Sunday, December 17, 2017

Declassifying Stalin

From the MT:
"Russia's FSB Declassifies Hundreds of 'Top Secret' Stalin-Era Documents"
Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on Thursday declassified more than a thousand “top secret” documents dating to the early years of the Soviet Union.  The ten-volume collection, comprising documents from the years 1922-1934, was released in celebration of the 100-year anniversary since the founding of Cheka, the Soviet Union’s first secret police apparatus, the state-run TASS news agency reported.“This is a very important and objective source,” the editor of the collection Vasily Khristoforov was cited as saying by TASS.  “When you read the documents, you can imagine what was actually happening in the country.” The FSB presenters said that the collection recreates a “fairly complete picture of the political and economic situation in the country,” the Interfax news agency reported, and “contributes to countering attempts to falsify domestic history.”

^ Seeing original documents is an important tool to determining what the author meant. Hopefully, we will learn something new about Stalin from these. ^


Day 6


UPS Works

From USA Today:
"UPS handles millions of packages a day. This is what that looks like."

The gift is bought, wrapped and boxed up for a holiday journey to Grandma’s house. If UPS is your delivery Santa — and both Supply Chain trade magazine and Forbes call it the world's largest delivery company — no matter where in the world Grandma lives, chances are the package will go through the UPS Worldport at Louisville International Airport. Like the FedEx (FDX) Super Hub at Memphis International Airport, which has 80 miles of conveyor belts and spans 850 acres, UPS' (UPS) Louisville Worldport is a systematic sorting hub with hundreds of miles of conveyor belts in more than 6 million square feet of buildings. The U.S. Postal Service, which does not operate one main hub like the private mail companies, is the fourth largest package delivery service worldwide. FedEx is the world's third largest delivery company.  German-owned DHL Express, a division of Deutsche Post that has its hub for the Americas out of Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport in Hebron, Ky., is No. 2. The Courier Journal sent three photographers and a dozen cameras inside the UPS Worldport to capture how the season of giving gets where it needs to go.

Here's a look at UPS by the numbers:

• 318. The average number of flights in and out at the UPS Worldport. That will double to more than 600 flights the week before Christmas.
• 2 million. A normal day of packages sorted at the Worldport. That will double to 4 million the week before Christmas.  
• More than 30 million. The number of packages UPS will deliver  in 17 of the 21 delivery days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
• 8.5 times. If the boxes that UPS delivers during the holiday season were laid end to end, they would go around the world 8.5 times.

^ It is always interesting to see how something gets from Point A to Point B. ^


3rd Advent


Net Neutrality

From USA Today:
"Net neutrality: The FCC voted to end it. What that means for you"

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission voted to roll back net neutrality regulations passed by the agency two years ago. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
Q: What is net neutrality?
A: Net neutrality, or open Internet, is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should give consumers access to all legal content and applications on an equal basis, without favoring some sources or blocking others. It prohibits ISPs from charging content providers for speedier delivery of their content on "fast lanes" and deliberately slowing the content from content providers that may compete with ISPs.

Q: What were the net neutrality rules before? Why should I care?
A: In February 2015, the FCC, then chaired by Democrat Tom Wheeler, passed regulations giving the agency the ability to protect the principles of net neutrality. In the 3-2 vote, Democratic commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel voted yes, along with Wheeler, who was appointed by President Obama, while then-commissioner Pai and commissioner Michael O'Rielly, both Republicans, voted no. The regulations aimed to ensure that all the Internet content you want to access — be it streaming video, audio or other material — would be treated equally by ISPs. Another goal: to give start-ups and entrepreneurs access to broadband networks without undue influence from the ISPs. 

Q: So how did this change things when I'm, say, streaming Netflix?

A: In theory, the only thing that changed is that there are actual regulations on the books that prohibited ISPs' discriminating against content. An ISP will be prohibited from slowing the delivery of a TV show simply because it's streamed by a video company that competes with a subsidiary of the ISP. That did not mean everyone would get the same level of Internet service — remember, customers already pay for different speeds.

Q: What's the difference between an ISP and a content provider?
A: An ISP is a company like AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, Cox and Charter that provides you with access to the Internet. Content providers include companies like Netflix and Amazon that create and/or distribute videos and programs. Sometimes an ISP is also a content provider — and that's one of the big points of contention. For instance, Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, delivers TV shows and movies through its pay TV and broadband services.Traditional content companies, which include Google and Facebook, are worried that telecom and cable companies that increasingly own news sites and streaming entertainment services will give preferential benefit to their own subsidiaries.

Q: What has the FCC done now?
A: Pai, who was named chairman by President Trump earlier this year, voted against the rules in 2015 and publicly said he wanted to replace those regulations. Pai called the rules, which were supported by President Obama, an intrusive example of government overreach. He especially disliked how the FCC based the 2015 rules on authority from Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. That allows the agency to oversee ISPs as if they are utilities or "common carriers" like the traditional landline phone system. So set in motion a rule-making process that led to Thursday's vote.

Q: Why did the FCC even come up with Internet regulations?
A: The agency has been attempting to get some regulations on the books for more than a decade. The previous set was tossed out by a federal court in January 2014. Since then, the agency has had no official authority to protect an open Internet.

Q: Who supports net neutrality?
A: Content providers, Apple and Google among them, support the 2015 FCC rules' vision of net neutrality. They say consumers are already paying for connectivity, and they deserve to get a quality experience. Many consumers also support the idea of rules to protect the openness of the Internet. More than 4 million people filed public comments with the FCC about net neutrality when the agency was considering the 2015 rules, more than any on any issue it has handled. Some of those filing were trade associations and companies, but the majority were average people, supporting net neutrality.In recent months as the FCC considered the repeal of those rules, the agency got 23 million comments on the issue -- but millions of them were fake submissions, many sent by bots, and nearly a half-million comments came from Russian email addresses.

Q: So who's against net neutrality?
A: More than two-dozen broadband companies, including AT&T, Comcast, Cox and Verizon, call the 2015 rules too heavy-handed and a harm to investment and innovation. They say they support an open Internet, but oppose those rules because they put ISPs at a disadvantage.

Q: What happens next?
A: Several legislators in Congress say they will support a measure under the Congressional Review Act to overturn the FCC's overturning of the 2015 rules. Congress could also act to pass its own net neutrality rules, which would supercede the FCC's plan.
The fight could shift to the courtroom as it did in 2011, when Verizon successfully sued the FCC over its net neutrality order. The 2015 rules survived a federal court challenge. Public advocacy groups and content provider trade associations could sue, separately or collectively, to nullify the FCC's action. And New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he plans to marshal a multi-state lawsuit against the FCC's "illegal rollback" of the 2015 rules. 

^ Tjis gives a good summary of what Net Neutrality is and what is going on now. ^


Decree Anniversary

From the DW:
"Remembering Himmler's 'Auschwitz decree' to exterminate Roma and Sinti"
Exactly 75 years ago, Heinrich Himmler instructed German police to bring "all gypsy mixed-bloods, Roma Gypsies and […] members of gypsy clans" to Auschwitz. The genocide of the Roma people was long ignored in Germany.  The German Nazi regime used the death camp of Auschwitz as a key location for its systematic killing of European Jews. However, the regime also sought to exterminate other minority groups at the site, as reflected by Heinrich Himmler's "Auschwitz decree" on the Roma. On Saturday, Germany marks 75 years since Himmler ordered that "all gypsy mixed-bloods, Roma Gypsies and non-German-blooded members of gypsy clans with Balkan origins" should be brought to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The move was to be completed "within a few weeks" and "in accordance with established legal guidelines," according to a police order referring to Himmler's decree. The original text, issued by Himmler on December 16, 1942, has been lost to history. German officials honored the Roma and Sinti victims of the Nazi regime on Friday. Michael Müller, the chairman of Germany's Bundesrat, said the anniversary of the Auschwitz decree should serve as a reminder to "push more strongly against anti-democratic tendencies" in present-day Germany. Müller warned against ignoring and dismissing xenophobia. While referring to the rise of populist parties and nationalistically charged rhetoric in the West, the politician also said that learning from the past helped protect democracy. "Where, if not here in Germany, can this link be more obvious?" he asked at the session of Bundesrat, which serves as the upper house of the German parliament.  The 1942 Auschwitz decree marked a key point in the Nazi plan to exterminate the Roma and Sinti, a Romani group living in Germany and across central Europe. However, Romani people faced discrimination in Germany long before Nazis took power, with the local population stereotyping them as vagabonds and thieves. During the German Empire and the later Weimar Republic, authorities passed numerous laws targeting the Roma and maintained a special police service "in relation to the gypsies." Weimar authorities also asked for all members of the Romani community to be registered. The situation deteriorated further after the Nazi takeover in 1933. Roma working in the service of the state were soon fired because of their "non-Aryan" background. Adolf Hitler's regime also classified the Roma as a group that could be forcibly sterilized. In 1935, the government passed a series of discriminatory regulations on race, dubbed the Nuremberg Laws. The Roma were designated a "foreign and inferior race" under the new legislation, much the same terminology used for Jews and people of African origin. The authorities soon started moving Roma to concentration camps. While Nazis focused most of their energy on targeting Jews, the regime also reinforced the anti-Roma police force in 1938, dubbing it the "Central Office of the Reich to Combat the Gypsy Plague."  With the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Nazi authorities decided to deport Roma to newly occupied territories in Poland. The first mass deportation to the east started in 1940 and continued in the next few years. At the same time, German forces in the Soviet Union and in the Balkans also systematically executed the local Roma. The official push toward extermination of the Roma culminated with Himmler's decree in late 1942. Some 23,000 Roma were subsequently deported to a special "Gypsy Camp" in Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Unlike Jews, the Roma prisoners were allowed to wear civilian clothes and to stay with their family members while imprisoned in Auschwitz. In all other ways, however, their fate was similar to that of other inmates — they were killed in gas chambers, or died from infectious diseases, starvation or exhaustion through forced labor. They were also subjected to medical experiments at the hand of Auschwitz's doctor, Josef Mengele. Around 20,000 of them died on the site.  With the Red Army approaching from the east in August 1944, the Auschwitz authorities decided to dismantle the "Gypsy Camp." They deported around 3,000 Sinti and Roma to other camps across German-controlled territory. The remaining 2,900, mostly children, women and seniors, were killed in gas chambers on the night of August 3, 1944. The death toll of 20,000 in Auschwitz represents only a small part of the total number of Roma people who perished in the Holocaust. While estimates vary depending on the source, it is believed that Nazis killed between 220,000 and 500,000 Roma and Sinti in Europe. However, the issue of genocide against Roma received very little attention after the end of the war in 1945. Authorities in former West Germany claimed that, unlike Jews, Roma were not targeted based on their race. Instead, according to officials at the time, the Nazi regime persecuted the Roma because they were designated as a part of the so-called "asocial" segment of the population, which also included beggars, alcoholics and homeless people. This argument was also used to justify withholding reparations. German government only recognized the crimes as genocide in 1982, four decades after Himmler's decree. In 2012, Chancellor Angela Merkel inaugurated a large memorial to Roma victims near the Reichstag building in Berlin.

 ^ It's important to remember all the men, women and children who were victims of the Germans during the war. ^


Saturday, December 16, 2017

VWP Security

From the DW:
"US bolsters security requirements for visa-free travel"
The new measures have formed part of a security-focused White House policy to curb irregular migration and increase security. A senior US official said "an adaptive and agile enemy" was the primary reason for the move. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Friday announced new security requirements for 38 countries whose citizens can currently  travel to the country without visas. The countries, which include Germany and most European Union (EU) member states, must now use US counterterrorism information to screen travelers and launch public information campaigns if 2 percent of their citizens overstay their visas.

New measures:

  • The visa-waiver program allows citizens of 38 countries involved in the program to stay in the US for business or tourism for up to 90 days.

  • The DHS said Hungary, Greece, Portugal and San Marino are expected to launch public campaigns to inform their citizens as 2 percent of travelers from those countries overstayed their visas.

  • Roughly 20 million people travel to the US each year on the visa-waiver program.

Announcing the new measures, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said:

  • "The United States faces an adaptive and agile enemy, as terrorists continue to explore ways to reach our country and to direct, enable and inspire attacks against us."

  • "It's critically important we stay ahead of these threats by improving our security posture.

^ It's important to keep the Visa Waiver Program and to keep those coming into the US by the VWP safe as well as American citizens. Hopefully these new security requirements will be followed by current VWP countries so that their citizens can continue to come to the US. ^



Day 5


Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Spoilers


^ And I have to wait for the DVD. ^

Day 4


Thursday, December 14, 2017

Camel Hospital

From the DW:
"Camel hospital opens in Dubai "
While hospital care for race horses is highly sophisticated and available worldwide, the same is not the case for camels. A new hospital has been opened in Dubai with state-of-the-art equipment especially made for them.  A $10.9 million (€9.21 million) camel hospital has opened in Al Marmoum, Dubai with state of the art treatment on a par with that offered for racehorses. Director of the hospital Mohamed Al Bulooshi said "There are a lot of equine hospitals because horses have existed for centuries as have their races but for camels, no."  "We are very interested in preserving our heritage," he said. "And we found that we must care for camels, not only by breeding and raising them but also by being able to medically treat them." The hospital has found it difficult to find equipment specific to treating camels and as a result, much of it has been made to order. There is an operating theater and an x-ray room with MRI, and CAT scan facilities are to be installed next year. There is also a small racetrack where the camels can be rehabilitated.  Staff have been recruited to work at the hospital from the UK and Mexico. There are also plans to carry out medical research to improve understanding of camel biology.

^ This is pretty interesting. ^