Tuesday, May 31, 2016

WASP Allowed

From the BBC:
"US Female WW2 pilots allowed to be buried in Arlington"

More than 70 years after serving in World War Two, American female pilots have finally won the right to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery is where US presidents, honoured military personnel and national heroes are buried.  President Barack Obama has recently signed a law that allows the pilots from the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) to buried in the famous cemetery. This is not the first battle they have won in their fight for recognition. When they served as pilots during World War Two, they were considered civilians. They flew non-combat missions in the US but were trained like their male counterparts, lived in Army barracks and flew military aircraft. Thirty-eight women died during that time and as civilians they weren't entitled to be buried with the US flag on the coffin or any benefits for their families after their deaths.  When the Army no longer needed their help in 1944 they were sent home, having to pay their own way back, without any honours and without the status of veterans.  Nell Bright, who is 94 years old, joined up in May 1943. She said they were told if the WASP programme was successful they would be given the status as veterans. But the move was defeated in Congress. She said: "We were not very happy about it." That unhappiness turned into something stronger in the 1970s when the Army bragged about allowing women to fly military aircraft for the first time. Nell Bright said it was the spark that set off the campaign for recognition.  It took a few years and culminated in President Jimmy Carter signing legislation to treat them as veterans in 1977 - including burial rights in Arlington CemeteryOn 21 April, one of the women involved in the 1970s campaign for recognition passed away. Elaine Danforth Harmon wanted to be buried in Arlington Cemetery, but when her family applied they were rejected.  It turned out the Army had changed their minds and the women could no longer be buried in the famous cemetery. Specifically it was the then Secretary of the Army John McHugh who made the ruling, which Nell Bright said was done "behind closed doors."  There are some pilots from the WASP group buried in Arlington National Cemetery, as they were eligible at the time of their deaths. Others have been buried alongside their husbands, not in their own right, but as the spouses of their veteran husbands. Elaine Danforth Harmon's granddaughter Erin Miller said apart from a technicality no real reason for the sudden change was given. She said: "I felt the policy change was unjustified."  Along with her sisters, the family felt they needed to challenge that decision, so they started a petition on change.org which received over 170,000 supporters.  It was picked up by Republican Representative Martha McSally, who before entering politics served in the US Air Force and was a combat fighter pilot and commanded a fighter squadron. Responding to the news of the Women Airforce Service Pilots Arlington Inurnment (WASP AIR) Act being passed by Congress she said: "It's been just 19 weeks since the Army's decision to kick out our pioneering female World War II pilots was brought to light, and we've been fighting ever since." The process was a frustrating experience for the Miller family but knowing the law has been enacted is exciting for Erin Miller. To celebrate she got a tattoo with the bill's number on her arm, despite her sister calling it crazy. She's hoping their application to bury their grandmother might be fast-tracked, but is aware it could take another few months to see if they are successful.  At the moment the ashes of Elaine Danforth Harmon are being kept in a closet in their home.  "Nobody should have to ask Congress to bury their grandmother" she said. Not all the families of the pilots or even the pilots themselves who are still alive wanted to be buried in Arlington.  Nell Bright said: "I don't particularly care where I'm buried, but it's the principle, and many of the women do want to."

^ There is no reason, except for sexist discrimination, these female soldiers should not be buried in Arlington or any national cemetery. I know the refusal has been changed and only hope it doesn't keep being changed. These women helped win World War 2 for us and deserve the same respect that any soldier gets. ^


Parental Stupidity

From the BBC:
"Justice for Harambe: Mother harassed online after gorilla shot dead"

The mother of a boy who fell into a gorilla enclosure at a US zoo has become the victim of online abuse after zookeepers shot the animal dead. Harambe, a 17-year-old gorilla, was captured on video dragging the child across a moat in the enclosure. The boy's mother, identified on social media as Michelle Gregg, is heard shouting in footage of the incident. She tells her son to remain calm, after he had climbed through a barrier and fallen into the pen at Cincinnati Zoo. A Facebook post, purportedly written by Michelle Gregg, thanked "the right people" for being "in the right place" and said "accidents happen".    Ms Gregg later became the focus of a furious online backlash after zoo officials defended the decision to shoot the animal. Some even called for Ms Gregg to be dismissed from her job. Ms Gregg posted on Facebook after the incident and at about the same time a Facebook group called Justice for Harambe was set up. An online petition signed by more than 300,000 people was also created, calling for her to be held accountable for Harambe's death.  Michelle Gregg's Facebook page has since been deleted, after many accused her of being a bad mother. Other social media users with the same name have been dragged into the debate after being mistakenly targeted.

^ I posted about this right after it happened and even after learning more about it believe that Michelle Gregg needs to be held accountable for her actions (or I should say her mis-actions) that led her son to fall into the enclosure and resulted in Harambe being killed. I do not believe people should take justice in their own hands and go after her, but that the proper government officials need to get involved (the police, child welfare, etc.) The fact that this woman wrote such a nonchalant post making the innocent Harambe out to be the one at fault when in fact all he did was stay in his enclosure as he was supposed to makes me understand why people hate this woman so much. Had she shown any remorse at all instead of making everything seem like no big deal and that an innocent animal was killed because of her stupidity would have lessen (but not done completely away with) the back-lash she is now experiencing. The fact that she works at a child care makes this even worse. She can't even take care of her own child so why is she being allowed to watch other children? There needs to be an investigation into both the zoo and the gorilla enclosure as well as into this woman's ability to watch over her or anyone's children. She is NOT the victim here! The victims are her son and Harambe since one fell  and another was killed for not being properly supervised. ^


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Memorial Numbers

From Yahoo:
"A Day of Remembrance: Memorial Day by the Numbers"

Memorial Day is the unofficial start of summer for many Americans, a holiday weekend filled with road trips, cook-outs and parades. But even as we enjoy the warm temperatures and a three-day break from work, we also remember those who served and fought for our nation and who gave their lives in service. General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic established the first widely recognized Memorial Day, known then as Declaration Day, on May 30, 1868. Logan wanted a day of remembrance for soldiers who fought in the Civil War. New York became the first state to establish Memorial Day as a legal holiday in 1873. By the end of the 19th century, many cities and towns had adopted the practice as well, and after World War I it became a day to remember those who had died during all of America’s wars. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day an official federal holiday and passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act that established the holiday as the last Monday in May to create a three-day weekend for federal employees.

Here are some fun facts about Memorial Day to chew over with your backyard burgers:
1.3 million: Number of U.S. armed service members killed in conflict.
21.8 million: The number of living veterans (as of 2014).
260,000: Number of graves at Arlington National Cemetery. The graves are draped with American flags over the holiday.
97: Number of members of the 114th Congress who served in the U.S. military.
34 million: The number of people who will travel at least 50 miles this Memorial Day, the highest level since 2005 and up 2.1 percent from 2015.
89 percent: Portion of travelers who will drive to their holiday destination.
$2.32: Average price of gas in the U.S. AAA expects gas prices to be at their lowest level over the holiday since 2005.
62 percent: Percentage of people who plan on having a cook-out over the holiday.
7 billion: Total number of hotdogs that will be eaten.
2nd place: The holiday is the second most popular holiday for grilling outdoors, ranking only behind the Fourth of July.
1.5 million: Number of people who will watch the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington on television.
$50,000: Amount that companies pay to be four-star sponsors of the 2016 National Memorial Day Parade.
Number 1: Orlando, Florida, is the most popular destination for people traveling over the weekend. Myrtle Beach is second, followed by Washington, DC.
25 percent: The increase in cooking-related fires at home that happen on Memorial Day compared to an average day.
350,000: Number of motorists that AAA expects to rescue over the weekend. The leading problems are dead batteries, flat tires and lockouts.
50,500: Estimated number of injuries resulting from car crashes over the holiday weekend.
439: Estimated number of deaths from car accidents over Memorial Day weekend.
50,000: Estimated number of serious injuries from car accidents over this weekend.
495: Number of people who were arrested for drunk diving over the holiday weekend in 2014 – just in on state, Arizona. 
6,800: Number of U.S. armed service members who have died during military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. At least 52,000 have been wounded.
5,000: Average number of people who attend the ceremony at the Arlington National Cemetery each year.
24: Number of notes in Taps, the bugle call that traditionally ends a military funeral.
3 pm: Time of the National Moment of Remembrance, designated in 2000 by Congress.
900,000+: Anticipated number of participants and spectators in Rolling Thunder, the annual motorcycle parade to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington over the holiday.  
90: Number of state and local chapters of Rolling Thunder that participate in the weekend bike ride.

^ This was very interesting. ^


Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

10 No Brexit

From the DW:
"Ten reasons why Britain won't vote to Brexit the EU"

For months, the Brits have threatened their fellow EU members with a Brexit that could destabilize the entire European Union. But guess what: That probably won't happen.

1. Britain's coolheaded Britishness
Brits see themselves as the keepers of common sense, a quintessentially British virtue. They like to think that they are capable of keeping a cooler head than some of the continental EU members. With that in mind, it would not be sensible to destroy the European Union on a whim.
2. The British reticence
People on the British Isles are likely to resist change. When they say not to rock the boat, they mean it - especially when it comes to work or politics. So the British have kept their royal family and health care system. They just carry on acting like everything is fine, like there's no need to change. Maybe that is why London's tube has not been renovated in ages or Heathrow Airport expanded. Who knows? Things might turn out worse.
3. The Scoxit risk
You know it's serious when Alex Salmond, who led the Scottish National Party until 2014, is threatening the UK with secession just two years after losing a referendum to the same end. If Scotland really does plan to leave the UK in the case of a Brexit, then the English should really ask themselves if they want to main a rump kingdom as Northern Ireland and Wales are also thinking about divorcing the crown.
4. It's the economy
The "Stay" campaign has gone to great lengths to explain the dramatic consequences of a Brexit. Finance Minister George Osborne estimates that every Briton will be poorer by 4,000 pounds (5,250 euros/$5,850) a year. The country would fall into recession and not recover for years. But one argument does strike a chord in the nation of homeowners: It is predicted that residential real estate prices will fall by 18 percent. A house is seen as a provision for old age, so prices bear existential significance.
5. Markets are floundering
Several heads of banks have discreetly questioned the idea of remaining in the UK after a Brexit. After all, Paris and Frankfurt are also options. Suddenly, a chasm has become apparent: After initial surveys showed that the Brexit camp was leading, the pound briefly fell. Now, there are many reports that tell investors how to protect themselves in case the pound crashes. The Bank of England has warned against a Brexit; bankers are concerned about London's status as an international financial hub. Also, the financial crisis has been overcome and the businesses are booming. See No. 2 above.
6. Isolation
Foreign policy arguments do not seem to count for much, but that hasn't kept Prime Minister David Cameron from stating that a Brexit would be a blow to the United Kingdom's security. President Barack Obama has said the US would not give the UK preferential treatment - not economically, not politically - should it leave the EU. Even heads of intelligence services have warned that fighting crime would become a much tougher task without the help of the UK's "friends" on the continent.
7. Boris is out
For years, Boris Johnson was hugely popular with Britons. In his role as London mayor until early May, he offered a steady supply of quirks, trademark messy hair and a deep reserve of entertaining quotes. ("My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.") But he lost a lot of credibility when he took up the "Leave" cause - and lost much more when he likened the European Union to Hitler. He also didn't make any friends when he claimed that Obama's African heritage made him anti-British.
8. A labor shortage
Ever since Prime Minister Tony Blair opened the doors to workers from new EU member states in 2004, thousands of Polish builders have moved to the United Kingdom. Many Poles now fill positions in the service sector - in hotels, restaurants and assisted-living homes, for examples - and have gained a reputation for affordable, reliable and skilled labor. And, as the British constantly buy, sell and renovate houses, Polish plumbers, carpenters and bricklayers cannot get enough work. A Brexit would send them back home.
. An individual prerogative
Polls are smoke and mirrors, as evinced by survey results before the last UK elections. The Labour Party led, but the Tories easily won. Either polling institutes lie, or it all comes down to solitude in the voting booth. With no friends to influence them, voters are left alone with the task of making a choice. And, in the upcoming referendum, voters may be overwhelmed by doubt about a Brexit and decide they want to stay in the European Union.
10. Odds are long
Who has the thickest finger on the pulse of the United Kingdom? The bookies, of course! They cannot afford to be completely off like the polling institutes can: They earn their money taking your bets. And bookmakers such as Paddy Power are giving "Stay" voters 1-7 odds - that means you'd have to put up 100 pounds to get just over 14 quid back should Brits stay as expected. When in doubt, listen to the bookies.

^ I have been to the United Kingdom (England, Scotland, Northern Ireland - but not Wales) several times and have many British friends. I don't see the UK voting to leave the EU. The Brits like to act "holier than thou" over the "Continentals"  - people on mainland Europe and so like to talk tough, but in the end they wouldn't want to give full-control of the EU to Germany and France - Britain's historical enemies. ^


Memorial Quotes

From IBT:
"Memorial Day 2016: Top quotes to commemorate the US federal holiday"

Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the US celebrated to remember the war heroes of the country who died while serving the country on the battlefield. Celebrated on the last Monday of May, people remember the men and women of the US armed forces who sacrificed their lives to serve the country. This year, the federal holiday falls on 30 May. To commemorate the day, many people visit cemeteries and memorials to honour the fallen heroes and place US flags on their graves. IBTimes UK has compiled top quotes to remember the brave soldiers who have sacrificed their lives to safeguard the nation.

1. My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. - John F. Kennedy
2. In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. - Martin Luther King, Jr
3. Memorial Day isn't just about honoring veterans, its honoring those who lost their lives. Veterans had the fortune of coming home. For us, that's a reminder of when we come home we still have a responsibility to serve. It's a continuation of service that honors our country and those who fell defending it. - Pete Hegseth
4. These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor — and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror. - Michael N. Castle
5. The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree. - Thomas Campbell
6. Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty. - John F. Kennedy
7. If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen. - Ronald Reagan
8. I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country. - Nathan Hale
9. A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself. - Joseph Campbell
10. On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation! – Thomas William Parsons

^ Even though this is from the UK it seems up why the US has Memorial Day and why we need to do more than simply go to the beach or have a BBQ - we are allowed to do nothing because of the men and women who died protecting us and making the US the world's only Super Power. ^


Harambe Killed

From the DW:
"Gorilla killed at US zoo after seizing toddler"

Zoo workers in the US city of Cincinnati have shot and killed a gorilla after a young child fell into its enclosure. Officials say it was not feasible to tranquilize the 180-kilogram (400-pound) ape.  A zoo response team shot and killed a 17-year-old gorilla Saturday that had grabbed and dragged a 3-year-old boy who had fallen into the gorilla's enclosure, officials at the Cincinnati zoo said. "They made a tough choice and they made the right choice because they saved that little boy's life," zoo director Thane Maynard told reporters. "It could have been very bad." The incident was reported at around 4 p.m. Saturday. The area around the gorilla exhibit was closed off Saturday afternoon as zoo visitors reported hearing screaming. Witnesses said the gorilla dragged the screaming boy around the habitat for about 10 minutes before the zoo workers opened fire. The male gorilla was an endangered silverback named Harambe that had been brought to the Cincinnati zoo last year from a zoo in Texas. The zoo says the Gorilla World area would be open as usual on Sunday as the exhibit is not considered unsafe. The director says the zoo is still investigating how the young child fell into the enclosure, but zoo workers believe the boy crawled through a railing barrier, then fell about 3 meters (10 feet) into the enclosure's moat. Maynard said it was the first time that a zoo animal had to be killed in an emergency situation, and he called it "a very sad day" at the zoo. Hospital officials said they couldn't release any information on the condition of the child. Authorities have not released the child's name.

^ The real tragedy here is the killing of the 17 year, endangered gorilla - Harambe. The zoo director should be more concerned with that. While it's not the 3 year old's fault it's also not Harambe's fault. He didn't leave the gorilla enclosure and try to hurt anyone. The boy fell into the gorilla enclosure. If anyone is at fault it is the boy's parents and the zoo. Where were the parents when the boy fell? Why weren't they watching him? As for the zoo, the enclosure was clearly not so enclosed. The parents and the zoo needs to be held accountable for the killing of Harambe. ^


Gorby Banned

"Reuters: Ukraine bans Gorbachev over support for Crimea annexation"

Ukraine has banned former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from entry for the next five years over his support for Russia's seizure of Crimea, a spokeswoman for Ukraine's State Security Service (SBU) said on Thursday, according to Reuters.  spokesman for Gorbachev pointed to his response to Russian state media earlier this week when asked about a possible Ukraine travel ban, Reuters reported. "Fine, I don't go there and I will not go there," he said.bMP calls on SBU, MFA to declare Gorbachev persona non grata. The Crimea does not have uniformly happy associations for Gorbachev whose Perestroika reforms ended the Cold War but ultimately brought the end of the Soviet Union in December 1991. It was at a holiday home at Foros, on its Black Sea coast, that he was held prisoner for three days in 1991 in a failed coup by communist hardliners. Gorbachev, 85, has repeatedly commended the 2014 annexation of the peninsula, which houses a large Russian naval base. On Sunday, he told Britain's Sunday Times he would have acted the same way as President Vladimir Putin in a similar situation. However, the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize winner has warned of potentially dire consequences if tensions are not reduced over the Ukraine crisis. He has also been critical of Putin on domestic issues. The annexation followed the toppling of a pro-Russian president in Kiev. Within weeks, a pro-Russian insurrection broke out the east of Ukraine that has so far cost over 9,000 lives and soured relations between Moscow and the West. "We have indeed banned him from entering for five years in the interests of state security, including for his public support of the military annexation of Crimea," SBU spokeswoman, Olena Gitlyanska, said in post on Facebook. Last September, the SBU banned former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi from entering Ukraine after he became the most prominent Western politician to visit Crimea, where he met Putin, an old friend and political ally.

^ The Russians will probably try and spin this ban into a victory for themselves even though I have never met a Russian that had anything good to say about Gorbachev. They blame him for the collapse of the Soviet Union which resulted in wars, shortages and organized crime. I, like most Westerners, thought he did what had to be done and the fact that the USSR collapsed and the Cold War ended  - with the US winning - without a shot fired was a good thing. Of course lately he has turned into that old uncle you keep hidden away and only bring out for special occasions where he ususally says something dumb, you laugh and then bring him back to his hidden life. He has no influence anywhere in the world anymore so whatever he says or does you just laugh and move on. ^


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

EU Content Quota

From the BBC:
"Netflix and Amazon face quota on EU-made content"

On-demand video streaming services face a call that at least 20% of the catalogues they offer to EU subscribers should be made locally. The European Commission has also proposed that the programming must be given "good visibility".  It says there are cultural benefits to the move, which would affect Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. However, one expert suggested the new rules might not have as much impact on what was on offer as intended. The call is part of a proposed update to the 28-nation bloc's Audiovisual Media Services directive.

Other measures include:
  • a requirement that video-sharing platforms including YouTube adopt "better" measures to protect minors from violent content and people of all ages from clips that act as an incitement to hatred
  • a call for the creation of new symbols or phrases that would warn viewers of potentially harmful video content - such as bad language, sex or drugs - that would be used across the EU by both broadcasters and internet-based platforms
  • the ability for TV broadcasters to have more flexibility as to when they show adverts
EU rules already oblige TV broadcasters to:
  • invest about 20% of their revenues into making or commissioning original content
  • to spend at least 50% of their time showing European works, including material made in their own country
But since audiences are spending increasing amounts of their time watching on-demand services, the EU civil service thinks the new measure is required. On-demand platforms would have to ensure at least a 20% of the catalogue they offered to EU subscribers was made up of "European works" and that this content was given prominence on viewers' screens. This would not be enforced centrally from Brussels. Rather, individual countries would have the right to demand the likes of Netflix and Amazon invest in local productions and/or buy the rights to EU-made shows and films. Netflix said it was against quotas, but was already investing in local content.

^ I know many countries place these kinds of quotas and restrictions on radio stations, TV channels and movie theaters. I don't agree with it. It is censorship. People are going to see and listen to the media that they are interested in regardless if it is American-made, Canadian-made or EU-made. Those that make good quality and interesting media will have no issues finding an audience. ^


Nadiya Freed!

From the BBC:
"Nadiya Savchenko: Russia frees Ukraine servicewoman"

Russia has freed jailed Ukrainian pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who became a symbol of resistance against Moscow. "I am free," Savchenko told a crowd of reporters and politicians as she arrived in Kiev as part of a prisoner swap with two alleged Russian soldiers. She was sentenced to 22 years in jail for killing two Russian journalists in eastern Ukraine, charges she denied. The two Russians - Yevgeny Yerofeyev and Alexander Alexandrov - were earlier flown from Kiev to Moscow. Savchenko was pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin before her return to Ukraine. In Ukraine, President Petro Poroshenko pardoned the two Russian nationals. In a tweet (in Ukrainian) earlier on Wednesday, Mr Poroshenko wrote: "The presidential plane with Hero of Ukraine Nadiya Savchenko has landed!"  Speaking to reporters at Kiev's Boryspil airport, Savchenko was in defiant mood. "I am ready to once again give my life for Ukraine on the battlefield," she said. At a joint news conference with President Poroshenko later on Wednesday, Savchenko thanked her family and the people of Ukraine for supporting her while she was held in Russia. "Ukraine has the right to be, and it will be!" she said, pledging to do everything she could to free all Ukrainian nationals still being kept prisoner in Russia and in parts of Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian rebels.  Meanwhile, President Poroshenko - who awarded Savchenko a Hero of Ukraine star - said: "This is our common victory!"  He also personally thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Francois Hollande and US President Barack Obama for supporting Ukraine.  

^ Again the will and determination of the Ukrainian people - even against overwhelming odds (ie Russia) - continues to be strong and surprise the world. I have lived in Russia and do not believe that the majority of Russians would give up as much as the Ukrainians have. They (the Russians) would just put their heads down and not "rock the boat" as they have for centuries. The Ukrainians have survived being part of the Czarist Empire, the Soviet Union, the Nazi occupation and now are going through the Russian annexation of the Crimea and Russian-backed forces in the Donbass. The Ukrainians have proven they deserve to be independent and won't give that up so easily. ^


Monday, May 23, 2016

De-Commie Crimea

"Cities in occupied Donbas and Crimea lose their Soviet names"

Around one hundred cities and villages in occupied Crimea and parts of Donbas lost their names, assigned to them by the Soviet Union. Ukrainian Parliament renamed them in accordance with the decommunization process, started in the country after the events of the Maidan revolution, Ukraine Today reported.   Thus, Ukraine changed names of 61 villages and 12 cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Additionally, 74 villages and a city was renamed in Russian-occupied Crimea, according to Ukraine Today. Ukrainian lawmakers reported, the decision would come into force the day after it was published. Ukraine approved the law on the decommunization of the country in May, 2015. The country's deputies ordered to rename more than 160 cities and villages. Additionally, Ukrainian Ministry of Culture gave way to demolish about 800 Soviet monuments. The toppled statues of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin were greeted as a symbol of Ukraine's push to break from its communist past.

^ Every former Communist country needs to do this. It is the only way to fix the mistakes and the crimes of the past made during the Communist dictatorships. You can not claim to detest Communist crimes and at the same time honor them with monuments and place-names. ^


Victoria Day!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Hidden Jewelery

From the BBC:
"Auschwitz mug reveals jewellery hidden 70 years ago"

An enamel mug, one of thousands of exhibits at the Auschwitz museum, has been hiding a secret for over 70 years - a gold ring and necklace. Curators discovered the jewellery during maintenance work on its collection of enamel kitchenware. The jewellery had been concealed beneath the mug's fake bottom, which gradually eroded over time. Many Jews hid valuable items in their luggage when they were deported to Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz. Some 1.1 million Jews and more than 100,000 other prisoners were murdered between 1940 and 1945 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.  The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum said the jewellery - like other objects accidentally discovered - would be carefully documented and secured, but warned that the likelihood of finding the owners was slim "because there are no traces left on the objects to help identify them".  The mug is one of 12,000 cups, pots, bowls, kettles and jugs held by the museum; items looted by German forces from the luggage of people who arrived at Auschwitz-Birkenau during World War Two. "It turned out that one of the mugs has a double bottom," said Hanna Kubik of the museum's Memorial Collections. "It was very well hidden; however, due to the passage of time, the materials underwent gradual degradation, and the second bottom separated from the mug." Inside, they found a woman's ring made of gold and a necklace wrapped in a piece of canvas - and tests have concluded the pieces were made in Poland between 1921 and 1931.   The hiding of valuable objects is repeatedly mentioned in the accounts of survivors of the camps, said museum director Dr Piotr Cywinski. He said the Nazis "incessantly lied" to the Jewish people being rounded up - saying they were being resettled and could take a small amount luggage. In this way, the Germans could be "confident" that they would find "the last valuables of the deported families", he added. The fact that some of these items were hidden "proves on the one hand the awareness of the victims as to the robbery nature of the deportation, but on the other hand it shows that the Jewish families constantly had a ray of hope that these items will be required for their existence".

^ I have heard and read about these kinds of hidden valuables, but it  is another thing when it is discovered 70+ years since the war. It just goes to show that no matter how long you study and research about a major historical event there are always new and interesting discoveries being made. ^


Crimea Return

"Prospects for Crimea return"

As Ukraine marks the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people, the people should not only remember the tragic events of 1944 but also keep in mind the importance of a strategy to return the Russian-occupied Crimea in order to not let the ethnocide repeat today.  It seems the no one, except Russia, has any doubt that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. But these are just words. Unfortunately, the reality is different. More than two years ago, Russia occupied the Ukrainian peninsula on the Black Sea. And Crimea must definitely be returned. But the slogans like "Crimea is Ukraine” are not enough. Ukraine’s senior officials from time to time offer different formats of negotiations on the return of the Crimea, but aren’t they just showing off? What way should we choose to de-occupy Crimea, and what will be the outcome for the peninsula? There are more questions than answers by far... As the Ukrainian political arena witnesses daily internal battles and the public is engaged in lively discussion over the new composition of the Cabinet or the appointment of a new prosecutor general, it seems that the people in Crimea have been left out of the Ukrainian information field, alone with their problems. Despite the fact that almost every week, there is an increasing number of reports of searches, arrests, and even disappearances of people (for the most part, Crimean Tatars) in the annexed territory, it seems that amid today's problems in resolving the internal political crisis, the issue of de-occupation of the peninsula has gone way down in Ukraine’s political agenda. However, this is not really the case. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko a few months ago announced the possibility of Geneva Plus, the new international format of negotiations, calling it an important and necessary step toward Crimea’s de-occupation. The resolution of the European Parliament on human rights violations on the peninsula also mentions the possibility of resuming talks on de-occupation of Crimea in this Geneva format, that is with the involvement of the U.S., EU and possibly the Budapest Memorandum signatory states. The main purpose of this advanced format should be focusing exclusively on the Crimean issue and, what is extremely important, engaging Russia in these negotiations.
However, there are serious doubts that the Kremlin, which at the moment positions itself solely as a mediator in the talks, will agree to pose an aggressor state. And it is obvious that without Vladimir Putin, any negotiations in any shape will eventually come to naught, becoming just a bad copy of previous attempts to succeed on the issue. Bohdan Yaremenko, who is a diplomat and head of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, shares this opinion: "Frankly, I don’t really believe in an individual negotiation format on the Crimean issue. The main problem for any format, created to discuss Crimea’s de-occupation will be attracting Russia. It [Russia] has no motivation to be attracted to these talks. And without Russia, such format will become a sort of a club, with little practical value." The diplomat believes that the Crimean subject should be raised in the existing formats of negotiations with simultaneous attempts to modify these talks and adjust their agenda. "We should start from afar, emphasizing some smaller issues related to the occupation, such as human rights or even smaller components of this issue," said the expert. As for the other formats for further talks on Crimea return, the most discussed idea is to adjust the notorious Minsk agreements which Moscow has long been successfully sabotaging. "We are dissatisfied that the Minsk agreements only address the situation in the east [of Ukraine], and not a word is said that Crimea must be freed. Obviously, the position of the president is that we first need to liberate Donbas, and then Crimea. From our perspective, this is wrong," said one of the leaders of the Crimean Tatar people Mustafa Dzhemilev. But there is another question: is it necessary to add to the text of the Minsk agreement a paragraph on de-occupation of Crimea if Russia has not been fulfilling its obligations on Donbas?  According to Bohdan Yaremenko, it is worth a try. That’s because raising the Crimean issue within the Minsk process will not lead to the withdrawal of Russia from the Minsk format while Moscow may choose to not enter the Geneva format at all. "No matter how difficult the task, its implementation is still more realistic than making Russia join a new international format on de-occupation of Crimea," he said. Meanwhile, Russia's position is unequivocal. As soon as the Geneva Plus format was offered, Putin’s spox Dmitry Peskov said that the subject of Crimea is “closed” for Russia. But in any case, the talks on Crimea will lead to positive changes, the experts say. "As long as Ukraine is unable to return Crimea with military-political methods, any formats involving our allies and keeping Russia nervous will be advantageous for us. Once Ukraine is ready and Russia weakens so much that it is concerned with its internal problems, we will get this issue resolved," says Ihor Semyvolos.
The fact that the issue of Crimea is very painful and irritating for the Kremlin is manifested in Russia's reaction to a victory of the Ukrainian singer Jamala in the Eurovision Song Contest this year with the entry titled "1944," referring to the deportation of Crimean Tatars. This victory has led to all of the major media outlets across the world overnight May 15 telling the audience about the Ukrainian singer of a Crimean Tatar origin and the content of her song. And thus, millions of those who had not heard of the deportation before, learned about this horrific tragedy. While solving the issue of Crimea return is a problem to be dealt with for at least several years, small steps must be already taken today. It is necessary to raise the Crimean issue at international negotiations and cover the problems of Crimea in the media. Ukraine is gradually making such steps. Thus, the Parliament on November 12, 2015, recognized as genocide the deportation of Crimean Tatars.  Besides, May 18, the date of the beginning of a deportation in 1944, is now marked as the Day of the victims of genocide of the Crimean Tatar people. In addition, after the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia in spring 2014, May 18 is also defined as a Day of the fight for the rights of the Crimean Tatar people.Today, Ukraine calls upon the international community to extend political and diplomatic pressure on Russia in order to avoid a repetition of the tragedy of 1944. For, after the occupation of Crimea by Russia in 2014, the policy of the occupying authorities have led to the fact that more than 20,000 Crimean Tatars fled their homes and moved to seek a better life in mainland Ukraine while the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people had to move its headquarters to Kyiv.It is heartwarming to see that Ukraine’s appeals have been heard by the international community. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stressed in his statement the inadmissibility of violation of human rights in the occupied Crimea. "Over the past two years, we have documented increasing persecution of the Crimean Tatars. Members of the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar minority community, and its supporters have been intimidated, harassed and jailed, often on dubious charges," the High Commissioner’s spokesman, Rupert Colville, said at a briefing in Geneva.

^ A very thoughtful and engaging article on how to bring peace to the Crimea and to the Ukraine. ^


Thursday, May 19, 2016


"Dnipropetrovsk renamed Dnipro"

Ukraine's Verkhovna Rada has decided that the city of Dnipropetrovsk should be renamed Dnipro as part of the decommunization drive, according to an UNIAN correspondent.   Resolution No. 3864 to rename the city was supported by 247 out of the 344 MPs registered in the session hall. The decision comes into force from the date of its adoption. An explanatory note to the resolution says that the city was named Dnipropetrovsk in 1926 as a compound word after the Dnipro River and after Bolshevik and Soviet Communist Party leader, head of the 1917 revolutionary movement and Chairman of the Central Executive Committee of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic Hryhoriy Petrovskiy (1978-1958). Petrovskiy later became one of the masterminds of the Holodomor artificial famine in Ukraine in 1932-1933. "The name carries symbols of the communist regime and, by law, it must be changed," the note says.

^ De-Communization (or lustration) is needed throughout the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe - and not just for names, but symbols, organizations, politics, etc. Most countries support de-Natzification and so de-Communization is the next most logical step. More crimes and more people were affected by the Communists (mostly because they were power for 40-70 years while the Nazis were in power for 12.) Communism has only ever been good on paper and never in practice. Any country that has become Communist has also become a dictatorship that used/uses fear and murder to stay in power. It is a recipe that will never last since eventually people will become fed-up with the abuses and hypocrisy (ie. Communism - the so-called "class-less" society has more classes than a democracy) and demand change. Communist genocide and murder should not be praised or honored. Only it's victims should be. ^


Military Days

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Seattle Olympics

From Disability Scoop:
"Seattle To Host 2018 Special Olympics"

Seattle will host the next Special Olympics USA Games in July 2018. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and others presented the news late last week to a crowded room of Special Olympics fans and athletes, saying planning is already underway for the roughly one-week competition that will attract thousands of visitors from across the country. “We’re thrilled that our region has been selected to host the games,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said to the crowd. Added Seattle Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas: “Seattle is no stranger to big events, and this, I think, is going to be the biggest … sports event to be here since the Goodwill Games” in 1990. The Special Olympics USA Games are held every four years; the most recent were in New Jersey in 2014. Since 1968, when Chicago hosted the first International Special Olympics, the competitions have become widely celebrated as part of the largest global movement for empowering people with intellectual disabilities. The 2018 event will mark the games’ 50th year. About 3,500 athletes from all 50 states will compete in 16 individual and team sports, such as powerlifting and gymnastics, at facilities throughout the Seattle area July 1-6. The majority of events will be at the University of Washington. Transit officials will be working with games officials to mitigate traffic impacts. “We expect mass-transit connections — buses connecting with light rail — will play a key role as visitors attend events and explore the region,” said Metro Transit spokesman Jeff Switzer. The games are estimated to generate $50 million in tourism revenue, require the help of 10,000 local volunteers and attract 50,000 spectators, officials said. The competitions will be free to the public.

^ The Special Olympics are an important opportunity for people with different disabilities to come together and compete. It's also a great way for the non-disabled to mix and learn with those with disabilities. It's a win-win for everyone and, I have heard, a lot of fun.  ^


Tatar Deportation

Overtime Pay

From USA Today:
"Millions more Americans to be eligible for overtime pay"

Moving to fatten low- and middle-income paychecks that have languished for years, the Obama administration on Tuesday unveiled a long-awaited rule that will make millions of Americans newly eligible for overtime pay. While some businesses welcome the measure, many say it will simply force them to reshuffle salaries to get around the regulation. Others fear it will mean demoting white-collar workers and altering workplace cultures.  The rule, slated to be formally released Wednesday, would essentially double the threshold at which executive, administrative and professional employees are exempt from overtime pay to $47,476 from the current $23,660. That’s expected to make 4.2 million additional workers eligible to receive time-and-a-half wages for each hour they put in beyond 40 a week. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the salary threshold was originally intended to exempt high-paid executives but instead has denied overtime to low-level retail supervisors and entry-level office workers who often toil 50 to 70 hours a week. “Too few people are getting the overtime that (federal law) intended,” he told reporters. “It’s simply not right.” The rule represents the administration's most prominent initiative to lift middle-class wages. President Obama's call to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to more than $10 has been stymied by Republicans in Congress. The share of full-time workers who qualify for overtime has fallen from 62% in 1975 to 7% today, according to the administration. The new rule, which would take effect Dec. 1,  would allow 35% of workers to qualify. Many companies expect to convert salaried workers to hourly employees who will need to punch a clock and track their hours, hurting morale in some cases. Some will likely maintain the status of salaried employees, but will still have to monitor their hours and net the extra pay for logging more than 40. Others will lift workers' base pay to the new threshold to avoid paying overtime. Many small businesses can’t absorb the added cost and will instruct employees to work no more than 40 hours a week, bringing on part-time workers to pick up the slack, says Dan Bosch, head of regulatory policy for the National Federation of Independent Business. Perez said that will still be a plus because it will restore leisure time to overworked employees. Yet some businesses plan to cut employees' base pay to offset the overtime, effectively skirting the requirement. “The Obama rule puts a huge cost and regulatory burden on employers, who will face pressure to cut back on benefits and full-time employees,” says Trey Kovacs, policy analyst with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Perez said the new rule also clarifies the types of duties white-collar employees must perform to be exempt. That potentially makes eligible an additional 8.9 million workers now misclassified, he said, such as certain administrative employees who don’t supervise anyone.

^ This sounds like what happened under Obamacare where companies simply hired more part-time workers so they didn't have to provide health insurance or other benefits so in the end there were more jobs, but not more stable, benefitted positions. ^


Russian Charity

From the MT:
"Russian Charities to Be Exempt From 'Foreign Agent' Label"

Charities are no longer to be classified as “foreign agents” if they receive money from abroad, according to a new amendment approved by the Russian State Duma.  Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in areas such as art and culture will also be exempt from the “foreign agent” label, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday. Under laws passed in 2012, any group which receives funding from abroad and is engaged in a broadly-interpreted definition of “political activity” is legally required to identify itself as a “foreign agent” in all published material.  The law has been widely criticized by activists, who argue that it damages Russia's already fragile civil society. Several organizations have refused to use the label, while others have given up foreign funding to avoid it.  “With this amendment, these organizations can receive money from abroad without fear that their work will be somehow construed as political,” said the head of the Public and Religious Associations Committee, Yaroslav Nilov.  The lawmaker was quick to stress that safeguards would be put in place to ensure charities excluded from the law did not begin to engage in political work.  The term “foreign agent” dates back to the Soviet era, when it was used to refer to state enemies or spies.

^ Hopefully this amendment will fix the countless problems that Russian charities have faced since the law was signed in 2012. Charities in general relay on donations for their main basis of support and so to remove a donation sector (ie. from outside Russia) only hurts the charities and those that get aid from them. ^ 


Banned Memorial

"Crimean Tatars banned from honoring 1944 deportation victims"

Russian occupation authorities of Crimea banned memorial events dedicated to the forcible deportation of Crimean Tatars (the indigenous population of the Black Sea peninsula), under Stalin, according to Ukraine Today.  "As expected, Russian invaders forbid the holding of commemoration events all over the Crimean peninsula that were to take place on May 18," Refat Chubarov, the Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, wrote on Facebook, Ukraine Today reports. According to Chubarov, Russian occupants are doing their best to make Crimean Tatars participate only in official events organized by Kremlin-backed authorities and their supporters.The Mejlis (the elected government body of Crimean Tatars) suggested Crimean Tatars would meet near memorial stones, statues, and sites associated with the tragic event that occurred on May 18, 1944.  Crimean Tatars plan to hold a minute of silence to pay tribute to the deportation victims. There are numerous reports on violations of human rights in the Russia-occupied Crimea. On March 17, Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit, nongovernmental human rights organization, published a statement about the harassment, intimidation and arbitrary legal actions against Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority who openly opposed Russia's occupation. 

^ It is not surprising that Russia has banned remembering the 1944 deportations in occupied Crimea. Starting in May 1944 and lasting a month around 238,500 Tatar men, women and children were deported to the Central Asian Soviet Republics. It is estimated that half died during the deportation. The Soviets then went through the Crimea and removed any trace of Tatar culture, language or heritage. The Tatars were not allowed to return to the Crimea until the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991 and the Ukraine became independent. Just a few months shy of the 70th anniversary (2014) of the 1944 deportations Russia invaded, occupied and then annexed the Crimea. Since the annexation many Tatars (and Ukrainians) have fled to the rest of the Ukraine. Those that remain in annexed Crimea have to deal with the closure of Tatar and Ukrainian language schools, organizations and businesses along with Tatar and Ukrainian media being banned. There is also open discrimination -  including attacks - on anyone who speaks Tatar or Ukrainian instead of Russian. The 1944 deportation may have been 72 years ago, but the Crimea Tatars are still being discriminated against in their own homeland. ^


50th Cultural

From the BBC:
"Cultural Revolution: China's media breaks silence over anniversary"

China's state-run media has said the country can never allow a repeat of the "error" of the Cultural Revolution. The editorial in Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily is the first official comment following Monday's 50th anniversary of the start of the unrest. The campaign to "purge" society of Mao Zedong's political opponents ushered in years of bloodshed and turmoil. The era was "entirely wrong in both theory and practice", the paper said. China's ruling Communist Party has consistently restricted open discussion of the Cultural Revolution era, fearing it could undermine its legitimacy and public confidence in its leadership.  But it has previously also acknowledged that the Maoist policies of the era were flawed. 
What was the Cultural Revolution?
The Cultural Revolution was a campaign launched by Chinese leader Mao Zedong in 1966 to purge his rivals in the ruling Communist Party. It ended up destroying much of China's social fabric.
What happened during it?
Chairman Mao gave licence to Chinese youth to destroy the so-called four "olds" or perceived enemies of Chinese culture: customs, habits, culture and thinking. In the early years, a chaotic kind of youth "tyranny" prevailed which saw schools and temples destroyed. Children turned on their parents and students turned on their teachers, intellectuals were exiled. Thousands were beaten to death or driven to suicide. Mao also encouraged a personality cult around himself, which led to people almost worshipping his writings and image.
How long did it last?
It officially ended only with Mao's death in 1976. Millions were denounced and punished during this time, but there are varying estimates as to how many people actually died.

The main state media outlets had made virtually no mention of the anniversary on Monday. Only Hong Kong media, which enjoy greater freedoms than their counterparts on their mainland, gave coverage to the anniversary.  No official events were planned by the Chinese authorities to mark day, but it was being widely discussed on social media.  The People's Daily's editorial said the Communist Party had "long taken a solemn attitude toward bravely admitting, correctly analysing and firmly correcting the mistakes of our leadership figures" The paper said the era "cannot and will not come back. There is no place for it in today's China". "The decade of calamity caused severe damage, leaving permanent pain for many Chinese," it said, but added that the lessons learned from the era had "given the nation a certain immunity".

^ It only took 50 years or China to sort-of acknowledge the Cultural Revolution  - especially since it affected every single Chinese man, woman and child for about 10 years. I took a class back in college about the Pacific Rim and the teacher was Chinese and he told us a little about what happened to him and his family during the Cultural Revolution - apparently, there wasn't much culture, arts, education or anything really productive during that decade. ^


CP Comedy

From Disability Scoop:
"ABC Picks Up Comedy Focusing On Special Needs"

A major television network is set to air a comedy about a family with a child who has special needs.
ABC has picked up the 30-minute series “Speechless,” the network has confirmed to Disability Scoop. The show stars actress Minnie Driver as Maya DiMeo, a mother “who will do anything” for her husband and kids including her eldest son JJ, who has special needs.  “As Maya fights injustices both real and imagined, the family works to make a new home for themselves, and searches for just the right person to give JJ his ‘voice,'” according to the network’s description of the show. JJ is played by Micah Fowler, an actor who has cerebral palsy in real life. He previously appeared in the 2013 film “Labor Day.” ABC initially committed to a pilot for “Speechless” in January. Now, the network says it will air the series and production is expected to begin in August, though it is unclear exactly how many episodes are in the works or when it will premiere.

^ I am curious to see how this show will deal with disability and comedy at the same time. I think it's great that a major network is willing to lead the way in doing this and only hope it does justice to those with cerebral palsy and at the same time does o in a funny way - since it's a comedy. ^


Crimea Drop

From the MT:
"Crimea Sees Sharp Drop in Russian Tourists"

Russians are losing interest in traveling to Crimea, as the demand for flights to Simferopol among tourists has declined by more than 25 percent this year, the Kommersant newspaper reported Monday, citing data from Svyaznoy-Travel ticket agency.  The Biletix ticket booking agent saw demand for tickets to Crimea fall by 7.5 percent this summer. Package tours to Crimea, however, haven't suffered such a dramatic decline. There is currently a sales slowdown, but the demand for package tours is still 40-50 percent higher than last year, Romashkin told Kommersant. However, members of the tourism industry say this growth will have stopped by next year.  The Crimean authorities have denied the falling popularity of the peninsula among Russian tourists. Crimean Deputy Prime Minister Ruslan Balbek, who oversees the tourism sector, said that Svyaznoy- Travel's data don't reflect the the real situation in the market.

^ There are probably a few more reasons why Russians aren't going to the Crimea than a lack of infrastructure. One is the "patriotic" fervor that enveloped Russia after Russia invaded, occupied and annexed the Crimea from the Ukraine is no longer as strong as it was. What many once saw as a victory (not sure over whom though) now is a reality of  a much lower standard of living for the majority of Russians due to the international sanctions placed over their actions in the Crimea and the falling oil prices. Maybe the average Russian is starting to wake-up from their Kool-Aid induced hangover and see the truth and how it differs from what they believed and were told (although having lived through the same thing during Soviet times they should have known better by now.) In a way it's nice to see that the average Russian is turning it's back on annexed Crimea. It can be seen as a silent protest against actions made by others without their consent. ^


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Open WiFi

From the DW:
"Germany to abolish provider liability law, open path to more free WiFi"

 The German government has cleared the way for open and private WiFi hotspots. A provider liability law that makes hotspot providers responsible for users' activity has long limited public WiFi and is set to be scrapped.  In a dispute over a new Telemedia Act, the German government agreed on Wednesday to relax the country's restrictive WiFi rules, which had previously left many German businesses unwilling to provide free Internet access to the public.  Private hotspot providers in Germany are liable for the misconduct of users. If, for example, a user were to download music or a movie on a particular hotspot, the provider ran the risk of being sued for piracy. As a result, public WiFi in Germany has long been hard to come by - much to the annoyance of the German public. Under the government's agreement, however, private as well as commercial providers, such as restaurant owners, will benefit from a liability privilege, meaning they will no longer by responsible for their users' online activity. "I am very pleased that we were able to achieve a breakthrough on the subject of WiFi today," Social Democrat politician Lars Klingbeil said. "We are able to implement one of the key objectives of the Digital Agenda: The path to more, free WiFi in Germany is finally open," he added. German Justice Minister Heiko Maas also praised the decision, writing on Twitter that the "abolishment of provider liability is an overdue and important step." Lawmakers look likely to debate the new legislation in the Bundestag - Germany's lower house of parliament - as soon as next week, with the view to implement the bill by the autumn.  The ruling "grand coalition" of Christian and Social democrats also agreed on Wednesday to allow open wireless access without a technical hurdle, such as an access encryption or a splash page. The two ruling parties have been locked in a debate over the new Telemedia Act for months. While the Social Democrats have long called for an abolition of provider liability, Chancellor Angela Merkel's CDU repeatedly opposed the SPD's demands.

^ I will never understand how any country can place liability on an establishment (restaurant, store, etc.) when others use WiFi in that public place. It would be as though you could blame a beer company for a drunk driver instead of the person who drank the beer and then drove. The only person who should be at fault for doing something illegal is the person who commits that crime or a person who willingly knows about the crime and doesn't do anything. ^


Ukraine Wins!

From the BBC:
"Eurovision Song Contest: Ukraine's Jamala wins competition

Ukraine's Jamala has won this year's Eurovision Song Contest, held in Stockholm, Sweden. The country scored 534 points with its song 1944, about the deportation of Crimean Tatars under Josef Stalin. Australia finished second with 511 points, while Russia - which was the favourite going into the competition - was third with 491 points.  Jamala is the first ever Crimean Tatar to perform at the contest and caused controversy ahead of the show over her political song. The song references the year when Stalin deported almost all of the ethnic group from its native region of Crimea in what was then Soviet Russia (later to become part of Ukraine).  Simon Bennett, head of the International OGAE Eurovision fan club, told the BBC that former Soviet countries that would "normally vote for Russia" sent it a message by voting for Ukraine instead.  The singer had dedicated the song to her great grandmother who was forced to leave along with a quarter of a million Tatars, as a collective punishment for those who had collaborated during the Nazi occupation. It had been expected to finish in the top three but in a surprise result beat favourites Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and had been angered by the song. Collecting her award, an emotional Jamala thanked Europe for their votes, adding: "I really want peace and love to everyone."

^ It's great that the Ukraine won - especially with the song "1944" about the forced deportation of the Tartars (around 230,000 people) from the Crimea by the Soviets. People who complain that the song is too political  should understand that it is also very personal. Not only were direct relatives affected by the deportations, but so was the singer  herself.  The fact that the singer wasn't allowed to be born in the Crimea - the Tartars weren't allowed back until after the USSR collapsed in 1991- or that the Tartars are currently being discriminated against in Russian-occupied/annexed Crimea shows that some people don't learn from history.  ^


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Medical Errors

From USA Today:
"Second study says medical errors third-leading cause of death in U.S."

Medical errors kill about 250,000 people a year, a new study from a well-known Johns Hopkins medical school professor and author said Tuesday. The study by surgeon and Johns Hopkins professor Martin Makary is the second to report the mistakes represent the third-leading cause of deaths in the U.S. Death certificates in this country don't have a place for hospitals to acknowledge medical error, which the authors say shows reporting needs to be improved so the problem can be better estimated and addressed. Death certificates in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and more than 100 other countries rely on what's known as International Classification of Disease (ICD) code, so human and system errors can't be recorded, according to the World Health Organization. "People don’t just die from billing codes," said Makary, author of the 2013 book Unaccountable: What Hospitals Won't Tell You and How Transparency Can Revolutionize Health Care. "We do not have an open and honest way of measuring medical error." Death certificates should include an additional form field where it could be noted whether patients' deaths stem directly from care they received and what type of problem it was. Makary and co-author Michael Daniel wrote that strategies to reduce death from medical care should include making errors "more visible" when they occur, having remedies available to "rescue patients," and making errors less frequent by following principles that take "human limitations" into account.  Calculating how many mistakes in hospitals actually caused deaths has been the subject of debate since the National Academy of Science's Institute of Medicine first estimated in 1999 that up to 98,000 are attributable to medical mistakes. In 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general reported that up to 180,000 Medicare patients alone died a year from medical errors. John James, a NASA toxicologist whose son died of what he believes was a hospital error, did the last report on the subject in 2013 and estimated between 210,000 and 440,000 deaths a year could be attributed to medical error. Among the problems associated with calculating medical errors is that some are errors of omission rather than commission, James said in an interview Monday. Others include the fact that people are typically in hospitals because they aren't well, which means several factors can lead to death. James would know. His son died at age 19 in 2003 after he collapsed while running, because his potassium was depleted. No one at the hospital where he was treated replaced his potassium, as a guideline said they should. James blames a series of medical errors — of omission, diagnostics and communication. Makary says medical and legal protections are needed, as with hospital quality information, so causes of death are accurately reported. Doctors and others may not acknowledge mistakes for fear of malpractice suits, he says. It's complicated, says James, adding, "I don't know what the right answer is."

^ Doctors, nurses and hospitals need to be held accountable (just as everyone else is) if someone dies because of human error. It's not a question of protecting against mal-practice suits or anything like that, but of making sure the same mistakes aren't consistently being made and if it can save someone's life than any doctor, nurse or hospital should be more than willing to admit when mistakes are made and work hard to make sure they never happen again. That requires reporting the mistakes and recording those mistakes on official forms. ^


Real NH

From NH DMV:
"REAL ID will be available in January"

New Hampshire Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) announced today that REAL ID compliant licenses will be available starting on January 2, 2017 and that residents wishing to obtain a REAL ID compliant card should wait until their normal card renewal period to visit their local DMV office. Current New Hampshire driver licenses and non-driver identification cards will be accepted for travel at airports and entry into secure federal facilities until Oct. 1, 2020. After that date, anyone with a non-compliant card wishing to travel by air or to access a secure federal facility will need to provide additional identification such as a U.S. passport. "The DMV was closely following HB 1616 as it made its way through the NH House and Senate this session," Division of Motor Vehicles Director Elizabeth Bielecki said. "At this point, we are confident that we will be ready to issue REAL ID compliant driver licenses and identification cards on January 2, 2017, as the bill requires." REAL ID compliant cards are not mandatory and cost the same as the non-compliant cards, Bielecki said. Individuals seeking a REAL ID compliant card should wait until their normal renewal period to visit their local DMV office, she said. Applying for a REAL ID compliant card must be done in person and requires additional documentation than that required for a non-compliant card. Anyone interested in obtaining a REAL ID compliant card can find more information at https://www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/dmv/ The DMV will also make educational materials available at DMV offices and will include materials with card renewal forms sent to current card holders.

^ I think this is a good compromise. It allows those that want an ID or Driver's License that can be used at Federal institutions to get one and those that don't want "big government" to not have to get one. ^


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Ed Complaints

From Disability Scoop:
"Complaints To Education Department Largely Disability-Related"

As the U.S. Department of Education fielded a record number of civil rights complaints last year, the agency said nearly half alleged some form of disability discrimination. The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights received over 4,800 complaints asserting violations of disability laws during the 2015 fiscal year, according to a report released this week. Disability issues accounted for the largest group of complaints logged, representing 46 percent of the record-high 10,392 complaints received by the Office for Civil Rights, which is tasked with ensuring equal access and prohibiting discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, disability and age in education programs.  While the overall number of disability-related complaints dropped slightly compared to the 4,919 filed in 2014, the Education Department said that reports of inappropriate restraint and seclusion as well as issues related to Web accessibility for students with disabilities were both on the rise. The greatest number of disability-related complaints lodged last year hinged on the right to a free, appropriate public education followed by complaints of retaliation and those centering on exclusion or different treatment. Many complaints crossed over into more than one of the 18 categories of disability discrimination that the office tracks, the report said. Over the course of the year, the Office for Civil Rights said it successfully resolved 4,655 of the disability complaints received. In addition to responding to individual complaints, the Education Department issued five guidance documents in 2015 addressing disability-rights issues in schools. “OCR’s work over the last year has been absolutely pivotal to advancing the department’s goal to increase equity and opportunity for all students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John King. “Through our guidance, technical assistance, data collection and investigatory work, the department’s message to the public is clear: We are committed to working with and supporting schools to protect students’ civil rights — and we will take action to secure those rights when necessary.” The caseload handled by the Education Department’s civil rights office has nearly doubled in the last decade even as staffing levels have declined to a record low, the agency noted.

^ I remembered having to file a disability-related complaint on a college a few years ago. It wasn't for myself, but I had a POA. The college was clearly in the wrong - they had renovated a part of their school just recently, but hadn't followed any of the ADA and so it wasn't a legal renovation. I tried working with the school to find a compromise between them and the person I was representing, but the school didn't want to budge. Shortly, after I filed the official disability complaint against them the school "all of the sudden" were more than willing to compromise. In the end we came to a mutual agreement and the complaint was dropped. It's sad that these kinds of things have to happen for people to not only follow the law, but also to do what is basic and right. ^