Tag Archives: Germany

FBI: US girls may have tried to join jihadis


What do parents do with kids, especially girls, who have somehow become so twisted that they would actually fly to Germany in an attempt to join IS fighters?

What could possibly influence three teenage girls to do this? The answer is unknown, at least for now. I’m just glad I’m not one of the parents of these girls. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

IS 1

DENVER (AP) — Three teenage girls from suburban Denver may have been trying to join Islamic State militants in Syria after stealing their parents’ money and flying to Germany, authorities said Tuesday.

The girls — two sisters, ages 17 and 15, and their 16-year-old friend — were reported missing after they skipped school Friday, but the families had no indication of where they might have gone, said Glenn Thompson, bureau chief of the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department.

They were stopped at the Frankfurt, Germany, airport over the weekend by FBI agents and returned to Colorado where they were reunited with their families, FBI spokeswoman Suzie Payne said.

A U.S. official said the girls were headed toward Turkey en route to Syria and that investigators were now reviewing evidence, including the girls’ computers.

Another U.S. official called the case “concerning” both to the community and to the country in general. The official said the evidence gathered so far made it clear that the girls were headed to Syria, though the official said investigators were still determining what sort of contacts they had in that country. The official said investigators would be trying to figure out whether there were “like-minded” friends and acquaintances in the girls’ social circle.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the ongoing investigation by name.

The Arapahoe County missing person’s report contains details of the girls’ movements.

They said they stayed in the Frankfurt airport for an entire day before being detained, questioned and returned to Denver, where they were further questioned by the FBI and sent home.

They told authorities they had gone to Germany for “family” but wouldn’t elaborate.

Suspicion arose when the sisters’ father realized his daughters were gone, along with $2,000 and their passports.

The 16-year-old girl’s father became concerned when he got a call from her high school saying she hadn’t reported to class, according to the police reports.

The families reported no prior problems with the girls.

Deputies closed the missing person’s case Monday after they learned the girls had been returned.

A man who answered the door at the sisters’ home in the Denver suburb of Aurora identified himself as a family member but said he had no comment.

The announcement comes one month after 19-year-old Shannon Conley of Arvada, Colorado, pleaded guilty to charges that she conspired to help militants in Syria.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver declined to comment on the latest cases. It’s unclear whether the girls will face charges.

Crimes committed by juveniles are treated as acts of “delinquency” in the federal system and are not handled the same way as crimes committed by adults.

Authorities have not said how they think the girls became interested in helping the Islamic State militants. In Conley’s case, she told agents she wanted to marry a suitor she met online who said he was a Tunisian man fighting with the Islamic State group in Syria.

Conley said she wanted to use her American military training with the U.S. Army Explorers to fight a holy war overseas, authorities said. If she could not fight with the extremists, she told agents, she would use her training as a nurse’s aide.

Agents, who had been overtly trying to stop Conley, arrested her in April as she boarded a flight she hoped would ultimately get her to Syria. She could face up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when she is sentenced in January.

Foreign fighters from dozens of nations are pouring into the Middle East to join the Islamic State group and other terrorist organizations. U.S. officials are putting new energy into trying to understand what radicalizes people far removed from the fight, and into trying to prod countries to do a better job of keeping them from joining up.

____

Associated Press writers Eric Tucker in Washington and P. Solomon Banda in Aurora contributed to this report.

Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle called quantum droplet


Interesting stuff… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Will Dunham 

Droplet

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the field of quantum physics, you could call this a droplet in the bucket.

Physicists in Germany and the United States said on Wednesday they have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.

Writing in the journal Nature, they said it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasiparticle – an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.

The discovery, they added, could be useful in the development of nanotechnology, including the design of optoelectronic devices. These include things like the semiconductor lasers used in Blu-ray disc players.

The microscopic quantum droplet does not dawdle. In the physicists’ experiments using an ultra-fast laser emitting about 100 million pulses per second, the quantum droplet appeared for only about 2.5 billionths of a second.

That does not sound like much, but the scientists said it is stable enough for research on how light interacts with certain types of matter.

A previously known example of a quasiparticle is the exciton, a pairing of an electron and a “hole” – a place in the material’s energy structure where an electron could be located but is not.

The quantum droplet is made up of roughly five electrons and five holes. It possesses some characteristics of a liquid, like having ripples, the scientists said.

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that relates to events taking place on the tiniest scale. It is essential in describing the structure of atoms.

Particles are the basic building blocks of matter. They include things like subatomic entities such as electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Only rarely are new ones found.

The scientists in Germany worked with a team led by physicist Steven Cundiff at JILA, a joint physics institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

It was in Boulder where the laser experiments were performed using a semiconductor of the elements gallium and arsenic, revealing the new particle, albeit fleetingly.

“Even though this happens so rapidly, it is still useful to understand that it does happen,” Cundiff said by email.

The scientists foresee practical value in the discovery.

“The effects that give rise to the formation of dropletons also influence the electrons in optoelectronic devices such as laser diodes,” physicist Mackillo Kira of the University of Marburg in Germany, one of the researchers, said by email.

Examples of optoelectronic devices include LED lights and semiconductor lasers used in telecommunications and Blu-ray players.

“For example, the dropletons couple particularly strongly to quantum fluctuations of light, which should be extremely useful when designing lasers capable of encoding quantum information,” Kira added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Jan Paschal)

‘Bishop of Bling': Catholics Aren’t Alone in Struggle with Wealth


Excellent article… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Live Science

LiveScience.com

  By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer 

The Vatican has suspended a German bishop over the cost of his home renovation, highlighting religious — and very human — ambivalence over wealth.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst spent some $40 million of Catholic Church and German taxpayer money (registered Catholics in the country pay part of their income to the church) improving his private residence, including installing a $20,000 bathtub. Such a showy display apparently displeased Pope Francis, who is known for his austerity. Tebartz-van Elst has since been dubbed “the bishop of bling” by the German media.

The Catholic Church itself, however, is one of the wealthiest institutions on the planet, and some critics argue that the bishop of bling is merely a symptom of a larger problem.

“Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,” Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of the Church reform group We Are Church, told the Religious News Service. “There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.” [Papal Primer: History's 10 Most Intriguing Popes]

Catholics aren’t the only ones with a wealth problem. Every religion and human philosophy has grappled with inequality in some way or another — and studies suggest that wealth gaps date to the beginnings of agriculture. Meanwhile, even as religion struggles with questions of wealth, belonging to a certain religion can influence how well off a person becomes.

Christianity and wealth

Whatever one’s beliefs about wealth, they can probably find a religious theory to match. Among Protestant Christians, for example, wealth has been seen in three ways: as an offense to faith, as an obstacle to faith, and even as an outcome of faith, according to David Miller, the director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative.

In a 2007 talk, Miller laid out the Biblical references to wealth and the philosophies they’ve engendered. Those who see wealth in direct opposition to faith have pointed to passages like Mark 8:20, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” According to anti-wealth thinkers, if Jesus rejected the material world, his followers should, too. “[W]oe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort,” Jesus says in Luke 6:24-25. “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Others see wealth as an obstacle to faith, but not an insurmountable one. This faction points to Biblical quotes like, “the love of money is the root of all evil,” to argue that it’s not wealth, but obsession with wealth, that stands between man and faith.

“On the one hand, this Protestant modality recognizes a theologically legitimate role for wealth creation and its subsequent use,” Miller wrote. “On the other hand, there is a profound awareness of two ways in which wealth creation becomes an obstacle to faith.” [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

Finally, a small but influential group of evangelical Protestants argue that wealth is a sign of God’s blessings, and the faithful will find that money comes their way. Figures such as televangelist Oral Roberts and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen preach this “prosperity gospel.”

The Catholic Church has also wrestled with wealth, with Popes taking a generally pro-capitalist view since the late 1800s, according to Todd Whitmore, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Nevertheless, Catholic theologians have condemned consumerism and wealth inequalities. In Redemptor hominis, a 1979 policy blueprint of sorts by Pope John Paul II, the Pope lamented, “We are now dealing with the rich highly developed societies — while the remaining societies — at least broad sectors of them — are suffering from hunger, with many people dying each day of starvation and malnutrition. Hand in hand go a certain abuse of freedom by one group — an abuse linked precisely with a consumer attitude uncontrolled by ethics — and a limitation by it of the freedom of the others, that is to say those suffering marked shortages and being driven to conditions of even worse misery and destitution.”

The roots of money

However it’s handled, wealth goes way back. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Science, wealth gaps emerge in traditional societies where inheritance matters: agricultural communities and pastoral, herding societies. A child born in the top 10 percent of one of these societies is 11 times more likely to end up in the top 10 percent than a child born in the bottom 10 percent.

Throughout history, hunter-gatherer societies and societies based on primitive slash-and-burn agriculture (without ploughs or land ownership) have been more egalitarian. A child born in the top 10 percent of these societies is still more likely to end up there than a child born in the bottom 10 percent, but only by three times, not 11.

In modern-day society, where a person sits in the social pecking order strongly determines how they’ll interact with others. The wealthy are worse at understanding other people’s emotions (a skill known as empathy) than the poor, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Upper-class people’s interactions are characterized by independence,” study researcher Michael Kraus, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told LiveScience. “This can be good, because it provides autonomy from others and freedom from social pressures. It can be a problem in cases where upper-class individuals pay less attention to others’ internal states.”

Lower-class people live in a more dangerous world of unsafe neighborhoods and lack of ease. For them, Kraus said, understanding others is a matter of survival.

Kraus has also found the poor are more polite and attentive to the wealthy than vice versa, bolstering the theory that the well-off send a “I don’t need you” vibe. But wealth doesn’t make people mean across the board. A 1993 study by psychologist Jon Haidt, now at New York University, surveyed rich and poor people in Brazil and found the wealthy were less likely than the poor to demand punishment for offensive but ultimately harmless acts, such as defacing an American flag. Researchers think the poor are quicker to moralize such acts because of the need to hang together.

“Extra moralizing helps protect lower-class group members from inappropriate behaviors that might shatter group cohesion,” Kraus said.

Get rich with God

If Catholic bishops often have spare cash, their followers aren’t doing so badly either —at least in the United States. White, non-Latino Catholics ages 35 to 55 have proven to be an upwardly mobile bunch, according to research by Duke University sociologist Lisa Keister. Much of the change is demographic: This group has gained education, sized down families and sent more women to work.

In comparison, conservative Protestants tend to have bigger families and less education, making them among the poorest of religious groups, while Jewish families are, on average, the wealthiest, thanks in part to high levels of education and employment as well as small families. [Saint or Slacker? Test Your Religious Knowledge]

But much of the differences in wealth between religious groups remain unexplained. Keister suspects the teachings of each religion may explain the gaps.

“Religions have a lot of say about money, and people seem to internalize those messages,” Keister told LiveScience. One obvious example is tithing: Conservative Christians tend to view money and belonging to God first, Keister said, and most give 10 percent of their income to the church. Tithing automatically cuts down on savings. That alone could explain the Protestant-Catholic wealth gap, Keister said, because U.S. Catholics typically don’t tithe.

The wealth gaps even persist when race and other factors are taken into account. Latino Catholics, for example, have less wealth than white, non-Latino Catholics. But Latino Catholics are still better off than Latino conservative Protestants.

Another possibility is that just by attending church, people build social networks that help them accumulate wealth. Perhaps they meet people who might loan them money, or simply chat about investments after services with people wealthier than they.

“If I go to church with those kind of people, and I go a lot, it should matter,” Keister said.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Tear Down That Wall


This article was written by the late (and great) Christopher Hitchens. Although Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is no longer “in office,” the Catholic Church remains a haven for sexual predators. As such, the article is still relevant. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Slate

by Christopher Hitchens
Posted: February 12, 2013

Here’s a little thought experiment on practical ethics. Suppose that you are having a drink with a new acquaintance and the subject of law-breaking comes up. “Ever been in any trouble with the authorities?”

You may perhaps mention your arrest at a demonstration, your smuggling of excess duty-free goods, that brush with the narcotics people, that unwise attempt at insider trading. Your counterpart may show a closer acquaintance with the criminal justice system. He once did a bit of time for forgery, or for robbery with a touch of violence, or for a domestic dispute that got a bit out of hand. You are still perhaps ready to have lunch next Friday. But what if he says: “Well, I once knew a couple who trusted me as their baby sitter. Two little boys they had—one of 12 and one of 10. A good bit of fun I had with those kids when nobody was looking. Told them it was our secret. I was sorry when it all ended.” I hope I don’t seem too judgmental if I say that at this point the lunch is canceled or indefinitely postponed.

And would you feel any less or any more revulsion if the man went on to say, “Of course, I wasn’t strictly speaking in any trouble with the law. I’m a Catholic priest, so we don’t bother the police or the courts with that stuff. We take care of it ourselves, if you catch my meaning”?

Yet this is exactly what we are forced to read about every day. The happiness and the health of countless children was systematically destroyed by men who could count on their clerical bosses to shield them from legal retribution and, it seems, even from moral condemnation. A bit of “therapy” or a swift change of locale was the worst that most of them had to fear.

Almost every week, I go and debate with spokesmen of religious faith. Invariably and without exception, they inform me that without a belief in supernatural authority I would have no basis for my morality. Yet here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked. Yet let the subject be the rape and torture of defenseless children, and at once every kind of wiggle room and excuse-making is invoked. What can one say of a church that finds so much latitude for a crime so ghastly that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?

It’s interesting, too, that the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities, even forcing child victims (as in the disgusting case of Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual chieftain of the Catholics of Ireland) to sign secrecy oaths that prevented them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why were they so afraid of secular justice? Did they think it would be less indifferent and pliable than private priestly investigations? In that case, what is left of the shabby half-baked argument that people can’t understand elementary morality without a divine warrant?

One mustn’t claim all that much for secular justice either, since Cardinal Brady and many like him have neither been dismissed by the church nor prosecuted by the civil power. But this dereliction on the part of the courts and police has mainly occurred in countries or provinces—Ireland, Massachusetts, Bavaria—where the church has undue influence on the bureaucracy. When are we going to see what the parents and relatives of the devastated children want to see and need to see: a senior accomplice of the cover-up actually facing a jury?

Pope Benedict’s pathetic and euphemistic letter to his “flock” in Ireland doesn’t even propose that such people should lose their positions in the church. And this cowardly guardedness on his part is for a good and sufficient reason: If there was to be a serious criminal investigation, it would have to depose the pope himself. Not only did he, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, protect a dangerously criminal priest in his own diocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, having him sent only for “therapy” instead of having him arrested. (The question of the priest’s later reassignment to assault more children, which the church continues to obfuscate, is irrelevant to the fact of Ratzinger’s direct and personal involvement in the original crime.) Not content with this, Ratzinger later originated, as a cardinal and head of a major institution in Rome, a letter that effectively instructed all bishops to refuse cooperation with any inquiry into what was fast becoming a global scandal.

Eighteen of Germany’s 27 Roman Catholic dioceses are now facing government investigations after a breach in what Germany’s justice minister has rightly described as “a wall of silence.” That wall was originally constructed by the man who now heads the church. The wall must be torn down. The fish—the ancient Christian symbol adopted by those who regard human beings as a shoal to be netted—absolutely rots from the head. I don’t think the full implications of this have even begun to sink in. The supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church is now a prima facie suspect in a criminal enterprise of the most appalling sort—and in the attempt to obstruct justice that has been part and parcel of that enterprise. He is also the political head of a state—the Vatican—that has given asylum to wanted men like the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. What, then, is the position when the pope decides to travel—as, for example, he intends to do on a visit to Britain later this year? Does he have immunity? Does he claim it? Should he have it? These questions demand serious answers. Meanwhile, we should register the fact that the church can find ample room in its confessionals and its palaces for those who commit the most evil offense of all. Whether prosecuted or not, they stand condemned. But prosecution must follow, or else we admit that there are men and institutions that are above and beyond our laws.

Exhibit of Jews in Germany raises interest, ire


Jews are relentless… They insist on never letting the world forget the stinking Holocaust. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER | Associated Press

Jew

BERLIN (AP) — “Are there still Jews in Germany?” ”Are the Jews a chosen people?”

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.

To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”

“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”

But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.

Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.

“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”

The exhibit is reminiscent of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann sitting in a glass booth at the 1961 trial in Israel which led to his execution. And it’s certainly more provocative than British actress Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Eran Levy, an Israeli who has lived in Berlin for years, was horrified by the idea of presenting a Jew as a museum piece, even if to answer Germans’ questions about Jewish life.

“It’s a horrible thing to do — completely degrading and not helpful,” he said. “The Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews.”

But several of the volunteers, including both German Jews and Israelis living in Berlin, said the experience in the box is little different from what they go through as Jews living in the country that produced the Nazis.

“With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece,” volunteer Leeor Englander said. “Once you’ve been ‘outed’ as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on.”

Museum curator Miriam Goldmann, who is Jewish, believes the exhibit’s provocative “in your face” approach is the best way to overcome the emotional barriers and deal with a subject that remains painful for both Jews and non-Jews.

“We wanted to provoke, that’s true, and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable,” Goldmann said. “But that’s fine by us.”

The provocative style is evident in other parts of the special exhibition, including some that openly raise many stereotypes of Jews widespread not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe.

One includes a placard that asks “how you recognize a Jew?” It’s next to an assortment of yarmulkes, black hats and women’s hair covers hanging from the ceiling on thin threads. Another asks if Jews consider themselves the chosen people. It includes a poem by Jewish author Leonard Fein: “How odd of God to choose the Jews. But how on earth could we refuse?”

Yet another invites visitors to express their opinion to such questions as “are Jews particularly good looking, influential, intelligent, animal loving or business savvy?”

Despite the criticisms, the “Jew in the Box” has proven a big hit among visitors.

“I asked him about the feelings he has for his country and what he thinks about the conflict with Palestine, if he ever visited Palestine,” visitor Panka Chirer-Geyer said. “I have Jewish roots and I’ve been to Palestine and realized how difficult it was there. I could not even mention that I have Jewish roots.”

On a recent day this week, several visitors kept returning to ask questions of Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli seated on a white bench with a pink cushion.

One woman wanted to know what to bring her hosts for a Shabbat dinner in Israel. Another asked why only Jewish men and not women wear yarmulkes. A third inquired about Judaism and homosexuality.

“I guess I should ask you about the relationship between Germans and Jews,” visitor Diemut Poppen said to Porat. “We Germans have so many insecurities when it comes to Jews.”

Viola Mohaupt-Zitfin, 53, asked if Porat felt welcome as a Jew living among Germans “considering our past and all that.”

Yes, Porat said, Germany is a good place to live, even as a Jew. But the country could do even more to come to terms with its Nazi past, he added. He advised the would-be traveler that anything is permissible to bring to a Shabbat dinner as long as it’s not pork.

“I feel a bit like an animal in the zoo, but in reality that’s what it’s like being a Jew in Germany,” Porat said. “You are a very interesting object to most people here.”

Dekel Peretz, one of the volunteers in the glass box, said many Germans have an image of Jews that is far removed from the reality of contemporary Jewish life.

“They associate Jews with the Holocaust and the Nazi era,” he said. “Jews don’t have a history before or after. In Germany, Jews have been stereotyped as victims. It is important that people here get to know Jews to see that Jews are alive and that we have individual histories. I hope that this exhibit can help.”

Still, not everyone believes this is the best way to promote understanding.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal from the Jewish Chabad community in Berlin said Germans who are really interested in Jews and Judaism should visit the community’s educational center.

“Here Jews will be happy to answer questions without sitting in a glass box,” he said.

Egypt deploys troops in Suez after 9 killed on anniversary of uprising


Wherever there are Muslims, you can bet all of your earthly belongings; your home, your entire retirement, pension, 401K, social security – the works… Violence is just hours away. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Marwa Awad and Ali Abdelaty | Reuters

Gas

CAIRO/ISMAILIA, Egypt (Reuters) – Egypt’s armed forces deployed troops in the city of Suez early on Saturday after nine people were shot dead during nationwide protests against President Mohamed Mursi, underlining the country’s deep divisions as it marked the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Eight of the dead, including a policeman, were shot dead in Suez, and another was shot and killed in the city of Ismailia, medics said. Another 456 people were injured across Egypt, officials said, in unrest on Friday fuelled by anger at Mursi and his Islamist allies over what the protesters see as their betrayal of the revolution.

Mursi said the state would not hesitate in “pursuing the criminals and delivering them to justice”. In a statement, he also called on Egyptians to respect the principles of the revolution by expressing their views peacefully.

The troops were deployed in Suez after the head of the state security police in the city asked for reinforcements. The army distributed pamphlets to residents assuring them the deployment was temporary and meant to secure the city.

“We have asked the armed forces to send reinforcements on the ground until we pass this difficult period,” Adel Refaat, head of state security in Suez, told state television.

Friday’s anniversary laid bare the divide between the Islamists and their secular rivals.

The schism is hindering the efforts of Mursi, elected in June, to revive an economy in crisis and reverse a plunge in Egypt’s currency by enticing back investors and tourists.

Inspired by the popular uprising in Tunisia, Egypt’s revolution spurred further revolts across the Arab world. But the sense of common purpose that united Egyptians two years ago has given way to internal strife that already triggered bloody street battles last month.

Thousands of opponents of Mursi massed on Friday in Cairo’s Tahrir Square – the cradle of the revolt against Mubarak – to rekindle the demands of a revolution they say has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, the group from which Mursi emerged.

In Suez, the military deployed armored vehicles to guard state buildings, witnesses and security sources said, as symbols of government were targeted across the country.

Street battles erupted in cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Suez and Port Said. Arsonists attacked at least two state-owned buildings. An office used by the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party was also torched.

“Our revolution is continuing. We reject the domination of any party over this state. We say no to the Brotherhood state,” Hamdeen Sabahy, a popular leftist leader, told Reuters.

The Brotherhood decided against mobilizing for the anniversary, wary of the scope for more conflict after December’s violence, stoked by Mursi’s decision to fast-track an Islamist-tinged constitution rejected by his opponents.

The Brotherhood denies accusations that it is seeking to dominate Egypt, labeling them a smear campaign by its rivals.

‘LEAVE! LEAVE! LEAVE!’

There were conflicting accounts of the lethal shooting in Suez. Some witnesses said security forces had opened fire in response to gunfire from masked men.

News of the deaths capped a day of violence that started in the early hours of Friday. Before dawn in Cairo, police battled protesters who threw petrol bombs and firecrackers as they approached a wall blocking access to government buildings near Tahrir Square.

Clouds of teargas filled the air. At one point, riot police used one of the incendiaries thrown at them to set ablaze at least two tents erected by youths, a Reuters witness said.

Skirmishes between stone-throwing youths and the police continued in streets around the square into the day. Ambulances ferried away a steady stream of casualties.

Protesters echoed the chants of 2011’s historic 18-day uprising. “The people want to bring down the regime,” they chanted. “Leave! Leave! Leave!” chanted others as they marched towards the square.

“We are not here to celebrate but to force those in power to submit to the will of the people. Egypt now must never be like Egypt during Mubarak’s rule,” said Mohamed Fahmy, an activist.

There were similar scenes in Suez and Alexandria, where protesters and riot police clashed near local government offices. Black smoke billowed from tires set ablaze by youths.

In Cairo, police fired teargas to disperse a few dozen protesters trying to remove barbed-wire barriers protecting the presidential palace, witnesses said. A few masked men got as far as the gates before they were beaten back.

Teargas was also fired at protesters who tried to remove metal barriers outside the state television building.

Outside Cairo, protesters broke into the offices of provincial governors in Ismailia and Kafr el-Sheikh in the Nile Delta. A local government building was torched in the Nile Delta city of al-Mahalla al-Kubra.

With an eye on parliamentary elections likely to begin in April, the Brotherhood marked the anniversary with a charity drive across the nation. It plans to deliver medical aid to one million people and distribute affordable basic foodstuffs.

Writing in Al-Ahram, Egypt’s flagship state-run daily, Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie said the country was in need of “practical, serious competition” to reform the corrupt state left by the Mubarak era.

“The differences of opinion and vision that Egypt is passing through is a characteristic at the core of transitions from dictatorship to democracy, and clearly expresses the variety of Egyptian culture,” he wrote.

Mursi’s opponents say he and his group are seeking to dominate the post-Mubarak order. They accuse him of showing some of the autocratic impulses of the deposed leader by, for example, driving through the new constitution last month.

“I am taking part in today’s marches to reject the warped constitution, the ‘Brotherhoodisation’ of the state, the attack on the rule of law, and the disregard of the president and his government for the demands for social justice,” Amr Hamzawy, a prominent liberal politician, wrote on his Twitter feed.

The Brotherhood says its rivals are failing to respect the rules of the new democracy that put the Islamists in the driving seat via free elections.

(Additional reporting by Tom Perry, Ahmed el-Shemi, Ashraf Fahim, Shaimaa Fayed and Yasmine Saleh in Cairo and Abdel Rahman Youssef in Alexandria; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Robert Woodward and Peter Cooney)

Schools and students are targets worldwide


This is one twisted world we live in. It’s inconceivable to me that anyone would hurt a child. I can understand committing an atrocious crime if one is mentally ill, but I cannot fathom killing children because one is angry at the world. Being that I’m not trained in psychology my opinion in these cases doesn’t matter, I’m just hopeful that something can be done to protect kids from these criminal acts. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By By CHARLES HUTZLER | Associated Press

BEIJING (AP) — A half-day before a young gunman committed one of the deadliest school attacks in U.S. history, a Chinese farmer took a kitchen knife and hacked at more than 20 children as they entered their rural elementary school.

Though the outcomes are different — 28 dead in Connecticut, and 23 injured in China — the Friday attacks show how disturbingly frequent rampages against children and schools are. Attackers often seek out the vulnerable, hoping to amplify their outrage before they themselves often commit suicide. News of one mass killing often serves as inspiration and blueprint to other potential mass killers.

“It’s these disaffected people who are angry at the world, who plan to take out as many people as they can, and there’s some element there of notoriety,” said forensic psychologist James Ogloff of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. “It’s a way of becoming infamous.”

Mass killings, when an individual tries to kill as many people at one time as possible, have occurred in places as far away as Switzerland, where 14 people died in a shooting spree by an unemployed man who then killed himself in 2001, to South Korea, where a police officer killed 56 people before he blew himself up in 1982. Distinct from acts of terror that have political or collective aims, other mass killers act out of personal grievances.

Attacks against schools are a bleak subset, offering easy targets for taking down large numbers of victims. Shootings at schools have periodically occurred in Finland and Germany as well as the U.S., though the American attacks have been more frequent.

China has seen more than a half-dozen school attacks in less than three years, though the death tolls have been mostly in single digits, largely because knives have been the most-used weapon. China largely prohibits private ownership of guns.

“They choose to attack school students who are weak in defending themselves and are easily assaulted,” said Zhu Zhuohong, an associate researcher in psychology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Ogloff, the forensic psychologist who has studied both spree and serial killers in the U.S., Canada and Australia, said that a break-down in a relationship or a humiliating experience often acts as a triggering event for mass shooters. After Thomas Hamilton killed 16 kindergarteners and a teacher at an elementary school in Dunblane, Scotland, in 1996, reports said that he had been suspected of inappropriate behavior with boys he oversaw in a youth group and that letters he wrote talked of persecution by police and authorities for forcing him from taking part in boys clubs and for causing a business he ran to fail.

While police in Connecticut and in China have so far not given motives for Friday’s attacks, both began with single assaults. Twenty-year-old Adam Lanza first shot his mother in their home in the New England town of Newtown before driving to the nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School; armed with two handguns, he shot into two classrooms, killing 20 people and six adults and then apparently shooting himself.

Min Yingjun, a 36-year-old resident of Guangshan, an area of tea and rice farms in central China, burst into the home of an elderly woman and stabbed her with a kitchen knife, the government’s Xinhua News Agency reported. Min then went to the Chenpeng Village Primary School, slashing at 22 students, ages 6 to 12, as they arrived for class. Seven of the students, some with severed fingers and ears, required hospitalization, Xinhua said.

Though Min did not die — he was grabbed by police at the scene and is under arrest — Zhu, the psychologist, said many mass attacks should be seen as “expanded suicide.” The attackers, often in a state of depression, believe society is malicious or unsafe and wants others to die with them, said Zhu.

Police described Min as possibly being “mentally ill,” Xinhua said, and a law enforcement official briefed on the Connecticut shooting told The Associated Press that Lanza was believed to suffer from a personality disorder. But overall, said Ogloff, very few mass shooters are mentally ill.

Most perpetrators are young men, and their common traits — an interest in the military or violence — are so widespread as to make it impossible to identify potential killers, said Ogloff. Spree shootings, he said, are increasing and becoming deadlier because each killing leaves a blueprint for others to follow.

“Imagine you’re a kid and you’re 20 years old, and you’re angry at the world and you’re fascinated with the military and you’re in a situation where you want to end your life. … You’re influenced by all the ones who’ve gone before you,” said Ogloff, who has overseen the treatment of Martin Bryant, who shot 35 people at Port Arthur, a former penal colony and tourist site, in Tasmania in 1996.

The spate of school attacks in China — six in a seven-month period in 2010 — have raised concerns about copycats. News media in China, all of which are state-controlled, gave wide coverage to the Connecticut attack. But they ran the same brief Xinhua report about Friday’s knifings in Guangshan, and local officials refused to provide more information, signs that authorities want to restrict the news either to prevent encouraging others or to play down the crime to keep blame off the government.

If identifying possible perpetrators is difficult, providing better access to mental health services and restricting the availability of firearms are key to reducing the numbers of victims, experts said.

“It’s interesting that you have two individuals entering schools but because of the means of their attacks — one with firearms, one with a knife — there’s an extreme disparity in the casualties,” said Christian Chan, a professor of psychology at Hong Kong University. “It’s the means that we can control, not necessarily the psychology of people. Throughout history there will always be people who might lose it.”

Tight controls mean that gun crimes are rare in China and make knives and sometimes explosives the weapons used in mass attacks in China. Even so, violence is on the rise as people grow frustrated with a corrupt and often indifferent officialdom and seek other means to address grievances.

“The social environment is a factor behind attacks in China,” said Ku Jianhui, a lawyer with the Beijing Xindong law firm. “A person who chooses extreme acts to voice his or her grievances usually believes that his or her cases were unable to be handled fairly through normal channels or legal procedures.”

___

Associated Press reporter Kristen Gelineau in Sydney, Australia, and researcher Henry Hou in Beijing contributed to this report.

Amsterdam to ban smoking pot in school


Live and learn… I never knew that one could smoke in school in Amsterdam; much less pot, without consequences. Now that’s all going to change. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By TOBY STERLING | Associated Press

Amsterdam

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Amsterdam’s mayor said Wednesday he would formally ban students from smoking marijuana at school, making the Dutch capital the first city in the Netherlands to do so.

Eberhard van der Laan’s introduction of a law that in other countries either already exists or seems so obvious it wouldn’t even require a rule is the result of the Netherlands’ unique drugs policy. Under the “tolerance” principle, marijuana is technically illegal here, but police can’t prosecute people for possession of small amounts.

That’s the loophole that made possible Amsterdam’s famed “coffee shops” — cafes where marijuana is sold openly. But it has also had the unwanted side effect that Dutch children are frequently exposed to the drug in public areas.

City spokeswoman Iris Reshef says schools have always forbidden pot, but found it difficult to enforce the policy when students smoked on or near campus and challenged administrators to do anything about it.

“It’s not really what you have in mind as an educator, that children would be turning up for class stoned, or drunk either for that matter,” she said. “But it has been a problem for some schools.”

After a change in national law, the city will now be able to declare as of Jan. 1 “no toking zones” — areas like schools and playgrounds where weed-smoking is forbidden — under a public nuisance ordinance. Police can then levy fines against students or anybody else who flouts the rules.

The move is closely paired with a decision by the new government to ditch plans for a national “weed pass” that would have blocked tourists from buying marijuana.

That was a measure years in the making, and greatly desired by southern cities such as Maastricht that have been flooded with dealers from Belgium and Germany who drive across the border to buy weed in bulk. But the weed pass was opposed by Amsterdam, where drug tourists are not generally seen as causing many problems.

Last month, Van der Laan proclaimed that coffee shops would stay open for tourists after all. In a letter Wednesday, he noted that one in three tourists who come to Amsterdam try marijuana while they’re here, more than previously estimated.

Wednesday’s decision seems to signal a typically Dutch compromise outcome: the drug will remain available for adults and tourists who want to try it, but access for children will be restricted.

After several decades of the tolerance policy, Dutch marijuana usage rates are in the middle of international norms, higher than those in neighboring Germany, but lower than those in France, Britain or the United States.

German church: most sex abuser priests are psychologically normal


The results of this “study” is a crock. I can’t imagine people being stupid enough to believe the “results” of a study conducted by the Catholic Church on its own priests. Wait, I take that back, people are stupid enough to believe what the church says. If people are stupid enough to still belong to this church and call themselves Catholics, they’ll believe anything… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Tom Heneghan, Religion Editor | Reuters

 PARIS (Reuters)- A German Catholic Church study showed most priests found guilty of sexually abusing minors were psychologically normal, according to survey results presented on Friday.

Only 12 percent of those surveyed were diagnosed as paedophiles, said the report released by Trier Bishop Stephan Ackermann, the church’s spokesman on abuse cases.

Psychological tests commissioned by priests’ dioceses around Germany found only five percent could be classified as ephebophiles – attracted to teenagers, it said.

“There are no significant differences to results found in the general population in Germany,” said Dr Norbert Leygraf, one of the experts reviewing reports on predator priests found out in the past decade.

Victims advocate Norbert Denef dismissed the study as biased in favor of the Church that commissioned it, and called for an independent commission to study clerical abuse cases.

“You wouldn’t ask the mafia to investigate its own crimes,” Denef, head of an advocacy group called Netzwerk B, told daily newspaper Die Welt.

A wave of revelations of clerical sexual abuse, with many cases dating from previous decades, shook the German Catholic Church in 2010 and prompted it to order an overall study of diocesan reports to spot any trends.

MOST VICTIMS MALE

About 600 people filed accusations of sexual abuse against priests following these revelations. Some 180,000 Germans left the church that year, a 40 percent jump over 2009.

Leygraf gave no reason why so many men described as psychologically normal, 68 percent of the group under investigation, had abused minors.

“The alleged sexual abuse was committed for reasons that can mostly be described as within normal psychological bounds and only a few cases resulted from a specific psychopathology,” he said, according to a Church statement.

According to the study, the diocesan reports showed 54 percent of the priests were identified as heterosexual, 37 percent as homosexual and nine percent as bisexual.

Ackermann ruled out any link to celibacy, a rule for Catholic priests that some critics blame for the wave of abuse cases that have rocked Catholic communities in Europe and North America for over a decade.

“There is no causal connection between a celibate way of life and sexual abuse,” he told a news conference in Trier.

Almost all the priests said they met their victims in their parishes or in schools. Asked why three-quarters of victims were male, Ackermann noted many cases dated back several decades when priests were likely to only come into contacts with boys.

“There were no girl altar servers back then,” he said. “The boys were there and were the ones the priests had the most to do with in their daily work.”

(Editing by Louise Ireland)

Vatican disciplines Austrian dissident priest


Why would the Gay Man’s Club (Catholic Church) want women within its ranks? Further, why would the Catholic Church ever preach that celibacy isn’t absolutely essential. Why that would mean that hypocrisy would no longer be part of church doctrine, and a non-hypocritical Catholic Church would be unrecognizable. Celibacy is very important in the priesthood, unless of course one happens to be a gay pedophile; then it’s OK to have sex – with boys.

Did I mention that the Catholic Church was hypocritical? I believe I did. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Philip Pullella | Reuters – Thu, Nov 29, 2012

Pope 3

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – The Vatican has cracked down on a prominent Austrian Roman Catholic priest who has been leading a disobedience campaign to openly challenge Roman Catholic teachings on celibacy and women priests.

The Vatican said on Thursday it had stripped Father Helmut Schueller of the right to use title monsignor and said he also was no longer a “Chaplain of His Holiness”. Schueller remains a priest.

Schueller, a former deputy to Vienna’s archbishop, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn, had been given the honorary title in his capacity as head of the Austrian branch of the Catholic charity group Caritas.

Schueller is head of the group “Call to Disobedience”, which has broad public backing in opinion polls and says it represents about 10 percent of the Austrian clergy.

Nearly 150,000 Austrians left the Church in 2011-2012, many in reaction to sexual abuse scandals.

The group wants Church rules changed so that priests can marry and women can become priests. It has said it will break Church rules by giving communion to Protestants and divorced Catholics who remarry.

Schueller told Austrian media that the Vatican decision had not shaken his principles.

Reformist Austrian Catholics have for decades challenged the conservative policies of Benedict and his predecessor John Paul, creating protest movements and advocating changes the Vatican refuses to make.

Schueller has met like-minded clergy in Austria and abroad since launching the “Call to Disobedience” group. Catholic reform groups in Germany, Ireland and the United States have made similar demands from the Church.

The Catholic Church does not allow priests to marry and teaches that it has no authority to allow women to become priests because Jesus willingly chose only men as his apostles when he instituted the priesthood at the Last Supper.

Proponents of a female priesthood say Jesus was only adhering to the social norms of his times.

Last week, the Vatican disciplined another priest who advocated women’s ordination.

Father Ray Bourgeois, an American of the Maryknoll religious order, was kicked out of the priesthood and the order by the Vatican’s doctrinal department, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Last year, Bourgeois, who had been a priest for 40 years, was among a group of Roman Catholic activists detained by Italian police after they tried to deliver a petition to the Vatican in favor of a female priesthood.

Benedict, who for decades before his 2005 election as pope was the Vatican’s chief doctrinal enforcer, directly denounced disobedient priests last April, saying it was not the right path to renewal in the Church.

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan; Editing by Jon Hemming)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 126 other followers

%d bloggers like this: