Further, separatist troops are apparently increasingly under Russian control. Since the beginning of the conflict, Ukraine and the West have accused Russia of supporting the separatists with weapons and fighters. Something Russia denies. Nonetheless, within the framework of the Minsk Protocol, Russia has officially sent military advisers into the rogue provinces. They are charged with overseeing the ceasefire. To that end, the Russian and rebel Ukrainian militaries are operating a shared headquarters. "The Russians have placed observers in every battalion and every larger unit," explained Alexander Chodakowski, security chief of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic," in mid-October. That is how Russia controls the troops. What many separatists desire most are Russian passports. Denis Pushilin, a separatist leader from Donetsk, does not rule out the possibility that residents of the "People's Republic" may soon be able to apply for Russian citizenship. Citing "well-informed interlocutors," the Russian government newspaper "Rossiyskaya Gazeta" reported on the issue by saying that Moscow has not yet given such instructions, but that could change in the future. On Tuesday, a separatist-friendly online website reported that by the end of this year a government agency is to be installed in the southern Russian port city of Rostov-on-Don with the power to issue Russian passports to residents of the Eastern Ukrainian Donetsk and Luhansk provinces according to a "simplified process." The portal quoted a "high-ranking source" in the "Luhansk People's Republic" as saying that the Russian location was chosen so as not to create an outcry. It certainly would not be a new approach. Moscow has acted similarly in other former Soviet republics once conflicts became frozen - in Georgia for instance, where Russian passports were also issued. Rebellious provinces such as Abkhazia and South Ossetia were later recognized as independent states. Western observers like Winfried Schneider-Deters have come to the conclusion that the quiet rapprochement between Eastern Ukrainian separatists and Russia is in direct conflict with official Kremlin policy and the Minsk Protocol. The publisher and Ukraine expert believes that Moscow does not want to freeze the conflict. "Putin wants this entity within the Ukrainian state - with the intention of it being a permanent source of irritation," says the expert. If that cannot be successfully established, then Russia may initiate its "Plan B" for the Donbass: Irrevocable separation from Ukraine.
^ This comes as no surprise. Russia has done the same thing in other territories it has troops in: Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria. The first two territories are supposedly "independent" but what independent country citizens receive government pensions, passports, etc from another country? Russia is doing what is has been doing for the past decade. Anyone who is shocked doesn't have  even basic knowledge of Moscow or the Russians.  They both tend to do the same things as have always been done in their country throughout the centuries - they just change the name or try different lies to hide the truth (which usually doesn't work.) I have heard people say the people in this region should be called "dumb ass" instead of "Donbass"for believing that their lives will get better if they become part of Russia - especially after you see what happened in annexed Crimea. ^

Poor PR

From the BBC:
"Obama calls on Congress to avoid 'humanitarian crisis'"

The Obama administration is urging Congress to devise a plan for Puerto Rico's massive $72 billion (£47 billion) debt in order to avoid a "humanitarian crisis". The US Treasury Department urged lawmakers on Thursday to make a blueprint that would permit Puerto Rico to restructure its debt. A plan would include more oversight over Puerto Rico's finances. It includes Medicaid expansion and an expansion of low-income tax credits.  "Puerto Rico is out of cash and running out of options," said Antonio Weiss, a Treasury Department official, to the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which presides over Puerto Rico. "In the very near future, Puerto Rico will face impossible choices among providing essential services, delivering promised pension benefits and paying its debt." The proposal is unlikely to be approved by the Republican-controlled Congress, which has opposed increased spending. In August the US territory failed to make a debt payment, saying it did not have the funds to pay more than $50m (£32m) due on bonds. It is by far the most indebted territory or state per capita in the United States, and unemployment is at almost 14% - more than double the national average - and over the last decade there has been little or no growth, resulting in the economy teetering on the brink of collapse.
^ The Federal Government does need to do something to bail-out Puerto Rico from is default. The current economic situation on the US Territory should silence any calls for independence because they have show they can't handle basic things like a budget (much less foreign relations, immigration, a military and all the other issues an independent country has to make.) Any county, town or city that defaults or declares bankruptcy should have their budgets, books and basic services taken over by the US State or US Territory that it resides in. Any US State or US Territory that defaults or declares bankruptcy should have their budgets, books and basic services taken over by the Federal Government. The control should only be returned when the officials have shown they can do complete certain requirements relating to monetary issues. The US should not become like the EU whose member-states simply throw money to bail-out other member countries (Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Ireland, etc) and have no say in how things are handled. I know some are wondering who would bail-out the US Federal Government if their defaulted or declared bankruptcy. Hopefully, that would never happen but if it does then the whole world would collapse. The 1929 Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression. that followed hit every corner of the planet and that was 16 years before the United States became a Super Power. ^

Down Russians

From the MT:
'Parents Ask Moscow School to Remove Girl With Down Syndrome From Yearbook"
A Moscow school has allegedly moved to edit a girl with Down syndrome out of its yearbook, after several parents complained that her picture ruined the glossy album, a student's mother said.  The school has asked parents this week to return the newly printed class photo album, the mother, Olga Sinayeva, said on her Facebook page.  “The album is all so very pompously glossy, with all kinds of poetry about school, friendship and mutual understanding, with pages separated by parchment paper,” Sinayeva said Tuesday.  “The reason why children were asked to return this album is simple: Many parents can't stand the photograph of the girl, Masha, who has Down syndrome, the daughter of the homeroom teacher, next to their children,” Sinayeva said.  Masha, 7, is not a student in the class, but sits with the fourth-graders her mother teaches, according to Sinayeva. She has been accepted to begin regular school next year, but for now, the teacher, a single mother, takes Masha to work with her because she has nobody with whom to leave her, Sinayeva said.  “The mom is teaching, Masha is sitting quietly … [she] doesn't get in anybody's way,” Sinayeva said, adding: “Masha practically lives in this class, tries to interact, hugs everyone, she is kind and defenseless, but children shrink away from her.”  The parents of at least five students have had their children transferred to other classes to avoid sitting in the room with Masha, Sinayeva said.  Comments to her Facebook post include a remark by another woman, Gulmira Kushekova, saying that when her daughter, who also suffers from Down syndrome, was accepted to a “regular” kindergarten, the parents of three other students removed their children from that class, “saying it was humiliating for them.”  The incident comes on the heels of a protest this month by residents of an apartment building in the southern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, who had refused to approve the opening of an educational center that would be able to accommodate children with special needs, according to media reports. Earlier this year, the younger sister of Russian model Natalia Vodianova was ordered to leave a cafe in Nizhny Novgorod because staff said the young woman with autism and cerebral palsy was “scaring off customers.”

^ This is disgusting plain and simple. Anyone who supports the discrimination of the disabled are horrible people who deserve nothing good in their life. They are unintelligent bigots who can't make good things happen in their own lives and so they have to "attack" the disabled to make themselves feel better for their own short-comings. The Russian Government needs to step-in and protect ALL of their law-abiding citizens against any form of discrimination. If they do nothing they are just as guilty as the people who "attack" the disabled. ^

Benghazi Hilary

From the  BBC:
"Hillary Clinton endures marathon grilling on Benghazi attack"
Hillary Clinton has endured an 11-hour hearing before a Congress committee over the deadly attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. The former secretary of state said she took responsibility and introduced reforms after the attack that killed four Americans, including the US envoy. She deflected criticism that she did not do enough to protect the mission. There have already been seven congressional investigations into the attack, by suspected Islamist militants, on the US compound in the Libyan city of Benghazi on 11 September 2012.  The raid led to the deaths of ambassador Chris Stevens and three other US embassy staff. An independent review board found deficiencies within the State Department that the Obama administration has tried to fix, said the former first lady.
What are the possible consequences for Clinton?
The committee does not have the power to punish but depending on the conclusions there could be political consequences for Hillary Clinton, which might affect her presidential campaign
What did Clinton know about security requests?
She has said in previous testimony that requests for additional security didn't reach her level. But she has taken responsibility for the failure. And the State Department review laid out steps to improve security at diplomatic missions.
What did the other Congressional committees find?
This is the eighth congressional investigation. Previous committees criticised  Mrs Clinton and the Obama administration on a number of points, especially the poor security at the Benghazi mission. And the intelligence was flawed.
What is there left to discover?
The committee has suggested there will be new evidence of how poorly the state department responded to security requests for the Benghazi mission, and new evidence on how the military responded to the attack.

^ I am sick and tired of hearing people go on and on about "poor" Hilary. The  only victims in all of this are the four Americans who were killed. If Hilary has to keep defending what she did and did not do while Secretary of State during the attack then that is what she has to do. People want equality for the sexes yet they call foul when Hilary is made to defend her position of power. Her claiming responsibility for leaving people under her command unprepared and undefended before and during the attack is nothing special. It is the sole responsibility of any leader (male or female) to do that because the buck stops with them. Anyone who votes for Hilary for President is just asking for the country to fail. We saw what she was capable of when she was First Lady (she stood-by her cheating and lying husband just to help her political prospects. We saw what she did in Congress. We saw what she did (and did not do) while she was Secretary of State. I don't think the country would survive to see what she did if she was elected President. This is a woman who doesn't even know how to separate her personal and professional e-mails and then cries that she was un-informed of the protocols. I can't imagine what excuses she would make if she was given even more top secret information - including the codes to the nukes. I don't care that she is a woman. I hope we have a female President one-day. I just don't want someone who has proven so incapable as Hilary has throughout her numerous official positions. ^

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Sesame Street

From Disability Scoop:
"‘Sesame Street’ Unveils Character With Autism"
The makers of “Sesame Street” say Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Grover are getting a new friend with autism as part of an effort to reduce stigma and help those on the spectrum learn life skills. Sesame Workshop said Wednesday that it is introducing a new character named Julia, a preschool girl with autism who “does things a little differently when playing with her friends.” Julia is part of the nonprofit’s “See Amazing in All Children” initiative, which is designed to teach kids about autism and offer tools for those with the developmental disorder.  A website includes tips for parents and siblings, as well as guides to help kids on the spectrum learn everyday basics like brushing teeth and going to the grocery store, Sesame Workshop said. In addition, the initiative includes an iPad app and printed storybooks. “Sesame Workshop is uniquely positioned to play a meaningful role in increasing peoples’ understanding about autism,” said Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. “This project is an extension of the belief we’ve always promoted: ‘we are all different, but all the same.'” Sesame Workshop said it collaborated with more than a dozen organizations including The Arc, Autism Speaks, the Autism Society and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network to produce the content. In addition, the nonprofit said it engaged Exceptional Minds, a nonprofit animation studio staffed by young adults on the spectrum, to assist with video editing.
^ Sesame Street has been teaching kids about right and wrong since the late 1960s. I learned how to count to ten in Spanish from the show (sadly the only Spanish I know.) It's nice to see the show changing with the times and taking on more controversial subjects. Children today  get a lot of info (some correct and some wrong) from thousands of different places and they need more shows like Sesame Street to help them know about what things they will face in the world in a way that is right for their age. ^

Major Mike

From the Stars and Stripes:
"What happened after a bicyclist shot 'Major Mike,' the retired war dog"
He often said they would die together. That if one went, the other would go soon after, that he would not make it without Mike. They had been to war and back twice. They were a team in Iraq and a team in the long war at home, facing a daunting return to civilian life. Both the man and the dog came back damaged, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress, and they were healing together. But Sgt. Matthew Bessler's worst nightmare came true when Mike, his wartime partner-turned service dog, was shot and killed Oct. 10 in Powell, Wyo., by a bicyclist who said the dog was attacking him. "That dog was the other half of me," Bessler, 43, said in a long, often tearful, telephone interview on Sunday. The Army Ranger's relationship with the dog was first chronicled in the Washington Post in July. As word of the dog's death spread in Powell, Bessler's friends leaped into action, starting with a fundraising campaign to help him pay for a burial with military honors. Jess Campbell, who owns The Gym in Powell, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for all the costs associated with a war hero's burial. Campbell, who met Bessler and Mike when Bessler started taking a 5 a.m. weight-training class, set what she thought was a lofty goal: $10,000, expecting a few thousand dollars to come in, she said. As of Tuesday, the campaign had raised over $14,000. While the donations were pouring in, Campbell also heard from veteran and combat dog advocacy groups that have committed to covering all the costs associated with the burial and funeral and to providing Bessler with a new service dog. A private donor has even volunteered to pay to erect a memorial to "Major Mike" in a local park. "What was amazing was all of the organizations and all of the people who came out," Campbell said. "I can't wait to sit down and show Matt that people all over the country support him and Mike." Many unanswered questions surround the details of the shooting by the man, who had a revolver holstered to his bicycle. (The gun holster is visible in a photograph with the sheriff's report on the incident.) The man told officers from the Park County Sheriff's Office that he feared for his life when the dog tried to attack him on a quiet country road near Bessler's house in Powell, a rural farming community of about 6,000 people in northern Wyoming. Bessler was away for the night with his girlfriend and left the dog in the care of his roommate, Jody Church, a letter carrier in town. Church had watched Mike for Bessler before, although it was rare that Bessler and Mike were separated. The day Mike died, Church went on an errand for a few hours and left Mike and Bessler's other dog in a fenced-in yard, he said, and had no idea how Mike could have gotten out to the road. Bessler said Mike never went out onto the road, beyond the fence around his 2.5-acre property. The dog was shot in the back, according to authorities, and did not die instantly, limping from where he was shot to the garage behind Bessler's house, where a neighbor soon found him dead. The 59-year-old bicyclist left the scene after shooting Mike but told authorities he didn't think he had killed the dog. The bicyclist's identity was being withheld "due to the possibility of repercussions," Lance Mathess, the public affairs officer for the Park County Sheriff, said in an e-mail. The man had no injuries, authorities said. There were no direct witnesses to the shooting, and the sheriff's office concluded that the man was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Bessler adopted Mike after their last deployment in 2010, and the Belgian Malinois then became a service dog, helping Bessler with his symptoms of PTSD and brain injury. Mike was retired from the military because he stopped doing his job, sniffing out explosives or chasing enemy combatants, a key sign of what is known as canine PTSD. He had also crushed most of his teeth chewing rocks when he returned from the war, a sign of his anxiety, and Bessler said he was planning on getting him fitted for dentures soon. When he retired, the Army promoted Mike, who helped Bessler earn two Bronze Stars for their work in Iraq, to the rank of major. He was credited with detecting thousands of pounds of deadly explosives and survived a near drowning in a river in Basra province. Retired war dogs are not entitled to funerals or burials with military honors, Army officials said, but Bessler's friends and supporters say they hope to use Mike's death to push the military to change that policy. Campbell said the first priority is to help Bessler heal. "The shooting is controversial," Campbell said. "And everybody is going to have an opinion, but no matter what you believe about that moment, we are past that and now Matt needs this and he deserves all of this." While Bessler is stricken, sleepless and said the last week has been a "complete blur," he said all the support is helping him face what happened. Over the weekend, media outlets and websites across the country picked up news of the dog's death, while Bessler took a trip to the mountains to find some peace, he said. He was out of cell range until Sunday afternoon, but as soon as his phone received a signal, he said, his phone was "blowing up" with messages and texts. He had several voice messages from people offering to buy him a new service dog. Mike, who was 10 when he died, helped Bessler with anxiety and other symptoms of PTSD and brain injury. The veteran served 20 years in the military, more than half of his career in special operations and served six tours in Iraq. But it is far too painful, Bessler said, to think about another dog now. "You can't replace him," he said. "He was a part of me. It's like trying to say you can replace a member of your family."
^ It's wrong that dogs and other service animals are considered merely property (the way women or slaves were.) They are not only living and breathing things, but service animals and those working in the military and police do a vital job - some even risking their lives. The least the US Military can do is give them the same respect they do when a soldier or veteran dies. ^

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Back To The Future Day

Today is Back to the Future Day! It's fun to see what people in 1985 thought 2015 would be like. While some things have changed many things have remained the same.

Canada Won't Fight

From the BBC:
"Canada to withdraw fighter jets from Syria and Iraq strikes"

Canadian Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau has confirmed he will withdraw Canadian fighter jets from the air strikes against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria. He informed US President Barack Obama of his decision hours after leading his Liberal Party to victory in the polls. As part of his election campaign, Mr Trudeau pledged to bring home the CF-18 fighter jets that were deployed to the region until March 2016. He has not yet given a timescale. Justin Trudeau's Liberals swept to power in Monday's election, ending nearly a decade of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper.  Mr Trudeau, an ex-high-school teacher, is the eldest son of late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  In his first telephone conversation with the US president as Canada's prime minister-designate, Mr Trudeau informed Barack Obama that he would make good on his election promise to withdraw the fighter jets.  "I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how important Canada has a role to play in the fight against ISIL (Islamic State), but he (Barack Obama) understands the commitments I've made around ending the combat mission," he told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.  However, he said he would keep Canadian military trainers in northern Iraq, the AFP news agency reports. Mr Trudeau has also vowed to take in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year - a move previously rejected by his predecessor Stephen Harper, who took a much harder line on the issue.
^ It is one thing to say you are going to do something major like remove your troops from fighting terrorists to get elected and another to withdraw them after you are in office. It sounds great - that you are keeping your campaign promises, etc., but just ask Obama. He promised to withdraw the US from Iraq and he did, in a very poor way, and that helped ISIS become powerful and take over large areas of Iraq and Syria and got us in the situation we are in today. Trudeau now needs to learn the facts (the behind-the -scenes that officials learn after they are elected) and then start making all of these bold statements a reality. If he doesn't he will weaken Canada and the rest of the world. No Canadian - especially myself - wants Canada to go back to the 1970s-1990s when Canada was a joke on the world stage. No one took Canada seriously. Of course those were the years his father was Prime Minister. Hopefully, Justin Trudeau will have learned from his father and not go too extreme. ^

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Russians Anti-Disabled

From the MT:
"Residents Protest Creation of Educational Center for Special Needs Kids"
Residents of an apartment building in the southern Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk have refused to approve the opening of an educational center that would be able to accommodate children with special needs, the Takie Dela news website reported, citing local TV channel Afontovo. An NGO called Pravo Na Schastye (Right to Happiness) won a government grant earlier this year to open an educational center where pupils with special needs could study for free alongside children their own age who don't have special needs, the report said. The center was due to open on the first floor of a residential building, but its residents opposed the installation of a wheelchair ramp. Current national housing legislation requires that two-thirds of the residents of a building approve a ramp's installation, and in this case less than 20 percent of the residents gave their consent, the report said. The others said they didn't want to look at disabled children on a daily basis. "I don't want to look at children in wheelchairs. I can't help them, and I don't want to see them every day and cry myself to sleep every night. I have the right not to," one of the women living in the building told TV channel NTV. Some people were against installing the ramp because it would take up space and leave them less room in which to park their cars. The head of Pravo Na Schastye, Nadezhda Bolsunovskaya, has filed complaints with the prosecutor's office and social services. In addition, the city administration has submitted a request with the State Duma asking for amendments to legislation that requires residents' approval to install ramps in residential buildings.

^ Bigotry is alive and well in the hearts (if you can say they have any) of these people in Krasnoyarsk. These people have got to be some of the worst people on the face of the planet. They are part of the reason why the disabled in Russia continue to be discriminated against and hidden. It is the second decade of the 21st Century and these residents are acting like an angry mob from the 1800s. For the ones that say they don't want to "look at them everyday" meaning the disabled - I would say that there are many alcoholic Russians that go out in public and make scenes - which I have personally witnessed - that make them out to be drunken losers and yet they are allowed to say they don't want to taint Russian society by seeing the disabled. There is a special place in hell for these kinds of bigoted people. The Russian Government needs to make laws protecting the disabled and not the bigots. They need to have their own ADA (a Russians With Disabilities Act) where those with disabilities are protected, where they have access to every open and public place and where it is not up to a bunch of bigots in an apartment building to decide who should live there and who shouldn't. All Russian citizens - disabled or not - should have the same freedoms and protections. Those freedoms should never be allowed to be voted down by regular citizens. ^

Hoax Teen

From Yahoo:
"Texas teen arrested for homemade clock to move to Qatar"
A 14-year-old Muslim boy who was arrested after a homemade clock he brought to school was mistaken for a possible bomb will be moving with his family to the Middle East so he can attend school there, his family said Tuesday. Ahmed Mohamed's family released a statement saying they had accepted a foundation's offer to pay for his high school and college in Doha, Qatar. He recently visited the country as part of a whirlwind month that included a Monday stop at the White House and an appearance Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol.  The statement said the family has been "overwhelmed by the many offers of support" since Ahmed's arrest on Sept. 14 at his school in Irving, a Dallas suburb. The family said it accepted an offer from the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development to join its Young Innovators Program. Ahmed, who along with his family will relocate to Qatar, received a full scholarship for his secondary and undergraduate education. Ahmed said he was impressed with the program and thinks he'll "learn a lot and have fun, too." Ahmed took a homemade clock to his high school to show a teacher, but another teacher thought it could be a bomb. The school contacted police, who handcuffed the boy and took him to a detention center. The school suspended him for three days.  A police photo of the device shows a carrying case containing a circuit board and power supply wired to a digital display. Police ultimately chose not to charge Ahmed with having a hoax bomb, and the police chief has said there was no evidence the teen meant to cause alarm. His parents later withdrew him from the school. But in recent weeks, the teenager has been traveling the world. Ahmed earlier this week told The Associated Press that he had visited Google and Facebook, along with other companies and institutions. He also visited with the president of Sudan, Omar al-Bashir, which has prompted some criticism because al-Bashir is wanted by International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes for atrocities linked to the Darfur fighting. Ahmed's father is a Sudanese immigrant to the U.S. and a former presidential candidate in Sudan who ran opposing al-Bashir.
^ There is just something fishy about this whole thing. If you look at the details of the actual case and the history of his family it looks like all of this was planned. I do believe that is was right for the school to be cautious about anything looking like a bomb (as they are supposed to with regards to any weapon.) Ahmed should have known that. He was 14 and if he didn't then his father should have. I think it was a way to get media attention and their 15 minutes of fame and it clearly worked. The main reason I think this is because Ahmed and his family met with Sudan's President, al-Bashir, whom Ahmed's father ran against in elections and then conveniently moved his family to the US where this clock hoax happened. If his father really opposed al-Bashir and his war crime charges then why met with the man and bring your son? It doesn't add up unless it was all staged from the beginning. Now Ahmed and his family are moving back to the Middle East where they will be pampered for "enduring" racial profiling. I wonder what new hoaxes Ahmed and his family will come up with next. Here's one thing Ahmed should have learned from all of this: don't bring anything that looks like a weapon to school and you won't get arrested. ^