Forget The Cold War, The Summer Is Here

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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2nd cold war

The world breathed a great sigh of relief when the Soviet Union broke apart in 1991, but somehow we’re in the middle of another cold war that nobody wants or needs.

How did that happen?

As most things do, it all started with a huge mistake. That mistake was the West, particularly America, treating Russia like a defeated country after 1991, instead of the formidable nation that it still was despite the breakup of the USSR. Mikhail Gorbachev has acknowledged that fact.

Unfortunately Americans have no clue about foreign affairs and never have had. That, plus a ton of arrogance, led us to the Ukraine which America thought it could more or less capture as an ally to be slotted into NATO. They wanted a fully armed NATO nuclear arsenal on the Russian’s doorstep.

The Americans quite rightly didn’t like it when the Russians tried to do it to them in Cuba way back in the early 1960s, so what idiot thought that the Russians would like it when they did it to them?

Zbigniew Brzezinski

Whoever formulated the plan, it was heavily influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former US National Security Advisor during President Carter’s administration. His theory was that the only way to prevent Russia becoming a great power again was to remove the Ukraine from its sphere of influence.

Thus America initiated an eastward expansion of NATO, using the EU to present the Ukraine with a choice between Russia and Europe. Some Ukrainians, like those in the Crimea favored Russia and others in other parts wanted closer ties with the EU.

Like many other countries, the prospect of joining the EU is attractive to a significant proportion of Ukrainians. But the way America tried to bring it about was just a step too far. The Ukrainian President, who had been duly elected, was removed in what would have been called a “coup d’etat” had it happened elsewhere, or had Russia been the culprit.

That is why a lot of the tensions between the West and Russia is centered on the internal troubles within the Ukraine.

If one looks into the history of the Ukraine another significant part of the puzzle presents itself.

ukraine-map

In much the same way as stupid English bureaucrats redrew borders in the Middle East without any consideration for the people who lived there, (for example, the Kurds), which resulted in wars and upheaval ever since, when the Soviet Union broke apart somewhere in the region of 25 million Russians were left outside the borders of Russia. A lot of them were in the Crimea in the Ukraine.

But the Ukraine had only been independent for three years in its history (1917-20), after the collapse of the tsarist armies.

The post-December 1991 Ukraine was thus a composite entity, its western regions had belonged to Poland between WWI and WWII; its eastern regions were Orthodox and Russian-speaking; and its Black Sea coast had been Ottoman.

The Crimea had never been Ukrainian until Nikita Khrushchev decreed it should be in 1954.

Thus, for anyone with any degree of understanding of foreign affairs, the troubles now being suffered by the various peoples in the Ukraine were both predictable and avoidable.

But the stupid bureaucrats in power were not able to predict it and thus the mess became inevitable.

Ukraine crisis

Sadly the situation has now deteriorated into what amounts to a civil war in the Ukraine. On one side there is the Ukrainian army plus “volunteer battalions”, supported by the US and its allies, and on the other the “separatist” militias who draw their support mainly from Russian-speakers in the east, and who are supported by Russia.

Outside of what is happening in the Ukraine itself, the US and EU implemented severe sanctions against Russia which have hurt, but not nearly as much as they were supposed to. In turn Russia announced counter-sanctions on food and looked to emerging markets, particularly China, to diversify its foreign trade and industrial cooperation.

And so the Cold War part two has begun and shows little sign of ending just yet.

In fact it looks like the Ukraine will remain in a mess until it gets its act together and decides whether it wants to remain on friendly economic terms with its huge neighbor Russia, or whether it will settle for becoming subservient to the whims of the US, via some kind of economic agreement with the EU.

It has a third option, though, perhaps its best option, and that is not taking sides, but rather remaining on friendly terms with both East and West.

However, they may never get the chance to choose option three. In plain language, I don’t think that the people who arrange assassinations and coup d’etats will let them do that.

Meantime, summer or not, the chill continues.

snow in summer sun

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He’s Back …… I Think.

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

putin

It seems that after a mysterious disappearance from public view for the past eleven days or so, Vladimir Putin has re-emerged.

Over the past week and more there was a frenzy of speculation as to why he was nowhere to be seen and what had happened to him. His absence was significant, that much was agreed, but nobody knew why he had disappeared.

One of Putin’s former advisors, Andrei Illarionov, who has become one of his strongest critics of late, was quick off the mark to say Putin had been toppled in a backstage coup.

Many, well-connected in Russian matters, speculated that there was a full-scale Kremlin power struggle under way.

Other rumors quickly followed.

General Viktor Zolotov, Putin’s long-time bodyguard, was said to be dead. This was confirmed and denied and confirmed and denied, etc.,

Another of Putin’s top allies, Vladislav Surkov, was speculated to have fled to Hong Kong with his family.

The questions from the media and on the internet were also many and varied.

Had there been some kind of retaliation for the recent murder of opposition leader and former first deputy prime minister, Boris Nemtsov?

Would there be more bloodshed?

Was a coup under way in Russia?

Was Putin finished?

Was he perhaps unwell, which I suppose could be taken as a sign of weakness and spur on those who wished to topple him?

Was he in Switzerland celebrating the birth of a child by his secret lover, the gymnast Alina Kabaeva?

Would he re-appear soon, shirtless, macho and galloping on a horse to show everyone he is still a force to be reckoned with?

Or was the whole thing just a distraction from the murder of Nemtsov and the war in Ukraine?

putin_shirtless_on_horse

The Kremlin, on the other hand, wasn’t asking any questions. It dismissed all such rumors and insisted that nothing was wrong with either Putin or his regime, apart from maybe a dose of the flu.

There is no doubt that, for all his political savvy, Putin has managed to get himself stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He made his reputation by winning the war in Chechnya, and he cannot afford to cross the Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. At the same time he cannot side against the politicians from the security or military services, often the officers of the former KGB, GRU, FSB, and all that, who came into power with him.

As usual, of course, most commentators missed the main question, which was apart from all the usual faffing around, ‘how should we react if such a thing were really to happen’?

Here in the West we, (including those in the intelligence community who are supposed to know about these things and brief world leaders like President Obama), don’t have much of a clue about Kremlin politics. You can be almost certain therefore that, if anything were ever to really happen to Putin, the danger is that the West would respond in entirely the wrong way.

A new Russian leader would be greeted by America and its allies as a more predictable and easier to deal with partner than Putin. But that is forgetting one crucial element. All Russian leaders are tough. Not just Putin. And the person who had the steel to oust someone of Putin’s caliber would have to himself be a very hard man and a shrewd operator.

More significantly, he would have to quickly stamp his authority and hold on power in Russia. The quickest and easiest way of doing that would be with more repression of opposition factions in Russia itself and with more flexing of Russia’s considerable muscles abroad, particularly in the Crimea and the Ukraine.

That would be a real puzzler for Obama, were it to happen during his last few months in office. And a defining moment for his successor.

Sometimes the devil you know is easier to deal with than one you don’t.

putin devil

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Whose Bubble Will Burst First, The Banks Or The Bolsheviks?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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2014 oil price drop

As 2014 ended, the Russian Rouble was in free fall and so were crude oil prices. Both affected the Russian economy and not in a good way. From a position of great strength Vladimir Putin is now under pressure due to the combined effect of lower oil prices and the sanctions imposed by the west because of the situation in the Ukraine and Crimea.

In the West there have been two notable effects of the drop in oil.

One is good in so far as consumers have to spend a lot less to run their vehicles and heat their homes.

The other, however, is bad – for the banks (tee-hee-hee) although they will no doubt pass on their pain to us.

The reason the banks are in trouble (AGAIN) is because they have lent billions of dollars to fracking operations where oil explorers use expensive techniques to extract oil from underneath American and Canadian soil.

The drop in oil prices means that you can now buy oil on the open market for a lot less than it costs to extract it in the US and Canada.

Therefore the oil exploration companies that obtained these huge loans from the banks, and other money men on Wall St, have little or no chance currently of paying them back.

If the position continues through 2015 expect payment defaults and huge debts written off again by the banks.

Will the government step in (AGAIN) to bail them out by printing more money?

I don’t know. I hope not. It’s time these bankster idiots paid for their own mistakes instead of us having to continually foot the bill.

Don’t count on it though.

So whose bubble do you think will burst first, the banks or the Bolsheviks?

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FAREWELL 2014

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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Hi folks,

Last day of this year and time for my recollections of 2014’s main events.

As always this is by no means meant to be a complete coverage of all the events that happened during 2014, just a personal blog post about some of the things I remember, and a few that I had forgotten until I started to compile this list.

I hope you enjoy.

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farewell 2014

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The Weather

We will start off with the weather since so many of us seem to be obsessed with it.

  • In the United States there were weather extremes. In California, for example, January was the warmest and driest on record in San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Only four other Januaries since 1878 had been completely dry in Los Angeles until January 2014. Alaskans experienced their third warmest January in 96 years of record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

California drought 2014

  • In many parts of the Midwest, on the other hand, 2014 was the coldest winter since the late 1970s or early 1980s. And some southern states of the US became the victims of, firstly, winter storm Kronos which brought a rare blanket of snow as far south as Louisiana, and sleet as far south as Harlingen, Texas and Pensacola, Fla. in late January, and then, just days later, a second winter storm, Leon, hit many of the same areas causing commuter chaos in both Birmingham, Ala. and Atlanta. Leon also spread ice and sleet to the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle, and the Low country of South Carolina.
  • And worse was on the way. Winter Storm Pax deposited an inch or more of ice in a swath from east-central Georgia into South Carolina, including Augusta, Ga. and Aiken, S.C. Pax was the second heaviest ice storm dating to 1947 in Wilmington, N.C. The accumulation of ice from Pax claimed the famed “Eisenhower tree” at the Augusta National Golf Club. Pax marked the first time since January 1940 that Columbia, S.C. saw snowfall for three straight days.

Winter Storm Pax Washington

  • In complete contrast, the week after Pax, Columbia, S.C. tied its all-time February high of 84 degrees. Augusta, Ga. warmed into the 80s two straight days on Feb. 19-20.
  • Elsewhere in the world, severe Atlantic winter storms took their toll on many parts of England which in 2014 experienced storms and rain not seen since the late 19th century.

Atlantic winter storms Cornwall England

  • In Tokyo, Japan, which usually averages only about 4 inches of snow each year, there were also severe snow storms. In February, snow blanketed the city with 11 inches of snow in less than a week, the heaviest snowfall in 45 years for Tokyo and in 60 years for the city of Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo. The following weekend, parts of eastern Japan, including parts of the Tokyo metro area, received another round of snow. Some smaller communities were isolated by more than 3 feet of snow.
  • And in the southern hemisphere, Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology reported that more than 10 percent of Queensland and almost 15 percent of New South Wales experienced their record hottest day on Jan. 3. A second heat wave hit parts of southern Australia in mid-January, with temperatures peaking above 41 degrees Celsius (just under 106 degrees Fahrenheit) for four straight days from Jan. 14-17, and reaching a sizzling 43.9 degrees C (111 degrees F) on both Jan. 16 and 17.

australia heat wave 2014

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Business and Technology

  • In the world of business and technology 2014 was the year the Obama administration decided to stop inversion deals, where US companies bought foreign domiciled businesses and moved their profit centers to a much more tax friendly location.
  • In technology buys, one of the largest was Facebook’s purchase of smartphone application WhatsApp for $19 Billion.

14.02.19-Facebook-WhatsApp

  • In other sectors 2014 saw world oil price plunge to around $50 per barrel, good news for consumers, not so good for producers.
  • Under pressure from the fall in oil and gas prices, along with the economic sanctions imposed by the west because of the ongoing situation in the Ukraine, the Russian Ruble went into free fall in December.

APphoto_Russia Economy

  • Also in 2014, in March, the United Nations International Court of Justice ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling program was not scientific but commercial and refused to grant further permits.
  • With Quantitative Easing having been ended in the US (for the moment anyway) Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced plans for a new $29 billion fresh stimulus, including subsidies and job-creating programs, to help pull the world’s third-largest economy out of recession.

Quantitative Easing cartoon

  • After their embarrassing foul up last Christmas, this year both FedEx and UPS managed to deliver more than 99 percent of express packages as promised on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23, according to shipment tracker ShipMatrix.
  • South Korean prosecutors arrested a government official who allegedly leaked information about an investigation into former Korean Air Lines executive Cho Hyun-ah, who forced a flight to return over a bag of macadamia nuts. Most of the rest of the world tends to think that the idiot executive should suffer the consequences of her stupidity, not the whistleblower.

korean-air-lines-macademia-nut-scandal Cho Hyun-ah

  • And finally, after their embarrassing hack attack and cringe-worthy capitulation to what amounted to a terrorist cyber attack which was rightly criticized publicly by President Obama, Sony finally decided to release its movie ‘The Interview’.

Rogan Franco The-Interview

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Conflicts, Wars & Terrorism

Unfortunately 2014 saw many conflicts and acts of terrorism.

  • In April an estimated 276 girls and women were abducted and held hostage from a school in Nigeria. The following month, Boko Haram militants killed approximately 300 people in a night attack on Gamboru Ngala and terrorists in Nigeria detonated bombs at Jos, killing 118 people.

Boko Haram militants killed approximately 300 people Gamboru Ngala

  • June saw the emergence of a Sunni militant group called the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’ (also known as the ‘ISIS’ or ‘ISIL’). It began an offensive throughout northern Iraq, with the aim of eventually capturing the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad and overthrowing the Shiite government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The group has been responsible for beheading of hundreds of people including several from the United States.

Sunni militant group called the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’

  • In July and August tensions between Israel and Hamas grew following the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June and the revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in July. Israel launched ‘Operation Protective Edge’ on the Palestinian Gaza Strip starting with numerous missile strikes, followed by a ground invasion a week later. In 7 weeks of fighting, 2,100 Palestinians and 71 Israelis were killed.
  • Also in July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a Boeing 777, crashed in eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 souls on board. There are conflicting claims as to who was responsible, some blaming pro Russian forces for a missile strike and others blaming Ukrainian forces.

Malaysia Airlines Flight 17

  • In August and September the United States military began an air campaign in northern Iraq to stem the influx of ISIS militants and the following month the United States and several Arab partners began an airstrike campaign in Syria.

Expect more on these stories during 2015.

Departures

During 2014 we said farewell to many well know people from various walks of life. Here is just my selection of those I remember.

From Literature

Sue Townsend

British novelist and playwright (b. 1946)

SueTownsend

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P. D. James

British writer and life peer

(b. 1920)

P. D. James

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From Movies & TV

Roger Lloyd-Pack

British actor

(b. 1944)

Roger Lloyd-Pack

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Maximilian Schell

Austrian-Swiss actor

(b. 1930)

Maximilian Schell

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Philip Seymour Hoffman

American actor

(b. 1967)

Philip Seymour Hoffman

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Shirley Temple

American actress and diplomat

(b. 1928)

shirley_temple

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Sid Caesar

American actor

(b. 1922)

Sid Caesar

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Harold Ramis

American film director,

writer, and actor

(b. 1944)

Harold Ramis

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Mickey Rooney

American actor

(b. 1920)

Mickey Rooney

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Bob Hoskins

British actor

(b. 1942)

Bob Hoskins

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Efrem Zimbalist, Jr.

American actor

(b. 1918)

Efrem Zimbalist, Jr

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Rik Mayall

British comedian,

writer and actor

(b. 1958)

Rik Mayall

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Casey Kasem

American radio host

and voice actor

(b. 1932)

Casey Kasem

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Eli Wallach

American actor

(b. 1915)

Eli Wallach

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Elaine Stritch

American actress and singer

(b. 1925)

Elaine Stritch

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James Garner

American actor

(b. 1928)

James Garner

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Menahem Golan

Israeli filmmaker

(b. 1929)

Menahem Golan

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Robin Williams

American actor and comedian

(b. 1951)

Robin Williams

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Lauren Bacall

American actress

(b. 1924)

Lauren Bacall

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Richard Attenborough

British actor and film director

(b. 1923)

Richard Attenborough

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Joan Rivers

American comedian, actress,

and television host

(b. 1933)

Joan Rivers

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Richard Kiel

American actor (b. 1939)

Richard Kiel

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Polly Bergen

American actress

(b. 1930)

Polly Bergen

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Ken Takakura

Japanese actor

(b. 1931)

Ken Takakura

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Warren Clarke

English actor

(b. 1947)

Warren-Clarke

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Glen A. Larson

American television producer

and writer

(b. 1937)

Glen A. Larson

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Virna Lisi

Italian actress

(b. 1936)

Virna Lisi

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Billie Whitelaw

English actress

(b. 1932)

Billie Whitelaw

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Luise Rainer

Golden Age actress

“The Great Ziegfeld”

(b. 1910)

Luise Rainer with oscars

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From Music

Pete Seeger

American singer, songwriter,

musician, and activist

(b. 1919)

Pete Seeger

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Johnny Winter

American singer and guitarist

(b. 1944)

Johnny Winter

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Glenn Cornick

British bass guitarist

(b. 1947)

Glenn Cornick

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Jack Bruce

British rock bassist

(b. 1943)

Jack Bruce

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Acker Bilk

British jazz clarinetist

(b. 1929)

Acker Bilk

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Joe Cocker

English singer

(b. 1944)

Joe Cocker

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From Politics

Zbigniew Messner

9th Prime Minister of the

People’s Republic of Poland

(b. 1929)

Zbigniew Messner

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Ariel Sharon

11th Prime Minister of Israel

(b. 1928)

Ariel Sharon

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Tony Benn

British politician and diarist

(b. 1925)

Tony Benn

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Adolfo Suárez

138th Prime Minister of Spain

(b. 1932)

Adolfo Suárez

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James R. Schlesinger

American economist and politician

(b. 1929)

James R. Schlesinger

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A. N. R. Robinson

3rd President of Trinidad and Tobago

(b. 1926)

A. N. R. Robinson

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Howard Baker

American politician and diplomat

(b. 1925)

Howard Baker

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Eduard Shevardnadze

2nd President of Georgia

(b. 1928)

Eduard Shevardnadze

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Albert Reynolds

Irish Taoiseach (prime minister)

(b. 1932)

Albert Reynolds

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Ian Paisley

British politician and

First Minister of Northern Ireland

(b. 1926)

Ian Paisley

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Nicholas Romanov

Prince of Russia

(b. 1922)

Nicholas Romanov

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Jean-Claude Duvalier

41st President of Haiti

(b. 1951)

Jean-Claude Duvalier

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John Spencer-Churchill

11th Duke of Marlborough,

British peer and educator

(b. 1926)

John Spencer-Churchill, 11th Duke of Marlborough

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Gough Whitlam

21st Prime Minister of Australia

(b. 1916)

Gough Whitlam

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From Space Exploration

Valeri Kubasov

Soviet cosmonaut

(b. 1935)

Valeri Kubasov

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Wubbo Ockels

Dutch astronaut and physicist

(b. 1946)

Wubbo Ockels

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Henry Hartsfield

American colonel and astronaut

(b. 1933)

Henry Hartsfield

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Anatoly Berezovoy

Soviet cosmonaut

(b. 1942)

Anatoly Berezovoy

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From Sport

Eusébio

Portuguese footballer

(b. 1942)

Eusébio

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Mae Young

American professional wrestler

(b. 1923)

Mae Young

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Louise Brough

American tennis player

(b. 1923)

Louise Brough

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Tom Finney

English footballer

(b. 1922)

Tom Finney

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Nelson Frazier, Jr.

American professional wrestler

(b. 1971)

Nelson Frazier, Jr

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Jimmy Ellis

American boxer

(b. 1940)

Jimmy_Ellis

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Jack Brabham

Australian race car driver

(b. 1926)

Jack Brabham

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Malcolm Glazer

American businessman,

owner of Manchester United

(b. 1928)

Malcolm Glazer

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Valentin Mankin

Ukrainian sailor, Olympic triple champion

and silver medalist

(b. 1938)

Valentin Mankin

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Fernandão

Brazilian footballer and manager

(b. 1978)

Fernandão

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Alfredo Di Stéfano

Argentine-Spanish footballer

(b. 1926)

Alfredo-Di-Stefano-Dies-at-Age-88

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Andriy Bal

Ukrainian football player and coach

(b. 1958)

Andriy Bal

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Björn Waldegård

Swedish rally driver

(b. 1943)

Björn Waldegård

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Andrea de Cesaris

Italian race car driver

(b. 1959)

Andrea de Cesaris

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Health

  • The big health scare of 2014 that dominated the headlines was the of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa in February, that initially infected over 19,000 people and killing at least 7,000, the most severe both in terms of numbers of infections and casualties.

ebola_map Africa

  • In other news, also in February, Belgium became the first country in the world to legalize euthanasia for terminally ill patients of any age.

Politics

  • On January 1, Latvia officially adopted the Euro as its currency and became the 18th member of the Eurozone.
  • In February, the Ukrainian parliament voted to remove President Viktor Yanukovych from office, replacing him with Oleksandr Turchynov, after days of civil unrest that left around 100 people dead in Kiev. The pro-Russian unrest lead to the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and an insurgency in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

President Viktor Yanukovych

  • In March, Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela, severed diplomatic and political ties with Panama, accusing it of being involved in a conspiracy against the Venezuelan government.
  • Also in March, an emergency meeting, involving the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Germany, France, Japan, and Canada temporarily suspended Russia from the G8.
  • In April, also in response to the Crimean crisis, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) passed a resolution temporarily stripping Russia of its voting rights; its rights to be represented in the Bureau of the Assembly, the PACE Presidential Committee, and the PACE Standing Committee; and its right to participate in election-observation missions.
  • The same month, United States President Barack Obama began new economic sanctions against Russia, targeting companies and individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin Obama

  • In May the Royal Thai Army overthrew the caretaker government of Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan after a failure to resolve the political unrest in Thailand.
  • Back in Europe, in June, King Juan Carlos I of Spain abdicated in favor of his son, who ascended the Spanish throne as King Felipe VI.
  • And the political year ended on a positive note, with U.S. President Barack Obama announcing the resumption of normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba after more than half a century.

normal relations between the U.S. and Cuba

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Space

  • The major space event of 2014 happened in November when the European Space Agency’s Rosetta Philae probe successfully landed on Comet 67P, the first time in history that a spacecraft has landed on such an object.

Rosetta Philae

Sport

  • The two major world sporting events of 2014 were the XXII Olympic Winter Games, held in Sochi, Russia in February, and the 2014 FIFA World Cup held in Brazil, and won by Germany, during June and July.

world-cup-2014-champions-germany-trophy

  • In American sport the Super Bowl was won by the Seattle Seahawks, the MLB World Series  winners were the San Francisco Giants and in basketball the San Antonio Spurs came out on top.
  • Ice Hockey had three champions in 2014, Canada becoming Olympic champions, Russia world champions and in the NHL the Los Angeles Kings were the victors.
  • In tennis at the world famous Wimbledon Tournament in England Novak Djokovic became Men’s Singles Champion and Petra Kvitova Ladies Singles Champion, while the men’s and women’s winners of the US Open were Marin Čilić  and Serena Williams respectively.

novak-djokovic-with-wimbledon-crown

  • In Soccer, as noted above, Germany won the 2014 World Cup. The European Champions League winners were Real Madrid and the English Premiership was won by Manchester City.
  • The Formula 1 motor racing champion for 2014 was British driver Lewis Hamilton, who also picked up the award of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
  • In golf’s major championships, the Masters Tournament, held in April, was won by Bubba Watson by three strokes. It was his second Masters championship.
  • May saw the BMW PGA Championship where young Northern Ireland man Rory McIlroy birdied the 18th hole to win by one stroke over Irishman Shane Lowry, who also birdied the 18th hole.
  • In June, U.S. Open winner was Martin Kaymer who won by eight strokes to become the first German player to win the U.S. Open, and the first player to win the Players Championship and the U.S. Open in the same year.
  • In July, the Open Championship Northern Ireland man Rory McIlroy, was on top again winning by two strokes over Rickie Fowler and Sergio García. It was his third career major championship, and his first Open Championship. With the win, he became the fourth player ever of 25 years old or under to have won at least three majors.
  • In August, McIlroy was back, winning the PGA Championship by one stroke over Phil Mickelson. He was having quite a year, it was his fourth career major and his second PGA Championship.PGA Champion Rory McIlroy
  • Then in September, in the Ryder Cup, Team Europe (also including McIlroy) defeated Team USA by a score of 16½ – 11½. It was the third consecutive Ryder Cup victory for Europe, and also Europe’s fifth consecutive home victory in the Ryder Cup.

Tragedies

  • In March Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a Boeing 777 airliner en route to Beijing from Kuala Lumpur, disappears over the Gulf of Thailand with 239 people on board. The aircraft is presumed to have crashed into the Indian Ocean.
  • In April Korean ferry MV Sewol capsized and sunk after an unmanageable cargo shift. More than 290 people were killed, mostly high school students.

south-korea-ferry MV Sewol

  • In May hundreds of workers were killed in mining accident in Turkey.
  • In July, Air Algérie Flight 5017 crashed in Mali, killing all 116 people on board.
  • And just a few days ago AirAsia flight QZ8501 crashed, wreckage has been found off the coast of Indonesia’s Kalimantan coast.

indonesia-airplane AirAsia flight flight QZ8501 airport notice board

 

Hats Off, It’s The Quiz!

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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I suppose I should have said Panama hats off because that’s one of today’s questions.

You will also need to have a sprinkling of knowledge about marbles, wars, cooking and even fairytales to stack up the points today.

But if you get stuck, as always, you can find the answers waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay down below, but please NO cheating!

Enjoy and good luck.

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quiz 2

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Q.  1:  An easy one to start with,  where did Panama hats originate?

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Q.  2:  What are toy marbles made from?

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Q.  3:  How long did the ‘100 Years War’ last?

            a)  106 years          b)  116 years          c)  126 years

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Q.  4:  what is the only mobile National Monument in the USA?

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Q.  5:  Here’s one for all you beer drinkers, in what month is the world famous ‘Munich Oktoberfest’ beer festival held?

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Q.  6:  It contains beef or pork, but what is the main ingredient of the thick and spicy soup known as ‘Borscht’ that originated in Ukraine but is also popular in many Eastern and Central European countries.

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Q.  7:  What type of building is a ‘picture palace’?

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Q.  8:  From which part of its body does a cow, and presumably also a bull, sweat?

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Q.  9:  How many sides has a ‘Prism’?

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Q. 10:  What type of creature is a ‘horned toad’?

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Q. 11:  Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?

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Q. 12:  What sort of fruit is a ‘Chinese gooseberry’?

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Q. 13:  In the original French medieval version of the story of ‘Cinderella’ (which gave us the modern Western version) what were Cinderella’s slippers made from?

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Q. 14:  In sunscreen lotions, what does the abbreviation ‘SPF’ stand for?

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Q. 15:  What do bullet proof vests, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common?

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Q. 16:  What is the most prevalent infectious disease in the UK?

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Q. 17:  A ‘mahout’ is a person who works with and rides what?

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Q. 18:  How many times was Richard Burton nominated for an Oscar and how many times did he win? (A point for each correct answer.)

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Q. 19:  Which breed of cats, rabbits, and goats have the same name?

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Q. 20:  Finally, a guy is condemned to death and has three rooms to choose from and he must choose one of them. Room #1 contains a fiery inferno; room #2 contains 50 Assassins with loaded guns; and room #3 contains hungry lions that haven’t eaten in three months. Which room should he choose?

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ANSWERS

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Q.  1:  An easy one to start with, where did Panama hats originate?

A.  1:  Okay, maybe not so easy, they originated in Ecuador.

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Q.  2:  What are toy marbles made from?

A.  2:  Although called ‘marbles’ they are made from ‘glass’.

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Q.  3:  How long did the ‘100 Years War’ last?

            a)  106 years          b)  116 years          c)  126 years

A.  3:  The correct answer is b) 116 years.

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Q.  4:  what is the only mobile National Monument in the USA?

A.  4:  San Francisco cable cars.

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Q.  5:  Here’s one for all you beer drinkers, in what month is the world famous ‘Munich Oktoberfest’ beer festival held?

A.  5:  In September.

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Q.  6:  It contains beef or pork, but what is the main ingredient of the thick and spicy soup known as ‘Borscht’ that originated in Ukraine but is also popular in many Eastern and Central European countries.

A.  6:  The main ingredient of ‘Borscht’ is beetroot.

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Q.  7:  What type of building is a ‘picture palace’?

A.  7:  It would be understandable if you said art gallery, but in fact a ‘picture palace’ was the name given to a cinema or theater for showing movies.

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Q.  8:  From which part of its body does a cow, and presumably also a bull, sweat?

A.  8:  Its nose.

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Q.  9:  How many sides has a ‘Prism’?

A.  9:  Five.

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Q. 10:  What type of creature is a ‘horned toad’?

A. 10:  A ‘horned toad’ is a lizard.

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Q. 11:  Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of what?

A. 11:  Their birthplace.

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Q. 12:  What sort of fruit is a ‘Chinese gooseberry’?

A. 12:  It is a Kiwifruit.  It originated in China but renamed kiwifruit by growers/exporters in New Zealand.

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Q. 13:  In the original French medieval version of the story of ‘Cinderella’ (which gave us the modern Western version) what were Cinderella’s slippers made from?

A. 13:  They were made from squirrel fur which when you think about it is a lot more sensible than glass. The reason we ended up with a glass slipper is because the French word for squirrel fur is ‘vair’, which was misunderstood by Charles Perrault, writer of the modern version, to be verre, which means glass. You got it wrong Charlie and I guess so did most people who answered this question!

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Q. 14:  In sunscreen lotions, what does the abbreviation ‘SPF’ stand for?

A. 14:  ‘SPF’ stands for Sun Protection Factor.

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Q. 15:  What do bullet proof vests, windshield wipers and laser printers have in common?

A. 15:  They were all invented by women.

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Q. 16:  What is the most prevalent infectious disease in the UK?

A. 16:  The Common Cold.

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Q. 17:  A ‘mahout’ is a person who works with and rides what?

A. 17:  Elephants.

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Q. 18:  How many times was Richard Burton nominated for an Oscar and how many times did he win? (A point for each correct answer.)

A. 18:  Richard Burton was nominated seven times for an Oscar and surprisingly never won any. The correct answers are 7 and 0.

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Q. 19:  Which breed of cats, rabbits, and goats have the same name?

A. 19:  Angora.

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Q. 20:  Finally, a guy is condemned to death and has three rooms to choose from and he must choose one of them. Room #1 contains a fiery inferno; room #2 contains 50 Assassins with loaded guns; and room #3 contains hungry lions that haven’t eaten in three months. Which room should he choose?

A. 20:  He should choose room #3 because the lions would be dead if they hadn’t eaten in three months.

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What’s That Smell?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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hypocrite definition

Last week I wrote a post about the resurgence of the Cold War. I called it “Anyone Feel A Chill?” (click here if you would like to read it.)

But, politicians being politicians, they cannot even have a mock war like a Cold War without the stench of hypocrisy attached to it.

For example, the United States blames Russia for interfering in the internal affairs of Ukraine, as indeed it is currently doing. But at the same time it attaches no blame to itself for also interfering in the Ukraine’s internal affairs, which it also did – in the process helping to create the mess we now see on our TV screens.

ukraine protests

Now, not content with that, America has been coercing Europe to go along with it in imposing economic sanctions on Russia. And by and large Europe has meekly and unthinkingly followed the US lead.

It started with foodstuffs and freezing bank accounts and assets, which Putin has managed to shrug off without too much trouble.

Now they’ve upped the ante and imposed sanctions on Russia’s supply of energy which is it’s big wealth earner and which given time will no doubt hurt a bit. I say “a bit” because any long term shortfall in energy revenue from Europe will be more than made up for by energy hungry customers like China, India and the rest of Asia. China, for example, recently closed a $400 billion natural gas deal with the Russians.

As a matter of fact, with winter approaching, the sanction game may well end up hurting Europe a lot more that it does Russia.

hypocrisy meter

You see, the thing is, the energy sanctions imposed by the US and Europe are on the sale of oil and gas. These are the things that Europe desperately needs, but are things on which America does not rely on Russia for at all.

Wait a minute, there’s that smell again.

Worse than that, the US did not invoke sanctions on the sale of Russian nuclear fuel, which America does rely on Russia for, since it just happens to power 10% of all American homes.

Now do you smell it?

At the moment it looks like this Cold War is going to get very cold in Europe and very expensive as the cost of heating increases with the shortfall in supplies.

America will be fine though.

So will Russia.

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Anyone Feel A Chill?

“Fight Against Stupidity And Bureaucracy”

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The Sunday Sermon

USA-and-USSR-Flag

I know the summer is coming to a close, but the chill I’m talking about in this post is the one coming from the Cold War.

You remember it?

The thing that we though we had got rid of in 1992 when Daddy Bush said, “A world once divided into two armed camps now recognizes one, sole and pre-eminent power, the United States of America.”

That ended the Cold War and everyone was happy. America had won.

So why did it start again? And why did our politicians not have the gumption to avoid it?

Two pretty good questions, I think.

I suppose the answer is that it all started again because America desperately needs a bogey man – a global one, not some terrorist organization like Al Qaeda or ISIS.

It gives them a reason to keep the war machine going which is good for the economy.

It gives them the chance to tell the world that the choice they have to make is between America and Russia (in other words, between ‘good’ and ‘bad’).

good_v_bad

And indeed it used to be that way, when the Russian regime was hell bent on imposing their failed communist philosophy on the free world.

The problem is that America wasn’t content with winning. For some reason it felt it needed to win again.

This time it is trying to do so by bribing and coercing former Soviet satellite states into joining an economic and military (EU/NATO) alliance against Russia.

That has, understandably and predictably, provoked the Russians into once again flexing their muscles, the result of which we are starting to see in the Ukraine.

And so the Cold War begins again.

But it won’t be the same as the last one. Some things are very different.

This time America is bankrupt, not Russia, which on the contrary has massive wealth at its disposal. This time America is being perceived by the rest of the world as dithering and incompetent.

nsa-spying-scandal

And, thanks to the arrogance of organizations like the NSA, this time it is America, not Russia, who is perceived by the rest of the world as untrustworthy and untrusting of its allies. That’s quite the reversal of the old Cold War when it was the Russians who were notorious for listening in on conversations, bugging hotel rooms and the like.

In addition Russia is not currently bound to an outdated and failed communist dogma.

Despite all the bogus posturing of President Obama, who it seems can’t make up his mind to do anything, Russia will not allow NATO to set up shop in its backyard.

America has made a huge tactical mistake interfering so close to Russia. They are leaving Putin with little alternative but to do his own bit of posturing. The only difference is he means it.

When a bear is sleeping, poking it with a stick is never a wise move. Neither is trying to force it into a corner.

This time it may well bring consequences that none of us will like.

poking a sleeping bear

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