Tag Archives: Germany

Merkel deputy: Flogging case strains Saudi-German relations

Flogging. Really? Total and absolute imbecility. When is the rest of the civilized world going to see these Muslims for what they truly are and Islam for what it truly is. When are religions, and its adherents, going to stop getting a free ride? TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

Associated Press

In this Saturday March 7, 2015 picture activists of the global civic movement Avaaz hand over signatures of an online petition to Germany's Minister of Economic Affairs and Energy,  Sigmar Gabriel, left, during a demonstration in front of the military airport of Tegel Berlin.  Gabriel, stopped on his way to board a plane to Saudi Arabia. The  petition wants to help free the Saudi Blogger  Raif Badawi, Shortly before meeting with the Saudi king on Sunday, German vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized a court-ordered punishment against the  Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on a liberal blog.   (AP Photo/dpa, Bernd von Jutrczenka)

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Shortly before meeting with the Saudi king on Sunday, German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel criticized a court-ordered punishment against a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam on a liberal blog.

The German news agency dpa quoted Gabriel as saying “the harshness of this sentence, especially the corporal punishment, is something unimaginable for us, and of course it weighs on our relations (with Saudi Arabia).”

Raif Badawi was arrested in 2012 after writing articles critical of Saudi Arabia’s clerics on a liberal blog he created, which has since been shut down. He was found guilty of breaking Saudi Arabia’s technology laws and insulting religious figures through his blog. In addition to the flogging and prison sentence, he was ordered to pay a fine of about $266,600.

His lawyer, prominent human rights defender Waleed Abul-Khair, is serving a 15-year sentence for insulting the judiciary, among other charges related to his political activism.

Badawi received 50 lashes in a public square in the western coastal city of Jiddah in January, but authorities have since delayed further rounds of flogging after widespread criticism from human rights groups and the kingdom’s Western allies. The U.S. called on Saudi authorities to rescind the punishment and Sweden’s Foreign Ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s charge d’affaires to protest the flogging.

Saudi Arabia made its first official comments on the case on Saturday, saying that it “expresses its intense surprise and dismay” at international media coverage of the case.

The statement, made by an unnamed Foreign Ministry official whose remarks were carried in the state-owned Saudi Press Agency, said the kingdom “does not accept any interference in its internal affairs” and said its judiciary is impartial and independent. The statement added that the kingdom’s constitution, based in Islamic law, ensures human rights.

Activist group Avaaz had organized a protest in front of Berlin’s Tegel airport before Gabriel’s departure Saturday to the Saudi capital of Riyadh. Protesters handed Gabriel a petition urging him to help secure Badawi’s release and a letter from Badawi’s wife, who lives with their three children in Canada.

Gabriel told protesters that the German government has been working for weeks to secure Badawi’s release.

Rights groups argue that the case against Badawi is part of a wider crackdown on freedom of speech and dissent in Saudi Arabia since the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Criticism of prominent clerics is seen as a red line because of their prestige in the kingdom, as well as their influential role in supporting government policies.

Saudi Arabia’s Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf, who met Gabriel on Saturday, was quoted by state-linked media as saying that trade between the two countries reached $12.4 billion in 2013, with Saudi exports to Germany accounting for $418 million.


Jordans reported from Berlin.

German anti-Muslim protesters rally despite Merkel plea

All of these lousy politicians are the same. They continue to suck up to Islam, as they don’t have to deal with them. They live in plush neighborhoods, drive around in limos and frequent the most exclusive restaurants and venues. Meanwhile, the average Joe has to live with these religious fanatics, and all the rest of the baggage they bring, day after day after day. Yeap, politicians are all the same. First and foremost, they’re hypocrites of the highest order. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

DRESDEN, Germany Mon Jan 5, 2015 

Participants of an alternative rally use brooms as they protest against a demonstration called by anti-immigration group PEGIDA, a German abbreviation for 'Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West', in Dresden January 5, 2015.   REUTERS-Fabrizio Bensch

DRESDEN, Germany (Reuters) – Protesters marched in several German cities onMonday against higher levels of immigration and what they see as the growing influence of Islam, in defiance of an appeal from Chancellor Angela Merkel to spurn rallies she views as racist.

The rallies, organized by a new grassroots movement known as PEGIDA, or Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West, have become an almost weekly event in the east German city of Dresden in recent months.

Some 18,000 people, the biggest number so far, turned out in Dresden on Monday but similar rallies in Berlin and the western city of Cologne were heavily outnumbered by counter-protesters who accuse PEGIDA of fanning racism and intolerance.

The PEGIDA protesters waved Germany’s black, red and gold flag and brandished posters bearing slogans such as “Against religious fanaticism and every kind of radicalism”.

One poster in Cologne called for “potatoes rather than doner kebabs”, a swipe at ethnic Turks who at around three million represent Germany’s largest immigrant community.

Germany has some of the world’s most liberal asylum rules, partly due to its Nazi past. The number of asylum seekers arriving in Germany, many from the Middle East, jumped to around 200,000 last year — four times as many as in 2012.

In her New Year address last week, Merkel urged Germans to shun the anti-Muslim protesters, saying their hearts were full of hatred.

“We need to … say that right-wing extremism, hostility towards foreigners and anti-Semitism should not be allowed any place in our society,” Merkel said on Monday in the eastern town of Neustrelitz.

In Cologne, home to a large Muslim population, there were 10 times as many counter-demonstrators as PEGIDA protesters. In similarly multi-ethnic Berlin, some 5,000 counter-demonstrators swamped around 400 anti-Muslim protesters, local police said.

“Germany is a country where refugees are welcome and the silent majority must not remain silent but rather go out onto the streets and show itself,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said at the Berlin counter-demonstration.

Cologne Cathedral, one of Germany’s most famous landmarks, switched its lights off to protest against the anti-Muslim rallies. Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate turned off its floodlights in a similar gesture of solidarity.

PEGIDA has unsettled Germany’s political establishment and at first looked likely to help the Euroskeptic party Alternative for Germany (AfD). But the party, already suffering an internal power struggle, is split over how to deal with the movement.

(Reporting by Oliver Barth in Dresden; additional reporting by Boris Berner and Erik Kirschbaum in Berlin; Writing by Michelle Martin in Berlin; Editing by Gareth Jones)


Why America isn’t the Greatest Country in the World Anymore

How do you feel about the allegations made in this video? TGO

Video: YouTube

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 


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


  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


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


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.


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.


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