Daily Archives: March 16, 2018

Understanding Blood Sugar | Rocket Facts


What Is Blood Sugar?

Blood sugar is the glucose that your blood transports to your body’s cells to give them energy. Your blood sugar can be measured. This measurement indicates the amount of glucose carried by the blood during one moment of time.

This glucose comes as a result of the foods that we consume. In the normal human body, the level of blood glucose is regulated so that it is neither too high nor too low.

Blood sugar is different than the sugar that we normally eat. Table sugar is sucrose. The sugar in the bloodstream is glucose.

Your blood glucose level changes depending upon what you are doing. When you eat, the level rises. It returns to a lower level after about an hour’s time. Your glucose level is at its lowest point when you first awake, before eating.

How Sugar Enters the Cells of the Body If you eat carbohydrate, your body will break it down into glucose. Glucose can simply be converted into energy. However, glucose can only gain entrance to cells via insulin. The pancreas is the organ that produces insulin. After you eat, your blood sugar rises. As the cells absorb the glucose, the level in the blood returns to normal.

Excess glucose is stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen. If you don’t eat for a certain period of time, then your blood glucose level drops. The pancreas will then release a hormone called glucagon. Glucagon causes the breakdown of glycogen into glucose. This elevates blood glucose back to where it needs to be.

Normal Blood Sugar Levels The normal person has a fasting glucose level below 99 milligrams per deciliter. People with diabetes have elevated glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association advises that diabetics maintain their glucose level between 70 and 130 mg/dL before eating and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after eating.

Hyperglycemia Elevation in blood sugar levels is known as hyperglycemia. People with diabetes have generally elevated glucose levels when they are untreated. Hyperglycemia occurs either because the body does not have enough insulin, or the body does not properly use the insulin. When the body doesn’t properly use the insulin, it is called insulin resistance.

Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:

Dry mouth
Frequent urination
Increased thirst
Long-term complications of diabetes include:

Kidney disease
Erectile dysfunction
Nerve damage
Hypoglycemia Hypoglycemia occurs when glucose levels go below normal. If you have diabetes, then you have a higher risk of both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.

Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:

Pale face
Things that Influence Blood Sugar Levels In terms of what you eat, your glucose level is influenced by the amount and type of carbohydrates that you eat. Simple carbohydrates, such as unrefined sugar, are broken down quickly by your system. Therefore, they enter the bloodstream rapidly and can cause spikes in blood sugar. Complex carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes, take longer to enter the bloodstream. They, consequently, don’t cause spikes in blood sugar.

The exercise that you do can also influence your blood sugar levels. To maintain normal blood sugar levels, diabetics combine diet, exercise, and medication. Some diabetics can control their illness with diet and exercise alone.

Measuring Blood Sugar Diabetics measure their sugar a few times a day with a device called a glucometer. The targets for the glucose levels have already been mentioned.

Another test which is useful in the diagnosis and maintenance of diabetes is the hemoglobin A1C. This test measures the average sugar levels over the last three months.

An A1C below 5.7 is considered normal. An A1C between 5.7 and 6.4 signals pre-diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the result is over 6.5 percent. The goal for diabetics is to lower this reading.

Your A1C goal is specific to your case. Several factors come into play that determine your target. A typical goal for people with diabetes is less than seven percent. Keeping your reading below your target is a good way of stemming the tide of possible long-term complications of diabetes.

Ways of Controlling Blood Sugar If you have diabetes or are concerned about your blood sugar levels, then there are changes in lifestyle that you can take on to control blood sugar.

Get more exercise.
Eat a balanced diet with appropriate portion sizes.
Stick to a schedule.
The science of blood sugar is relatively easy to understand. So are the tips that have been mentioned to regulate blood sugar. For those with diabetes, a treatment plan must be developed under the care of a doctor. The truth is that everyone can use the advice of a good dietitian to optimize their diet plan.

Putin is stoking the hellish conflict in Syria and no one is stopping him (opinion) – CNN

Putin is stoking the hellish war in Syria and no one is stopping him
Gayle Lemmon

Gayle Tzemach Lemmon is a CNN contributor and adjunct fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. She is the author of “Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield.” The opinions expressed in this commentary are hers.

Russia’s efforts to sow chaos in the US elections is now well-documented. As is its ability to foment unrest in Ukraine. And Estonia. And Western Europe. And to harm people who defy it, whether at home or in the United Kingdom.

But what is less discussed is Russia’s role as instigator-in-chief in Syria. Sitting at the center of the “Axis of Mistrust” — Syria’s Assad regime, Iran, and, on occasion, Turkey — Russia is playing all sides of the board and then rearranging the pieces — in its own favor. As one writer on the Middle East recently noted, Turkey, Russia and Iran “do not want to allow potential strains among them to work to the United States’ advantage, not only in Syria, but in the region as a whole.”
If American policymakers are to focus on Russia’s efforts to expand its influence, they will have to engage with what Russia is up to in Syria, and the implications in the country and the region. As Turkey attacks the US-backed Kurdish forces in Afrin, the same forces who led the fight against ISIS, Russia is there, viewing the Turkish operation, as one analyst put it, “as a chance to deepen the wedge between the US and Turkey.”
In congressional testimony this week, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command, noted that, “Russia does play a role in here; they are trying to instigate tension among partners in the region and then trying to play a role in trying to be an arbiter in that.” He added, “I am concerned about this role that Russia plays in northern Syria and how it impacts all our relationships, especially the relationship between US and Turkey.”
Russia has been all-in on the side of the Syrian regime from the start of the conflict and its air campaign in Aleppo reshaped facts on the ground. It has blocked close to a dozen UN resolutions condemning the Syrian regime’s crimes against civilians, even blocking resolutions that would have allowed humanitarian relief to reach besieged moms and dads trying to pull their children through this hellish conflict. The latest UN effort to stop the bombardment and poisoning of Syrians in Eastern Ghouta ended in a ceasefire that existed only on paper in New York. It failed entirely to take hold on the ground.
As Votel noted of the ceasefire, Russia’s “inability to enforce it means either they lack the ability to do that or they are choosing not to do that … one of the things we do have to do is hold them accountable for the actions they are taking and the humanitarian disaster they are perpetuating.”
Indeed, the White House issued an unusual statement this month noting that “between February 24 and 28, Russian military aircraft conducted at least 20 daily bombing missions in Damascus and Eastern Ghouta. … Pro-regime forces must immediately cease targeting medical infrastructure and civilians as part of the brutal campaign in Eastern Ghouta.”
US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned only this week that the United States would “act” against any nation that “is determined to impose its will through chemical attacks and inhuman suffering, most especially the outlaw Syrian regime.” Russian military leaders threatened to strike the United States in Syria if the United States launched strikes against Damascus.
Right now there is no accountability. And the deaths of Russian mercenaries who launched attacks on US and US-backed forces February 7 remain shrouded in mystery. US military leaders say they remained in contact with Russia during the attack and received assurances that Russia wouldn’t engage with coalition forces in the Deir el-Zour area. Nevertheless, the mercenaries attacked a US-backed coalition position.
Russia’s actions in Syria present a challenge to America: How do you rein in a power that feels no check is in the offing? The first step is to encourage America’s leaders to pay attention to reality on the ground.
Assad may win Syria’s war, but his victory will ring hollow
The West should stop feigning heartbreak over Syria
How seven years of war turned Syria’s cities into ‘hell on Earth’
Think the War in Syria Is Winding Down? Think Again.
The Nation
Syria’s civil war has been raging for 7 years and no end in sight

Russian Ambassador Says ‘Sherlock Holmes Is Needed’ In Extraordinary Spy Poisoning Denial At United Nations


14/03/2018 21:33 GMT | Updated 15/03/2018 10:02 GMT
Russian Ambassador Says ‘Sherlock Holmes Is Needed’ In Extraordinary Spy Poisoning Denial At United Nations
Russia condemned as British authorities compared to ‘hapless’ Inspector Lestrade.
By Graeme Demianyk

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Russia has likened the British government to the “hapless” police inspector in the Sherlock Holmes books as it made an extraordinary denial of involvement in the poisoning of ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK.

Addressing the United Nations Security Council after Theresa May announced Russian diplomats are to be thrown out of the UK following the attempted murder, the Russian permanent representative to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, insisted on “material proof” of Russia’s use of a nerve agent on British soil.

Russia faced universal condemnation from members of the council after a summit was called to discuss the incident in Salisbury.

Notably, US Ambassador Nikki Haley called for “immediate concrete measures” to hold Russia accountable as she said the country shared the UK’s assertion of Russian responsibility. A statement from the White House issued later said the US “stands in solidarity with its closest ally” over the decision to expel 23 Russian diplomats.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vassily Nebenzia.
Britain’s deputy UN ambassador, Jonathan Allen, told the meeting the government is asking the international chemical weapons watchdog to independently verify its analysis that a military-grade nerve agent from the former Soviet Union was used to poison the pair.

But in an extraordinary response, Nebenzia cited the Arthur Conan Doyle series of stories, and highlighted the “hapless character” Inspector Lestrade, who is “not particularly smart” and comes up with “banal conclusions, only to be overturned by Sherlock Holmes”.

He said: “I am not trying to say that those who work in Scotland Yard are not professional. But I do think that we could all stand to benefit from having Sherlock Holmes with us today.”

Nebenzia added the inspector today is the “high level members of the UK government” who have made “unsupported accusations, which have far-reaching consequences”.

Russia are genuinely talking about how useless Lastrade was in the Sherlock Holmes books as if this is somehow a reflection on police and the conclusions. If I wasn’t hearing it I would think it was being made up.

— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) March 14, 2018
The US ambassador to the world body, Haley, said: “Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning, the United States stands in absolute solidarity with Great Britain.

“The United States believes that Russia is responsible for the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using a military-grade nerve agent. Dozens of civilians and first responders were also exposed.

“No two nations enjoy a stronger bond than that of the United States and the United Kingdom. Ours is truly a special relationship. When our friends in Great Britain face a challenge, the United States will always be there for them. Always.”

Allen said that without any alternative explanation from Russian authorities about the nerve agent “we have no choice but to conclude this was a state-sponsored act against the prohibition and use of chemical weapons and in defiance of international law.”

He said the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has been informed about the use of the nerve agent and the UN “are inviting them to independently verify our analysis.” He said: “We are making every effort to expedite this process.”

The British Prime Minister announced that 23 diplomats have a week to leave the country, making it the single biggest expulsion of diplomats for over 30 years.

The Prime Minister added the UK was suspending high-level contacts with Russia and that dignitaries, including members of the royal family, will not attend this summer’s World Cup.

US Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley.
London had given Moscow until midnight on Wednesday to explain whether it was behind the attack or had lost control of the nerve agent used.

Government sources indicated that plans were in place for further action if Russia responds in a “disproportionate” way to the expulsion of its diplomats.

May’s “calibrated, calm and firm” announcement was designed to impress on the international community the seriousness of the situation and Britain’s robust response to it, while leaving her the flexibility to take more steps if necessary.

“Although we’ve announced this response, further options remain on the table,” said one senior Government official. “Economic, diplomatic, legislative and security capabilities can all be brought to bear if needed.

“If we don’t feel that what we have done thus far is having the required effect in the short, medium or long term – a change of behaviour from the Kremlin – we will look at them again and revise them.”

The are also a range of options which the UK could pursue which cannot be made public, including investigations which might lead to legal action, the official said.

It is understood that the list of 23 undeclared intelligence officers was carefully drawn up in order to keep some channels of communication open.

Russia has been refusing to co-operate unless it was given access to samples of the Novichok poison used.

Ahead of May’s statement, all 29 countries in Nato – including the US – backed a statement demanding Russia provides a “full and complete disclosure of the Novichok programme” and answers the UK’s questions.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry earlier said May’s statement is “an unprecedentedly crude provocation that undermines the foundations of a normal interstate dialogue between our countries.”

The statement added: “We consider it categorically unacceptable and unworthy that the British government, in its unseemly political aims, further seriously aggravated relations, announcing a whole set of hostile measures, including the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats from the country.”

Russian Diplomats To Be Thrown Out Of The UK In Response To Salisbury Chemical Attack
Labour Cites Iraq ‘History’ As Corbyn Demands Spy Evidence
‘I Don’t Know Where’s Safe And Where’s Not’: Salisbury Residents Fearful After Nerve Agent Attack

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Friend of dead Putin critic was strangled, British police say

Friend of dead Putin critic was strangled, British police say
Corky Siemaszko

British police launched a murder investigation Friday after an autopsy revealed that a Russian exile who was critical of Vladimir Putin was strangled in his home.

Nikolay Glushkov, whose body was found Monday, died as a result of “compression to the neck,” London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

Metropolitan Police / Metropolitan Polic via Reuters
Glushkov’s death was a eerie echo of his friend Boris Berezovsky, an exiled Russian oligarch and an outspoken critic of Putin who was found in 2013 with a rope around his neck — and whose death was initially a suspected suicide. It was reclassified as unexplained.

“Boris was strangled,” Glushkov said afterward in an interview with The Guardian newspaper. “Either he did it himself or with the help of someone. [But] I don’t believe it was suicide.”

So far, police said, there is no link between the death of Glushkov and “the attempted murders in Salisbury, nor any evidence that he was poisoned.”

That was a reference to the attempted assassinations of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were found unconscious last weekend on a bench in the city of Salisbury — and who police later said were poisoned with a nerve agent.

They remain in crucial condition and British Prime Minister Theresa May has said it was “highly likely” they were the victims of an attempted hit by Russian military intelligence.

The Russian ambassador in London insisted the British were keeping diplomats in the dark about Glushkov’s murder.

“The embassy has no information about the launch of the probe into Glushkov’s murder,” Alexander Yakovenko said. “The British side is not responding to the embassy’s inquiry. It is unacceptable and we consider this situation as a failure of the U.K.’s international liabilities under the Vienna convention of consular access.”

Nikolay Glushkov’s home in southwest London.
Glushkov also once testified in court against the billionaire Roman Abramovich, a Putin ally who owns the Chelsea Football Club, an English soccer team.

Berezovsky was a close friend of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko, who died from radioactive poisoning in 2006. An inquiry by British investigators concluded that his death was the work of the Russian state and was probably green-lighted by Putin himself.

Following the poisonings of the Skripals, Yvette Cooper, a British lawmaker, wrote to Home Secretary Amber Rudd and asked her to look into 14 other deaths highlighted in an investigation by BuzzFeed last year.

Citing U.S. intelligence sources, BuzzFeed reported that the deceased were suspected of being assassinated on British soil by Russian security services or mafia groups, “two forces that sometimes work in tandem.”

Nikolai Glushkov, who had links to Putin critic, dies in London
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Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter poisoned with nerve agent, police say
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From Wikipedia: El Camino Real (California)


El Camino Real (Spanish for The Royal Road, also known as The King’s Highway), sometimes associated with Calle Real (within the US state of California), usually refers to the 600-mile (965-kilometer) road connecting the 21 Spanish missions in California (formerly Alta California), along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos, stretching at its southern end from the San Diego area Mission San Diego de Alcalá, all of the way up to the trail’s northern terminus at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, just above San Francisco Bay.

For other roads of the same name, see El Camino Real (disambiguation).
Quick facts: Reference no., Highway system …
The meaning of the term “Camino Real” has in fact changed over time. In earlier Spanish colonial times, any road under the direct jurisdiction of the Spanish crown and its viceroys was considered to be a camino real. Examples of such roads ran between principal settlements throughout Spain and its colonies such as New Spain. Most caminos reales had names apart from the appended camino real.

Once Mexico won its independence from Spain, no road in Mexico, including California, was a camino real. The name was rarely used after that and was only revived in the American period in connection with the boosterism associated with the Mission Revival movement of the early 20th century.

The original route begins in Baja California Sur, Mexico, at the site of Misión de Nuestra Señora de Loreto Conchó, present day Loreto, (the first mission successfully established in Las Californias). Today, many streets throughout California that either follow or run parallel to this historic route still bear the “El Camino Real” name. Some of the original route has also been continually upgraded until it is now part of the modern California freeway system. The route is roughly traced by a series of commemorative bell markers.

Spanish and Mexican periods

A map produced in 1920 shows the earliest origination of “El Camino Real in Baja California as it existed in 1769 before its later extension into Alta California.
Between 1683 and 1834, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries established a series of religious outposts from today’s Baja California and Baja California Sur into present-day California.

In Alta California (now the US state of California), El Camino Real followed two alternate routes, established by the first two Spanish exploratory expeditions of the region. The first was the Portolá Expedition of 1769. The expedition party included Franciscan missionaries, led by Junípero Serra. Starting from Loreto, Serra established the first of the 21 missions at San Diego. Serra stayed at San Diego and Juan Crespí continued the rest of the way with Gaspar de Portolá. Proceeding north, Portolá followed (as much as possible) the coastline (today’s California State Route 1), except where forced inland by coastal cliffs.

Eventually, the expedition was prevented from going farther north by the entrance to San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate. Crespí identified several future mission sites which were not developed until later. On the return trip to San Diego, Gaspar de Portolá found a shorter detour around one stretch of coastal cliffs via Conejo Valley.

Portolá journeyed again from San Diego to Monterey in 1770, where Junipero Serra (who traveled by ship) founded the second mission (later moved a short distance south to Carmel. Carmel became Serra’s Alta California mission headquarters.

The second Juan Bautista de Anza expedition (1775–76), entering Alta California from the southeast (crossing the Colorado River near today’s Yuma, Arizona) picked up Portolá’s trail at Mission San Gabriel. De Anza’s scouts found easier traveling in several inland valleys, rather than staying on the rugged coast. On his journey north, de Anza traveled the San Fernando Valley and Salinas Valley. After detouring to the coast to visit the Presidio of Monterey, de Anza went inland again, following the Santa Clara Valley to the southern end of San Francisco Bay and on up the east side of the San Francisco Peninsula. This became the preferred route (roughly today’s U.S Route 101), and more closely corresponds to the officially recognized El Camino Real.

To facilitate overland travel, mission settlements were approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) apart, so that they were separated by one long day’s ride on horseback along the 600-mile (966-kilometer) long El Camino Real (Spanish for “The Royal Highway,” though often referred to in the later embellished English translation, “The King’s Highway”), and also known as the California Mission Trail. Heavy freight movement was practical only via water. Tradition has it that the padres sprinkled mustard seeds along the trail to mark the windings of the trail’s northward progress with bright yellow flowers, creating a golden trail stretching from San Diego to Sonoma. The Camino Real provided a vital interconnecting land route between the 21 Spanish missions of Alta-California.

American period
In 1912, California began paving a section of the historic route in San Mateo County. Construction of a two-lane concrete highway began in front of the historic Uncle Tom’s Cabin, an inn in San Bruno that was built in 1849 and demolished exactly 100 years later. There was little traffic initially and children used the pavement for roller skating until traffic increased. By the late 1920s, California began the first of numerous widening projects of what later became part of U.S. Route 101.

History of commemorative bell-markers

A historical marker situated along El Camino Real.
In 1892, Anna Pitcher of Pasadena, California initiated an effort to preserve the as-yet uncommemorated route of Alta California’s Camino Real, an effort adopted by the California Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1902. Modern El Camino Real was one of the first state highways in California. Given the lack of standardized road signs at the time, it was decided to place distinctive bells along the route, hung on supports in the form of an 11-foot (3.4 m) high shepherd’s crook, also described as “a Franciscan walking stick.” The first of 450 bells were unveiled on August 15, 1906, at the Plaza Church in the Pueblo near Olvera Street in Los Angeles.

The original organization which installed the bells fragmented, and the Automobile Club of Southern California and associated groups cared for the bells from the mid-1920s through 1931. The State took over bell maintenance in 1933. Most of the bells eventually disappeared due to vandalism, theft or simple loss due to the relocation or rerouting of highways and roads. After a reduction in the number of bells to around 80, the State began replacing them, at first with concrete, and later with iron. A design first produced in 1960 by Justin Kramer of Los Angeles was the standard until the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) began a restoration effort in 1996.

Keith Robinson, Principal Landscape Architect at Caltrans developed an El Camino Real restoration program which resulted in the installation of 555 El Camino Real Bell Markers in 2005. The Bell Marker consists of a 460 mm diameter cast metal bell set atop a 75 mm diameter Schedule 40 pipe column that is attached to a concrete foundation using anchor rods. The original 1906 bell molds were used to fabricate the replacement bells. The replacement and original bells were produced by the California Bell Company, and are most typically marked 1769 & 1906, and include a designer’s copyright notice. The two dates represent the date of the founding of the first Alta-California mission in San Diego, and the date of the setting of the first commemorative bell-marker, respectively.

Commemorative trail routing

The most visible mission as seen from the road while driving the current “commemorative route” of the Camino Real, the Mission San Miguel.
Today, several modern highways cover parts of the historic route, though large sections are on city streets (for instance, most of the stretch between San Jose and San Francisco). Its full modern route, as defined by the California State Legislature, is as follows:

Interstate 5, U.S.-Mexico border to Anaheim
Anaheim Boulevard, Harbor Boulevard, State Route 72 and Whittier Boulevard, Anaheim to Los Angeles
U.S. Route 101, Los Angeles to San Jose
State Route 87, within Santa Clara County
State Route 82, San Jose to San Francisco
Interstate 280, San Francisco
U.S. Route 101, San Francisco to Novato
State Route 37, Novato to Sears Point
State Route 121, Sears Point to Sonoma
State Route 12, Sonoma
East Bay route
State Route 87, within Santa Clara County
State Route 92
State Route 238
State Route 185, Hayward to Oakland
State Route 123, Oakland to San Pablo (continued to Martinez)
Some older local roads that parallel these routes also have the name. Many streets throughout California now bear the name of this famous road, often with little factual relation to the original; but Mission Street in San Francisco does correspond to the historical route. A surviving, unpaved stretch of the old road has been preserved next to Mission San Juan Bautista; this section of road actually runs parallel to the line of the San Andreas Fault, which can be clearly seen because the ground drops several feet. An unpaved portion of the original El Camino Real has been preserved just east of Mission San Juan Bautista in San Juan Bautista, California.

Today the route through San Mateo and Santa Clara counties is designated as State Route 82, and some stretches of it are named El Camino Real. The old road is part of the de Anza route, located a few miles east of Route 101.

Note that the official California El Camino Real route misses most of the original 21 missions. While driving along the official “commemorative route” of the Camino Real, the most visible Mission today would probably be the Mission San Miguel, located in the unincorporated village of San Miguel, just off Highway 101 on the Salinas River.

Historic designations
El Camino Real is designated as California Historical Landmark #784. There are two state historical markers honoring the road: one located near Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego and the other one near Mission San Francisco de Asís in San Francisco.

See also
California Roads portal
El Camino Real de los Tejas
El Camino Real (disambiguation)
El Camino Viejo
History of California
Spanish missions in California
Spanish missions in Baja California
More information: Tap to expand …
“California Historical Landmark: San Diego County”. Office of Historic Preservation. California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-13.
“California Historical Landmark: San Francisco County”. Office of Historic Preservation. California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-13.

Kurillo, M.; Tuttle, E. (200 Belfry of Mission San Miguel Arcángel. San Miguel, California, USA 0).

California’s El Camino Real and Its Historic Bells. Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, CA. pp. 53–57. ISBN 0-932653-37-5.
“Mission Bells”. Caltrans. Retrieved 24 March 2016.
Pool, Bob (August 16, 2006). “Saga of the Bells Comes Full Circle”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 September 2016.
California Streets and Highways Code, Chapter 2, Article 3, Section 635
California Highways: El Camino Real
San Mateo County Historical Society, San Bruno Herald

Have you heard of the Camino de Santiago? This famous pilgrimage route is actually a combination of many different trails through France, Portugal and Spain that, after many hundreds of miles, converge on the historic and beautiful town of Santiago de Campostela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Have you heard of the Camino de Santiago? This famous pilgrimage route is actually a combination of many different trails through France, Portugal and Spain that, after many hundreds of miles, converge on the historic and beautiful town of Santiago de Campostela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The quaint cobblestone streets, cafes and restaurants of Santiago welcome modern day pilgrims and travelers who continue to make this timeless journey. Whether motivated by life aspirations, bucket-lists or a simple desire to be immersed in some of most beautiful and historic corners of Europe, “The Way of St. James” is an experience that is treasured for a lifetime. Enjoy these photos and trivia about this special journey and the Backroads Taste of Camino de Santiago Walking & Hiking Tour. This is the trip! https://goo.gl/nLxLbX #caminodesantiago #spain #backroadstravel

A second Cold War is upon us: and we only have ourselves to blame

A second Cold War is upon us: and we only have ourselves to blame
Andy Martin

The fall of the Wall was a defining moment, creating an almost dream-like sense of optimism. It meant anything was possible
There is a story (which I believe to be true) about a wandering West Coast surfer, board bag over his shoulder, who accidentally landed in Berlin, back in the 1980s. Disappointed by the lack of a decent beach, he took an excursion to the Wall, gazed up at a well-armed border guard in one of the towers, festooned with barbed wire, and yelled out to him – in a mixture of abuse, protest and lament – “Man, you are bummed, because you will never know what true surfing really is.”

A reasonable remark at the time, of course, but history has proved the oracle wrong. “Charlie don’t surf!” said Lt Col Kilgore in Apocalypse Now. But Charlie – and specifically ex-East German ex-soldiers who used to man the ramparts – do surf (their exploits are documented in Michael Scott Moore’s Sweetness and Blood). Trabants out, Woodies in; and shorts on. Apocalypse was duly postponed. But not for long.

The Fall of the Berlin Wall, on the night of 9 November 1989, is probably a defining moment for all of us who were alive at the time. Probably for those too who weren’t alive yet. You didn’t need to be there, singing along with David Hasselhoff, to feel the almost dream-like sense of optimism. More than mere optimism: the real and empirically justifiable conviction that progress, in a very real and – no metaphor – concrete way could be and had been achieved. Anything, henceforth, was possible.

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For a lot of us the wall had stood for much of our lifetime (since 1961) and now it was down. Deconstruction in action. The spy didn’t need to come in from the cold any more. John Le Carré was (so we fondly imagined) out of a job. The long Cold War was over and old-style spooks and moles, Smiley and his Moriarty-like KGB counterpart, Karla, could all go home and put their slippers on. The Iron Curtain had been drawn back for good.

Such was the gist of the brilliant yet flawed thesis put forward in Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History and the First Man, published in 1992 (based on a paper first written in the summer of 1989). Some of us cherish little chunks of actual rubble or bricks taken from the Wall (some of it no doubt genuine); I still have the Fukuyama sitting on my shelf. A symbol of an all too evanescent utopianism. Fukuyama was the voice of a generation. Now, perhaps, singing only in bare ruin’d choirs.

Fukuyama boldly – perhaps with a sense of humour – used Hegel’s nineteenth-century theory of history to articulate and validate (up to a point) his liberal-democratic vision of the future. The irony was that Hegel had previously been extensively mined by none other than Karl Marx to buttress his own notion of the historical dialectic. Hegel had watched Napoleon (“the world-spirit on horseback”) storm across the land that was not then Germany, on his way to the Battle of Jena, and saluted the French emperor for, in effect, triggering nationalism and thus inadvertently giving birth to German nationhood. That was good enough for Hegel; the rise of the German state. This was the world-historical ideal. The real had become rational. Mission accomplished.

Rubbish, said Marx. He got it all wrong, or as he neatly put it, Hegel had been standing on his head and it was Marx’s job to turn him upside-down and put him back on his feet again, making him less of an “idealist” and more of a “materialist”.

The essential structure that Marx extracted from Hegel’s history was the tripartite one of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. It was a neat idea. Maybe too neat. French school kids are still taught to write their essays in just this way. But, applied to history, the Hegelian logic said that one force would conjure up an opposite force and that out of some kind of miraculous, explosive fusion a superior force would emerge, combining the best of the two previous phases. Marx took over this narrative structure but converted it into his triadic history, feudalism followed by capitalism followed, definitively, by communism. The French Revolution would be echoed by a global revolution that would usher in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Francis Fukuyama argued that the end of Soviet communism heralded the end of history
But Marx got it all back-to-front, said Fukuyama, who also sought to use Hegel to prove his point. Fukuyama had just witnessed the Fall of the Wall. In the brief interregnum in which we freely used words like glasnost and perestroika (just as, conversely, the droogs of Clockwork Orange have “horrorshow”, from the Russian for “good”, xorosho), it was perhaps natural that he should think in these terms. He was not alone. I can remember, in a speech at my own wedding, comparing my bride to Gorbachev (I regret that, but it was supposed to be a metaphor for a better world to come).

In the pages of The End of History, Hegel was this time around invoked to demonstrate that the final synthesis, and the end-point of history, was not some monstrous totalitarian regime; but rather, easy-going, surfer-friendly, liberal democracy taking over the entire planet. What we were seeing was “not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of postwar history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

It was a West Coast view of the world, seen through turquoise-tinted sunglasses. Hedonism was henceforth OK. There would be no further need for the old puritan work ethic (heralded by the sociologist Max Weber), because we were now post-industrial. By the same token the heavy-handed State of the past would (as Marx predicted) fade away and leave in its place a free-thinking parliamentary paradise. The idea that East is East and West is West had been wrong: the twain had met when the Wall fell. Perhaps there was a hint of Margaret Thatcher’s, “There is no alternative”. The only problem, Fukuyama maintained, was “boredom”.

Somehow 9/11 didn’t quite square with this basic assumption. The old East-West conflict was back with a vengeance, only in a new form. The rise of Al-Qaeda and Islamism shook Fukuyama’s thesis to its core. He responded heroically and tried to save his argument from the flames and maintained that this was a temporary misunderstanding. In the long-run (although it could be very, very long), his prediction would surely come true. As Popper argued of Hegel, Fukuyama’s thesis was essentially “unfalsifiable”, irrefutable only because it lacked empirical substance.

Smoke pours from the twin towers of the World Trade Centre after they were hit by two hijacked airliners in a terrorist attack (Robert Giroux/Getty Images)
However, his feel-good, warm-hearted prophecy was soon enough supplanted by Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations (1996). According to Huntington, at least half-a-dozen quite distinct cultural entities would always remain locked into their ancient conflicts with one another. Huntington, not Fukuyama, was the essential playbook of the era of Osama bin Laden. Here was Fukuyama’s antithesis.

But there was one more writer of the post-Berlin Wall episode who not only derided Fukuyama but provides us with the script to our current malaise. He was not surprised by 9/11. And – had he still been alive – he might have been equally at home with “Novichok”. Oddly enough, he was also the guiding light of the Matrix movies and the “desert of the real”. Jean Baudrillard is perhaps better known as the architect or high priest of postmodernism. But when I met him in the 1990s in Oxford, he was speaking about “the Illusion of the End” (which would become a book with that title).

Baudrillard heaped scorn on the gospel according to Fukuyama and Hegel and Marx and anyone else espousing a linear narrative with a happy ending. Instead, he signalled the end of the end of history. “History,” he wrote, “has become interminable.”

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In an arresting image of recycling, Baudrillard reckoned that when the Wall came down all the bricks were taken away and used to build new walls in other places. That was, in effect, the Huntington argument.

But Baudrillard went further and made a specific prophesy. History, he said, as the old millennium approached a close, was not marching inexorably forward to some rosy conclusion. On the contrary, according to Baudrillard’s rather poetic idea, history was more of a palindrome than a straightforward narrative. Just as you get to the end, or what you think and fervently pray could be the end, it starts to rewind, to go into reverse, and repeat itself all over again in a “catastrophic process of recurrence and turbulence”.

More recently Fukuyama has been quoted as saying, “twenty-five years ago, I didn’t have a sense or a theory about how democracies can go backward. And I think they clearly can.”

So a new Cold War is exactly what Baudrillard would have expected and predicted. We are back to the droogs and their horrorshow, except they are now in Moscow, and Salisbury. And that is without mentioning Beijing. Presumably World War is next on the horizon. “Nothing that one thought superseded by history has really disappeared,” as Baudrillard says. “All the archaic and anachronistic forms are there ready to re-emerge, intact and timeless, like viruses deep in the body.”

But could it have been any different? To most of us who were in situ the first time around, the new showdown between Western democracy and Russian infamy will seem not just familiar but almost reassuring. At least you know where you are with the Russian bear. Max Boot’s new book The Road Not Taken, suggests that Vietnam in particular could have been very different. Back in the 1960s in Asia, Edward Lansdale – the model for Graham Greene’s “Quiet American” – was beavering away to convert “hearts and minds” at the same time as the American military-industrial machine was gearing up to try to bomb the living daylights out of Vietnam and Cambodia. Guess who won. But it could, Boot maintains, have been different.

And perhaps in some parallel universe even now we are at peace with Moscow and there are regular Anglo-Russian pow-wows and exchanges and Putin is really up against some serious opposition in the forthcoming election rather than shoving most of them in prison, or worse.

There is a case for saying that in the all too brief honeymoon after the fall of the Wall we – and especially the USA – needed to be actively seeking partnerships and reconciliation, rather than rubbing the ex-Soviet nose in its own downfall. And above all offering financial incentives: a post-Cold War Marshall Plan.

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Alas, we didn’t. The fact is – as per Putin’s current electoral strategy – there are always more votes to be garnered by playing the clash-of-states card. Sadly, the Cold War sells. Many Russians love the idea of the “strong” leader, even if that strength is only a “show of strength” against a background of increasing weakness. It’s not so much a personality cult as the celebration of the droog mentality.

To return to Hegel, the synthesis (and thus the end of history) is always receding, because we can never overcome our addiction to mere antithesis. We define ourselves by opposition. Is the EU, after all, not just another way of defining, by opposition, the UK?

Fukuyama was right about one thing though: our current crisis is, as he would say, “post-ideological”. All the old Marxist-Leninist facade has been taken down. Now it’s all about the exercise of pure naked power.

Salisbury is not collateral damage. Killing people is the ultimate calling card.

Andy Martin is the author of Reacher Said Nothing: Lee Child and the Making of “Make Me” and teaches at the University of Cambridge.

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Russia to expel UK diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens | Reuters

Russia to expel UK diplomats as crisis over nerve toxin attack deepens
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ASTANA/LONDON (Reuters) – Russia is set to expel British diplomats in retaliation for Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to kick out 23 Russians as relations with London crashed to a post-Cold War low over an attack with military-grade nerve agent on English soil.

After the first known offensive use of such a weapon in Europe since World War Two, May blamed Moscow and gave 23 Russians who she said were spies working under diplomatic cover at the London embassy a week to leave.

Russia has denied any involvement, cast Britain as a post-colonial power unsettled by Brexit, and even suggested London fabricated the attack in an attempt to whip up anti-Russian hysteria.

Asked by a Reuters reporter in the Kazakh capital if Russia planned to expel British diplomats from Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov smiled and said: “We will, of course.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia could announce its response at any minute.

Britain, the United States, Germany and France jointly called on Russia on Thursday to explain the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump said it looked as though the Russians were behind it.

A German government spokesman called the attack “an immense, appalling event”. Chancellor Angela Merkel said an EU summit next week would discuss the issue, in the first instance to seek clarity, and that any boycott of the soccer World Cup, which Russia is hosting in June and July, was not an immediate priority.

Russia has refused Britain’s demands to explain how Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military, was used to strike down Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, in the southern English city of Salisbury.

Britain has written to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague, which monitors compliance with the global convention outlawing the use of such weapons, to obtain independent verification of the substance used.

Skripal, a former colonel in the GRU who betrayed dozens of Russian agents to British intelligence, and his daughter have been critically ill since March 4, when they were found unconscious on a bench.

A British policeman was also poisoned when he went to help them is, and is in a serious but stable condition.

British investigators are working on the theory that an item of clothing or cosmetics or a gift in the luggage of Skripal’s daughter was impregnated with the toxin, and then opened in Skripal’s house in Salisbury, the Daily Telegraph said.

A coat of arms is seen on a gate outside of the Russian embassy in London, Britain, March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB spy who is poised to win a fourth term in an election on Sunday, has so far only said publicly that Britain should get to the bottom of what has happened.

In a sign of just how tense the relationship has become, British and Russian ministers used openly insulting language while the Russian ambassador said London was trying to divert attention from the difficulties it was having managing Britain’s exit from the European Union.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Britain had no quarrel with the Russian people but that it was overwhelmingly likely that Putin himself took the decision to deploy the nerve toxin in England.

Slideshow (5 Images)
“We have nothing against the Russians themselves. There is to be no Russophobia as a result of what is happening,” he said.

“Our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision – and we think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision – to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK.”

The Kremlin’s Peskov called the allegation that Putin was involved “a shocking and unforgivable breach of the diplomatic rules of decent behaviour”, TASS news agency reported.

British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson sparked particular outrage in Moscow with his blunt comment on Thursday that “Russia should go away, it should shut up.”

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Russia’s Defence Ministry said he was an “intellectual impotent” and Lavrov said he probably lacked education. Williamson studied social science at the University of Bradford.

“Well he’s a nice man, I’m told, maybe he wants to claim a place in history by making some bold statements,” Lavrov said. “Maybe he lacks education, I don’t know.”

In London, opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn struck a starkly different tone to that of the British government by warning against rushing into a new Cold War before full evidence of Moscow’s culpability was proven.

Corbyn said Labour did not support Putin and that Russia should be held to account if it was behind the attack.

“That does not mean we should resign ourselves to a ‘new cold war’ of escalating arms spending, proxy conflicts across the globe and a McCarthyite intolerance of dissent,” he said.

Additional reporting by William James, David Milliken and Kate Holton in London, and Maria Tsvetkova, Jack Stubbs and Andrew Osborn in Moscow; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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Spy poisoning: Putin most likely behind attack – Johnson

Spy poisoning: Putin most likely behind attack – Johnson

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The foreign secretary met his Polish counterpart at a Second World War bunker in west London
Russian President Vladimir Putin is “overwhelmingly likely” to have ordered the nerve agent attack on an ex-spy and his daughter, Boris Johnson has said.

The foreign secretary said “our quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin, and with his decision” over the Salisbury incident.

Russia denies involvement and said the accusations against Mr Putin were “shocking and unforgivable”.

Meanwhile, the head of Nato told the BBC Russia has underestimated the “resolve and unity” of the UK’s allies.

Speaking during a visit to a west London military bunker with the Polish foreign minister, Mr Johnson said the UK’s “quarrel is with Putin’s Kremlin”.

“We think it overwhelmingly likely that it was his decision to direct the use of a nerve agent on the streets of the UK, on the streets of Europe, for the first time since the Second World War,” he said.

‘UK is not alone’
Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and daughter Yulia Skripal, 33, remain critically ill in hospital, after they were found unconscious on a bench in the Wiltshire city on 4 March.

The UK government says they were poisoned with a nerve agent of a type developed by Russia called Novichok and PM Theresa May said she believed Moscow was “culpable”.

EPA/ Yulia Skripal/Facebook
Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, are in a critical condition in hospital
Mrs May has said the UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats as part of a “full and robust” response – prompting Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to say it will “certainly” expel British diplomats in response.

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According to Russian news agency Tass, the Russian ambassador to Britain, Alexander Yakovenko, said the UK claimed the nerve agent used was A-234, but this has not been confirmed.

Analysis: Was chemical A-234 used?
By Gordon Corera, BBC security correspondent

The implication of the ambassador’s comments is that the Russians have been told by the British the exact nerve agent deployed.

So far, British officials have not confirmed that they have communicated this to Moscow or that that the A-234 was the exact agent deployed.

Based on public sources, A-234 is one of the Novichok family of agents.

It has been reported that it is at least five to eight and possibly 10 times as strong as VX.

Little is known about it but the symptoms are very similar to those eyewitnesses attributed to Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

In military handbooks it is described as a “delayed casualty agent” – its persistence depends upon how it is used and the weather.

On Friday, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance had “no reason to doubt the findings and assessments by the British government” which suggested Russian responsibility.

He said the “UK is not alone” and Nato allies gave “strong political support” to Britain, following a joint statement from the US, France and Germany backing Mrs May’s government and a pledge of support from Australia.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Stoltenberg said the incident was part of a “pattern of reckless behaviour” from Russia following allegations of cyber attacks and election meddling in recent years.

“It is important that Russia gets a clear signal that it costs to behave the way they behave,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“I’m absolutely certain that Russia has underestimated the resolve and unity of Nato allies when we have implemented different kinds of sanctions over the last years,” Mr Stoltenberg added.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia was not worried by international expressions of support for the UK and challenged Britain to “provide some confirmation”.

He said: “Sooner or later, the British will have to show some proof to those ‘colleagues’ who say they are with UK on this; sooner or later will have to stand up its accusations.”

Ahead of an EU leaders’ summit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out discussions of a potential boycott of the World Cup in Russia.

It comes as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written in the Guardian warning against “hasty judgements”, and not to “rush ahead of the evidence”.

No symptoms
Wiltshire Police said 131 people had been identified as potentially being exposed to the nerve agent – but none has shown any symptoms.

Salisbury District Hospital has also assessed 46 people who came forward expressing health concerns but they were not admitted.

In a letter to the Times, Salisbury NHS Trust emergency medical consultant Stephen Davies said only three people – the Skripals and Det Sgt Nick Bailey – had needed treatment.

Det Sgt Bailey remains in a serious but stable condition in hospital after being contaminated with the chemical.

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Russia’s ambassador to Britain Alexander Yakovenko claimed the UK had angled allegations against Russia to “divert attention from Brexit”.

He criticised the lack of transparency and said: “Nobody saw even the pictures of these people in a hospital, whether they are alive or maybe they are in good health. Nobody talked to the doctors.”

And Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had asked the UK to take action under the Chemical Weapons Convention.

He also responded to Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – who previously said Russia should “go away” and “shut up” – saying: “Maybe he lacks education.”

Some 220 police officers from 16 forces, 80 ambulance staff, 50 fire officers, 200 armed forces personnel and 250 specialist officers have so far been deployed as part of the investigation, Wiltshire Police said.

Police cordons remain in place in parts of Salisbury, 12 days on from the attack

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Zizzi restaurant, the Mill pub and the bench where the Skripals sat are among locations taped off by police
On Thursday, Mrs May visited Salisbury to speak to emergency service workers, public health experts and local business owners who are affected by the police cordons.

Wiltshire Council has announced measures to help affected businesses including free park and ride journeys and waived business rates.

Mr Skripal is a retired colonel in the Russian military intelligence service.

He was jailed by Moscow in 2006 for secretly working for Britain’s MI6 but was later released and allowed to come to the UK.

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THE GUARDIAN Romanian court tells man he is not alive Associated Press

Romanian court tells man he is not alive
Associated Press

A Romanian court has rejected a man’s claim that he is alive, after he was officially registered as dead.

A court spokeswoman said on Friday that 63-year-old Constantin Reliu lost his case in the north-east city of Vasului because he appealed too late. The ruling is final.

Media reported Reliu went to Turkey in 1992 for work and lost contact with his family in Romania. Hearing no news from her husband, his wife managed to get a death certificate for him in 2016.

Turkish authorities located Reliu this year with expired papers and deported him. When he arrived in Romania, he discovered he had been declared dead.

He was quoted as saying: “I am officially dead, although I’m alive, I have no income and because I am listed dead, I can’t do anything.”

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