St. Petersburg Major Sights

Listed among UNESCO world heritage sites, St. Petersburg has an extraordinary architectural, religious, cultural and literary heritage, which makes it one of the most attractive cities in the world. Its attractions can impress even the most discerning travellers.

The Cathedral of the Resurrection (St. Saviour on the Spilled Blood) with its beautiful colourful domes is ranked number 1 on the list of St. Petersburg attractions. This magnificent church is clearly visible from the Nevsky prospect. It was built by Tsar Alexander III beside the Griboedov Channel on the spot of assassination of his father, Tsar Alexander II the Liberator. The Tsar’s carriage was blown up on March 1, 1881 by a bomb thrown at by members of a revolutionary group calling themselves “People’s will”. The evil irony consists in the fact that this terrorist group assassinated the very Tsar who 20 years earlier had issued the famous Emancipation Manifesto liberating Russian serfs, as a result of which Russian peasants became free of serfdom. It is built in the Old Russian style and strongly reminds of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow. The church is richly decorated with beautiful mosaics both inside and outside. Services resumed here after the fall of the Soviet regime and are now held on a regular basis.

The Alexander Nevsky Lavra is a monastery located in the very centre of the city. In 2013 it celebrates the 300th anniversary since its foundation. The monastery, surrounded by stone walls and moats, is dominated by the Holy Trinity cathedral housing the holy relics of St. Prince Alexander Nevsky. The monastery is believed to have been built on the very spot where St. Alexander defeated Swedes in 1240 in the famous Neva battle. Saint Prince Alexander Nevsky is the Patron saint of St. Petersburg.

After the fall of the Soviet regime monastic life resumed in the Lavra and now regular services are celebrated in the cathedral. Several cemeteries are located within the Monastery grounds, with quite a few notable personalities: the genius scientist and poet M. Lomonosov, famous Russian generalissimo and army leader count A. Suvorov (one of the few generals in world history who never lost a single battle, having triumphantly won 63), great Russian writers and poets F. Dostoevsky, A. Goncharov, I. Krylov, V. Zhukovsky, great Russian composers P. Tschaikovsky, M. Glinka and M. Mussorgsky, Russian architects and sculptors V. Stasov, K. Rossi, P. Clodt and A. Kuindgy, politicians of former and modern times, members of the most prominent Russian noble families.

Among other attractions should be mentioned the Admiralty (its “golden needle” topped with a ship is the city’s emblem), the “Bronze Horseman” (famous monument to Peter the Great, the founder of the city), St. Isaac’s Cathedral (the largest cathedral in Russia with fascinating interiors and a splendid view over the city from the open gallery under the dome), the Twelve Colleges (the University), the traffic-free Palace Square, the magnificent Kazan Cathedral in Nevsky prospect, St. Nikolas Cathedral, Smolny Convent and Institute, Rostral Columns on the Spit (Strelka) of St. Basil Island, Mikhailocsky Castle (where Emperor Paul I was assassinated), the Summer Gardens, on the left bank of the Neva opposite Ss. Peter and Paul Fortress.

Enjoy refreshing walks in the city parks and along the embankments, boat trips on the Neva, Fontanka and Moyka rivers, visits to world-famous museums, theatres and concert halls, intense cultural life with numerous musical and drama festivals around the year, the diversity of high-quality cuisine in city restaurants.

Many exploring options are provided by the Gulf of Finland, with its sandy beaches, shore tours, naval activities, seaboat trips and visits to distant picturesque islands.

Some places in the surrounding of St. Petersburg are no less spectacular, with their neat mansions, fascinating palaces, opulent and elegant interiors, art collections, wonderfully preserved parks and gardens laid out in various styles. Don’t miss visits to the former Imperial summer residences in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin) and Pavlovsk, Lomonosov (Oranienbaum) and, of course, to Peterhof (Petrodvorets) with its majestic fountains operating without pumps! These places are easily accessible by rail, buses or taxi. Petrodvorets (Peterhof) can also be reached by boat (especially recommended in summer). Hydrofoils for Petrodvorets depart from the piers at the Senate (Decembrists’) Square and opposite the Hermitage museum. The trip lasts about 30 minutes.

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Healthcare, History, and Obamanomics

Amazed I was this past week at the legislative events on Capitol Hill, especially the prevailing attitude of the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate regarding the controversial Senate Health Care Bill, which has seemed much less directed at pleasing a majority of the American electorate (the U.S. citizens these politicians supposedly represent) than the questionable Barack H. Obama, the only U.S. President in the history of the nation whose constitutional eligibility to be President has been successfully challenged by lawsuit in a U.S. District Court, but, subsequently, dismissed by a federal judge who obviously cared more about his political future than seeing basic justice done.

Does Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his cronies, actually believe that the large majority of American voters (Democrats, Republicans, and Independents) want a health care program legislated that will create, in its wake, 111 new Executive branch bureaucracies, expanding the federal government by 30 percent of its current size by the scribble of Obama’s pen? One might wonder who, among the controlling Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives, really cares about the constitutional way the Framers of the American republic intended for the nation to be perpetuated in accordance with limited government. You really don’t have to be a bombastic Republican zealot, but, rather, a reasonable person, in order to detect the obvious economic flaws in the Democratic Party’s spendthrift approach to healthcare.

Historically, it’s really sort of like the way the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was imposed upon the nation. You know, the one that allowed the creation of the federal income tax and all other, subsequent, state income taxes? By all valid historical accounts, and simple common sense, I believe that it is proper to say that the infamous amendment was ratified without the genuine approval of a majority of the U.S. electorate. For what citizen, in her right mind, would have favored an un-apportioned federal tax imposed on a citizen’s income?

Well, until 1913, there was not a federal income tax, and the American nation had done pretty well up to that time in financing federal government with a consistently balanced budget using apportioned taxes. Un-apportioned federal and state taxation on the personal income of U.S. citizens was considered a blatant heresy, and was forbidden by the Founding Fathers in the U.S. Constitution. That’s why an illicit amendment had to be subtly crafted and imposed on the republic during the second decade of the 20th Century by a few powerful federal politicians and private bankers, through sheer Machiavellian chicanery, in order to make it, supposedly, lawful for the federal government to tax the American people by any means available. This was, basically, a pragmatic methodology to implement a secretly contrived agenda for the American republic to have an unlimited, but flawed, credit system in order to provide financial resources to assume an imperialistic Romanesque position in world affairs.

It took money, money, and more money, and a skyrocketing national debt, to incrementally erect over the ensuing decades the most feared offensive nuclear/conventional military on the earth. This involved the bribery and intimidation of unwilling nations into abiding by U.S. foreign policy through covert intelligence operations (effected by the paramilitary CIA and DIA)), and putting in place complex domestic computer/satellite surveillance operations in association with the private-sector telecommunications industry, which has been occurring since 1948.

The Federal Reserve System, and the 16th Amendment, were both imposed upon the American republic in 1913, and legislatively linked together to form the awful bases for eventual control over the American economy by an elite combination of powerful bankers and corporate capitalists. The origins of both dire entities are comprehensively presented with immaculate documentation in G. Edward Griffin’s tome, “The Creature from Jekyll Island,” which every American should read and study. According to the history of Western civilization, expanded knowledge of historical fact among any electorate produces an empowering of the People to change things for the better.

If a healthcare system is to be established for the well-being of all needy uninsured American citizens, it should be legally done by the will of the fifty U.S. states and territories in accordance with the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The federal government has no real power to supplant the authority of the several States by establishing a federal-run health care system, with powers not delegated expressly to the federal government by the U.S. Constitution. On the other hand, a medical system already in operation, which, by necessity, has been approved by the several states (such as the U.S. Veterans Healthcare System) could be easily expanded in scope, state-by-state, to provide all of the uninsured American citizens in the 50 states, territories, and possessions with good medical care according to the funding provided by the states and the federal government. This would in no way proscribe private healthcare plans from prospering. In fact, competition among the states in establishing the best-managed public healthcare would create jobs for physicians, pharmacists, medical technicians, engineers, architects, and construction workers.

Currently, only less than 30 percent of all of the 20+ million eligible American Veterans use the 250 existing VA medical centers throughout the nation. Expanding the VA system by building new medical centers in the various states would allow all veterans and non-veteran American citizens to have access to good healthcare. If, perchance, employed American non-veterans, capable of affording private healthcare, would opt to use such a public facility, they would be required to pay a share of cost for the services and medicines rendered to them. Working, tax paying American citizens unable to afford private healthcare would be automatically eligible to receive public medical assistance, without charge. What should be publicly regulated, state-by-state, is the pharmaceutical industry so that all medicines and prescription drugs are easily accessible for the general public, and that no one gets wealthy off of the development of life-saving drugs. As such state supported university laboratories should be adequately funded to research new drugs

In sum, I believe that it is entirely better to suffer in liberty the consequences of human choice within a republic, being the lifestyle derived of personal volition, either, adverse or pleasant, than to have good health served up on a silver platter at the expense and burden of decadent dictatorial government. The sage Henry David Thoreau wisely wrote in his “Essay on Civil Disobedience,” “that government is best that governs least,” and while the citizen unschooled in constitutional law might think that the federal government has legitimate power to dictatorially impose upon the people what the Framers reserved only to the States, such exercise of power is deceitful and totally without law and merit.

Will Democrats Pass Affordable Health Insurance Reform?

The fight over healthcare reform has reached the Senate, and may take longer than previously expected. Reform intended to promote the wider availability of affordable health insurance seems to have lost the momentum recently gained via its nail-biting passage in the House of Representatives. Republican senators have expressed unanimous disapproval of the bill and vow to filibuster in order to block it. Healthcare reform will require 60 votes to pass, which means that the entire Democratic caucus–the party’s entire Senate delagation with a handful of independents–needs to support it. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attempting to hold together two divergent wings of the Democratic caucus, with several factors coming into play.

As it currently stands, the health care reform bill isn’t ideal for either liberal or conservative Democrats. While Democratic leaders have encouraged passage under the logic of imperfect reform being preferable to leaving the current system as it stands with soaring health insurance rates, many senators are understandably leery of voting for legislation that will take a monumental effort to amend later. Reid is doing his best to convince Democrats, as well as Democratic sympathizers, that this is a rare opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up. Whether he will manage to bring them around to his viewpoint remains to be seen. President Obama has also pushed for a completed bill on his desk before January, although that possibility is becoming more and more remote. Obama has several major priorities on his plate (both domestic and foreign) besides healthcare reform, and is currently suffering from lower popularity ratings. Therefore, his influence is probably more decreased than many once thought.

One of the most controversial aspects of healthcare reform is the public option, which would create a federal government-run alternative to private health insurance plans. Proponents claim that it would drive down the cost of health care through using its buying power and regulatory muscle to buy health care services at lower rates, while at the same time forcing for-profit health insurers to lower their health insurance premiums to stay competitive. They predict more affordable health insurance as the result. On the other hand, opponents decry the increased level of governmental involvement and potentially deficit-busting cost of a public option. The former group consists of liberal progressives, such as independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. Sanders, in particular, is threatening to vote against a bill that lacks a public option. Those in the latter group, including Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Connecticut’s independent Joe Lieberman, have expressed their willingness to jump ship and vote against a healthcare reform bill that includes a public option.

The Democratic caucus appears to have reached an impasse in some respects. A compromise currently proposed in the Senate allows individual states to opt out of the public option. Liberals seem to begrudgingly accept the clause, but it isn’t good enough for staunch fiscal conservatives like Lieberman and Nelson. Due to the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the Senate, Reid can’t afford to lose a single vote. The chances of garnering Republican support for this healthcare reform bill are slim to none. The only hope of doing so is through writing a trigger function into the bill. Such a measure would only enact a public option if certain goals of expanding affordable health insurance to more Americans are not met. There may be a handful of Republican moderates like Maine Senator Olympia Snowe willing to vote for such a measure, allowing for a cushion in the event that Lieberman bolts; but that gamble has the possibility of angering progressives.

In the recent past, liberal Democrats tended to hold their nose and vote for legislation they had serious issues with because it was preferable to the alternative of getting even less of what they wanted; now, they are becoming more outspoken, threatening to withhold their votes if provisions regarding the public option or abortion are unacceptable to them–using the same tactics conservatives on both sides of the aisle have used to pressure party leaders in the past. It will be a significant struggle to keep all of the Senators in line. The bill is still being written, but Reid appears to be supporting a moderate approach that, by its definition as a comprehensive healthcare reform bill, leans more towards centrist and liberal Democrats but still has too many flaws for them to endorse wholeheartedly.

The chances of healthcare reform soon passing the Senate are mixed. Michigan Senator Carl Levin believes that the bill stands a “decent chance” of gaining the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Indiana’s Evan Bayh seems to be similarly ambivialent, though he admits that a solution that satisfies everyone is virtually impossible. Meanwhile, Republicans are calling the bill fatally flawed and recommending that it be scrapped and healthcare reform put on the back burner. That idea is unacceptable to Democrats, who believe that increasing access to affordable health insurance is essential to their larger economic recovery effort. Moreover, they probably want to have some legislation to show their constituents before the 2010 midterm elections. If the Senate manages to pass the bill, its version will need to be combined with the House’s version. In the event that the combined bill is approved by both chambers of Congress, it then goes to President Obama’s desk. While it is doubtful that he would veto a bill regarding one of his highest domestic priorities, one that strays too far from its indended purpose has the small chance of not receiving a signature.