Friday, June 30, 2017

German Marriage

From the DW:
"Germany's Bundestag passes bill on same-sex marriage"

Homosexual couples in Germany will now be able to marry and adopt children under a new law passed by parliament. The move brings Germany into line with several other European countries.  The German parliament, or Bundestag, on Friday passed a bill legalizing same-sex marriages in a snap vote that made it onto the agenda before the summer break after a surprise shift by Chancellor Angela Merkel. The bill passed by 393 to 226, with four abstentions. Merkel herself voted against the bill, although her comments helped bring it about. However, more than 70 members of Merkel's conservative bloc must have voted in favor of the bill for it to pass.  Merkel later explained her "no" vote by saying that she understood the definition of marriage in the German constitution as referring solely to unions between men and women. She said, however, that she hoped the vote to approve gay marriage would lead to "more social peace." Although she voted against homosexual marriage, she said that after long reflection, she had come to the conclusion that same-sex couples should be able to adopt children, which is something the new bill will legalize. Volker Beck of the Green party, who has long advocated legalizing same-sex marriage, called the vote "a success for democracy," citing opinion polls showing that 80 percent of Germans were in favor of allowing homosexual couples to marry and adopt children.  Ahead of the vote, Gerda Hasselfeldt from the CSU, which has vehemently opposed the measure, said heterosexual marriage that could produce children was the basis of society, adding that she could not understand "how people could simply put aside something that went to constitute our state." Germany's approval of homosexual marriages adds it to the growing list of Western countries that allow such unions. Fourteen European countries have now made gay marriage legal, with the Netherlands leading the way in 2001.  The way was paved for a vote on Monday night when Merkel said she wanted the issue to become one of "conscience," suggesting that she would allow a free vote among her own divided party. Her Social Democrat rival for the role of chancellor, Martin Schulz, pounced on Merkel's comments the next day, advocating an immediate vote in parliament, before September's elections. The bill was put on the agenda for the last day before the summer break by the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), the Greens and the Left party. Merkel's CDU/CSU bloc had criticized the SPD's move, saying that they had previously agreed not to hold a parliamentary vote on the issue during their coalition. Schulz was quick to hail the outcome of the vote, saying that marriage for all meant "unity, justice and freedom" for all Germans who love each other, quoting from the German national anthem.  Responses poured in around the country. Bundesliga football club Hertha Berlin set a clear signal in the capital, hoisting a rainbow flag and posting video footage of the event. Germany currently allows civil partnerships, but not full marital rights, which would include the possibility to jointly adopt children.  Schulz had forced the speedy vote, saying he would "take the chancellor at her word."  However, while some would consider the chancellor and CDU to have been wrong-footed, an alternative theory - that Merkel wanted to remove same-sex marriage as an election issue - has been floated. After all, Monday's comments did appear to be her laying foundations for a vote on the same issue in the next legislative period. All three potential partners in government with the CDU - the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and pro-business Free Democrats - had declared same-sex marriage as a red-line demand for entering into any future coalition.

^ I don't really think Merkel deserves the credit for this passing (even if members of her party voted for it) she voted against it. She voted to continue discriminating against people because of their homosexuality. Despite her "no" vote today is a major victory for gay people in Germany. They were once not only openly discriminated against (until 1994) but also sent to concentration and death camps under the Nazis for being gay where many died. To go from a country that officially murdered homosexuals to now finally allowing homosexuals to marry is a major step in making up for all the horrible abuses they suffered in the past. ^

My Birthday!

Today is my birthday. So far it was been nice. I received several cool presents: sandals, slippers, ancient Greek coins, books, DVDs, a selection of German items to make a German-style meal, a selection from Omaha City Steaks, money and a birthday cake (the cake is still frozen, but once it thaws I'm sure it will taste great.) I also got 10 birthday cards. It would have been nice to get more cards though. I don't usually do anything exciting on my birthday - not since I was a kid - but it's nice to see that people still remember via presents, cards and/or Facebook wishes (not to mention the cake.) 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

1 In 5 Disabled

From Disability Scoop:
"Report: Less Than 1 In 5 With Disabilities Employed"

An annual government snapshot of employment among Americans with disabilities finds some signs of improvement even as this population continues to struggle finding work. The U.S. Department of Labor said that 17.9 percent of Americans with disabilities were employed in 2016. That represents a 0.4 percentage point increase over the previous year and comes as the general population saw a boost of just 0.3 percent during the same period, according to the report released this month.  Nonetheless, the Labor Department noted that the unemployment rate for people with disabilities at 10.5 percent for the year was “about twice that of those with no disability.” The data comes from a monthly government survey of 60,000 households looking at employment trends and includes questions about individuals with disabilities who are age 16 or older and who do not live in institutions. People with disabilities were more likely than others to be working part-time and to be self-employed, the Labor Department said. This group was also less likely to have a bachelor’s degree or higher. About 8 in 10 people with disabilities were considered to be out of the labor force because they did not have jobs and were not seeking work, the report found. By comparison about 30 percent of people in the general population were in this category.

^ I believe that anyone who is physically or mentally able to work should work. It's sad to see that the disabled are not given the same chance as everyone else. I have seen first-hand how productive and happy doing even the smallest job can be for someone who is disabled and often over-looked or isolated. ^

Queen's Cost

From the BBC:
"Queen to receive £6m pay increase from public funds"

The Queen is to receive an 8% increase in income from public funds, after the Crown Estate's profits rose by £24m. The Sovereign Grant, which pays for the salaries of her household, official travel and upkeep of palaces, is to increase by more than £6m in 2018/19.  It comes as accounts revealed the Queen's official net expenditure last year increased by £2m, to almost £42m. Sir Alan Reid, Keeper of the Privy Purse, said the Queen represented "excellent value for money".  He said: "When you look at these accounts, the bottom line is the Sovereign Grant last year equated to 65p per person, per annum, in the United Kingdom. "That's the price of a first class stamp. "Consider that against what the Queen does and represents for this country, I believe it represents excellent value for money."  The Queen and the Royal Family's official travel cost the taxpayer £4.5m during 2016/17, up £500,000. Clarence House has also released its annual accounts, which showed the Prince of Wales' annual income from his hereditary estate, the Duchy of Cornwall, increased by 1.2% - to £20.7m.

Royal accounts - some key figures

  • £82.2m - Amount the Queen is expected to get from the Sovereign Grant in 2018/19
  • £4.5m - Cost of the Queen and the Royal Family's official travel in 2016/17
  • £288,697 - Amount spent on the Royal Train travel for 14 trips
  • £1.2m - Cost of replacing doors on the orangery at Windsor Castle
  • £154,000 - Estimated cost of Prince Charles and Camilla using "Cam Force One" - the official government plane - to visit Italy, Romania and Austria earlier this year

The Sovereign Grant, which is paid two years in arrears, is money given to the Queen by the Treasury.  It is based on the profits of the Crown Estate portfolio, which includes much of London's West End. The Crown Estate posted a £24.7m rise in profits, to £328.8m, in 2016/17.  For decades, royals and their use of taxpayers' money have had the potential to be a toxic combination. This latest increase in funding - the Sovereign Grant will have risen from £31m to £82m over six years - has been made public at a time of continued pay restraint in the public sector and when there is a focus, after the Grenfell Tower fire, on the divide between rich and poor. Add in the £17,000 it cost to fly Prince Charles on a private plane between two of his residences and the ancient institution's critics cry foul. As they do each year. And each year aides stress that a regal eagle eye is kept on travel costs and the extra cash is needed to save Buckingham Palace from damaging disrepair.  The generous royal funding formula will be reviewed in four years time. It's meant to last until 2026. Royal officials have said they've no reason to believe "it won't remain in place". 

Republic, which campaigns for an elected head of state, published its own report on royal expenses. It said that once security and other costs were included, the annual bill for the monarchy was nearer £345m. Graham Smith, the organisation's chief executive, said it was a "massive bill for the taxpayer" to support "privileged lifestyles". The increase in funding will take place as extensive repairs are being carried out at Buckingham Palace, costing £369m. To help pay for the work at the palace, the percentage of the Crown Estate profits paid to the Queen will increase from 15% to 25% between 2017 and 2027.

What is the Crown Estate?

  • It is an independent commercial property business and one of the largest property portfolios in the UK
  • Most of the portfolio is made up of residential property, commercial offices, shops, businesses, and retail parks
  • The estate started in 1760 when it was agreed that surplus revenue from the crown's estate would go to the Treasury and, in return, the monarch would receive an annual payment
  • The estate belongs to the monarch for the duration of their reign, but cannot be sold by them and profits go to the Treasury
  • The monarch is then given 15% of the annual surplus of the estate, known as the Sovereign Grant, to support official duties - from funds two years in arrears
  • This percentage will increase from 15% to 25% between 2017 to 2027 to help pay for a £369m refurbishment of Buckingham Palace

^ I am curious on how much the Canadian Royal Family costs each Canadian. I don't see this increase making any difference in how the British view the Monarchy - especially while Queen Elizabeth II is the Monarch. ^

Starving Russians

From the MT:
"10% of Russian Struggling to Buy Food — Poll"

One in ten Russians does not have enough money to buy basic groceries, a new report has revealed.
A new survey by state-backed pollster VTsIOM found that ten percent of Russians struggled to cover the costs of food, while 29 percent said that they could not afford to replace worn-out clothes.   Pensioners in particular said that they faced financial hardship, with over half of Russians above the age of 65 unable to afford clothing or enough groceries. The number of those in need has stayed stable since last year, after rising sharply between 2015 and 2016. Some 39 percent of Russians said that they struggled to buy basic necessities last year, compared to 31 percent two years ago.   Some 80 percent of Russians consider those who cannot afford food and clothing to be poor, previous VTsIOM research has revealed.  Eighty-two percent also believe that Russia has "a lot of poor people," compared to the 3 percent that feel the country has "only a few" people living in poverty. 

^ This is a very sad statistic. Hopefully, the Russian Government will see these poll results and work to make sure that ordinary Russians across the country get the help they need and deserve. There is no reason in the 2nd decade of the 21st Century that so many people need to be go hungry. The historical tradition of Russians/Soviets going without the basics needs to be stopped. No one should be allowed to suffer from hunger when there is no reason to (no natural disaster, etc.) ^

Death Sentence

From the DW:
"German police want people to stop filming suicide attempts"

German police are taking a stand on people filming others in vulnerable situations and have warned they face up to two years in jail. Police rarely report on suicide but have made an exception for a case in Dortmund.  Dortmund police said Thursday they were pressing charges against a woman who filmed her neighbor attempting suicide. Police rarely report on cases involving suicide but decided to make an example of the situation to highlight a growing problem. "We point out once more - refrain from making images of helpless and or injured people! If you were in this situation, you would not want that either," Dortmund police said in a statement. The police and fire brigade were responding to a suicidal person in the city center on Tuesday when they encountered the neighbor, the statement said. The person was threatening to jump from their balcony. As authorities tried to convince the individual not to jump, a neighbor filmed the person on the ledge "in detail." The suicidal person was rescued and taken to hospital but police then turned their attention towards the neighbor. They confiscated her camera and filed a criminal complaint against her. The woman had violated a law that specifically prohibits filming people in vulnerable situations.  The law makes it a criminal offense, punishable by up to two years in prison, for anyone who illegally creates or transmits an image which exposes the helplessness of another person, thereby infringing the highly personal sphere of life of the depicted person. There are however some exceptions for legitimate purposes, including news reports. The law was first created in 2004 and strengthened further ten years later, in 2014, by the Bundestag. The law, sometimes known as the "paparazzi paragraph," was criticized by media lawyers for its possible application in the case of undercover journalism. Last year a photographer was charged under the law for taking photos of a person's smoldering house after a fire in the Baden-Württemberg town of Schwäbisch Hall, local broadcaster SWR reported.   Earlier this month in the North Rhine-Westphalia town of Hamm, a 17-year-old jumped to their death from a shopping center roof in front of a gathered crowd, local daily Westfälische Anzeiger reported. Videos and images of the suicide circulated online afterwards and were viewed by thousands of people. As a result, police filed at least one criminal complaint for violation of the law, the newspaper reported. Police told the paper that even people reposting or forwarding such images faced punishment. The Bundestag was expected to pass a law on Friday which would hold social media networks like Facebook and Twitter financially accountable if they fail to delete illegal content. The law was likely to cover violations of the so-called paparazzi paragraph.

^ While I personally think it is disturbing to film someone you know is about to kill themselves (or someone else) I don't think the actual act of filming it should be a criminal offense unless the person filming it: pre-planned the act with the person committing the suicide or posts/publishes the video/pictures. I think it is disgusting for people to kill themselves or others in the hope of getting attention and fame and it is equally disgusting for others to film it. What is disgusting doesn't always mean it should be illegal. ^

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

New Laptop Rules

From the BBC:
"US holds off expanding airline laptop ban as new rules laid out"

The US has unveiled tough new measures to enhance security on flights entering the country, but has held off extending a ban on laptops in the cabin. In March the US banned cabin laptops to and from eight mostly Muslim nations, fearing bombs may be concealed in them. The new measures require enhanced passenger- and electronic-device screening across 105 countries. Airlines have 120 days to comply or could face a ban on carrying all passenger electronics. They could even be denied the right to fly into the US.  Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly spelled out the new measures on Wednesday, saying: "Make no mistake: our enemies are constantly working to find new methods for disguising explosives, recruiting insiders, and hijacking aircraft. "We cannot play international whack-a-mole with each new threat. Instead, we must put in place new measures across the board to keep the travelling public safe and make it harder for terrorists to succeed."

The new measures, which Mr Kelly said would not be the last, include:
  • Enhanced overall passenger screening
  • Heightened screening of personal electronic devices
  • Increased security protocols around aircraft and in passenger areas
  • Expanded canine screening
The measures are vague on specifics in terms of operational application, but will cover 280 airports and 180 airlines, affecting an average of 2,100 flights a day, carrying 325,000 passengers.  Airlines will be breathing a sigh of relief on the laptop issue, as many feared it might deter passengers, particularly high-fare-paying business customers, from travelling. Mr Kelly had raised fears of a wider ban late last month, telling Fox News he was still considering it. Homeland security officials said that even the airports included in the original laptop ban could have it lifted if they complied with the new regulations. Devices "larger than a smartphone" are currently not allowed in the cabins of flights from Turkey, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. The UK issued similar rules for flights from six countries. Air travel safety experts have warned there is a greater risk of lithium battery fires going unchecked if large electronic items are left in the hold.

^ This seems like a good compromise to rather than an outright ban. Hopefully, the airlines and airports will follow these new measures so that passengers will be able to carry their laptops into the cabin. ^

Kabisch Removed

From the DW:
"German judge Kabisch removed from Auschwitz trial for bias"

Germany's troubled history with Holocaust trials has reached a new low with the unprecedented dismissal of a judge for bias. Klaus Kabisch could face charges for his handling of the trial of the SS medic Hubert Zafke.  Klaus Kabisch has made legal history by becoming the first German judge to be dismissed from an Auschwitz trial on the grounds of bias. State prosecutors and attorneys for Holocaust survivors accuse Kabisch of deliberately delaying the trial against Hubert Zafke, a former medic at the Auschwitz concentration camp charged with 3,681 counts of accessory to murder. Another judge, Henning Kolf, accepted the motion late last week and threw Kabisch and both of his co-judges off the trial, which has been running since February 2016 in the eastern city of Neubrandenburg. The decision has caused some consternation. Die Welt newspaper commented that not only is such a step highly unusual: The fact that it should happen in one of Germany's last Holocaust trials makes it "even more shocking." "First you have to say that a ruling finding bias in three judges is a very important step towards justice," said Thomas Walther, the attorney for two Holocaust survivors who were co-plaintiffs in the case. "Bias is always a sign of injustice, so this is a victory for the rule of law." Roman Guski, of the political education organization Context - which co-founded a website specifically to follow Zafke's trial - welcomed the decision, but worried that it might mean the end of the case altogether.  "If it is all valid, then there's probably no other path than to suspend the trial completely," he told DW. "The courtroom will now get new personnel, who will have to familiarize themselves with the case. Our hopes that there will still be a trial are now relatively marginal." Before a retrial, Zafke, who is now 96, would have to undergo a new medical test to assess his fitness to stand, which he is likely to fail, given that he failed such a test in early May. At the time, defense attorney Peter-Michael Diestel told DW that his client had been unfit to stand trial from the beginning, and that three separate doctors' reports had vindicated his view - though one assessment by the prosecution found that Zafke was "partially fit." Diestel thinks it's a "judicial scandal" that his client was forced to stand trial at all. "The court was dealing with several thousand counts of the murder of Jews - on the last trial day, my client was convinced that he was being charged for animal abuse," Diestel said in May. "I had to call for a break to explain to him that this was about the murder of Jewish people, and not about abusing chickens and ducks."  Even if there is no more Zafke trial, the case could have consequences for Kabisch, who faces accusations of obstruction for his role in holding up the trial. The judge initially caused outrage for refusing to allow Walter and William Plywaski, two brothers whose mother was murdered at Auschwitz in the period Zafke was working there, the right to act as co-plaintiffs. That decision was overruled by a higher court in Rostock, but Kabisch then refused Walther the right to apply for travel costs to visit his clients in the US - normally a formality. Once again, the Rostock court overturned the decision, only for Kabisch to repeat his decision to have the Plywaski brothers shut out of the trial. Once again, the higher court had to intervene. Walther said his clients had been "very, very badly treated," but the decision to dismiss Kabisch was a "sign" that "such a trial could be conducted with dignity." Given the historical significance of the trial, other German prosecutors publicly voiced their unease with Kabisch's handling of the case. Walther eventually pressed charges against the judge for obstructing justice, which could potentially mean a one-year prison sentence.  Guski said his organization would continue its education campaign around the Auschwitz trials while the legal labyrinths are being navigated. "We know that medics like Zafke gave deadly injections, were involved in selections on the ramps, and led people into the gas chambers of Auschwitz," he said. "But we don't know to what extent Zafke participated in that." Zafke is one of a series of former Auschwitz workers whom the German judiciary has pursued since a groundbreaking ruling in 2011, when the former Sobibor guard John Demjanjuk was convicted of accessory to murder. Up until then, no one had been convicted of participating in the day-to-day routine of the Holocaust in a German court - the Frankfurt trials of the 1960s focused only on those guards who could be found guilty of specific murders. Though denying the Holocaust is a crime in Germany, participating in it was never taken up in the criminal code.The sentencing of Oskar Gröning, a former Auschwitz accountant, to four years in prison in Lüneburg in July 2015 was seen as a sign that the German judiciary had finally tried to correct this history. Guski is convinced that, despite the likely collapse of this case, the judiciary will see the Neubrandenburg debacle as a good example of how not to conduct a Holocaust trial. "The trial in Lüneburg went smoothly and acceptably to those involved, but Neubrandenburg is an absolute negative example to other judges in Germany of how things can't and shouldn't be allowed to happen," he said. For his part, Walther said he would rather not speculate on how many courts in Germany might follow the Neubrandenburg example. "But we should ask where this comes from, this persistently ambiguous reality in the German judiciary," he said. "If this myth of limited participation in the crimes [of the Holocaust] persists over decades, then that has an effect on people's attitudes, doesn't it?"

^ Maybe Germany has not really changed since 1945. The world knows that Germany allowed thousands of Nazis to live out in the open (even receiving government pensions for their war work) decades after the war ended and that most of the German war trials of the 1950s-1970s were for show and gave "slap on the wrist" sentences. I had hoped that the generation of Germans born long after the war would start making real amends for the crimes of their parents and grandparents, but it seems that the tradition of "sticking together no matter what" is greater than the crimes against humanity committed. It also puts the modern-day German justice system into question. How can a person who kills 1 person be charged when nothing is done to a person who kills millions of people? It is more than a question of righting the wrongs of the past and more of Germany and the German people taking active responsibility for the millions of innocent men, women and children murdered by them and in their name. You can say you are sorry and that the crimes will never happen again, but actions speak louder than words. If you do not punish those responsible for the murders than you aren't really sorry. ^

Peacekeepers Guilt

From the DW:
"Srebrenica massacre: Dutch peacekeepers partly responsible, court rules"

An appeals court in the Netherlands has ruled that Dutch peacekeepers were only partly responsible for about 300 deaths in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Relatives of the victims had appealed a similar ruling from 2014. The Netherlands was held partly responsible by the Appeals Court in The Hague on Tuesday for the deaths of about 300 men in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. The court ruled that Dutch peacekeepers acted partly illegally when they allowed Bosnian Serbs to seize Muslim men who were seeking shelter in a UN safe haven.  The ruling largely supported a three-year-old verdict from the District Court in The Hague that found Dutch forces were responsible for deaths of 300 Muslim men hiding on the UN base, who were handed over to the Serbs. Those 300 men had sought refuge at a compound controlled by the Dutch in the nearby village of Potocari. When Serbian troops overran Srebrenica, the men were ordered to leave Potocari.  Hague Appeals Court presiding judge Gepke Dulek said that because Dutch soldiers sent the men off the Dutch compound along with other refugees seeking shelter there, "they were deprived of the chance of survival." "The court finds that the Dutch state acted unlawfully," Dulek said, adding Dutch UN peacekeepers had made it easier for Bosnian Serbs to separate the Muslim men and boys, and must have known there was a "real risk they could face inhumane treatment or execution." Both sides appealed the 2014 decision, with the 3,000-member Mothers of Srebrenica group saying the peacekeepers should be help responsible for all of the deaths in Srebrenica, not just those of people who were in UN safe zones. The Dutch government, meanwhile, argued that no one could have foreseen the killings. During the height of the 1992-95 war in Bosnia, the so-called Dutchbat was sent to Srebrenica to protect the town from advancing Bosnian Serbs. But when the town was overrun, the lightly-armed peacekeepers capitulated and some 8,000 Muslim Bosniak boys and men were massacred. The mass murder was Europe's worst single atrocity since World War II and was classified as genocide by international courts. The Appeals Court found there was a 30 percent probability that the Dutchbat could have prevented the killings and as such victims would be given 30 percent of damages. Damages were due to be calculated at a later date.  The Dutch Defense Ministry said the government would carefully study the latest ruling.     "The starting point is that the Bosnian Serbs were responsible," it said in a statement. Munira Subasic, who leads the Mothers of Srebrenica organization, stood up and waved her finger at the judge after the ruling, saying "this is a huge injustice." Lawyer Marco Gerritsen, who represented the relatives, said he understood their anger. "But from a legal point of view it is not that bad. Of course we would have hoped for more and I think we had a good case," he said. Gerritsen called the court's assessment of the men's survival chances "very arbitrary." He said he would study the judgment to see if it was possible to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court. Srebrenica and the surrounding villages were inhabited by a majority Muslim population in the mostly Serb eastern Bosnia. The ruling coincided with a new push for compensation by Dutch troops attempting to sue the Dutch government for sending them on an "impossible mission" to Srebrenica. "They are still experiencing damages in all aspects of their lives and believe that the defence ministry should be held responsible," lawyer Michael Ruperti told Dutch late night talk show Jinek on Monday Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert last year admitted the battalion had been sent to Bosnia "without adequate preparation... without the proper means, with little information, to protect a peace that no longer existed." "It was an unrealistic mission, in impossible circumstances," she said.

^ When peacekeepers are sent into a war-zone they need to have 1 clear mission: to keep the peace and stop the killing. If they can not or do not do that then they aren't peacekeepers. It isn't an easy position to be in, but soldiers and governments need to understand the mission before sending anyone in. There were internationally recognized safe havens and the Dutch peacekeepers were in charge of one of them. Anyone who was in one of those safe havens should have been protected and yet they were not. To me that shows a complete break-down in the role of the peacekeeper. ^

School Birthdays

There's a great injustice in schools across the country that needs to be addressed: birthdays. Most kids get to bring some treat on their birthday and get a day where it's all about them. Then the kids with birthdays in the Summer (like me) got one day where we celebrated everyone's birthday. Talk about a rip-off.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

50: ATM

From the DW:
"Golden ATM marks 50th anniversary of the cash machine"

The first cash machine in history was installed in the UK in 1967. Despite the rapid development of online payment, demand for cash has continued to grow.  The world's first ATM turned gold on Tuesday as Britain celebrated 50 years since the invention of the machine, revolutionizing banking around the globe. The Barclay's bank in Enfield unveiled the new cash point for the occasion, complete with red carpet. "To celebrate the ATM's golden anniversary - an iconic moment in banking - Barclays is turning the Enfield cash machine into a local landmark," the bank said. The ATM was the creation of Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron and first installed in Enfield in 1967, quickly followed by five others commissioned by Barclay's. Shepherd-Barron has said in interviews that he was inspired by chocolate bar vending machines while mulling how difficult it was to get cash after business hours. According to the Bank of England, despite the numerous new paths of payment offered by modern technology, demand for cash has continued to rise over the decades - peaking around Christmas 2016. Today there are about 70 billion pounds cash in circulation, compared to just 2.9 billion in 1967.

^ I didn't realize that the ATM was so old. I thought it was from the late '70s or the '80s. I remember when I was very little and went to a drive-up ATM (one of those stand-alone kind in the parking lot of a mall.) I asked my mom how the money came out and she said there was a little person inside that counted the money and then send it out. I gullibly believed her. ^

Marriage Vote Soon?

From the DW:
"Bundestag vote on gay marriage expected in coming days"

Gay marriage could become a reality in Germany almost overnight after Chancellor Merkel made certain concessions. However, the issue is also being used as a political bargaining ahead of the September 24 elections.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel removed the previous requirement of party whip control on the issue of voting on gay marriage in Germany's lower house of parliament, the Bundestag. In other words, members of the Bundestag will be allowed to vote on the issue on the basis of their own conscience and not be required to toe the party line of their political affiliation. The chancellor herself worded the vote as a "question of conscience" during a TV interview the previous evening. The vote, which is likely to be tabled by Merkel's grand coalition partner, the Social Democrats, within days could likely see gay marriage become a reality in Germany before the September 24 elections. Merkel had, however, originally planned to bring the issue to a vote after the elections. At present, gay and lesbian couples can opt to have a civil partnership, which afford many of the same benefits and protections as traditional marriage, but lacks equity between gay and straight couples in some key areas such as adoption rights. The vote on gay marriage is considered likely to pass. The parliamentary leader of Merkel's CDU party Volker Kauder asked CDU members of the Bundestag to try to show up in numbers for the vote. He added that those who rejected the notion of equating traditional marriage between a man and a woman with so-called gay marriage should treat the decisions of others in the Bundestag with respect. The CDU's sister-party, the Bavaria-based CSU, meanwhile also agreed that its parliamentarians should vote according to the conscience, even this meant a departure from the party's view that "marriage for all" was not in line with the party's views. The party said that marriage between a man and a woman should enjoy special protections while stressing that same-sex relationships made valuable contributions "to our society," which were recognized with the special provision of civil partnerships.  Rather than genuine concern for gay and lesbian couples, the vote on gay marriage appears to be used as a bargaining chip between the two major parties, Merkel's CDU and her current coalition partner, the SPD, headed by Martin Schulz. It appears that Schulz is hoping to gain votes by pushing the decision through the Bundestag less than three months ahead of the general elections. In recent days, Schulz has expressed that he would ideally not seek to enter another coalition government with the CDU as a junior partners but instead embark on a coalition with other smaller parties - if numbers add up. Schulz meanwhile also accused Merkel's conservative CDU-CSU bloc of having blocked the introduction of laws guaranteeing marriage equality for homosexual couples throughout the past four years of the coalition government.  It seems that Merkel's CDU meanwhile would prefer to dangle the prospect of legalizing gay marriage like the proverbial carrot in front of a donkey, hoping to confirm and expand the party's broad support by making the parliamentary vote on gay marriage one of the first points of order for the next government. All of Merkel's potential coalition allies favor same-sex marriage, with some saying that it's a precondition for a coalition: Both the Free Democrats and the Greens are in support of the notion. Merkel is likely to need to support of both parties if wants to lead a coalition without the SPD. Same-sex marriage is already legal in 14 EU states, including France, Spain, Portugal, the UK and the Benelux countries.

^ It does seem more like a political act rather than one of beliefs, but homosexuals deserve the same right to marry as everyone else and hopefully this will pass in Germany. ^

Education Struggle

From the BBC:
"Victorious Bosnia students 'will continue segregation struggle'"

Flush with success, students in Bosnia have vowed to continue their struggle against ethnic segregation in schools. At the weekend, the regional government dropped plans to force students in the town of Jajce into two ethnically based schools after a year-long campaign. The Jajce students were given a hero's welcome by pupils from other towns as they arrived in Travnik, the capital of the Central Bosnia Canton, on Tuesday. They now want to end segregation in the remaining 57 schools in the entity. "We saved our school... now the time has come for every other school in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight against division and segregation," Nikolas Rimac, a Croat student who helped lead the struggle in Jajce, told the BBC.  The practice of separating students in the same building to learn from differentiated Bosnian, Serbian or Croatian curricula was introduced following the Balkan war of the 1990s.  It persists in spite of a ruling by the Federation Constitutional Court that it is discriminatory. The US ambassador and international organisations, such as the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, have also opposed the practice.   Segregation in schools is a hangover from the nationalist politics which sparked the conflict of the 1990s and continues to blight the lives of Bosnia's people.  Sometimes this produces absurdities such as the insistence that students of a particular ethnicity should be taught in "their" native tongue. The notion that Serbian, Bosnian and Croatian were distinct languages was thoroughly debunked in March, by an alliance of linguists from across the former Yugoslavia.  This infuriated nationalists who profit from perpetuating divisions among Bosnia's people. But it vindicated those who believe that the country will remain in the mire until its elected officials start serving the common good rather than their patronage networks.  The battle is far from over. Earlier this month the president of the mainly-Serb Republika Srpska ordered schools in the entity to remove references about the genocide at Srebrenica from history textbooks.  It was another example of how nationalists continue to use education as a tool for division. But the victory of the Jajce students shows that younger Bosnians are now rejecting the policies which have hobbled their country for more than two decades.   Under the system known as "two schools under one roof", the children are physically divided and cannot socialise.  Defenders of the system say it preserves ethnic identity and prevents one ethnic group from dominating another. But campaigners say it fosters tensions and suspicions from an early age.  The schools are "prisons and factories of hatred," Mr Rimac said. He said protests such as that on Tuesday in Travnik showed how such divisions could be broken down. "It was brilliant," he told the BBC. "All those wonderful and kind people... standing together in the name of knowledge, education, unity and justice."

^ It's hard for those of us who have never been through a war (especially a civil war) to completely understand what the victims are going through even 20 + years after it ended. The segregation of the education system in the late 1990s was probably a good way to help Bosnia try to rebuild and move forward after years of massacres, rapes, ethnic cleansings, concentration camps, etc. The country itself is separated internally between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosniaks and so it only seemed "natural" to separate other aspects of society - including education. The students in Bosnia today were born after the war ended and so didn't personally go through the hardships or violence. Their parents were directly involved in the war (either as soldiers or civilians) and so the hatred and fear tends to remain with them. I can't imagine it's easy to forgive or forget when a neighbor kills people you know and then you are just supposed to move forward. The students today have a chance to show that Bosnia has truly moved forward in the past 20 + years. One way of doing that is to integrate schools. I'm not saying it would be easy to do - especially in history class where you would have to find some way to show the war from all sides rather than "us vs. them." I have been to Bosnia and have met some of the people and they seem like really good people - it's hard to imagine what it was like during the war or how those same people acted back then - but you can not change the past. You can only account for it and make sure the same mistakes never happen again. While the war will always be a major part of Bosnia it should not continue to hinder its growth or prosperity. ^

May's Citizens

From the BBC:
"Theresa May sets out post-Brexit offer on EU citizens"

Theresa May has said she wants EU citizens living in the UK to stay after Brexit as she announced plans designed to put their "anxiety to rest". All EU nationals lawfully resident for at least five years will be able to apply for "settled status" and be able to bring over spouses and children.  Those who come after an as-yet-unagreed date will have two years to "regularise their status" but with no guarantees.  Jeremy Corbyn said the offer was "not generous" and "too little, too late". Labour said the UK should have made a unilateral guarantee of security to EU citizens in the aftermath of last year's Brexit vote.  The EU's chief negotiator said the proposals did not go far enough. A 15-page document outlining the detail of the UK's offer to EU citizens was published as Theresa May briefed MPs on the outcome of Friday's EU summit - at which she first set out her plans.   She told the Commons that she wanted to give reassurance and certainty to the 3.2 million EU citizens in the UK - as well as citizens of the three EEA countries and Switzerland - who she said were an "integral part of the economic and cultural fabric" of the UK.  But she said any deal on their future legal status and rights must be reciprocal and also give certainty to the 1.2 million British expats living on the continent after the UK leaves the EU - expected to be on 29 March 2019.

The key points of the UK's proposals are:
  • Those granted settled status will be able to live, work, study and claim benefits just as they can now
  • The cut-off date for eligibility is undecided but will be between 29 March 2017 and 29 March 2019
  • Family members of EU citizens living abroad will be able to return and apply for settled status
  • EU nationals in the UK for less than five years at the specified date will be able to continue living and working in the UK
  • Once resident for five years, they can apply for settled status
  • Those arriving after the cut-off point will be able to stay temporarily
  • But there should be "no expectation" they will be granted permanent residence
  • A period of "blanket residence permission" may apply to give officials time to process applications to stay in the UK
  • The Home Office will no longer require evidence that EU citizens who weren't working held "comprehensive sickness insurance"
The prime minister told MPs that those granted settled status, equivalent to having indefinite leave to remain, would be "treated as if they were UK citizens for healthcare, benefits and pensions".  Mrs May said the process of application would be simplified and a "light touch" approach adopted. The existing application process for permanent residency, which involves filling out a 85-page form, has been widely criticized. "Under these plans, no EU citizen currently in the UK lawfully will be asked to leave at the point the UK leaves the EU," Mrs May said.  Officials anticipate that the process of administering "settled status" will be a huge challenge, with some 3.2 million potential applications.   Those EU nationals who've been assigned residency cards already will have to apply again under the new system, though the process for them is expected to be "streamlined".   It's thought applications for settled status will start to be processed from mid-2018. Officials say they intend to put in place a new, online, simplified system - but say they are used to dealing with large volumes of applications - 2.5 million visas each year and seven million passports.  Mrs May said spouses, children and other family members currently living overseas would be able to come to the UK and apply for settled status on the same basis as their partners and relatives.  Pressed by several Labour MPs, she suggested there would be no income barriers for anyone whose relatives have been in the UK for more than five years while, for others, existing rules applying to the foreign dependents of British citizens would be in force in future. "There will be no extra requirements," she said. "We are not talking about splitting up families." She also insisted the UK should police the new rules rather than the European Court of Justice.   But Mr Corbyn said the question of citizens' rights should have been dealt with in isolation rather than being dragged into the "delicate and complex" matrix of trade and other Brexit-related issues now being discussed. "The truth is it is too little, too late. That could have been done and should have been done a year ago when Labour put that very proposal to the House of Commons. This isn't a generous offer. This is confirmation the government is prepared to use people as bargaining chips." The SNP's Ian Blackford said there were still "more questions than answers" about how EU citizens living in Scotland would be affected.  And the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said it could not understand why those who already had permanent residence were being asked to re-apply to obtain the new status. "These are people who have already proven their right to be here to the government's satisfaction under a very stringent process," said its chief executive Saira Grant.  "It is astonishing that the government wants to take on the expense and administrative hassle of reprocessing all of those applications under a new scheme." Reacting on Twitter, Michel Barnier, who is leading the Brexit negotiations for the EU, said his goal was the same level of protection that citizens currently have under EU law. He added: "More ambition, clarity and guarantees needed than in today's UK position." Another key EU figure, Guy Verhofstadt, who is negotiating on behalf of the European Parliament, warned that any changes to free movement laws before the UK has left would break EU law.

^ This is just a first proposal and I'm sure the actual agreement regarding EU citizens in the UK after Brexit will be different. It does show a huge change though from before the last elections to now.  British Prime Minister May before the elections believed she had full control over what terms she would set to the EU and that the British citizens were fully behind her. After the elections she has seen how close she came to not keeping power and that the UK can not simply dictate to the EU the same way the EU can not simply dictate to the UK. There are too many Brits living and working throughout the EU and too many EU citizens living and working in the UK to simply write them off as a non-issue. Whatever the UK does the EU would follow suit and vice versa. It's all very complex, but divorce is not usually easy nor should it be. ^


"I'm a vegetarian except for chicken, pork, beef and steak - - - I love steak."

62% Support

From the AP:
"Support for gay marriage surges, even among groups once wary"

In the two years since same-sex marriage was legalized nationwide, support for it has surged even among groups that recently were broadly opposed, according to a new national survey. The Pew Research Center survey found that for the first time, a majority of blacks and baby boomers support allowing gays and lesbians to wed. It said Republicans are now split almost evenly, a marked shift from 2013, when 61 percent opposed gay marriage. Pew's survey was conducted by telephone among 2,504 adults across the U.S. from June 8 to 18. It was released Monday, the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's historic ruling on same-sex marriage. In the aftermath of that ruling, there were some flare-ups of defiance. A county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Alabama's chief justice, Roy Moore, ordered probate judges to stop issuing such licenses. But such acts of resistance have largely faded way, and same-sex marriage is now treated as a routine occurrence across the U.S. According to the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, there are now more than 547,000 same-sex married couples in the U.S., including at least 157,000 couples who married in the past two years. Some staunch opponents of gay marriage are now focusing their efforts on trying to provide legal protections to civil servants, merchants and other business people who do not want to provide services to same-sex couples. Mississippi, for example, has passed a law — now the subject of litigation in federal court — that would let businesses and government workers deny some services to gay and lesbian couples. There's a case now pending before the Supreme Court involving a Colorado baker who was found guilty of discrimination for refusing to sell a gay couple a wedding cake. A florist in Washington state also is expected to appeal to the high court after she was fined for violating that state's anti-discrimination law because she would not provide flowers for a same-sex wedding.

Some of the notable findings in the Pew survey:
—Overall, 62 percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, the highest level in 20 years of Pew polling on the issue. As recently as 2010, support was at 42 percent.
—Among baby boomers, support is now at 56 percent — up from 46 percent a year ago.
—Support among blacks has risen from 39 percent to 51 percent over two years.
—Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, 48 percent oppose same-sex marriage and 47 percent support it. In 2013, 61 percent were opposed.
—Support is more than 70 percent among millennials aged 18 to 36, and among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. Support is only 35 percent among white evangelical Protestants, while it is 67 percent among Roman Catholics.

However, among the Catholic leadership in the U.S., opposition to same-sex marriage remains strong. Just two weeks ago, the head of the diocese of Springfield, Illinois — Bishop Thomas Paprocki — issued a decree stipulating that gays and lesbians in same-sex marriages should not be provided with communion or Catholic funeral services. Francis DeBernardo, head of an organization of LGBT Catholics called New Ways Ministry, addressed an open letter to Paprocki on Friday. "Many gay and lesbian couples are leading lives of heroic devotion to each other, their children, and their communities," DeBernardo wrote. "I hope and pray that you will reflect not only on the harm that this decree will cause but also the good that can occur if you withdraw it."

^ After two years this should be a non-issue across the country (except for in American Samoa where it's not legal.) Some people just need to "beat a dead horse." I was surprised that the Baby Boomers weren't supporting it as much considering they were the "free love" generation. I guess their extra-liberal views of the 1960s and the excesses they did back then was changed starting in the 1980s and lasting today. Homosexuals are still being discriminated against in many aspects of society the same way other minorities (women, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, the disabled, etc.) are. Unfortunately, people everywhere always need scapegoats - especially when things are bad in their own life - and so they tend to prey on those most vulnerable. ^

Monday, June 26, 2017

EU's East-West Issue

From the DW:
"The east-west divide in the EU deepens"

While the German and French leaders celebrated the close ties between their countries during this week's EU summit, divisions between western and eastern European leaders grew. Christoph Hasselbach reports from Brussels. The summit was intended to spread a bit of optimism. The professionals, it was announced, would now take care of Brexit negotiations, and the British government even promised to protect EU citizens' rights in the United Kingdom after withdrawal. Although that proposal is now being criticized as inadequate and vague, it is still being touted as a sign of progress. After that, the remaining 27 member states sought to create momentum for new projects.  The joint press conference held by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron was then appropriately symbolic. Merkel described the mood of the two-day summit, which ended on Friday, as "optimistic and dynamic." Such words are more easily uttered in the knowledge that economies in almost all member states, even those which were heretofore weak, are starting to grow again. The eurozone has just completed its best quarter in almost six years, which, however, isn't saying much considering the crisis that has been plaguing the continent for the last several years. Yet Estonia, which will take over the European Council's rotating presidency in July, has said that more must still be done. Estonia is considered a role model for EU digitization. In Brussels, Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas urged: "Data is the next steel and coal. So we need to be ready for a next 60 years of digitization in Europe. Europe has to become the world leader in digital." In the case of German Chancellor Merkel, Ratas is preaching to the converted. She was full of praise, "because Estonia is an example of how digitization is already being lived out." The EU also wants to take the lead in maintaining free trade around the world, which member states see threatened by the protectionist tendencies of US President Donald Trump. But, as French President Macron said, the EU is not "naive" either. Openness also necessitates fairness. European governments find it unfair that some countries seemingly flood the European market with dumping prices, or that companies from third states buy European firms while at the same time blocking European takeovers in theirs. The main culprit in both instances is China.  But the generally positive mood that has come on the heels of the Brexit depression did not brighten every topic of discussion - such as that of immigration. Macron, who is seen by many as Europe's new hope, began the conference by angering eastern European countries that have refused to accept refugees from the bloc's main countries of arrival, Italy and Greece. Macron complained that members were not in a "supermarket" and that the EU was not about "handing out money without regard for European values." Although he did not name names, those he was referring to, such as Hungary, felt attacked. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban snapped back that Macron's comments were a "kick." He labeled Macron a "newbie" whose start in office was "not very encouraging." Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern, on the other hand, stood by Macron: "I cannot always make demands and then shirk my responsibilities." In an effort to smooth over differences, Macron also met separately with heads of government from the so-called Visegrad Group: Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Nothing, however, came of the meeting. After the summit, Merkel said that all members were "very, very much in agreement" on the issue of fighting the root causes of migration and the control of Europe's exterior borders. She resignedly added: "Unfortunately, we made no progress on the question of distribution," noting that very little time had been allotted for discussing the issue, "since it was clear that we would not be able to make any progress." In his joint press conference with Merkel, Macron added: "The current refugee crisis is not a temporary, but rather a long-term challenge, which can be resolved only through long-term stabilization in Africa and the Middle East and through ambitious European development policies." Macron's discussion with the Visegrad Group was delicate for another reason as well. The French president fears that the entire European project is in jeopardy because workers in wealthy western European countries feel threatened by eastern European competition. Macron recently even cited the issue in explaining the Brexit: "How could Brexit happen? Because workers from eastern European countries were taking British jobs." Macron is therefore calling for changes to the so-called "Posting of Workers Directive." He envisions that workers sent to fill western European jobs should be paid according to local wage scales. The proposal was greeted by high-wage countries such as Germany and Austria. But eastern Europeans are vehemently refusing to cede their competitive advantage.   The summit made clear that Emmanuel Macron's election has given a jolt of energy to the French-German duo that will perhaps be able to drive new European projects. But at the same time, it also highlighted the threat that the divide between new EU member states from the east and old ones from the west could grow ever deeper.

^ It seems that what is said publically from the EU and its member states does not always show the true colors of the organization. The EU really needs to fix itself from the inside before it can hope to fix itself on the outside. Germany and France unofficially run the EU while all the other member states are either "with them or against them." The EU was supposed to be an organization where every European country that joined would be treated as equal. Sometimes, what sounds good on paper does not happen in practice. This is one of those times. ^

150 Or 35?

From the CBC:
"Canada is celebrating 150 years of… what, exactly?"

How to count the country’s age may depend on how you look at things. Canada 150. Canada's birthday. The sesquicentennial. There must be 150 ways to name 2017, but what are we talking about exactly? Well, that depends on how you look at it. You don't look a day past 149
The year 2017 marks 150 years since Confederation.
Or rather, what we've come to call Confederation.  Canada is actually a federation, but the term Confederation caught on in the in the 19th century and it stuck — we've named squares and bridges after it, we refer to the "Fathers of Confederation" (and the Mothers too!), and the word has come to represent the country and the events that created it. "It" being "one Dominion under the crown," a.k.a. the Dominion of Canada, as per the British North America Act of 1867 that unified the colonies (Province of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick).Union wasn't a new concept — the idea was first presented in early 1800s, and the Act of Union in 1840 saw Upper and Lower Canada (English- and French-speaking Canada respectively, more or less) tie the knot to form the Province of Canada.  On July 1, 1867, it was just four provinces (Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) that composed the new Dominion of Canada. The rest of the provinces and territories joined and were formed over time, Nunavut being the most recent, which officially separated from Northwest Territories in 1999. So you could say that Canada as we know it — ten provinces and three territories — is turning 18.
Your ID says 35
In 1982, Canada "patriated" the constitution, a political process that led to Canadian sovereignty, allowing Canadians to amend our Constitution without requiring Britain's approval. This, the Constitution Act of 1982, was a landmark event and enacted our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Yes, this declaration of independence took place in the '80s, and it was in 1982 that "Dominion Day," aka July 1, was renamed in Parliament to "Canada Day."  Oh Canada, you millennial, you. (And if we're being technical, the Constitution Act itself cleaned up a bit of unfinished business from the Statute of Westminster in 1931, in which Britain granted each of the Dominions full legal autonomy if they chose to accept it. All but one Dominion — that would be us, Canada — chose to accept every resolution. Our leaders couldn't decide on how to amend the Constitution, so that power stayed with Britain until 1982.)
Our home on Native land?
For many Indigenous people (and non-Indig people, too), Canada exists on stolen land. While multiple First Nations have treaty agreements with Canada, others do not; there are unceded territories, and broken treaties too.  The Royal Proclamation of 1763, enshrined in our current Constitution Act, says that any land not given up by treaty belongs to First Nations, which some argue would make the occupation of most of B.C. illegal in our own laws — a position not shared by the Province of British Columbia, it should be noted.
Sesquicen... what?
Sesquicentennial. Ses·qui·cen·ten·ni·al. It means a one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary, and if you perfect the pronunciation it's a real crowd pleaser.
You're not the only one
The coming year isn't being touted as a big anniversary for just Canada: Montreal is marking 375 years since Fort Ville-Marie was founded in 1642, and in sports, the National Hockey League is celebrating its centennial year and the Ottawa Senators their 25th. 
A year by any other name
Call it Canada 150 or simply 2017, this year is an occasion to reflect back and look forward; 2017 marks 150 years since a turning point in history, but the future is ever open. Could 2017 mark a watershed, too? In the age of Truth and Reconciliation, climate change and our American neighbour's political shakeup… what do we want to be when we grow up? What will the country at its tricentennial — if we're still giving a nod to Confederation in 2167 — look back at and remember of this year?
It's your birthday, Canada, make a wish. Make it count.

^  I like the part that says: you say you're 150, but your ID says you are 35. Pre-1982 Canada is like a 17 year old thinking they are an adult yet they still need their parents to co-sign things for them. Post-1982 Canada is an 18 year old who doesn't. This article explains the different major events that shaped Canada - and does so in an easy way to understand. ^


From Disability Scoop:
"Autism At Center Of New Netflix Series ‘Atypical"

The coming-of-age story of an 18-year-old with autism is headed to Netflix. The streaming service said it will debut the eight-episode series “Atypical” later this summer. The half-hour show is presented from the perspective of Sam, a teen on the spectrum played by Keir Gilchrist, who’s looking to gain independence and find love.  “While Sam is on his funny and emotional journey of self-discovery, the rest of his family must grapple with change in their own lives while exploring the question: what does it really mean to be ‘normal?'” Netflix said in describing the show. In a first-look clip released this month, Sam is seen justifying to his mom, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, why he wants to start dating before finally declaring that “at some point, I really, really hope that I get to see boobs.” To ensure an accurate depiction of autism, Netflix said show creators worked with a professor of special education at California State University Channel Islands. “Atypical” will be available on Netflix beginning Aug. 11.

^ I like that more and more movies and TV shows are being made about and for the disabled.  I also like that these new shows are using different disabilities and different ways to show us watching that not every disabled person is the same just like not every non-disabled person is not the same. ^

Cheater Failed

It's nice to see someone so proud that they cheated on someone they cared about get kicked-off a show when they were so arrogant that they were going to win. Karma is great - especially when it's taped and we can all see it.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Glowing Money

From the BBC:
"Canada "toonie" coin glows in the dark"

It may not be made of gold, but Canada's new glow-in-the-dark, two-dollar coin sure does glitter.
Known colloquially as the "toonie," the C$2 ($1.50, £1.20) coin is said to be the world's first glow-in-the-dark coin to enter into circulation. The winning design, which was chosen from 10,000 entries, depicts boaters looking up at the Northern Lights.  The Royal Canadian Mint is releasing three million of these toonies to commemorate Canada's 150th anniversary. In the daylight, the Northern Lights scene depicted on the coin is brilliantly coloured in blue and green. But when the lights are off, it glows in the dark.  The coin was designed by Timothy Hsia, a doctor from Richmond, British Columbia, who says he was inspired by the design contest's theme, "Our wonders". "I wanted to choose a subject that was truly wonderful," Mr Hsia said. "I feel like there is nothing more truly wonderful than Canada's Northern Lights."  Although it was Mr Hsia who created the design, it was the Mint that chose to make it glow in the dark, says spokesman Alex Reeves. The Royal Canadian Mint makes coins not only for Canadian circulation, but for about 75 countries around the world, and the coin is a bit of a calling card for the company, Mr Reeves said. As the world's first glow-in-the-dark coin to enter general circulation, the Canada 150 toonie will help celebrate "a little Canadian innovation along with the pride of this year's festivities," Mr Reeves said. It is also not the first time the Mint has gone for a glow-in-the-dark coin - in 2012, Canada created a quarter with a glowing Pachyrhinosaurus Lakustai dinosaur skeleton. That coin, which was not in general circulation, took home the Krause Publications 2014 Coin of the Year award for "most innovative coin".

^ It is very weird to have glowing money. I wonder how safe it is. I don't know of anyone who has complained that they couldn't find their change in the dark and wish it would glow. ^

Roma Site

From Yahoo:
"Activists demand removal of pig farm from Roma Holocaust site"

Anti-racism activists from across Europe on Saturday demanded the removal of a pig farm from a Holocaust memorial site where hundreds of Roma perished in a Nazis concentration camp during World War II. The leftist-led Czech government promised in 2016 to buy out the farm before elections this October, but infighting among the three coalition parties could scupper a deal. Activists also began lobbying the European Union in May last year to halt subsidies paid to the farm in Lety, a village 75 kilometres (47 miles) south of the capital Prague. Owner Agpi says it is open to moving the facility, so long as the Czech state offers adequate compensation.  "The Czech Republic must reject this negative symbol and transform it into a positive one underpinned by the values of dignity, equality and liberty," Benjamin Abtan, an activist heading the European Grassroots Antiracism Movement (EGAM), told AFP. Abtan joined dozens of activist from across Europe at the Lety site Saturday to pressure the Czech government to make good on its promised buy out before October elections. Between 1940 and 1943, Nazi Germany and its Czech collaborators imprisoned close to 1,300 Czech Roma at the concentration camp. Some 327 Roma, including 241 children, died at the camp staffed by an ethnic Czech commander and guards, while more than 500 were sent to Nazi Germany's infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in occupied southern Poland. The communist Czechoslovak regime built the pig farm on the site in the 1970s.  It has reaped scorn at home and abroad ever since totalitarianism was toppled in 1989, four years before Czechoslovakia split into two states. Alongside European Jews, the continent's smaller Roma minority was a target of Nazi genocide during World War II. The Czech Republic, an EU country of 10.5 million, has a Roma community estimated to number between 250,000 and 300,000. Of the roughly one million Roma who lived in Europe prior to WWII, historians believe that Nazi Germany killed over half.

^ It is important to remember all the victims of the war. The Roma were not only discriminated against by the Nazis, but also by the Communists throughout Eastern Europe - including Czechoslovakia - after the war. ^


"Spontaneity is best when planned."

63% Defeat

From the MT:
"Two-Thirds of Russians Believe USSR Would Have Won WWII Without Allied Help"

Nearly two-thirds of Russians believe that the Soviet Union could have defeated Nazi Germany without the help of its wartime allies, a new survey has revealed. Some 63 percent of Russians said that the Soviet Union would have triumphed without aid from abroad, a new poll by independent pollster the Levada Center found.  Twenty-eight percent said that the Soviets needed Allied help to secure victory over Berlin, while 9 percent could not answer.   An estimated 27 million Soviet soldiers died fighting Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1945.  Some 36 percent of respondents blamed the Soviet Union's devastating wartime losses on Germany's sudden attack, while 24 percent said that the Nazis simply had “military superiority.” Another 12 percent blamed wartime leaders who were content to sacrifice troops to the cause, ​​while ten percent blamed the incompetence of the Soviet command. One in ten blamed the “brutality” of Nazi forces, while eight percent struggled to answer. The survey was carried out among 1,600 people in 137 cities and towns in 48 Russian regions.

^  I have always liked getting into debates with Russians over World War 2 (the Great Patriotic War - Великая Отечественная Война - in Russia.) It's interesting to see how little they tend to know about the war or the things they were taught are wrong. Most don't know that Stalin and Hitler were allies from September 1, 1939 until June 22, 1941 (in fact Stalin felt so betrayed by his ally, Hitler, after Germany invaded he didn't announce the war to his own people or even make a ...public announcement for over a week) or that the war wasn't just in Europe, but in Africa and Asia - hence it being a "world war" or that the Soviet Union only declared war on Japan on August 8, 1945 (in-between when the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan which ended the war.) By the way: Russia is still technically at war with Japan since they never signed a Peace Treaty over the Soviet/Russian occupied Kuril Islands. Not sure how the USSR would have won the World War alone when they were only fighting in Eastern Europe (leaving the other Allies to fight in: Alaska, Africa, the Middle East, Australia and Asia.) ^

20 Years: HK Youth

From US
"Two Decades After Handover, Scant Love for China Among Hong Kong Youth"

Hong Kong student activist Chau Ho-oi, born in the year the Asian financial hub returned to Chinese rule 20 years ago, recalls the sense of pride she once felt toward mainland China. Sitting with her parents when she was 11, Chau watched the 2008 Beijing Olympics on television in awe and felt "excitement in the heart" as China's athletes swept the board with 48 gold medals, more than any other nation. "I thought China was great," Chau said. "If you asked me back then if I was Chinese, I'd say yes." Fast forward nine years, however, and the former British colony's first post-handover generation is increasingly turning its back on the mainland. "Now ... I don't want to say I am Chinese," said Chau, who was arrested during mass pro-democracy protests in 2014. "It gives me a very negative feeling. Even if you ask me 100 times, I would say the same thing." According to a University of Hong Kong survey released on Tuesday that polled 120 youths, only 3.1 percent of those aged between 18 to 29 identify themselves as "broadly Chinese". The figure stood at 31 percent when the regular half-yearly survey started 20 years ago. In interviews with 10 Hong Kong youths born in 1997 including Chau, all of them, including an immigrant from mainland China, told Reuters they primarily identify themselves as "Hong Kongers" and their loyalty lies with the city. The territory became a British colony in stages in the 19th century and returned to Chinese rule under a "one country, two systems" formula which guarantees it wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent judiciary and freedom of speech, for at least 50 years. The 20-year-olds' attitudes were hardened, they said, by a series of shadowy maneuvers suggesting a slow squeeze on those freedoms by Communist Party rulers in Beijing. In 2012, a skinny 15-year-old student named Joshua Wong led tens of thousands of Hong Kong residents to protest against a mandatory national education curriculum they claimed would "brainwash" students by promoting Chinese patriotism. The curriculum was eventually shelved. Two years later, the "Occupy" movement, with Wong at the helm, sought to pressure Beijing to allow full democracy in the election of its leader, demands that were ultimately ignored after 79 days of street protests. The abduction of several Hong Kong booksellers by mainland agents and China's efforts to disqualify two young lawmakers who support Hong Kong independence have also shaken confidence in the "one-country, two systems" arrangement. Student Candy Lau fears Hong Kong will become more controlled. "You see how mass surveillance is so pervasive in China. If Hong Kong gets worse, it may become that way, and it may not become safe anymore," she said. "It's an invisible fear."    More and more youngsters are now pushing for the right to self-determination, and even independence, alarming Beijing. Last month, Beijing's No. 3 official, Zhang Dejiang, who also oversees Hong Kong issues, stressed the need to "strengthen national education and legal education to Hong Kong's youth, and develop correct concepts about the country from a young age" so that they could be moulded into those who "love the country". Hong Kong's incoming leader, Carrie Lam, speaking to China's Xinhua state news agency, said she would seek to cultivate the concept of "I am Chinese" at nursery level.  More than 120,000 Hong Kong youths will join China-related exchange programs, some sponsored by the Hong Kong government, as part of the handover's 20th anniversary celebrations, according to Xinhua. But this patriotic push could trigger a greater backlash. "How could the government not understand the more it forces Hong Kong people to love China, the more opposition this would draw?" asked 20-year-old Jojo Wong, no relation to Joshua. Even more moderate students like Felix Wu, who says he's apathetic about politics, chooses to identify himself first as a Hong Konger, before his Han Chinese ethnicity. "China is a pretty big market and Hong Kong has a need to integrate with this market," Wu said. "But politically they promised nothing would change for 50 years. I think they're going back on their word a bit." Ludovic Chan, a business student hoping to join the civil service, sees himself first as a Hong Konger, but doesn't think that identity is in conflict with being Chinese. "The two different cultures can co-exist. They shouldn't always say Hong Kong and China should integrate. But the two sides should try to understand each other more." Some mainland Chinese students studying in Hong Kong also look on the bright side. "Twenty years is just a start," said Yoshi Yue, a business student who has been in the city for three years. "Slowly they will develop a sense of belonging. It comes from culture, not politics."

^ People around the world seem to conveniently forget that China is a Communist dictatorship. It shouldn't surprise anyone that China is controlling everything in Hong Kong. I remember when the British handed-over Hong Kong to China and all the fears about  what would happen. Well, 20 years later it seems those fears have materialized. I'm sure things will only get more complicated in the next 30 years before Hong Kong officially becomes fully integrated with China. ^