Friday, July 29, 2016

Pope In Auschwitz

From the DW:
"Israeli social media reacts to the pope's visit to Auschwitz"

As Pope Francis meets with Holocaust survivors in Auschwitz, users took to social media to share their thoughts on the historic visit. More than 1.1 million people were killed in the former Nazi concentration camp. As the pope walked through the notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" ("Work sets you free") gate at the entrance to Auschwitz, pictures coming from the former concentration camp were too strong for social media users to ignore. Within an hour of his visit , #Auschwitz began trending as a topic on Twitter with many users sharing personal thoughts. Multiple tweets and posts praised the pontiff - the third consecutive to make the pilgrimage to the place. They called his visit "emotional" and commented on the image of him walking through the gate as "strong." Out of the three successive popes to visit Auschwitz, Pope Francis is the first one who has no personal connection to it: John Paul II hailed from Poland, which was under German occupation at the time the camp was used by the Nazis, while Benedict XVI was German. The visit has also inevitably touched the hearts of many Israelis, who saw it as a gesture of kindness and respect for the Jewish people and the victims of the Holocaust in particular. "An extremely powerful image of the pope visiting Auschwitz," one Israeli journalist tweeted. Others shared the photo of the pontiff passing under the gate, applauding Pope Francis for being humble and modest, "walking on his own, silently, without an orchestra or a chorus." The pope has met with several survivors of the Auschwitz camp, an act largely hailed by Israeli media as a "historic event." One by one, the pontiff stopped to shake the survivors' hands, immediately bending over to kiss them on both cheeks. "Pope Francis is visiting Auschwitz concentration camp, where he will hold a prayer in the gas chambers area and meet with Holocaust survivors," Israeli channel 10, one of the most popular in the country, tweeted.  Yet for the survivors themselves it has been a "great honor" to meet the pope, 100-year-old Alojzy Fros told the Associated Press. "This is a huge thing for me." Poland's chief rabbi Michael Schudrich prayed in the pope's presence, reading Psalm 130 in Hebrew, which starts: "From the depths I have cried out to you, O Lord." "The pope presents in pictures how one can visit the Polish soil - soaked with Jewish blood - alone, bowed headed and silently. We should learn from him and teach ourselves," this user said, summing up the visit.

^ Pope Francis is following in the great footsteps of Pope John Paul II and is working to show the world (not just the Catholics) how we should work together to not only overcome the mistakes of our past, but to also make a good future where these horrible crimes are not committed. ^

New Ship Name

From the BBC:
"Gay activist Harvey Milk 'to be honoured with US Navy ship'"

The US Navy is set to name a ship after gay rights activist and politician Harvey Milk, according to a report by the US Naval Institute News. The tanker, which is yet to be built, will be called the USNS Harvey Milk, USNI News said.  It cited a notification signed by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus. Milk was one of the first openly gay politicians in the US and was killed a year after winning election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He served in the US Navy in his youth as a diving officer during the Korean War before being honourably discharged. Milk was wearing his Navy belt buckle when he was shot dead. Speaking in 2012, Milk's nephew Stuart Milk said such a move would send "a green light to all the brave men and women who serve our nation: that honesty and authenticity are held up among the highest ideals of of nation's military".  The news delighted San Francisco politician Scott Wiener, who has called for a ship to be named after Milk, saying it was an "incredible day". "When Harvey Milk served in the military, he couldn't tell anyone who he truly was," he wrote.
"Now our country is telling the men and women who serve, and the entire world, that we honour and support people for who they are." The idea is not without controversy. After the suggestion was first mooted critics said Milk would have disapproved of lending his name to a Navy ship, given his opposition to the Vietnam War. Several other civil rights champions are also set to be honoured with ships bearing their names, USNI News said, including former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren and women's rights activist Sojourner Truth.

^ This shows how far the US Military has come in the last few years alone. During Harvey Milk's time in the Navy homosexuals were not allowed to serve and not only were they dishonorably discharged, but they were also imprisoned. Then came the stupid years of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" brought on my Bill Clinton and the witch-hunts still continued. Now homosexuals can serve openly in the US Military (and even marry.) It is only right that this new ship should reflect the changes. Milk served in the Navy  and was honorably discharged (since he never mentioned his homosexuality) and so his name should be on a new ship. ^

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Disabled Wage

From Disability Scoop:
"Democrats, Republicans Urge End To Subminimum Wage"

With all eyes on the race for the White House, both political parties are calling for big change to rules on employing people with disabilities. The platforms approved this month at the Democratic and Republican Party conventions are both urging a move toward competitive employment. Currently, under a federal law dating back to the 1930s, employers are able to get special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor to pay people with disabilities less than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.  Now, however, the political winds appear to be shifting. “We … support creating one fair wage for all workers by ending the subminimum wage for tipped workers and people with disabilities,” reads the Democrats’ agenda ratified this week at the party’s gathering in Philadelphia. The plan echoes comments made by the party’s presidential nominee Hillary Clinton earlier this year on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, the GOP also signaled its support for similar change in the platform approved at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. “Our TIME Act (Transition to Integrated and Meaningful Employment) will modernize the Fair Labor Standards Act to encourage competitive employment for persons with disabilities,” the Republicans stated. “We endorse efforts like Employment First that replace dependency with jobs in the mainstream of the American workforce.” The TIME Act is a proposal in Congress that would bar the Labor Department from issuing new certificates allowing the payment of subminimum wage and would phase out the use of existing certificates within three years. Since it was introduced in 2015, the legislation has failed to gain much traction. “The recognition of this issue by leaders of both political parties further confirms that the time has long passed to eliminate the unfair and separate wage system for people with disabilities,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, which supports an end to subminimum wage.

^ This is great news! The idea that both the Democrats and Republicans think the same on this issue shows that not everything is awful with this election year. You always hear politicians say that it doesn't matter what your race, gender, orientation or disability is that we are deserve the same things. While that is the right statement to make what is deserved doesn't always match what is law or in practice. Hopefully, these statements and ideas will go from paper to practice so that the disabled will stop being discriminated against and will earn the same minimum wage as everyone else. ^

Abolishing District

"Putin abolishes "Crimean Federal District""

According to a decree issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the "Crimean Federal District" has been abolished as an independent unit. It is now part of the Southern Federal District of the Russian Federation.  The head of the Southern Federal District is former Russian Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, who has been in office since 2008. Earlier, it was reported that Putin had dismissed the envoy to the "Crimean Federal District" Oleg Belaventsev. He has moved on to a similar post in the North Caucasian Federal District. Russia created the "Crimean Federal District" after it annexed Crimea in March 2014.

^ This doesn't change much. In the end the Crimea is still part of the Ukraine that was invaded, occupied and annexed by Russia. ^

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Royal Tour

From USA Today:
"Prince William, Duchess Kate plan Canada trip for fall"

Heading to Canada this fall to scout a new home or job in the event your presidential candidate doesn't win in November?  You may be able to squeeze in some royal watching. Kensington Palace announced Wednesday that Prince William and Duchess Kate will be visiting British Columbia and the territory of Yukon this fall. It will be the Cambridges' second tour of Canada —  they made a previous visit in the summer of 2011. On that visit, they went to the Capital Region, Montréal, Québec City and Calgary, among other destinations. In a statement, Canadian Governor General David Johnston said, “Sharon and I will be delighted to welcome Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to Canada. Their royal tour will take them to the beautiful province of British Columbia and the scenic territory of Yukon. Once again, our true Canadian pride and spirit will shine and be at the very heart of this visit so they can feel at home.” The governor general serves as the queen's representative in Canada and receives royal guests and foreign ambassadors, as well as representing the country on overseas visits.

^ It's always good when apart of the Royal Family comes to visit  and even more so when its the 2nd in line to the Canadian Crown. ^

Hinckley Freed

From the BBC:
"Reagan would-be assassin John Hinckley Jr to be released"

John Hinckley Jr, the man who tried to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan, is to be released from a psychiatric hospital next month after 35 years. Mr Reagan and three others were injured in the shooting outside a hotel in Washington in March 1981. Mr Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity but was sent for treatment to a Washington hospital. He has already been spending 17 days a month at his mother's home in Virginia under strict conditions. A judge ruled that Mr Hinckley, now 61, could reside full-time there on "convalescent leave" from 5 August.  Restrictions, including a ban on talking to the media, will remain in place. The shooting, just weeks into Ronald Reagan's presidency, shocked the world. Mr Reagan was shot in the lung, but recovered. His press secretary James Brady was shot in the head, suffered brain damage and used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Mr Brady's death in 2014 at the age of 73 was ruled to be a homicide, but no further charges against Hinckley were brought. Two law enforcement officers suffered less serious injuries in the shooting. US District Judge Paul Friedman's judgement points to medical assessments which showed that Mr Hinckley had had "no symptoms of active mental illness" since 1983. He had shot the president in an apparent bid to impress the actress Jodie Foster, with whom he had an obsession and whom he had subjected to what would now be termed stalking. Ordering his release, the judge said Mr Hinckley no longer poses a danger to himself or others. The court order and opinion available on the website of the US District Court for the District of Columbia spells out the terms of Mr Hinckley's release and details his psychiatric history and treatment:
  • He was diagnosed with acute psychosis, major depression and narcissistic personality disorder
  • He has been in "full, stable and sustained remission" from the first two diagnoses for more than two decades, the court concluded
  • The hospital believes further inpatient treatment is "not appropriate therapeutically" for Mr Hinckley's condition
  • He is banned from contacting any of his victims, or their descendants, and Jodie Foster and her family
  • He and his family are prohibited from talking to the media

^ This has got to be the dumbest court decision I have heard in a while. Hinckley should be locked-up for the rest of his life. His mom is 90 years old. What happens when she can no  longer support him? It seems that this decision to release him will only show would-be terrorists and/or murders that they can shoot at Presidents and get a slap on the wrist. ^

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Swiss Increase

From USA Today:
"Switzerland, land of peace, sees gun sales soar after terror attacks"

Business at Daniel Wyss’ gun shop has been brisk lately in the village of Burgdorf near Switzerland’s capital of Bern. He said the increased demand for firearms is triggered by a growing fear among the Swiss public that terrorists could attack their tranquil land at any time. As nations around Europe tighten their gun laws after a series of terror attacks in several countries since 2015, the Swiss are bucking this trend by turning to firearms for protection. Official statistics show that gun sales in some parts of Switzerland soared nearly 50% after last year’s attacks in Paris and the March bombings in Brussels. And gun sales continue to grow since the killings in France and Germany in the past two weeks. In Wyss’ shop, “the demand for pistols, revolvers and pump-action guns rose by 30% to 50% after this month’s attacks in Nice and Munich,” he told USA TODAY. Even though Switzerland has not been involved in an armed battle since a conflict between Catholics and Protestants in 1847, guns are ubiquitous in this Alpine nation. In fact, neutral Switzerland has long been one of the world’s most heavily armed countries, trailing behind only the United States and Yemen in the number of guns per 100 people, according to the Small Arms Survey.  About 3.4 million military and private firearms are estimated by the United Nations to be in circulation in this country of only 8.3 million people. Even though guns are prevalent, the violent crime rate is relatively low: about 7.7 firearm homicides a year per 1 million people, according to Human Development Index. In the United States, that number is nearly 30, the highest in the world. Although guns continue to stir heated debate in the United States and much of Europe, the issue in Switzerland is far less contentious. That’s because the Swiss have a deeply ingrained gun culture, rooted in a sense of civic responsibility, patriotic duty and national identity. Military service is compulsory for all men, and weapons are kept at home because of the long-held belief that enemies could invade tiny Switzerland quickly. So every soldier had to be able to fight his way to his regiment’s assembly point. Historians believe Germany didn’t invade Switzerland during World War II because it knew every Swiss man was armed and trained to shoot. Several years ago Switzerland introduced tighter rules to make firearms less accessible to potentially dangerous people. For instance, all military — but not private — ammunition must now be stored in central arsenals, though weapons can still be kept in soldiers’ homes. For privately owned firearms, a background check and permit are compulsory, but rifles and semiautomatic long arms used for hunting are exempt from this requirement. And no license is needed for transactions between private individuals. Although it is fairly easy to purchase firearms here, authorities warn against using them to fight terrorists. "We can’t forbid anyone to legally purchase a gun, but this is no solution for terror," Beat Villiger, the vice president of the Conference of Cantonal Justice and Police Directors, told the SonntagsBlick newspaper Sunday.

^ You can't  blame the Swiss (or anyone else) for wanting to protect themselves - especially when it seems their governments can't do it (you usually hear that the police or special services were watching a known terrorist after they are allowed to murder innocent people.) ^

Primary Blame

^ You can blame the Russians for many things (like invading, occupying and annexing the Crimea), but to try and blame them for hacking into your e-mails and showing you doing something wrong - that's on you. What is Clinton's problem with e-mails? Even my 87 year Great-Aunt knows how to use them correctly. ^

Priest Attack

From the BBC:
"France church attack: Priest killed by two 'IS soldiers'"

An 84-year-old priest was killed and four other people taken hostage by two armed men who stormed his church in a suburb of Rouen in northern France. The two attackers, who said they were from the so-called Islamic State (IS), slit Fr Jacques Hamel's throat during a morning Mass, officials say. Police surrounded the church and shot dead both hostage-takers. French media named one of them as Adel K. One of the hostages is in a critical condition in hospital.  President Francois Hollande, visiting the scene, in Saint Etienne-du-Rouvray, said the attackers had committed a "cowardly assassination" and France would fight IS "by all means". Pope Francis decried the "pain and horror of this absurd violence". UK Prime Minister Theresa May branded the attack "sickening" and offered her condolences to the people of France. The suspect named as Adel K, aged 18, is reported to have been in custody and then placed under a control order, and had tried to enter Syria twice. Police special forces raided a house in the suburb in the aftermath of the attack, and French prosecutors earlier said one person had been arrested.  The attack happened during morning Mass at the historic church, situated in a quiet square of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray.  A nun, who identified herself as Sister Danielle, said she was in the church at the time. "They forced [Fr Hamel] to his knees. He wanted to defend himself, and that's when the tragedy happened," she told French media. "They recorded themselves. They did a sort of sermon around the altar, in Arabic. It's a horror". She said she managed to flee as they were preparing to kill him. Elite police units, specialised in hostage-taking, surrounded the church. President Hollande said the attackers claimed to be from the self-styled IS before they were killed by police as they came out of the church. Three of the hostages were freed unharmed, but one remains in a critical condition, said French interior ministry spokesman Pierre-Henri Brandet.  Locals seem shocked, but not in a dramatic way. A man told me how he had conducted christenings, marriages and funerals for years alongside Father Hamel. He showed me a set of keys - keys for the church. "When I heard the news of his death, it was like being hit on the head from above. I just want to go to the church but I can't," he said.  A priest from a neighbouring parish, who also knew Fr Hamel, passed through on his way to conduct his own mass. His message tonight will be that this is not an attack on the Catholic Church - it is merely the latest symbol of French life to be targeted.  And the mood of some here was summed up by a woman cycling past the waiting media, who shouted to no-one in particular: "We will not be afraid."  Within hours of the attack, the IS-linked Amaq news agency, said "two IS soldiers" had carried out the attack. Few details are yet known about the attackers, but Mohammed Karabila, a local Muslim leader, told the Associated Press that one of them had been "followed by police for at least a year and a half". That person is believed to be Adel K. The French ITele website said he had tried to reach Syria in May 2015 but was turned back at the Turkish border.  According to the report, he then spent nearly a year in prison before being released in March, on condition he wear an electronic tag and move back in with his parents.  Residents of St-Etienne-du-Rouvray reacted with shock and sadness to the killing of Fr Hamel, a well known figure in the community. "My family has lived here for 35 years and we have always known him," said Eulalie Garcia.  "He was someone who was treasured by the community. He was very discreet and didn't like to draw attention to himself." Pensioner Claude-Albert Seguin told AP: "Everyone knew him very well. He was very loved in the community and a kind man."  French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has expressed his horror at the "barbaric attack" and said: "The whole of France and all Catholics are wounded. We will stand together." The Archbishop of Rouen, Dominique Lebrun, who was attending a Catholic gathering in Poland, said: "I cry out to God with all men of goodwill. I would invite non-believers to join in the cry. "The Catholic Church cannot take weapons other than those of prayer and brotherhood among men." France is still reeling from the Bastille Day attack in Nice earlier this month, when a lorry was driven into celebrating crowds by Tunisian Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, killing more than 80 people.

^ Until governments around the world (Muslim and non-Muslim) take an active stance and start cracking-down on the Islamist extremists within their country these kind of horrendous acts will only continue. I'm sure that now people will show their support with a quick hashtag or picture - which is good, but doesn't solve the real issues and these terrorist attacks will only continue. You always hear that the terrorists were known to the police or the government after the fact, but that seems to do little to stop the killings from happening. One thing I've noticed: when terrorists commit attacks in Boston, California, Orlando, etc. the world blames our gun laws yet when terrorists commit attacks in: Brussels, Nice, Paris, Normandy, Munich, Istanbul, etc. no one questions their open refugee program.  The refugees should have been vetted a whole lot more than they were (as should all those that came decades ago as guest workers and never left.) Now Europe is paying for their mistakes with innocent men, women and children dying. Something, other than just PC talk, needs to be done to stop these terrorists. ^

Balfour Lawsuit

From the BBC:
"Palestinians plan to sue Britain over 1917 Balfour act"

Palestinian officials have said they are planning to sue Britain over the 1917 Balfour Declaration that laid out a vision for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Palestinian FM Riad Malki said the document led to mass Jewish immigration to British Mandate Palestine "at the expense of our Palestinian people". Mr Malki said the lawsuit would be filed in an international court. Israel declared its independence in 1948 after the UK mandate expired. Speaking at an Arab League summit in Mauritania on Monday, Mr Malki said the UK was responsible for all "Israeli crimes" since the end of the mandate in 1948. "Nearly a century has passed since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration in 1917," he was quoted as saying by the Palestinian Wafa news agency. "And based on this ill-omened promise hundreds of thousands of Jews were moved from Europe and elsewhere to Palestine at the expense of our Palestinian people whose parents and grandparents had lived for thousands of years on the soil of their homeland." The minister did not provide any further details about the planned lawsuit. The Balfour Declaration, named after then UK Foreign Secretary Lord Arthur Balfour, pledged Britain's support for the establishment "in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people".  The document formed the basis of the British Mandate for Palestine, which was formally approved by the League of Nations in 1922. Jewish immigration to Palestine accelerated from the 1920s to the 1940s, latterly spurred by Nazi persecution and the Holocaust in Europe. The growth of the Jewish population was opposed by Palestine's Arab community, which rejected the eventual establishment of a Jewish state. Britain has not publicly commented on the issue sraeli Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said the announcement "sounded strange, but the direction is not accidental". "Palestinian leaders haven't been interested in peace for some time already," Mr Erdan was quoted as saying by Israel's Haaretz newspaper. "The only goal is to de-legitimise Israel," he said.

^ This seems like a publicity stunt rather than a real lawsuit. I guess the Palestinians have finally realized that the violence, bombs and missiles used for the past 70+  years to achieve their goals have not worked and that every time they attack Israel they simply show the world why they shouldn't run their own country - not to mention Israel always wins. I am all for a lawsuit rather than bombs so even though I don't see much merit in this case hopefully it will stop the violence. ^

Sunday, July 24, 2016

BSA: 1 Year Later

From Yahoo:
"Boy Scouts faring well a year after easing ban on gay adults"

There were dire warnings for the Boy Scouts of America a year ago when the group's leaders, under intense pressure, voted to end a long-standing blanket ban on participation by openly gay adults. Several of the biggest sponsors of Scout units, including the Roman Catholic, Mormon and Southern Baptist churches, were openly dismayed, raising the prospect of mass defections. Remarkably, nearly 12 months after the BSA National Executive Board's decision, the Boy Scouts seem more robust than they have in many years. Youth membership is on the verge of stabilizing after a prolonged decline, corporations which halted donations because of the ban have resumed their support, and the vast majority of units affiliated with conservative religious denominations have remained in the fold — still free to exclude gay adults if that's in accordance with their religious doctrine. Catholic Bishop Robert Guglielmone of Charleston, South Carolina, whose duties include liaising with the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, says he knows of no instances where a Catholic unit — there are more than 7,500 — has taken on an openly gay adult leader since the policy change. Gay sex and same-sex marriage are considered violations of church teaching. Leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., were unhappy with the BSA's easing of the ban on gay adults, but did not call on individual churches to disaffiliate with troops that they sponsored. A year later, the number of Southern Baptist churches that did cut ties with Scouting is "in the double digits," far outnumbered by those who continued their sponsorships, according to Ted S. Spangenberg Jr., president of the executive board of the Association of Baptists for Scouting. "A few of the churches that left are starting to trickle back as the knee-jerk reaction is over," Spangenberg said. "We kind of like the way it looks — if you're faith-based, it's within your right to select the adult leaders who are going to uphold the tenets of your faith." Another leader pleased with the developments is Richard Mason, president of the BSA's Greater New York Councils, which serves nearly 50,000 youths in the New York City area. In April 2015, the NY Councils played a key role in the BSA policy change, defying the ban by announcing the hiring of an 18-year-old gay Eagle Scout to work at one of its summer camps. Soon afterward, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman's office opened an inquiry into the BSA's membership policies and influence over local councils' hiring decisions. Mason said the aftermath of the policy change has been overwhelmingly positive in New York. Some corporations and liberal religious groups that cut ties with the Scouts because of the ban have restored them, he said, while the Catholic archdiocese — initially wary of the change — has remained fully active with scouting. The changes in BSA policy toward gay youths and adult leaders were "handled as professionally as I have seen any contentious issue handled during my career," said Mason, a lawyer experienced with complex bankruptcy proceedings. Until last year, the Boy Scouts had explicitly adhered to a ban on gay adults for more than three decades, even taking a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000, when it won a 5-4 decision upholding its right to have exclusionary membership policies. That ruling fueled protests against the BSA by gay-rights supporters. Some local governments barred the Scouts from using public schools or other municipal property. The 2012 ouster of a lesbian serving as a Cub Scout den mother in Ohio sparked a national petition campaign assailing the ban. After vigorous internal debate, the BSA leadership decided in 2013 to allow participation by openly gay youth. However, the organization faced continued pressure to ease its ban on gay adults serving as paid staff or volunteers.
Some major Scout councils made clear they would defy the ban, and BSA headquarters became increasingly worried that it could face lawsuits from states that prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation. At the urging of Robert Gates, the former defense secretary who was BSA president at the time, the Scouts' National Executive Board voted on July 27, 2015, to end the blanket ban on gay adult leaders while allowing church-sponsored units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons. About 73 percent of all Scout units are sponsored by churches, some of them open to participation by gay adults. Like several other major youth organizations, the Boy Scouts have experienced a membership decline in recent decades. Current youth participation, according to the BSA, is about 2.35 million, down from 2.6 million in 2013 and more than 4 million in peak years of the past.

^ I was a Boy Scout and am glad that this policy change not only helped gay scouts and scout leaders, but also seems to have brought positive attention to the organization in general to increase enrollment. I hope that trend continues since I had a good time in the Boy Scouts and learned a lot. ^

No Blanket Ban

From Yahoo:
"IOC leaders stop short of complete ban on Russians from Rio"

Olympic leaders stopped short Sunday of imposing a complete ban on Russia from the Rio de Janeiro Games, leaving individual global sports federations to decide which athletes should be cleared to compete. The decision, announced after a three-hour meeting of the International Olympic Committee's executive board, came just 12 days before the Aug. 5 opening of the games. "We had to balance the collective responsibility and the individual justice to which every human being and athlete is entitled to," IOC President Thomas Bach said. The IOC rejected calls from the World Anti-Doping Agency and many other anti-doping bodies to exclude the entire Russian Olympic team following allegations of state-sponsored cheating Russia's track and field athletes have already been banned by the IAAF, the sport's governing body, a decision that was upheld Thursday by the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and was accepted by the IOC again on Sunday. Calls for a complete ban on Russia intensified after Richard McLaren, a Canadian lawyer commissioned by WADA, issued a report Monday accusing Russia's sports ministry of overseeing a vast doping program of its Olympic athletes. McLaren's investigation, based heavily on evidence from former Moscow doping lab director Grigory Rodchenkov, affirmed allegations of brazen manipulation of Russian urine samples at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, but also found that state-backed doping had involved 28 summer and winter sports from 2011 to 2015. But the IOC board, meeting via teleconference, decided against the ultimate sanction, in line with Bach's recent statements stressing the need to take individual justice into account. The IOC also rejected the application by Russian whistleblower Yulia Stepanova, the 800-meter runner and former doper who helped expose the doping scandal in her homeland, to compete under a neutral flag at the games. The IOC said Stepanova, now living in the United States, did not meet the criteria for running under the IOC flag and, because she had committed doping violations, did not satisfy the "ethical requirements" to compete in the games. However, the IOC added that it would invite her and her husband, Vitaly Stepanov, to attend the games. While deciding against an outright ban, the IOC said it was imposing tough eligibility conditions, including barring entry for the Rio Games of any Russian athlete who has ever been sanctioned for doping. The IOC said it would accept the entry only of those Russian athletes who meet certain conditions set out for the 28 international federations to apply. The decision for the IOC was loaded with geopolitical ramifications. Never has a country been kicked out of the Olympics for doping violations. And Vladimir Putin's Russia is a sports powerhouse, a huge country seeking to reaffirm its status on the world stage, and a major player in the Olympic movement. Many international Olympic officials and federation leaders have close ties to Russia, which has portrayed the exclusion of its track athletes and calls for a complete ban as part of a political, Western-led campaign. Putin, citing the U.S. and Soviet-led boycotts of the 1980 and 1984 Games, said the Olympic movement "could once again find itself on the brink of a division." And former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev wrote an open letter to Bach on Friday to plead against a blanket ban. Anti-doping leaders had argued that the extent of state-backed doping in Russia had tainted the country's entire sports system, and the only way to ensure a level playing field was to bar the whole team, even if some innocent athletes will lose out. Russia faces a possible ban from the Paralympic Games. Citing evidence in McLaren's report of doping among Russian Paralympic athletes, the International Paralympic Committee said Friday it will decide next month whether to exclude the country from the Sept. 7-18 event in Rio.

^ I knew the lure of kick-backs was too great for the IOC to do what is right. Of course they claim that it is all about the athletes, but all this decision does is re-enforce the idea that a team or even a country can break the rules and still get away with it - as long as the favors keep pouring in (of course I don't know for sure about that last bit, but know Russian society thrives on it.  ^

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Lawn Service

I knew from the beginning that it was too good to be true. Now I have found out that it was. 6 weeks ago I found a lawn care service and had the owner come give me an estimate. They told me that if I lived in town it would be more than half the cost, but with my mountain and the travel distance it would be more. I agreed and they were to start the next week (coming on either Thursdays or Fridays.) The next week the workers came and I took them around the property and showed them what I wanted done. The first time would be more work removing bushes, etc. and not merely mowing. They got to work and when they were done they handed me a bill. I wrote a check and mailed it out the next day. I thought that things were now settled and that for the first time in over 7 years I wouldn't have to mow my yard (or take care of the leaves in the Fall.) I got my hopes up for nothing. In the 5 weeks since the first time they came the yard doesn't look like it has been mowed. Even when I see them working and then check the yard when they leave the grass is still pretty high. I mentioned it to the owner and asked that they lower the blades. There was one week (over the 4th of July weekend) where they didn't come that Thursday or Friday. My dad called the owner and they eventually came that Saturday. I was leaving for Colorado that Sunday and my dad for Iraq that Monday.  Then they didn't come at all this week. I waited until after business hours today just to make sure and then sent the owner an e-mail saying that because of the unreliability in the 6 weeks of using their company I was cancelling my service with them. I asked him to send me my bill for the work they had done (minus the first week which I already paid for.)  The owner then replied that his crew had come yesterday and saw that the yard didn't need to be mowed and that they should have left a note on my door saying that they had stopped by and that they didn't need to mow. I replied that I work from home and that no one had stopped by all week much less left a message. I then went outside and took a picture of the yard (where the grass is up to my ankle) and sent it to the owner. The owner replied that it clearly needed to be mowed - duh!  - and that if I wanted he would personally come do it himself tomorrow. Rather than keep "fighting" with them and getting more stress I will keep my cancellation with them and mow the yard myself. Hopefully, I can find another company to take care of the leaves this Fall. I just wish I could find one person in this state that actually does what they agree to do and not hide or make excuses. It is the one place I have lived around the US and the world that this has constantly happened.

Canadian Child Scheme

From the BBC:
"Canada overhauls child benefits scheme"

Canada has overhauled its child benefits system and significantly increased the amount of money the state will pay out to families.  In a new scheme, launched on 20 July, nine out of ten families will see their benefits rise.  The move fulfils a major 2015 election pledge by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. But it also comes at a time of budget deficit and economic stagnation in the country. Child welfare reform has been a pressing issue in Canada since the 1990s, with as many as 14% of the country's children living in poverty, according to national statistics data.   "The new Canada Child Benefit means more money for healthier groceries, kids' summer programmes, and back-to-school clothes," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a statement.  But critics have pointed to the cost - approximately CA$22.8 billion (£13.2 billion) from the federal budget at a difficult moment financially. Huge wildfires in Alberta have hurt oil production and Canadian exports performed worse than economists expected during the second quarter of this year.  Payments through the scheme are also fixed rate for the next four years, meaning parents will not see their benefits adjusted according to inflation.

Top 5 countries for child welfare

  1. Netherlands
  2. Norway
  3. Iceland
  4. Finland
  5. Sweden

But optimists hope the pros will outweigh the cons.  The government estimates working-class families will receive an extra CA$2,400 (£1,386) a year on average through the new system. Parents with children under the age of six will be eligible to receive CA$6,400 (£3,698) a year, while parents with children between the ages of six and 17 will be eligible for CA$5,400 (£3,120) a year.  The scheme is also more simple than the previous model, which involved Universal Child Benefit and two other benefits installations in tandem. The new scheme involves a single monthly payment and is weighted according to household income.    "We are punching well below our weight on child poverty," said Iglika Ivanova, Senior Economist for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an independent think tank. If successful, Ms Ivanova said the new system could cut child poverty by up to 22% within a year, affecting the lives of 230,000 people. A key test for the reform will be the impact it has on the lives of indigenous Canadians, who suffer greater levels of inequality. As many as 76% of aboriginal residents in Manitoba and 69% in Saskatchewan live below the poverty line.  The National Post, a conservative Canadian news outlet, has given the new child benefit a lukewarm reception. The biggest change, they argue, will be felt by high-income families.  Those earning more than CA$180,000 (£104,000) a year will see their child benefits phased out entirely under the new initiative. Economists say the full impact of the reform will not be known for a number of years.

^ Here's hoping that this will be funded correctly and help the children in Canada that need it the most. ^

Adapted Emojis

From Disability Scoop:
"New Emojis Depict Range Of Abilities"

There are countless emojis available, but only one depicting disability. Now, a group of advocates is looking to change that. The London-based disability advocacy group Scope has created a series of 18 new emojis portraying people with a range of abilities. The icons include people in wheelchairs, individuals with prostheses, a guide dog, those with hearing impairment and other disabilities engaging in a variety of activities.  What’s more, with the Olympic and Paralympic Games just around the corner, several of the emojis depict athletes with various special needs. “Emojis offer a colorful array of more than 1,800 characters to help sum up how you’re feeling. So it’s disappointing that disabled people are represented with just one emoji — the wheelchair user sign,” said Rosemary Frazer, campaigns manager at Scope who uses a wheelchair herself. “This one symbol can’t represent me and the disabled people I know. To truly represent the world we live in, disabled people should be included in a way that reflects the diversity of our lives,” she said. The icons developed by Scope are freely available to download and share. Officials with Scope said they hope their designs will encourage the Unicode Consortium — the organization that standardizes emojis — to release icons representing people with disabilities.

^ As the article states it is very timely for these new emojis because of the Paralympics.  Even if they weren't coming up it is good to have these emojis to show the different types of disabilities - especially within sports - since there are a wide-range of people with different abilities  - as there are in any kind of sports with "regular" people participating. ^

Heat Dome

From Yahoo:
"Why the 'Heat Dome' Will Scorch Nearly the Entire US This Weekend"

A blast of sweltering heat will sweep across the United States over the next four days, and some places will see temperatures as much as 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (5.6 to 8.3 degrees Celsius) above average for this time of year, according to the National Weather Service. Hot weather in July is to be expected, of course — after all, it's the middle of summer — but a so-called heat dome is kicking these hot and humid temperatures up a notch. A heat dome happens when a "dome" of high pressure traps hot air underneath it, said Mike Musher, a meteorologist at the NWS' Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland. In the coming days, an enormous dome will envelope much of the Midwest before moving toward the East Coast over the weekend, he said. This dome formed largely because the jet stream passing over the U.S.-Canada boarder is preventing cooler air from pushing southward, Musher said. "During the summer months, with the jet typically so far north and not much cold air to dig into the united states, it's natural for these large high pressure systems to develop," he said. Much of the country will feel scorching temperatures over the next few days, according to weather prediction maps published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In Minneapolis, for example, the average temperature on July 21 is 84 degrees F (29 degrees Celsius), Musher said. But this weekend, it will be in the mid- to high 90s Fahrenheit (about 35 to 37 degrees Celsius), he said. By this weekend, as the heat dome moves eastward, temperatures in parts of the Midwest will drop to the 80s, Musher said. But the heat will continue to sizzle some areas. On Sunday, temperatures are expected to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37 degrees Celsius) in several states, including parts of Kansas, Texas, South Carolina and Georgia, NOAA's weather prediction maps show. Heat domes aren't rare, but this one appears to have produced the first sizable heat wave of the summer, Musher said. Weather and government officials advised people to stay cool as the heat dome makes its way across the country. Even President Barack Obama tweeted, "This map says it all. Stay safe as it heats up: Drink water, stay out of the sun and check on your neighbors."  The White House issued a statement asking people to be watchful of heat exhaustion symptoms, including heavy sweating; skin that is cold and pale; nausea; or vomiting. Likewise, heat stroke symptoms include high body temperature; skin that is red, hot and dry; or even unconsciousness, according to the government. Moreover, it's important to check on infants, young children and the elderly, who are less efficient at regulating internal body temperature than adults are, the statement said. But even adults should take care to wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, refrain from strenuous exercise, and drink plenty of water, the National Weather Service recommended.

^ It is very hot, hazy and humid on my mountain in Northern New England which is pretty rare. People need to remember to check-on the elderly, the disabled and pets with it so hot and humid. ^


From the BBC:
"Munich shooting: Gunman acted alone, say police"

A shooting at a Munich shopping centre which left nine people dead was carried out by one gunman who then killed himself, German police have said. The suspect was an 18-year-old German-Iranian dual national who lived in Munich, police told a news conference, but his motive is unclear. Sixteen people were injured, three critically, police added. A huge manhunt was launched following reports that up to three gunmen had been involved in the attack. The body of the suspect was found about 1km (0.6 miles) from the Olympia shopping centre in the north-western suburb of Moosach.  Munich police chief Hubertus Andrae told the news conference early on Saturday that the suspect had not been known to police and there were no known links to terror groups, although investigations were continuing. Following the attack, the Bavarian capital's transport system was suspended and the central railway station evacuated. Public transport was reopened several hours later when police gave a cautious "all clear". Thousands of people stranded by the emergency and unable to get home were offered shelter by local residents. First reports of the shooting came in just before 18:00 (16:00 GMT) on Friday. Witnesses said the attacker opened fire on members of the public in Hanauer Street before moving to the nearby Olympia shopping centre. Police described it as "an acute terror situation" although officials stressed that the motive was as yet unknown. Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, told national TV: "We cannot rule out that it is linked to terrorism but we can't confirm it either, but we are also investigating in this direction." A meeting of the government's security cabinet will be held on Saturday.  Police urged the public to avoid speculation on social media and to desist from using photos or video of their deployments online.   German security forces have been on alert since a teenage migrant stabbed and injured five people on a train in Bavaria on Monday, in an attack claimed by so-called Islamic State.  The authorities had warned of the danger of further incidents.

^ Sadly, this seems to be the new norm throughout Europe. For decades they welcomed migrants and refugees from the Middle East/North Africa and now those once welcomed as guest workers are shooting and bombing for a disgusting and lost cause. The UK, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium have all had to deal with Muslim extremists terrorizing and killing innocent people. We have had several terrorist attacks in the US (since 9-11) in California, Florida and Massachusetts and the world always makes it seem like we deserve them because of our gun policies. Tight gun polices doesn't seem to protect those in the UK, Spain, France, Germany, Belgium or anywhere else in Europe. The issue here isn't gun controls, but terrorism. Whether it happens in the US or the EU, by a group or a lone wolf, the end result is death and terror. That needs to be addressed before more attacks occur. ^

Friday, July 22, 2016


"Myrotvorets OSINT website team create map of Donbas fighters from Russia"

Volunteers of the Myrotvorets (Peacemaker) OSINT website have created an interactive map showing places of residence in Russia of Russian fighters who have participated in the Donbas war against Ukraine. "As of today, the map displays 3,200 hyperlinks to militants and terrorists. There are 15,000 more profiles of Russian mercenaries on the waiting list for filling in. Then, citizens from other countries who have fought against Ukraine and Ukrainian separatists will be added. [The website's team] are short of hands now," Ukrainian Member of Parliament Anton Gerashchenko wrote on Facebook on Thursday, July 21. "It features all the OSINT-spotted Russian terrorists, mercenaries and fighters whose geography stretches from Kaliningrad [in Russia's west] to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky [in the Russian Far East]," he wrote.Gerashchenko invited Russian citizens to visit the Myrotvorets website and check "if terrorists and fighters who participated in war in Ukrainian territory live in their neighborhood." "In future, the Myrotvorets website will become a Ukrainian prototype of a center created by [Austrian Nazi hunter] Simon Wiesenthal, which will help to trace and find all invaders of our country the same way as Israel did to Nazi criminals. God's mill grinds slow, but sure!" he wrote.

^ This is a great idea. Not only does it continue to show proof of Russia's involvement in the Donbass War, but it allows people in Russia, the Ukraine and around the world the type of people that are fighting there (some may even be neighbors or close friends.) I wonder how long it will take the Russians to block access to the site in Russia and Russian-annexed Crimea. It is getting harder and harder in this instant-technology age for Russia to continue telling the lies they have over the years. They tend to deny, deny, deny and then when the truth comes out and their lies revealed they simply shrug it off and blame anyone but themselves. It's a shame that Russia is doing this since they could be part of the international community and help make things great rather than be separate from it and make things worse. ^

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Extended Sanctions

"Six countries, incl. Ukraine, support EU's extended sanctions over Crimea"

Albania, Georgia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Ukraine, and Montenegro have supported the EU Council's decision to extend the sanctions over the illegal annexation by Russia of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, according to the Council of the European Union. "The Candidate Countries Montenegro and Albania, and the EFTA countries Liechtenstein and Norway, members of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine, and Georgia align themselves with this Council Decision," the Council said in a statement. "They will ensure that their national policies conform to this Council Decision. The European Union takes note of this commitment and welcomes it," the statement said.  On June 17, 2016, the Council decided to extend the existing sanctions until June 23, 2017. The EU's sanctions over Crimea include a ban on imports from Crimea and Sevastopol to the EU along with a ban on investment in Crimea and Sevastopol. Sanctioned are also tourist services in Crimea and Sevastopol. In particular, European cruise ships are banned from entering Crimean ports. Exports of certain goods and technologies to Crimea, in particular, in such sectors as transport, telecoms and energy, are not allowed.
^ It's good to see that the Crimean Annexation and the War in the Donbass hasn't been completely forgotten with the Brexit, Nice terrorist attack, Turkish coup, etc. going on in Europe alone. The Ukrainian people continue to fight for the integrity of their country and the rest of the world needs to continue to support them. ^

Disabled Vets

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Helping Lost Canadians

From the G & M:
"Children born abroad to Canadians may end up as ‘lost Canadians'"

Like many Canadians, Jennifer and Evan Brown moved to the United States for work. In 2011, they jumped at the chance to live in New York when Evan, a chartered accountant, was offered a job there. After the couple had their first child a year later, they moved back to Canada, where they eventually had a second. But there’s a crucial difference between their children: One has more citizenship-transmission rights than the other.  The Browns, who now live in Victoria, are affected by a law passed by the government of Stephen Harper, whereby the children of Canadian citizens born abroad cannot – with only a few exceptions – pass on their own citizenship if they also have children abroad. The provision was introduced as part of changes the previous, Conservative government made to citizenship laws. While the current Liberal government is undoing much of that legislation, it has so far not addressed the concerns of families like the Browns. Without citizenship, an individual does not have access to many of the benefits that come with being Canadian, including the ability to travel with a Canadian passport and to vote or run for political office. It can also complicate the individual’s ability to work in Canada and access all social benefits. With that much at stake for their children, Canadians born abroad may feel pressure to restrict their travels and working opportunities.
It took four years for the Browns to figure out that their four-year-old son, Jackson, born in the United States, was affected by the law. Like most children in the same circumstances, their son received a letter from the Canadian government explaining the rule, but the Browns didn’t fully understand it at the time. Ms. Brown was recently at a local playground when another parent, Roy Brooke, told her how his son, five-year-old Nathan, may not be able to pass citizenship onto his children if they are born abroad as Nathan was. Ms. Brown realized the rule probably applied to her son as well. “I had the assumption that he’d actually have more doors opened for him having been born in the U.S., and then I felt that possibly we’d actually restricted the most important door for his children,” Ms. Brown said. The rule stipulates that someone born or adopted outside Canada to a Canadian parent is not a Canadian citizen if the person’s parent was also born abroad after April 17, 2009, when the provision became law. The limit was brought into force in an effort to “achieve greater simplicity and transparency in citizenship laws as well as to preserve the value of citizenship,” according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC). The Brown and Brooke families were not working for the Canadian government or Canadian Forces when they had their children abroad – the only exception to the rule – so their children were not exempt from the first-generation citizenship limit. Mr. Brooke has taken the fight for the citizenship-transmission rights of children like Nathan and Jackson to Ottawa. After two years of unsuccessfully attempting to persuade the Conservatives to change their policy, he is pushing the Liberals to do so. He had his eyes set on the Liberals’ Bill C-6, which aims to reverse some Conservative changes to the Citizenship Act, but was told it was too late to amend the legislation to remove the first-generation citizenship limit. The bill is currently at first reading in the Senate, where Mr. Brooke is now seeking witness status before committee and encouraging others affected to make their concerns known. Immigration Minister John McCallum said at the end of May that he would look into the matter. His office referred further questions to the Immigration Department, which refused to speculate whether changes may be tabled in the future. NDP immigration critic Jenny Kwan, who has met with other affected families, called the policy “discriminatory” against Canadians who choose to work abroad, especially in today’s global economy. “The Prime Minister himself has said on many occasions now, ‘a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.’ This also applies to second-generation Canadians born abroad as well. They shouldn’t be treated as second-class citizens,” Ms. Kwan said. Mr. Brooke and his wife, Sara Bjorkquist, were working in Geneva, Switzerland, when their son was born in August, 2010. Had they been aware of this law, Mr. Brooke said he and his wife would have thought twice about having children overseas. He’s now concerned that Nathan may not be able to pass on citizenship to his children if he chooses to follow in his parents’ footsteps and work abroad. “My decision to serve at the UN could penalize me, my son and his offspring,” Mr. Brooke said. “Three generations are hurt because we decided to live overseas for a few years and work for the UN, and that is not right.” Only a couple of exceptions can apply to the children of Canadians like Nathan: if at the time of the birth abroad, the child’s other parent is a Canadian citizen by birth in Canada or by being granted citizenship through immigration, or if the affected parent is working for the Canadian government or Canadian Forces at the time of the birth. “If [Nathan] works overseas, his children could be stateless if he works for the Red Cross, the UN or any non-federal government entity, and marries a non-Canadian,” Mr. Brooke said. Parents of children born abroad who are not eligible for citizenship may sponsor their children to become permanent residents and then apply for citizenship. In 2009, the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada estimated that 2.8 million Canadians – or 8 per cent of Canada’s total population – lived abroad. IRCC said it does not know how many Canadians born abroad are affected by the first-generation citizenship limit. Advocacy groups, including the Canadian Council for Refugees, have called on the government to restore the right to citizenship for the second generation born abroad or at least to provide citizenship to those who would otherwise be stateless under the law. “By denying citizenship to the second generation born abroad, Canada is creating a new set of ‘lost Canadians’ and making some children born to Canadians stateless,” the CCR said in a report on Bill C-6.

^ I really hope they change that first-generation provision and do it soon. I have always said it was a very stupid and discriminatory provision. I take citizenship very seriously and know that it is not something that should be bought and sold (some countries let you become a citizen by simply giving them a lot of money.) I believe that if you are considered a natural-born citizen (not naturalized) then you should be given the right to pass that on to you children. I am considered a natural-born citizen of the United States and a natural-born citizen of Canada, but as Canada likes to discriminate (it's citizenship laws have always done so since a separate Canadian citizenship was created right after World War 2 - dual citizenship wasn't allowed until 1977 and for decades a Canadian could lose their citizenship by simply living outside Canada for a certain time period and now this 2nd generation proverison) I couldn't pass on my Canadian citizenship. A foreigner who comes to Canada and becomes a naturalized Canadian has more rights than a natural-born Canadian like me. They can pass on their Canadian citizenship to the 2nd and subsequent generations while I cannot. That goes against the very heart of true citizenship. Not only does this current provision help create stateless "Lost Canadians" but it also goes against what being a democracy and a citizen within that democracy is really about. There are two extremes with regards to citizenship/nationality issues: the one where you cheapen it by allowing people to simply throw money at it to become a citizen and the other where you discriminate against natural-born citizens to pass on their citizenship to their children. Canada follows the last extreme and that needs to change if Canada wants to consider itself a free, open, democratic and non-discriminatory country for its own citizens. ^

Real Exhibit

From Yahoo:
"9/11 museum stages art exhibition rife with reality"

To mark the 15th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks, the 9/11 memorial museum is staging an art exhibition that in some cases uses actual remnants of the day of terror in works that convey both grief and tenderness. Scorched and torn business papers from the collapsing towers and radio transmissions from the fiery pit are part of the collection titled, "Rendering the Unthinkable: Artists Respond to 9/11," which opens Sept. 12. Thirteen artists contributed paintings and a sculpture, as well as works on paper and video. In one video clip, a young woman washes her fire chief father's shirt — soiled from three days spent working in the smoking World Trade Center rubble. Brooklyn resident Christopher Saucedo created his papier-mache artwork, "World Trade Center as a Cloud," as a way to remember his firefighter brother, whose remains were never found. Other artists lost friends or witnessed the attacks.  Monika Bravo, a native of Colombia living in Brooklyn, had filmed a thunderstorm passing over the city on Sept. 10, 2001, from her studio on the 92nd floor of the north tower. The footage is now condensed into a piece dedicated to a fellow artist who died a day later in the same tower. "Through the lens of art, we reflect on the raw emotion we all felt on that unforgettable Tuesday morning 15 years ago," said Alice Greenwald, the memorial museum's director. The artists are not asking "that we revisit the horrors of that day but that we try to make sense of what was left in its wake." Some works incorporate papers, in many pieces, that were blown out of the disintegrating skyscrapers and landed as far away as Brooklyn across the river. They included a rumpled sheet in Japanese and an application for a marketing job written days before the Sept. 11 attacks. The exhibition was assembled by the National September 11 Memorial & Museum that oversees two reflecting pools bearing the names of the nearly 3,000 people who died that day in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The display is the first in the museum's special exhibition gallery where various 9/11-related topics are planned in the future.

^ I can't believe that this September is the 15th anniversary of the attacks. With that said. I think showing the true artifacts from that horrible day is a good idea. Most museums display such artifacts whenever possible. Seeing them helps people who weren't alive or weren't there when it happened to see that this really happened, that it affected real people and isn't just some historical moment that has no reliance to the person visiting the museum. ^

No Influence

From the MT:
"Most Russians Feel No Ability to Influence Country – Poll"

Some 73 percent of Russians feel they have no influence over what happens in their country, a survey by the independent Levada Center revealed Wednesday.  The figure has risen from 59 percent in November last year, with the percentage of respondents who believed they could slightly influence the country falling from 30 percent to 17 percent over the same period. Fifty-four percent of respondents also said they had no ability to influence what goes on in their city or their region, with only 30 percent believing that they had a slight ability to do so. Out of the 1600 respondents, sixty-four percent said that they felt absolutely no responsibility for what happens in the country, rising from 55 percent in November last year. The Levada Center interviewed Russians aged 18 and older in 137 urban and rural communities across 48 Russian regions between June 23 and 27. The report comes months before elections for the Russian State Duma. Another recent poll by the Levada Center showed that a third of Russians expect the upcoming State Duma elections to be rigged, and that only ten percent of Russians believe that the 2011 elections were not manipulated in some way.

^ Sadly, it seems that the majority of ordinary Russians do not have much, if any, influence about how their country is run or its role in the world. While it does not surprise me at all it is a sad statement of reality. ^


From the CDN Prime  Minister's Website:
"Canada signs Landmark Free Trade Agreement with Ukraine"

The Government of Canada remains committed to working with Ukrainian government and business leaders to deepen the commercial ties between our countries and create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and grow our economies.Today, Prime Minister Trudeau, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko and Prime Minister Groysman witnessed the signing of the milestone Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which will open our markets to products, grow our communities, and give our citizens a higher standard of living.The Agreement is part of Canada’s continued commitment to supporting Ukraine’s efforts to build a stable, democratic, and prosperous country. Both Canada and Ukraine are committed to the timely ratification and implementation of CUFTA – so that Canadians and Ukrainians alike can take advantage of its benefits as soon as possible. 

Quick Facts
  • In 2015, Canada and Ukraine announced the conclusion of the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA) negotiations.
  • Canada’s International Trade Minister, Chrystia Freeland, and Ukraine’s First Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Stepan Kubiv, signed the Agreement in Kyiv during Prime Minister Trudeau’s first official visit to Ukraine.
  • Ukraine offers numerous opportunities for Canadian businesses and investors, in areas such as information and communication technologies, agriculture, infrastructure and logistics, aerospace, defence and security, and energy.
  • In 2015, bilateral trade between Canada and Ukraine increased by 13.9 per cent over 2014, totalling almost $278 million. Canada’s exports to Ukraine totalled over $210 million in 2015. Examples of products imported by Ukraine include pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood, and coking coal.
  • Canada’s merchandise imports from Ukraine totalled more than $67 million in 2015. Major imports included fertilizers, iron and steel, and anthracite coal.
  • Now that the Agreement has been signed, Canada and Ukraine will go through their respective domestic legislative processes to ratify and implement the Agreement.

^ It's  good that Canada has not forgotten the Ukraine despite everything that is going on around the world. Hopefully this Free Trade Agreement will help both countries. ^

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Disabled Russian Sports

From the MT:
"Sports Facilities for the Disabled to Open in Moscow"

Moscow will begin construction of four soccer fields and a fitness center for disabled persons this year, city website reported Tuesday.   The head of Moscow's city construction department, Andrei Bochkaryov said facilities of a combined 16,403 square meters will appear throughout the city. Moscow city's budget will cover the cost of the project.  Three soccer fields with artificial turf, locker rooms, showers and administrative offices will be completed this year at Trudoviye Reservy and sports schools No. 27 and 76. The fourth field will be on Michurinsky Prospekt, reported.
A fitness center will open in Moscow's southern Nagatino Sadovniki district. It will feature two pools specially adapted for use by disabled persons, a multipurpose gym and a rehabilitation center with massage rooms.  Progress is gradually being made on disabled rights in Russia, with the country's first state-run autism care center opening in Moscow in April. But more than half a million people in Russia have been deprived of disabled status over the past two years.

^ This is a great step in the right direction for both Moscow and Russia. Usually the disabled in Russia are treated as second-class citizens who deserve the life they have (the Russians are very superstitious.) Now the disabled Muscovites will have an opportunity to train and play sports like everyone else. ^

Tough Security

From USA Today:
"Senate sends Obama bill toughening airport security"

Airport security will be tightened and travelers will get bag-fee refunds for long-delayed luggage under legislation the Senate cleared Wednesday for President Obama. The Senate voted 89-4  to approve the compromise bill extending Federal Aviation Administration policy through Sept. 30, 2017. The House approved the bill Monday by voice vote. Obama is expected to sign it. “The reforms in this legislation will help ensure that attacks like those that happened in Brussels and Istanbul don’t happen at American airports,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who drafted the bill as chairman of the transportation committee. The FAA’s current authorization expires Friday, so the relatively short-term bill will allow further debate on shifting air-traffic control from the FAA to a private corporation, which was a top priority in the House. “This bill will bolster security at many of our nation’s airports and help us better protect the flying public,” said Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, the top Democrat on the committee.

Provisions in the bill will:
• Force airlines to refund bag fees automatically if luggage is delayed 12 hours after a domestic flight or 15 hours after an international flight. Airlines charged $3.8 billion in bag fees last year. But only about three passengers out of 1,000 complain about mishandled bags, and airlines said they already have policies to reimburse passengers for lost bags.
• Double the Transportation Security Administration teams that patrol airports outside checkpoints, such as in arrival halls or baggage claim, often with bomb-sniffing dogs to discourage attacks like those in Brussels and Istanbul. If Congress later provides funding, TSA could boost the number of Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams from 30 to 60 through 2018.
• Toughen eligibility standards for airport workers who have access to secure areas and conduct more random screening of workers for their credentials and possible weapons. The goal is to thwart workers from smuggling guns or a bomb onto a plane as is suspected in the destruction of a Russian Metrojet in Egypt in October.
• Encourage TSA to explore different vetting options to sign up travelers for Precheck, which allows expedited screening for travelers who get background checks and pay an $85 fee for five years. The bill also calls on TSA to keep Precheck lines open during peak travel times after complaints of long lines this spring.
• Raise the FAA’s civil fine for pointing a laser at an airliner from $11,000 to $25,000, with quarterly reports to Congress about the number of incidents and enforcement actions taken. More than 7,347 laser strikes on aircraft were reported to the FAA last year, nearly double the total from the year before.
"In the face of international terrorism, it's critical that we make every effort to secure our airports, train stations, and bus depots — the places Americans rely on to go about their daily lives," said Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., one of the sponsors of the VIPR provision.

^ I like the provision to force airlines to refund the bag fees when they get lost as well as adding more TSA and tightening control over airport employees. Hopefully, this will pass and go into effect. ^

Minimum Cargiver

From Disability Scoop:
"Caregiver Wage Rule Here To Stay"

With a final court challenge rejected, implementation of an Obama administration rule mandating pay protections for in-home caregivers assisting those with disabilities is proceeding. The U.S. Supreme Court indicated late last month that it would not hear a case disputing a 2013 U.S. Department of Labor regulation requiring minimum wage and overtime pay for in-home care workers. The court’s order effectively means that the Obama administration rule, which took effect last year, will remain in place.  Under the rule, most home care workers must be paid at least the federal minimum of $7.25 per hour and earn time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours per week. Previously, caregivers were classified much like baby sitters and were not entitled to the same rights as other kinds of employees. Trade groups representing agencies employing many in-home care workers sued over the change, arguing that the pay raise would make the care they offer to clients with disabilities unaffordable. Initially, a U.S. District judge sided with the industry groups saying that the Labor Department had overstepped its authority. But on appeal, a three-judge panel found otherwise. In October, Chief Justice John Roberts denied a request from the trade groups who had asked the court to delay the rule while they continued their appeal. Roberts’ move allowed the rule to take effect that month. Since that time, there have been reports that the changes have led to difficulty for some people with disabilities trying to obtain needed services. Many agencies have opted to limit hours for caregivers in order to avoid paying overtime, necessitating more workers. But that has triggered caregiver shortages, with in-home care provider positions notoriously difficult to fill. “We have worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, including state officials, providers of home care services, advocates representing people with disabilities and worker advocates, to encourage thoughtful implementation of the rule,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “We continue to stand ready to provide all stakeholders with the technical assistance necessary to help them comply with the rule.” Officials with the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute, a group advocating for the direct-care workforce, said the wage mandate is necessary to meet the growing demand for in-home care. “Finding skilled, committed workers for caregiving jobs is becoming increasingly difficult. The DOL home care rule is a first step toward addressing this labor shortage,” said Jodi Sturgeon, the group’s president. “We hope that state legislatures will move swiftly to ensure home care providers have the necessary funds to comply with the rule and avoid any disruption of services to consumers.”
Even as the dust settles on the pay mandate for hourly workers, disability service providers are also bracing for the impact of another Labor Department rule which will affect wages for salaried workers. Traditionally, salaried employees earning at least $23,660 have been exempt from overtime pay. However, under the change set to take effect in December, that figure will double to $47,476 with automatic increases in the future. With many workers set to be newly eligible for overtime under the rule, providers of home and community based services to people with developmental disabilities raised alarm bells saying that the Medicaid payments they rely on haven’t been adjusted to account for the change. In response, the Labor Department has committed to delay enforcement of the new mandate affecting salaried workers through March 17, 2019 specifically for providers of Medicaid-funded services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in residential homes and facilities with 15 or fewer beds.

^ I am glad this is allowed to go into effect and that caregivers will finally be treated as the hard-working people they are and not simply seen as a baby-sitter. The key now is to force the organizations and companies that hire caregivers to not simply make them part-time workers so they don't have to give them full benefits. I know there is an acute shortage of caregivers around the country and so the companies should be willing and able to hire full-time caregivers when they can find people for those positions. ^

Troops To S. Sudan

From USA Today:
"Obama orders troops to South Sudan as civil war continues"

President Obama has ordered 47 U.S. troops to South Sudan to help protect the American embassy there after an outbreak of violence in the newly formed nation. The troops were airlifted into the country Tuesday as part of an effort to evacuate U.S. personnel. Another 130 troops are pre-positioned in nearby Djibouti ready to provide support, Obama told Congress in a letter Wednesday.Obama’s notice fulfills the requirements of the War Powers Resolution, which requires notification of the movement of combat troops into a new country. “Although equipped for combat, these additional personnel are deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property,” Obama said in his letter to Congress. “These deployed personnel will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that their presence is no longer needed.” Noting a "sudden and serious deterioration in the security situation in the capital," the State Department ordered the departure of all non-emergency personnel from South Sudan on Sunday, although the embassy said it was "a reduction in staff, not an evacuation." The northeastern African nation was carved out of Sudan in 2011 after a U.S.-supported referendum backed its independence. But it's been embroiled in a civil war since 2013, as rival political factions have turned to violence. It's not the first time the U.S. military has deployed troops to protect U.S. personnel in South Sudan. Obama ordered a similar deployment of 46 U.S. early-response forces in 2013.

^ I'm sure most people didn't know about this or have even heard of South Sudan. Unlike my post about sending more American "advisors" to Iraq I like that this time the soldiers going to South Sudan are being called what they actually are and not some made-up political name to make the politicians feel better. ^

Tenor Change

From the BBC:
"Canadian singer goes rogue, adding 'all lives matter' to anthem"

Canadian singing group The Tenors has apologised after one of its members altered the country's anthem to include the phrase, "all lives matter". The group was performing at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in San Diego when the singer went off-script. Member Remigio Pereira held up a sign that read "all lives matter" while singing O Canada and also changed a lyric of the song to the same phrase. The group said they were unaware of his plans to change the anthem.  The vocal quartet, based in British Columbia, issued an apology on Twitter, saying they were "deeply sorry for the disrespectful and misguided lack of judgment by one member of the group acting as a 'lone wolf' today".  The group added Mr Pereira would not be performing with them until further notice. Mr Pereira changed the line from, "With glowing hearts we see thee rise, the True North strong and free" to "We're all brothers and sisters. All lives matter to the great". He then held up a sign with the phrase and "United we stand" written on the back. The phrase "all lives matter" has stirred controversy as critics argue it undermines the Black Lives Matter movement.

^ It is completely disrespectful to change the lyrics of the national anthem (whether it is the Canadian, American or any other country.) There is a time and a place to make political statements and while singing your national anthem is neither the time nor the place. It is also pretty annoying to hear and see all these "Black Lives Matter" statements on the news and online. I know it is cliché but I would prefer people to use "All Lives Matter" - just not during the national anthem. ^