Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Border Fix

From the DW:
"Belgium, Netherlands peacefully redraw the border, fixing a jurisdictional burden"

Belgium and the Netherlands have settled a festering territorial dispute, without firing a single bullet. However, the border change was prompted by a violent murder and an arduous police investigation.  Territorial disputes often turn bloody and spark conflicts that can span decades. However, on Monday, the Netherlands and Belgium settled a festering territorial dispute by signing a peaceful land exchange deal. The motion was prompted by a bloody murder, but ultimately alleviates a major jurisdictional burden. On the windy Meuse river that divides the two countries by the Dutch town of Eijsden, Belgium agreed to cede a tiny uninhabited peninsula that is linked to the Netherlands, in return for a small piece of nearby land. Both countries' deputy prime ministers and ministers of foreign affairs signed border correction treaty in Amsterdam on Monday. Dutch and Belgian monarchs also attended the signing.  At the signing ceremony, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said: "We have shown that Belgium and the Netherlands succeed as good neighbors to adapt their borders peacefully." His Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, said that the border treaty symbolizes the excellent state of Belgian-Dutch relations and that it shows that borders can also be changed in peacefully. The new border will come into effect on January 1 and will follow the middle line of the Meuse. The land exchanges remedy what was a jurisdictional nightmare, particularly for Belgium. The original border, established in 1843, followed the deepest points of the river. However, when it was reconfigured for navigational purposes in 1961, it pushed three pieces of land onto the wrong side of the river. As a result, parts of Belgian are attached the Dutch riverside of the Meuse, and vice-versa, making them inaccessible by road without crossing over the border.  This began causing problems for Belgian authorities, as a Belgian part linked to the Netherlands was rumored to be a haven for drugs dealers and prostitution. Then, a couple of years ago, passers-by stumbled upon a headless body on the Belgian part. However, Dutch police were unauthorized to go there because it was on Belgian territory, while Belgian authorities were not allowed to cross into the Netherlands without special permission. The only alternative was a difficult river crossing. However, without proper landing zones for boats or equipment arriving by river, Belgian police found it extremely difficult to arrive at the scene. After a number of round trips across the Meuse river with prosecutors, legal doctors and judicial lab personnel, both sides agreed that a better solution was needed. A similar agreement between Norway and Finland had recently gained traction in the media, but ultimately appears to have fallen through.

^ Belgium used to be part of the Netherlands and so it didn't matter about borders until the 1800s when it became independent. It's good to see that this issue was resolved in such a good way. There are numerous enclaves around the world and weird things like a house with the front door in Canada and the backdoor in the US, etc. that should be addressed. ^

Wildfire Animals

From USA Today:
"Fire forces Ripley's Aquarium employees to leave thousands of animals behind"

Employees at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies were forced to evacuate Monday as wildfire spread into Gatlinburg. Aquarium staff were forced to leave behind over 10,000 animals, according to Tennessee Ripley Attractions General Manager Ryan DeSear. DeSear said he wasn't sure if flames reached Ripley's Aquarium, but a "raging fire" was about 50 yards away from the aquarium when workers were evacuated on Monday night. DeSear said the aquarium's live web camera was still active, and the building was still standing. "As long as we have fuel in our generators, that aquarium can run on its own," DeSear said. The Gatlinburg Fire Department ordered the mandatory evacuation of downtown Gatlinburg as wind conditions worsened and several fires grew increasingly unpredictable and dangerous on Monday night. DeSear said he was one of the last people out of the building at 7:45 p.m. Monday, and said he had to force many of the workers to leave because they didn't want to leave the animals without help. "They were force evacuated," DeSear said. "To them, every animal has a name. You don't give that up."  Unfortunately, he said, "Nothing is more important than human life. Fish can be replaced. It sucks." DeSear said as long as the building had power and didn't catch fire, the animals should be safe. When everything is functioning normally, the animals can survive for 24 hours without human intervention. Before he left, he did a final check of the animals, and said they were behaving normally, which he took as a good sign because animals have an acute sense of danger. "We need to be one of the first people allowed back in when it's safe," he said. "I hope the people manning the checkpoint hear our plea."

^ This is a sad story. Wildfires are dangerous for humans as well as animals and I'm sure it wasn't easy for the workers of the Aquarium to abandon the animals with the fire so close. I was supposed to visit this area of TN back in September, but had to postpone it until next year. Hopefully, the area will recover and these animals (as well as any people nearby) will be safe. ^

Monday, November 28, 2016

Obama Not Attending

From Yahoo:
"Obama will not attend Castro funeral: White House"

 President Barack Obama will not attend Fidel Castro's funeral, the White House said Monday, demurring on the question of who would lead the US delegation. "The president will not be traveling to attend the funeral of Fidel Castro," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest. Obama has sought to thaw tensions with Cuba, but stopped short of meeting Castro during a landmark trip to Havana earlier this year.

^ I mentioned this in an earlier post, but since Obama is actually doing something good I wanted to mention it separately. I was surprised when I learned he wouldn't be attending especially since he has bend over backwards recently to please Cuba when nothing concrete has changed in Cuba - other than more American tourists visiting. This only goes to show you that sometimes people can surprise you, but it is too little too late to have any lasting affect on his legacy - which I'm sure he is very worried about. ^

Describing People

Germany's Dramatic Change

From the BBC:
"Oskar Groening Auschwitz conviction marks 'dramatic change'"

German federal court has upheld the conviction of Auschwitz death camp guard Oskar Groening, who admitted witnessing murders but not taking part. The verdict overturns a 1969 ruling that being a staff member at Auschwitz was not enough to secure a conviction. Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff said it was the biggest change in years. Groening, 95, who was known as "the bookkeeper of Auschwitz", had appealed against a four-year jail term handed down for being accessory to murder.  "This is a very dramatic and significant change in German prosecution policy," Mr Zuroff, the head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Israel, told the BBC. Germany's Federal Court of Justice (BGH) upheld the acquittal 47 years ago of an SS dentist at Auschwitz, arguing that working at the death camp or knowing about the mass murders was not sufficient proof of guilt. For decades, thousands of ex-Nazis who took part in the Holocaust escaped conviction. Monday's ruling sets a precedent for pursuing suspects, now in their nineties, accused of serving in death camps. Campaigners said the federal court's ruling also cleared the way for prosecutions of ex-members of the Nazi mobile death squads known as Einsatzgruppen, which operated in Eastern Europe. They believe at least eight suspects could now be accused of murder because their membership of the death squads would be sufficient proof.  At the original trial in Lueneburg, presiding Judge Franz Kompisch said Groening was part of the "machinery of death", helping the camp function smoothly and also collecting money stolen from the victims to help the Nazi cause.  He sentenced him for being an accessory to the murder of 300,000 Jews even though there was no evidence of involvement in a specific killing. Groening testified at that trial that he oversaw the collection of prisoners' belongings and ensured valuables and cash were separated to be sent to Berlin.  The turning point came in 2011, when former Ohio car factory worker John Demjanjuk became the first person convicted in Germany for serving as a death camp guard without any evidence of being involved in a specific killing.  But Demjanjuk, who always denied serving at the Sobibor camp, died in 2012 before his appeal could be heard, so the Federal Court of Justice did not at the time reverse its 1969 ruling. Prosecutors will now have to decide whether Groening is in good enough health to serve the sentence.

^ Germany is finally doing what it should have done decades ago: taking full responsibility for the rule of the German people in the murder of millions upon millions of innocent men, women and children throughout Europe. Since 1945 Germany has claimed they "knew nothing" and that they would punish those responsible (the Soviet, French, British and American occupation forces claimed the they would do the same too) but in the end the Allies punish a handful of people in a symbolic gesture while the West German (and East German) government did very little and when they did do something (like in the Auschwitz Trials of the 1960s) they made it so most of those involved in the Holocaust would get away with murder - literally. That was mostly due to the fact that the German Government and German society was infested with Nazis until the 1980s and of course the Nazis aren't going to go after themselves. It was only in the past 2 decades that Germany has started to actively go after those involved mainly because the Nazis are now retired from their posts and positions of power and a new generation, not involved in the crimes, is in power. ^

Trudeau Not Attending

From the BBC:
"Justin Trudeau will not attend Fidel Castro's funeral"

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must have been feeling the heat.  Mr Trudeau will not attend Fidel Castro's funeral in Cuba this week, despite the decades-long friendship between his father and the former Cuban communist leader.  Canada will be represented by Governor General David Johnston at a memorial service in Havana on Tuesday.  Mr Trudeau's decision comes after his initial statement on Castro's death was mocked worldwide.  Over the weekend, the hashtag #trudeaueulogies trended after the prime minister's office released a statement referring to "Cuba's longest serving President" as a "remarkable leader" for whom the Cuban people had "a deep and lasting affection".  It opened the floodgates on Twitter, as users gleefully satirised Mr Trudeau with fictitious tributes to historical and fictional dictators and despots, from Mussolini to Darth Vader.  Cuban-American senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio were also harshly critical of the prime minister's comments.   On Monday, his Canadian political opponents called Mr Trudeau "naive" for ignoring human rights abuses in the Caribbean nation.  Human Rights Watch has documented a "dark legacy" under Castro that included the punishment of dissent and the incarceration of political opponents.  Mr Trudeau tersely conceded to journalists on Sunday that Castro was a dictator and that "there certainly were significant concerns around human rights".   He added: "The fact is Fidel Castro had a deep and lasting impact on the Cuban people".  Castro's critics have been pressuring Mr Trudeau and other world leaders to snub the controversial former leader's funeral. US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister Theresa May are not attending. The prime minister's office says Mr Trudeau's schedule is preventing him from making an appearance.   Cuban-Canadian musician Luis Mario Ochoa, who fled Cuba in 1990, said Mr Trudeau had made the right decision to forgo the event.  The musician said it made no sense that Canada would recognise the "pain" and oppression he experienced under the Castro regime by granting him asylum, while having Mr Trudeau pay tribute to Castro in official statements.  But with Mr Trudeau's decision to skip the funeral, Mr Ochoa said he's "willing to forget and forgive" the earlier remarks.  The Governor General, Queen Elizabeth II's representative in Canada, will attend a service in Havana on Tuesday, part of nine days of mourning in the country before Castro's ashes are laid to rest on Sunday.

^ It seems that, in the end, Trudeau saw (or most likely was told) the error in his earlier statement praising Castro. I applaud the fact that Obama isn't going to the funeral either (especially considering all his recent work there) but the fact that Trudeau isn't going even when his father and Castro were close friends says a lot more. It is a real "slap in the face" to Fidel Castro and his decades-long reign of terror on the innocent men, women and children of Cuba and those that fled. Castro will go down in Cuban and world history as a ruthless dictator that did more harm than good. ^


Major Roles

"10 Underappreciated Countries That Played Major Roles In WWII"

For a war that affected nearly every country in the world, only a few nations seem to get mentioned when we talk about World War II. Germany, England, Russia, Japan, and the United States are sure to come up, but many more countries get left out. The other nations of the world were involved, though—and we forget that some of those places did a lot more than you might realize.

10. Australia Fired The First Allied Shot
On September 4, 1939, the morning after Great Britain declared war on Germany, a boat passed by a fort at Point Nepean. The fort’s personnel called for it identify itself, and when it refused, they became panicked that it might be a German ship, bringing the war to Australia. The fort launched a warning shot across the bow of the ship, sending what some consider to be the first Allied shot of World War II. The shot itself isn’t that remarkable. The ship turned out to be Australian after all, so it wasn’t even against an enemy ship. The gun battery, however, is. By sheer coincidence, the very same battery also fired the first Allied shot of World War I. The Australians would fire many more. By the end of the war, 27,000 Australian soldiers had given their lives.

9. Canada Built The Third-Largest Navy On Earth
At the beginning of World War II, Canada was not a major military force. Despite its large size, it had a population of only 11 million and was armed with a navy of only 15 ships and an air force of 235 pilots. When Germany invaded Poland, though, the Canadians started getting ready. In ten days, Canada invested $20,000,000 into building up its armory—and they started building. They trained nearly 50,000 pilots and built 800,000 trucks, 471 naval ships, and 16,000 aircraft. And they sent 730,000 men off to fight. They were the biggest contributors to the British air training plan and gained a worldwide reputation for their air force. Most amazingly of all, by the end of the war, Canada had the third-largest navy on the planet.

8.India Had the World’s Largest Volunteer Army
When India called on its people to fight, they signed up. An incredible 2.5 million Indian men volunteered to fight in World War II, forming the largest volunteer army in the world. Not every one of them ended up on the front lines. Some worked in factories or defended the country against air raids.  Those who did, though, made a massive difference. One group called The Fourteenth Army, a mixed force of British, Indian, and African soldiers, recaptured Burma. It was a turning point in the war, and by the end, 30 Indian soldiers had earned the Victoria Cross, the highest British medal of honor

7.Malays Fought England’s Last Stand In Asia
In 1942, the Japanese advanced on Singapore, a major strategic point for the British army. England’s military base there was their access point to Asia, and without it, they would be at a major disadvantage. England’s last stand, though, wasn’t fought by British soldiers; it was fought by Malays. A man named Adnan Saidi and his unit held the ground at Opium Hill, determined to hold against the Japanese to the last man. At one point, a troop with turbans on their heads dressed in British-Indian uniforms came toward them. At first, they seemed to be a relief army from India, but Saidi noticed something was off. These men marched in lines of four, while the British usually marched in lines of three. They were Japanese soldiers in disguise. Saidi’s men opened fire, and the assault was stopped. After that, the Japanese got frustrated and launched an all-out attack. Still, Saidi and his men stayed and fought, shooting until the last bullet was fired—and fighting with bayonets after that. All but one man died. The Japanese overran the place, and Britain lost its key base in Asia. But the Malays, at least, gave them a fight.

6.Switzerland Wasn’t Entirely Neutral
The Swiss didn’t just sit there and let World War II happen. Officially, they were neutral, but they still played a role. They didn’t want the war coming across their borders, and they defended their airspace. At one point, this meant shooting down 11 German planes that entered Swiss airspace en route to France. The Germans were furious. They demanded an apology and threatened to retaliate. The Swiss, though, threw the blame right back at them and demanded that they stop flying over their land. When the Allies started fighting back, Switzerland wasn’t always left alone. Some of the bombings meant for Germany landed on them, including a US bombing that killed 100 people. The Americans insisted that it was an accident, although the Swiss weren’t so sure. By the end, the Americans had blasted Switzerland with enough of an onslaught that they had to pay more than $14 million in damages.

5.Kenya Fought Against Both Italy And Japan
Nearly 100,000 Kenyans signed up to fight in the King’s African Rifles. They were, by far, the biggest part of Britain’s African army, making up one-third of its soldiers, and they played a big role in the war in Africa. The Kenyans defended their land against an Italian invasion and helped the King’s African Rifles fight—and stop—the Italian invasion across East Africa. After that, they went on to Madagascar and Burma. The Kenyans struggled with racism throughout the war. African soldiers were paid less than white ones and could never be promoted to a commanding rank. Still, they found some ways to take advantage of the stereotypes against them. One soldier told a writer that, to terrify Japanese soldiers, the Kenyans would pretend they were cannibals getting ready for a taste of Japanese.

4.Poland Broke Enigma First
Alan Turing gets all the credit, but he was actually the second person to crack Germany’s enigma code. The first was Marian Rejewski, a Polish cryptographer. As early as 1932, Poland had started work to crack German’s complex enigma code. Working with documents stolen by French spies, a Polish team struggled to duplicate the enigma machine—and it worked. Rejewski managed to solve the cypher and made the first duplicates of the enigma machine. Unfortunately, the Germans realized that their code had been cracked and increased the complexity tenfold. The Poles were stuck, and in 1939, realizing that an invasion was imminent, they sent all their work to England for the British to carry it on and braced for the worst. That work made it to Alan Turing, who built on it to crack the more complex code, but he never would have done it without the work of Marian Rejewski.

3.Finland Held Off An Invasion Of One Million Russians
In 1939, Finland entered World War II. The Soviet Union had been trying to barter a trade, wanting control of several Finnish islands, but when Finland refused, they moved their troops in. The Soviet army was massive. There were one million troops marching on Finland, leaving them outnumbered three to one. Finland called for help from Britain and France, but none came, so they had to fight the Soviets themselves. Finland lost—but they dealt a major blow to the USSR in the process, killing 320,000 Soviet soldiers. Finland only suffered 70,000 casualties. The Finnish had to give up some of their land, but they shot a major hole in the Soviet army.

2.Almost Every Soldier From One Armenian Town Earned A Medal
In Armenia, a small mountain village called Chardakhlu played an incredible role in World War II. Of the 1,250 villagers who were enlisted to fight in the Soviet army, 853 were awarded medals, 12 went on to be generals, and seven became heroes of the Soviet Union. Two men from the little town made it to the highest echelons of the Soviet army. Hamazasp Babadzhanian became the chief marshal of the armored troops of the Soviet, while Ivan Bagramyan became the marshal of the Soviet Union. By the end of the war, the little town had some of the most decorated fighters in the country. Nearly every man came home with medals on his chest—or didn’t come home at all.

1.Russia Killed Eight Out Of Ten German Soldiers
Admittedly, Russia isn’t exactly an overlooked country in World War II. It’s well-known that Russia played a major role in the war, but most people don’t realize how massive that role was.  We’ve heard a lot of boasts about the United States turning the tides of the war, but the credit really should go to the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union was responsible for 80 percent of all German casualties. And the USSR came into the war late. If we start counting from 1941, the Soviets are responsible for 95 percent of all German casualties. A lot of this happened during the Battle of Stalingrad, where Russian soldiers wiped out 20,000 German men each day. Russia’s army was more than big; it had its fair share of talent, too. Nine out of ten of World War II’s deadliest snipers were from the USSR. The Soviet Union didn’t just play a role in the battle against the Germans—they completely devastated them.

^ I already knew about numbers: 9, 6, 4, 3 and 1. The others were interesting. To be fair it should be noted that the Soviet Union only fought in the European Theater of World War 2 (except for a few days in August 1945 when they entered a few token places in Asia.) The US and UK had to fight in the open oceans, in Europe, North Africa and Asia. As for the other countries on this list: it's nice to learn of the sacrifice. ^

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Holocaust Skating

From the BBC:
"Putin spokesman's wife in row over Holocaust TV skating routine"

The wife of Vladimir Putin's spokesman has drawn criticism by performing a holocaust-themed ice skating routine on Russian television. Tatiana Navka, a professional skater on the reality show Ice Age, was partnered by actor Andrei Burkovsky. The couple performed in the striped uniform of concentration camp victims. Ms Navka called the dance a favourite, saying it was inspired by the film La vita è bella (Life is Beautiful), which is set in a Nazi camp. In a post on Instagram, she added: "Our children need to... remember that terrible time, which I hope, God willing, they will never know." Ice Age is a celebrity skating contest similar to the UK series Dancing on Ice, or US primetime favourite Dancing with the Stars. It is broadcast on Russia's Channel One, which is owned and controlled by the Kremlin.  Ms Navka and Mr Burkovsky performed to the song "Beautiful that Way", the theme from Life is Beautiful. The 1997 film is a comedy drama about an Italian bookshop who creates an imaginary world to shield his young son from the agony of life in a concentration camp. The high-energy routine saw the skating partners pretend to shoot each other, while beaming at the audience. Their black and white uniforms included the yellow Star of David which the Nazis forced Jewish people to wear, and fake inmate numbers.  Ms Navka, who is married to Dmitry Peskov, Mr Putin's chief spokesman, covered her hair with a scarf for the ice dance. Posting a montage of pictures on Instagram, Ms Navka said the controversial choreography was a tribute. "One of my most loved routines!" she wrote, "based on one of my favourite movies, 'La vita è bella!' Show this movie to your children."  Several Instagram users expressed disgust at the pictures, branding the routine insensitive and shameful. One wrote: "Disgusting ignorance! You show contempt of 6 million murdered innocents and shame the Russians that helped liberate survivors too." "Words cannot express how SICK this is," said another calling herself jewish_chick.  American comedian Sarah Silverman, who is from a Jewish background, shared a video of the dance on Twitter, writing: "OH MY GOD".   The Jerusalem Post reports that Russian TV aired a different Nazi-inspired dance number back in April.   The country's version of Dancing with the Stars featured a performance where a Nazi officer finds a Jewish woman hiding behind a piano. He decides not to shoot her, and the two start dancing to "Fly me to the Moon" by Frank Sinatra instead. But in the end she is killed by a bullet from the blue, leaving him screaming and shooting in mid-air. Six million Jews were murdered by the Nazis in Hitler's death camps, along with between 140,000 and 500,000 Soviet prisoners of war.

^ This is just beyond words and shows how insensitive people really are (or maybe ignorant is the correct word here?) Millions of Russian Jews (and millions more in other parts of the Soviet Union occupied by the Germans) were imprisoned in ghettos and starved before either being murdered in mass death pits or sent to the death camps. Having a Holocaust-themed routine on a reality show is classless and wrong on numerous levels. I really hope the audience realizes how distasteful this kind of routine is and that this couple doesn't get rewarded for doing this - especially not by winning - but she is the wife of Putin's spokesman and it airs on Kremlin-backed TV so they probably will. ^

Real Reaction

"Anyone who grieves over Fidel Castro would also grieve for: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and all the other dictators whose personal actions led to the death and/or imprisonment of millions of innocent men, women and children."

^ I couldn't agree with this more. ^

German Past

From the DW:
"Berlin to investigate Nazi influence on post-war government"

Germany has said it will launch a probe into possible Nazi pressure on its post-war central government, including the Chancellery. The investigation will cost Berlin 4 million euros and will complement ongoing inquiries. The investigation will run until 2020 and will complement 20 inquiries that have already been made at numerous ministries and institutions to determine the reach of alleged Nazi networks following World War II.  Of the 4 million euros allocated to the investigation, 1 million will be reserved for uncovering the Nazi influence on the office of the German chancellor. The German government's post-war recruitment policies and "the mentality of the political culture" will also be examined, the culture ministry said in a statement on Saturday. The probe will look into the role that Hans Globke played as chief of staff for former West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer between 1953 and 1963. According to Germany's "Der Spiegel" newspaper, Globke, a trusted confidant to Adenauer, was responsible for recruitments during that time. Globke also served as a senior civil servant in the Nazi-era interior ministry and was involved in the preparation of the Nuremberg race laws and the "Jewish code" that was enforced in Slovakia under the Nazis. According to a German government report, around 77 percent of the officials in the justice ministry in 1957 had been members of the Nazi Party. The most controversial of them was former Nazi magistrate Eduard Dreher, who in 1968 drafted a law that made the work of Nazi hunters difficult and ended almost all inquiries into Third Reich figures.

^ Everyone knows that there were millions of Nazis in all positions of society and government in West Germany (and to a lesser extent East Germany) from 1945 through the 1980s.  The current German Government continues to give those Nazis government pensions for their "service." It's disgusting. ^

1st Advent

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Holodomor Recognition

From Wikipedia:
"Holodomor genocide question"

The following countries have recognized the Holodomor as an act of genocide:
  •  Australia
  •  Canada
  •  Colombia
  •  Ecuador
  •  Estonia
  •  Georgia
  •  Hungary
  •  Latvia
  •  Lithuania
  •  Mexico
  •  Paraguay
  •  Peru
  •  Poland
  •   Vatican City
Countries that have recognized the Holodomor as a criminal act of the Stalinist regime:
  •  Argentina
  •  Chile
  •  Czech Republic
  •  Slovakia
  •  Spain
  •  United States

^ Not sure why more countries do not recognize the Holodomor as a genocide. I think it is because of politics and not fact (just like the Armenian Genocide.) ^

Castro Dead!!!

From the BBC:
"Cuba's Fidel Castro, former president, dies aged 90"

Fidel Castro, Cuba's former president and leader of the Communist revolution, has died aged 90, state TV has announced. It provided no further details. Fidel Castro ruled Cuba as a one-party state for almost half a century before handing over the powers to his brother Raul in 2008.But his opponents accused him of brutally suppressing opposition.

^ We lost someone good (Florence Henderson) on Thanksgiving and someone bad (Fidel Castro) yesterday. Cuba and the world can rejoice that Castro can no longer impose his dictatorship on others - not that he really has been able to since 2008. It's nice to see that someone like him became very ill and suffered over a long period of time considering all the suffering he has done to others. He is now will "good" company (Hitler and Stalin.) Hopefully, his death will bring real freedom and prosperity to the Cuban people rather than forcing them to continue to live in a repressed and dying dictatorship. ^

Frank Poem

From the DW:
"Rare Anne Frank poem sells for 140,000 euros at auction"

An eight-line poem penned by teenage Holocaust victim Anne Frank has gone under the hammer in the Netherlands for 140,000 euros, exceeding all presale estimates. Frank wrote the poem shortly before she went into hiding.  Anne Frank wrote the book perhaps most closely associated with the Holocaust: her diary. But before she and her family went into hiding from Nazi occupiers in an Amsterdam apartment, she composed an eight-line poem on March 28, 1942. It was auctioned in Haarlem, the Netherlands, on Wednesday, selling for 140,000 euros (nearly $150,000), surpassing all presale estimates. It had been estimated to fetch 30,000-50,000 euros ($32,000-53,000) ahead of the auction.  Dedicated to Christiane van Maarsen, the sister of Anne's former school friend Jacqueline, the poem contained excerpts from a Dutch book of verse.  "Jacqueline was an important person for Anne," Maatje Mostart, a spokeswoman for the Anne Frank Foundation, told news agency AP. Anne and her family went into hiding in July 1942. Betrayed to the Nazis, the Frank family was arrested in August 1944 and deported. Anne died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in spring 1945, just before the end of World War II. She was 15 years old. The diary Anne Frank kept while in hiding, published by her father after the war, has become a symbol of all Holocaust victims. The book became a global bestseller, selling over 30 million copies in more than 60 languages.

^ It is a piece of history. ^


Today is Голодомор (Holodomor) Remembrance Day where between 2.4 and 7.5 million Ukrainian men, women and children were murdered in a Soviet man-made famine from 1932 to 1933.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Florence Henderson

From USA Today:
"'Brady Bunch' mom Florence Henderson dies at 82"

Florence Henderson, who played the cheerful mom in the 1970s sitcom The Brady Bunch, has died, her manager told the Associated Press. She was 82. Kayla Pressman said in a statement late Thursday that Henderson passed away surrounded by family and friends. Entertainment Tonight reported that she died from heart failure, surrounded by her four children.   Family and friends had been at Henderson’s hospital bedside, Pressman said. Although her best-known role as the cheerful matriarch of The Brady Bunch only ran for five seasons, it lived on in syndication for decades, cementing Henderson's status as one of TV's most beloved moms. There were spinoffs and reunion specials like 1977's The Brady Bunch Hour, 1981's The Brady Brides and The Bradys in 1990, a Fuller House-style outing which featured the marriages and families of the six grown Brady children. She also joined the cast of the 1995 spoof The Brady Bunch Movie, playing Grandma Brady opposite Cheers star Shelley Long as Carol.  The Brady Bunch "represents what people always wanted: a loving family. It’s such a gentle, innocent, sweet show, and I guess it proved there’s always an audience for that,” Henderson told the AP in 1999. Premiering in 1969, it also was among the first shows to introduce to television the blended family. As its theme song reminded viewers each week, Henderson’s Carol was a single mother raising three daughters when she met her TV husband, Robert Reed’s Mike Brady, a single father who was raising three boys. The eight of them became The Brady Bunch with a quirky housekeeper, played by Ann B. Davis, thrown into the mix.  Numerous memoirs also kept interest in the show alive, as cast members revealed they were more than just siblings off camera. Barry Williams, who played eldest son Greg Brady, would confess to having a crush on his TV stepmom. Henderson, in her own book, denied having any relationship with Williams, but did acknowledge a fling with former New York City mayor John Lindsay. The woman who would become America's TV mom was born Feb. 14, 1934, in the small town of Dale in southern Indiana. She was the 10th child of a tobacco sharecropper of Irish descent. The proud Hoosier would later return to Indiana to sing at 23 runnings of the Indianapolis 500 and served as the grand marshal at the 100th edition.  After high school, Henderson moved to New York, where she enrolled in a two-year program at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, her studies financed by a theatrical couple who had been impressed by her singing when they saw her perform in high school. Henderson was a 19-year-old drama student in New York when she landed a one-line role in the play Wish You Were Here. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II were so impressed they made her the female lead in a 1952 road tour of Oklahoma!. When the show returned to Broadway for a revival in 1954, she continued in the role and won rave reviews. To broaden her career, Henderson took acting, dancing, singing and guitar lessons, even studying French and Italian. She originated the title role in Fanny in the mid-1950s and went on to play Maria in a road production of The Sound of Music. She also played Nellie Forbush in a revival of South Pacific and returned to Broadway with Jose Ferrer in The Girl Who Came to Supper in 1963.  Her career nearly came to an end in 1965 when she suddenly lost her hearing while appearing in The King and I in Los Angeles, and was diagnosed with a condition linked to heredity. “Corrective surgery in both ears restored my hearing,” she said in 2007. She made her movie debut in 1970 in Song of Norway, based on the 1944 operetta with music by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. As her TV career blossomed with The Brady Bunch, Henderson also began to make frequent TV guest appearances. She was the first woman to host The Tonight Show for the vacationing Johnny Carson. For eight years she commuted to Nashville to conduct a cooking and talk series, Country Kitchen, on The Nashville Network. The show resulted in a book, Florence Henderson’s Short Cut Cooking. After The Brady Bunch ended its first run, Henderson alternated her appearances in revivals of the show with guest appearances on other programs, including Hart to HartFantasy Island and The Love Boat. In later years she made guest appearances on such shows as Roseanne, Ally McBeal and The King of Queens. Henderson married theater executive Ira Bernstein and the couple had four children before the union ended in divorce after 29 years. Her second husband, John Kappas, died in 2002. Pressman said she is survived by her children; Barbara, Joseph, Robert and Lizzie, their respective spouses, and five grandchildren.

^ "The Brady Bunch" still airs and even though it was filmed in the 1960s-70s it still has the same issues that affects people today. ^

Black Friday

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Macy's 90th

From USA Today:
"Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade celebrates 90 events with heightened security"

Officers carrying assault rifles and walking bomb-sniffing dogs lined the route at this year's Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday in New York City. The parade stepped off at around 9 a.m. after a performance from The Muppets. Officials parked more than 80 sand-filled sanitation trucks at intersections and other spots along the route to serve as barriers against any kind of possible attack. New York Police Department helicopters flew overhead. This year’s three-hour event marked 90 parades, but not in a row. The Macy’s parade started in 1924 but was put on hold during World War II, when commodities like helium and rubber were in short supply. Sixteen character balloons, 27 novelty/ornament balloons, 26 floats, 1,100 cheerleaders and dancers, more than 1,000 clowns and 16 marching bands and performance groups made their way down the 2.5-mile parade route. Thursday's event featured four new floats: The Aloha Spirit by King’s Hawaiian featuring a functioning waterfall; the Deck the Halls float by Balsam Hill with a fully operating merry-go-round; The Girl Scouts of the USA’s Building a Better World float; and, the Fun House by Krazy Glue. Felix the Cat, the parade’s first-ever balloon, returned this year, carried on sticks sans helium, just like during his first parade run in 1927. Snoopy’s Doghouse float replaced the traditional Snoopy balloon this year. Charlie Brown represented the Peanuts gang from up above as a balloon. Snoopy was one of the longest-running balloons in the parade. Thursday's performers included Tony Bennett, Aloe Blacc, LunchMoney Lewis, Regina Spektor, Daya, Easton Corbin and more. The parade ended at around noon with Santa ushering in the new holiday season at Macy's flagship store on 34th Street.

^ I had the Parade on while I did other things and what I saw was ok. I must not be into Parades anymore, but it's nice knowing that it has been around for 90 years. ^

Holiday Rush

Many people's holidays: rushing through Thanksgiving dinner to fight the weather (rain, freezing rain or snow) only to fight the crowds (finding parking, finding the right item than fighting other people for that item) and being thankful when everything's over.

My holiday: enjoying Thanksgiving dinner, staying inside while it snows outside, buying my presents online (not only is it convenient, but you can order things from around the world and save money at the same time) and binging on "The Simpsons" while having pumpkin pie and hot chocolate and being thankful I can relax.

Ottawa Restores Some Rights

From the BBC:
"Canada plans to restore voting rights for long-term expats"

Canada plans to restore voting rights to some 1.4 million expatriates.  Ottawa is introducing legislation to allow expats who have been living outside Canada for more than five years to vote in federal elections,  Two Canadians living in the US have been fighting for the right to vote after learning they were ineligible to cast ballots in the 2011 general election.  Canada's Supreme Court is planning to hear their case next spring.   The new policy is part of a package of electoral reforms announced on Thursday by federal Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef.  Ms Monsef called the five-year limit "arbitrary".  "People have a very strong connection to this country and to their identity as Canadians. Just because they're living abroad doesn't mean they've forgotten about this place," she said.  The law has been in place since 1993.  Gillian Frank, currently living in Princeton, New Jersey and Jamie Duong, who resides in Fairfax, Virginia, went to court to fight against the voting rights limits after trying to register online to vote in the 2011 Canadian federal election.  It became a hot-button issue during the 2015 federal election when an Ontario appellate court overturned an earlier win for the two expats. Canadian actor Donald Sutherland, the father of Kiefer Sutherland, even weighed in, criticising the policy that stopped him and his wife from casting a ballot.  In 2009, there were an estimated 2.8 million Canadians living abroad.  About 11,000 Canadians living overseas, excluding armed forces members, voted in the last federal election. Canada is not the only country that places limits on the voting rights of long-term expatriates. Citizens who have lived outside the UK for more than 15 years are barred from voting. Two Britons who wanted to vote in the June EU referendum lost a challenge against that law earlier this year. Australia and New Zealand also have varying voting limits for citizens who have lived abroad for extended periods.   On Thursday, the federal Liberals also proposed making it easier for people to vote within Canada by reintroducing vouching that allows one person to corroborate someone else's identity at the polls and allowing people to use their voter information card as ID. Those provisions were controversially removed by the previous government. Canada's elections commission will also be allowed to pre-register Canadians between 14 and 17 years of age to vote.

^ As a Canadian living outside of Canada I know all to well just how the Government in Ottawa openly discriminates against us. Not being allowed to vote is just one of the many acts and laws that the Canadian Government uses to violate the rights of native-born Canadians who live outside of Canada. Canadians born outside of Canada in the second generation are not considered Canadian citizens (even if they have two Canadian parents who are considered by the Government to be native-born vs. naturalized.) That means that someone who is a naturalized Canadian (with no actual Canadian blood running through their veins) has more citizenship rights than a person born to two Canadian parents outside of the country in the second generation. That is just plain wrong. Another example of Ottawa's discrimination is that a Canadian who is outside of Canada for 6 months or longer looses their health care and has to wait months after they return to Canada to get it back - so much for our "great" and "universal" health care system. Canadians like to take pride that we are an open, diverse and honest country yet we allow Ottawa to continue to openly discriminate (they don't even try to hide it) on Canadian citizens simply because they are outside of Canada. Those attitudes may have worked years ago, but this is the 21st century and the world is much smaller. Ottawa should stop discriminating against any Canadian (inside or outside of Canada.) ^

Russian Fingerprints

From the MT:
"Russia to Begin Compulsory Fingerprinting for Foreigners at Border"

Russia is set to introduce mandatory fingerprinting for all foreign nationals entering the country, Russia's Interior Ministry announced Thursday. Officials hope that the plans will be implemented at Moscow airports early next year. The issue will be discussed by the Interior and Foreign Ministries with representatives from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), First Deputy Interior Minister Alexander Gorovoy told the Interfax news agency. The majority of Russia's migrants come from the CIS states. Only foreign nationals applying for certain categories of work permit are currently required to give their fingerprints. Citizens of Britain, Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia have also been required to submit their fingerprints when applying for visas under a trial program launched in 2014. Approximately 7 million people have their fingerprints stored on the database, the Russian migration service announced in February.

^ While I don't think it's a good idea in general I know that many others (the US, Japan, etc.) do the same thing so Russia has the right to the same. ^

600 Simpsons

From the RS:
"All 600 'Simpsons' Episodes to Air Consecutively This Thanksgiving"

The Simpsons broke the record for longest TV marathon two years ago when FXX broadcast all 522 episodes of the animated series consecutively in a 12-day binge. This year, the network will shatter its own record by airing all 600 Simpsons episodes in order, making it a 13-day marathon.   The epic Simpsons run kicks off noon on Thanksgiving Day through December 6th, Entertainment Weekly reports. The marathon concludes with series' 600th episode, "Treehouse of Horror XXVII," which first premieres on Fox on October 19th. Four episodes from the upcoming Season 28 will air during the 13-day marathon. After scathing Donald Trump and poking fun at Pokemon Go over the summer, The Simpsons have already offered some spoilers about their upcoming season, including the show's first ever hour-long episode – an all-star hip-hop homage to The Great Gatsby – as well as a plot line that skewers Trump University and Simpson family trips to Boston and Cuba. Confirmed Season 28 guests include Amy Schumer, Taraji P. Henson, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Suze Orman, Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings, Seinfeld star Jason Alexander and Keegan-Michael Key.

^ I am binging on these already and while I may not watch all 600 episodes I will do my best to see most of them. ^

No End

From the BBC:
"Russia's border doesn't end anywhere, Vladimir Putin says"

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Russia's border "doesn't end anywhere", addressing a televised awards ceremony for geography students. "That was a joke," Mr Putin said amid applause and laughter from the audience at the glitzy ceremony.  He was asking a nine-year-old boy: "Where does Russia's border end?" The boy had said "at the Bering Strait". Mr Putin then provided his own answer.  Mr Putin has pledged to defend ethnic Russians wherever they live. In July 2014, three months after Russian troops annexed Ukraine's Crimea peninsula, he spelled out his doctrine to Russian ambassadors. "I would like to make it clear to all: our country will continue to actively defend the rights of Russians, our compatriots abroad, using the entire range of available means - from political and economic to operations under international humanitarian law and the right of self-defence." Nato and Western leaders accuse the Kremlin of sending regular troops and heavy weapons to pro-Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine. The Kremlin has repeatedly denied that, insisting that any Russian troops there are "volunteers". Just before his comment about Russia's border, President Putin asked five-year-old Timofey Tsoi to name the country whose capital is Ouagadougou.  Timofey correctly answered "Burkina Faso", but struggled when asked what the country's old name was. Mr Putin helped him out, saying: "Upper Volta! Good lad!" In its dying days, the Soviet Union was sardonically described as "Upper Volta with rockets".  Both boys had distinguished themselves in televised geography quizzes. The ceremony was staged by the Russian Geographical Society.

^ This would be a funny little incident if Russia really didn't think that it had a mandate to "protect" ethnic Russians around the world. We saw them use it when they invaded, occupied and annexed the Crimea and continue to see it with them in eastern Ukraine. Hitler made the same statements and actions (protecting ethnic Germans throughout Europe) and we saw what happened there. I have respect for the Russian people, but their government should focus on making the lives of ordinary Russians within the Russian Federation decent before thinking of going outside their borders. ^

Helping Out

From the BBC:
"Wood-selling US man, 80, inspires thousands"

An online campaign to raise money for a US man trying to pay his late wife's medical bills by selling wood on the side of the road has raised almost $20,000 (£16,136) in just three days. Kenneth Smith, 80, spends hours a day standing on the roadside in Mississippi, selling bags of kindling. Last year, he was joined by Helen, his wife of more than 30 years, as they struggled to pay her medical expenses.After she died in October Mr Smith was left to raise the money by himself. Her two-year battle with lung cancer not only took large chunks of their monthly income, but also wiped out their savings. But then Jessica Pittman spotted the elderly gentleman's mark of respect for a passing funeral cortege - taking his straw hat off as it passed - and she decided to act. "My heart breaks every time I pass him," Ms Pittman wrote in a Facebook post which has since been shared 9,000 times as she appealed for people to go and buy a bag from Mr Smith.  But they went one step further.  A GoFundMe page was set up by Mr Smith's son, Leslie, to help with the expenses, with donations flooding in from as far afield as Australia. Ms Pittman told the BBC that she posted the photo "just thinking it would prompt some of my neighbours to stop and buy some wood to help him". She said she had "no clue" the response would be so overwhelming. "Although it will not lessen the heartache of losing his wife, I am thankful it will at least take a little worry off of his plate and help him make ends meet," she said. Ms Pittman said that she lives close to where Mr Smith parks to sell his kindling wood and passed him nearly every day. "He was always kind and so respectful," she said. On the occasion of the funeral, police had stopped traffic for the procession.  "I saw Mr Smith standing there in his usual overalls and straw hat. He was standing to attention with his straw hat over his heart. It really moved me... it was an honour to witness. I felt overwhelmed with emotion and even had a few tears."  As for Mr Smith, he too admits he has been "overwhelmed" with the response.
"It makes me think that we live in a good country and this is part of it," he told WLOX.

^ This is a very sad, but at the same time, a very happy story and is needed on Thanksgiving. ^

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Ukrainian "Head"

From the BBC:
"Ukraine names woman, 23, anti-corruption head"

A 23-year-old lawyer has been given the task of leading Ukraine's anti-corruption drive, the second major appointment of a young woman in weeks. Anna Kalynchuk's promotion has provoked consternation among some Ukrainians who say she is unqualified and too young. She will direct Ukraine's department of "lustration", which aims to purge officials tainted by corruption. Corruption was a key complaint of protesters who forced President Viktor Yanukovych from power in February 2014.  Ms Kalynchuk's appointment comes days after Anastasia Deyeva, 24, was named by Interior Minister Arsen Avakov as deputy minister, one of Ukraine's top police and security posts. That announcement was met with anger, which only intensified when nude photos of Ms Deyeva were shared on social media. Kiev political analyst Vadim Karasyov told Associated Press that Ukrainian politics increasingly resembled "a circus show in which clowns come to succeed frustrated professionals". At the heart of the storm is the frustration of ordinary Ukrainians at the pace of the drive to clean up Ukrainian politics. Perception of corruption is worse in Ukraine than in Russia, according to Transparency International. Little more than two weeks ago, the charismatic governor of the Odessa region, former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, resigned, accusing Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko of backing corrupt officials who, he said, were undermining his reform efforts in Odessa. His resignation followed that of the Odessa police chief, fellow Georgian Giorgi Lortkipanidze. Only days before, top officials were forced to reveal their huge wealth - hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and collections of luxury items - under new anti-corruption rules. None was accused of criminality, but it was a stark illustration of the trappings of power and the gulf between some officials and the mass of Ukrainians. The lustration department says hundreds of officials have been forced to resign over corruption, but Ukraine's corruption problem clearly still remains crippling.

^ There is clearly a problem in the Ukraine over corruption (something that plagues many former Soviet Republics  - especially Russia.) I hope that these new appointments will bring an end to the corrupt life-styles that have prevailed for decades and that the Ukraine will then be able to focus its attention to tackling other issues that affect the ordinary Ukrainian. The fact that the new ministers are in their 30s may be a good thing since they were too young to be caught in the very corrupt Soviet system (the so-called classless society where nothing got done without bribes and knowing people in high positions of powers or class.) Because of their age there's a chance that they still see good in the world and want to fix what's wrong over an older minister who is set in their ways and just wants a kick-back. ^

Working Holiday

Obama's 1,000

From Yahoo:
"With new grant, Obama reaches clemency milestone"

President Obama announced he would free 79 more drug offenders from federal prison Tuesday, pushing the total number of commutations under his tenure to over 1,000. With this new grant, Obama has handed out more commutations than the past 11 presidents combined, part of his 2014 decision to use his previously dormant clemency power in a new and aggressive way. That year, the Justice Department asked prisoners who had been sentenced for nonviolent drug crimes to apply for clemency, funneling them through a group of pro-bono lawyers to help them with their petitions. The president saw his commutation power as a way to correct for overly harsh drug sentences that sent people away to prison for decades and sometimes life for nonviolent crimes. “He is committed to using his clemency power in ways not seen from any other president in the modern era,” White House Counsel Neil Eggleston told reporters.

^ Obama has always done whatever he wanted and now that he is in his Lame Duck period I'm sure he will do even more harm than good before he leaves office. At least once he's gone in January we never have to hear from him ever again. ^

Day Of Turkey

"There's a special place in Gitmo for people that say 'Happy Turkey Day!'"

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Soldier Cards

"Cards and letters for the military community"

^ This site gives a list of the different organizations and groups that you can still send letters and cards to soldiers. ^

Soldiers' Season

Christmas Cards

From USA Today:
"It's Christmas card time: Get your greetings machine in gear"

They pop up in their little plastic boxes on the shelves of the corner CVS, often before the candy corn has gone to half price. Puppies in stocking caps snoozing by a fire. Gilded angels trumpeting good wishes. The Peanuts gang doing a jig around a tiny tree. Christmas cards are as ingrained in our culture as the cranberry sauce and green-bean casserole. But perhaps no other holiday harbinger stirs such joy — and such angst: What did you do with last year's list? How do you wrangle the kids together for that dazzling family photo? When will you squeeze them in? It's time to think about your cards, and the clock is ticking. Coral Harris' card-writing practices were inspired by members of the Greatest Generation, most notably an aunt who passed away a year ago at 94. "I would always get my first Christmas card from her on Dec. 1," says Harris, 58. That was why the Falls Church, Va., resident was studying the boxed card section at a suburban Target on a Sunday afternoon four days before Thanksgiving. "I always try to get them out after Thanksgiving, or else they are not going to get out." Technology may have transformed our lives, but for many, nothing compares to that fuzzy feeling you get when you spy your Christmas cards twinkling from the fireplace mantel. "To me there is nothing better than snail mail," Harris says. "Something about touching it and seeing it. Brings about great memories." Last year, 1.6 billion holiday cards were sold, and Christmas remains the largest card-sending holiday, says Peter Doherty, executive director of the Greeting Card Association. Holiday card sales in 2015 held "steady" from previous years, he says.  "People love to give and receive Christmas and other greeting cards because of the real connection they give to both sender and recipient,"  Doherty says. "We're finding that the digital age is helping people identify 'card-worthy' occasions ... that are best expressed with something more lasting and personal such as a greeting card." Etiquette expert Lizzie Post says for those who choose to go the digital route, there is nothing wrong with holiday e-cards. "They are cool, they are fun,"  says the  great-great-granddaughter of Emily Post and co-host of the Awesome Etiquette podcast. But she, too, is a paper pusher. "I still have the card from the kids I babysit for on my refrigerator from last year," Post says. "Not that digital messages can't be personal, but with cards you can put them on your door, decorate the tree, light your windows."

To avoid a stress fest, Post, who is also designing her cards this year, offers these tips:
When should you get the Christmas ball rolling? "Right around Thanksgiving" is a good time to start thinking about ordering and preparing cards, Post says. But while some say you want to have your cards land in mailboxes by mid-December, there is no rigid rule. For people who send New Year's cards, two weeks after that holiday should be the limit, she says.

 Can you kick someone from your list? "Don't worry about it being reciprocal," Post says. If someone not on your list sends you a card, that doesn't mean you have to fire one off as well. Trim the list as you see fit — and even take a year off. "It's up to you whether you participate."

What about your boss, your podmate? "You are not obligated in any way," to send cards to co-workers, Post says. But if you dispatch greetings to select work buddies, use their home addresses.

What if a recipient isn't religious? "You can be a little sensitive," Post says, by sending a card that doesn't mention Christmas per se.

How do you address an envelope? Post is a fan of "the XYZ family." But she says it's important to tailor the address to what the recipient would like. "If they are formal, use traditional titles."

Should you add a hand-written note? "A quick, brief message" is always appreciated, Post says.

•  And those "round-robin" Christmas letters? Restraint is the key, Post says. "This is not your chance to brag, discuss sad news. Don't announce someone passed away or an unfortunate diagnosis." Do say "so and so is going to college, our soccer team did great this year." Pick one or two things from each family member — and keep the letter to one page.

Did I just get a group Christmas text? Yes, some people are tapping out their holiday best wishes. "Group texts are generally a quick way to say hello," Post says. "The trouble with them is not all people enjoy being on group texts to begin with. And it's not a card in the mail."
Post's final card-writing words of wisdom: "Don't sweat it so much."

^ I love getting Christmas cards (any kinds of cards really) and every year I take the time to pick one card design and send it to people with a hand-written message inside. I also send e-cards to people as an added bonus. I don't care for "round-robin" letters. They are usually very arrogant and boring. I also don't care for getting a picture card that has a generic message on it. ^

Wuppertal's "Shariah" Police

From the DW:
"German court acquits seven members of Wuppertal's 'Shariah police'"

A court in the western German city of Wuppertal has said that seven Islamists who formed a "shariah police" last year did not break any law. The men sparked outrage with their vigilante patrols in the city two years ago. Judges at Wuppertal's district court said on Monday that the seven accused members of the group did not break any laws while wearing orange vests bearing the words "shariah police."  According to the judges, one could have spoken of a violation only if the uniforms were "suggestively militant" or had had an "intimidating effect." Judges referred to an eye-witness saying that he thought the men wearing the vests were having a bachelor party. They also said that there was no proof to suggest that the men - all between 25 and 34 years of age - were wearing the vests intentionally to break the law. Furthermore, judges said that police in Wuppertal also did not find anything punishable about the men wearing the vests, which were not seized by the officers. There was therefore no reason to punish the men. The ruling has not yet come into effect and the state prosecutor can still appeal against it. The "shariah police" caused a furore in 2014 when its members, headed by Salafist leader Sven Lau, patrolled streets near Wuppertal's central station, telling people to refrain from drinking alcohol, listening to music and gambling - in accordance with the Muslim religious code of conduct, known as the "Sharia." Lau is a controversial Islamist preacher and is currently on trial for backing a terror group fighting in Syria. Similar "sharia police" groups have been reportedly operating in London, Copenhagen and Hamburg.

^ This is disgusting: both the fact that these "shariah police" are allowed to impose their views on innocent people and the fact that the German judges acquitted them. The picture of the seven men wearing the orange vests with the words "Shariah police" on the back clearly shows that the men are trying to act in an official capacity - otherwise they wouldn't have the words on them especially not "police." I have a friend who works in Wuppertal and went to the city 2 years ago next month. I would be sickened to see and hear these "religious police" trying to impose their brand of Islam on anyone.  I do not appreciate any group trying to impose their views on people in such a militant way (and using the word "police" is militant in my opinion.) When I go to a Muslim/Arab country I respect their laws and culture regardless if I don't agree with them or think they strange and so should these "shariah police." They should respect the laws and culture of Germany and Shariah law is not part of that. If they don't like it then they can move to one of several countries that has Shariah law, but to harass and intimidate people for following their own culture and traditions in their own country is wrong and should not be allowed in Germany or anywhere. ^

Tracking Secrets

From the MT:
"‘Historians couldn't believe such documents still exist’ "

Russian man tracks down the secret police who executed his great-grandfather 80 years ago.  A 34-year-old Tomsk resident says he’s tracked down the names of the men who helped kill his great-grandfather — a peasant who was executed in 1938 on charges of spying for the Japanese. According to a new report by Radio Liberty, Denis Karagodin managed to convince initially reluctant security-services archivists to show him documents that helped him reconstruct the chain of events that led to his relative’s execution almost 80 years ago. Karagodin says he’s found the names of the people involved at every stage of his great-grandfather’s death, from the NKVD leadership in Moscow to the officers in Tomsk charged with enforcing the sentence, including even locals drivers and typists, and the actual gunmen who carried out the execution. The key document in the investigation was an execution order by the Tomsk NKVD office against 36 different people, including Karagodin’s great-grandfather. “The historians and specialists I was able to reach couldn’t believe that I’d managed to get this document,” he told Radio Liberty. “Some were simply in shock that such documents still exist and that you can actually get them. It’s possible that I might be the first person in Russia’s history to be given such documents.”  Late on Nov. 20, Karagodin says he got a letter from the granddaughter of one of the men who executed his great-grandfather, asking forgiveness. She apparently learned about who her grandfather was, thanks to Karagodin’s research, which he shares on his blog and on several social-media accounts “I haven’t slept for several days,” the letter said. “I’ve read over all the documents on your website. [...] I know I’m not to blame for what happened, but the feelings I’m having are beyond words. Karagodin says he wrote back to the woman, thanking her for her honesty, and offering a “hand of reconciliation.” According to the website Karagodin’s story has attracted significant attention on Facebook, where many Russians have welcomed the theme of reconciliation between “victims” and “executioners,” arguing that “repentance” is less practical, given the moral chaos that prevailed in the Soviet Union in the 1930s and 40s. Karagodin’s great-grandfather, Stepan, was arrested on Dec. 1, 1937, by members of the Tomsk NKVD — the predecessor to the KGB. He was charged with conducting espionage for the Empire of Japan, and sentenced to death by firing squad. The verdict was carried out on Jan. 21, 1938, and Stepan Karagodin’s relatives were told merely that he’d died while in police custody.  According to Denis Karagodin’s website, his family never believed the charges against Stepan, and it spent decades trying to clear his name. Denis began his investigation in 2012, collecting information about NKVD employees at departmental and political archives. He says he also got help from the relatives of other people executed at the same time as his great-grandfather. In June this year, Karagodin said he hopes to bring a criminal suit against the people responsible for his relative’s death, posthumously charging the individuals whose names he’s uncovered with conspiracy to commit murder.

^ This is what happens when you have a Communist dictatorship for 74 years with millions upon millions of regular men, women and children arrested, deported and/or murdered and you have done little to nothing in the past 25 years (especially at the Federal level) to address those abuses and crimes. Almost every single Russian and former Soviet family has a story of a family member who was a victim of the Communists and by not addressing the mistakes and crimes of the past you can't really move forward as a country (Germany had the same issue and has only started really dealing with their Nazi past in the past 2 decades while little to nothing is being done on the East German crimes.) ^

Troubles Pension

From the BBC:
"The Troubles: Campaigners urge special pension for injured"

The Wave Trauma Centre has urged politicians and church leaders to back a call for a special pension for those severely injured through "no fault of their own" during the Troubles. The centre offers support to anyone traumatised by the conflict in Northern Ireland  The campaigners are known as the "Injured" group. They have said about 500 people were so badly injured that they were unable to work and could not build up pensions.  Alan McBride from Wave has said they now face having to live on benefits. "They're now approaching middle age, old age and with welfare reform coming down the line, some of them are facing destitution," he said. "The campaign is to see something come their way as they approach old age, that they'll be able to live with a bit of independence." He told BBC NI's Good Morning Ulster that he believed the pension proposal should be "a no-brainer" for politicians and it was a "monumental failure" that a deal had not been agreed. "There has been a lot of talk recently about money that has gone to groups that are linked to paramilitary organisations and helping them to transition, and we are all for that," he said. "But what greater transition is there than people who were able-bodied and then, all of a sudden, through no fault of their own were left in the way they have been left? "The politicians need to step up to the mark." Paul Gallagher, 44, who was left paralysed after a loyalist paramilitary gun attack in the 1990s, said he was "living a life of pain" with various "physical complications".  He said he was frustrated that the pension issue had not been resolved and that it was about "security for the future". "Most of the people in our group are in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and sadly some members have died waiting on this - we have been at this for five years," he added. "We have tried to make all the compromises, it is time they (the politicians) made a decision. "We just can't wait for consensus anymore and for everyone to agree - they just need to make a decision on this to finally get it done." The campaign has also been backed by the Commissioner for Victims and Survivors, Judith Thompson. She told Good Morning Ulster that the amount proposed was moderate and achievable.  "People are looking at £4,000 or £5,000 a year per person in addition to benefits. This is not something that is difficult to do." She said the conditional figure "would be around £2m a year". It is argued that former paramilitaries may be eligible to get such a pension if their injuries are serious enough. It is thought 10 former paramilitaries fall into this category. More could come forward if the pension scheme goes ahead.

^ I have been to Northern Ireland and seen what The Troubles have done to all the sides involved. I do believe that the men, women and children that were innocent by-standers from 1969-1998 should receive government assistance (especially over anyone who was in any form of paramilitary organization on either side.) ^

Good Dog

^ I have two dogs and this fits them perfectly. ^