Germany has no nostalgic memorials to Nazis

Commemorative stone for the 1938 special camp for Jews

Visitors often place a stone on this monument in memory of someone – or everyone – who died here.

As an American Jew from the South who has lived in Berlin for decades – Susan Neiman, author of this article – I’ve been asked whether Americans, in contemplating a plantation home, Confederate statue, or some other monument to our nation’s slave past, should emulate the way Germans treat Nazi memorials. To which I respond: There aren’t any. Germany has no monuments that celebrate the Nazi armed forces, however many grandfathers fought or fell for them. Instead, it has a dizzying number and variety of monuments to the victims of its murderous racism.

There are no Nazi sites in Germany in the sense that there are plantation sites in the United States. The only equivalent sites that now exist in Germany are concentration camps. On the site of Buchenwald, where as many as a quarter of a million inmates were held, a museum dispels any notion that the citizens of the nearby cultural capital Weimar were unaware of what was happening in their midst during World War II. The idea that tourists would visit such a place seeking smiling women in dirndls—much as some visit American plantations looking for ladies in hoop skirts—is obscene. Not even members of Germany’s right-wing Alternative for Germany party would suggest glorifying that part of the past.

A tradition found throughout the lands subjugated by Nazi Germany, placing a stone on a monument, for all the reasons you might imagine. My closest friend was grievously wounded twice in the battle to liberate Buchenwald at the end of WW2. He survived for many years afterward.

I’ve never been to Buchenwald. I left a stone at Auschwitz.

Puerto Rico death toll 70 times greater than “official” tale

Click to enlarge

❝ In Puerto Rico, the official government estimate for the number of people who died as a result of Hurricane Maria (the hurricane that struck the island in late September 2017) is just 64. But a new study from Harvard University, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, estimates that the true number is closer to 4,645—that is, more than 70 times the official estimate.

❝ According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), deaths that occur due to unsafe conditions or loss of medical services caused by a hurricane or other weather events are attributed to that weather event…

The New York Times, CNN, and Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism have all independently reported death tolls significantly higher than the 64 deaths the Puerto Rican government has been reporting.

If this was a battlefield assaulted by Imperial America, the number of enemy dead would be inflated, US casualties diminished. The mindset is at least consistent among the bigots running this country.

I can’t say, “our country”. It hasn’t been our country in a long, long time.

UN slams Mexico over citizens who have “disappeared”

“I didn’t notice anyone missing. Did you?”

A U.N. committee accused Mexico of failing to adequately prosecute and convict individuals responsible for enforced disappearances.

The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances has published its concluding observations…about Mexico’s efforts to combat enforced disappearances at the request of the relatives of the 43 disappeared Ayotzinapa students…

The experts voiced concern at “impunity regarding numerous cases of enforced disappearances.”

The recommendations from the U.N. panel calls on the Mexican government to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED), under which all signatory parties are required to fully investigate enforced disappearances and bring all those responsible to justice…

The Mexican government ratified the ICCPED in 2010, which stipulates that all signatory parties’ allow the U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances authorization to hear individual cases of alleged disappearances and issue recommendations…

According to official figures, almost 50 percent of the 22,322 disappeared people went missing between 2012 and 2014 under the current administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto.

I’ve said it before. Let me say it, again.

Corruption, the absence of rule by law, the dominance of neighborhood by neighborhood, provincial, regional rule by gangsters, vicious killers wholly insulated from justice by bought-and-paid-for coppers – this is the stuff of daily life in Mexico. It lies at the core of my personal boycott of our southern neighbor. And, yes, it is also key to my contempt for jingoist, Amerika First Republicans, cruel conservatives who don’t understand commerce and base their definition of economic justice on bigotry.

A rape victim’s fight for justice in Nepal

Justice, Nepal
Click to enlargePhoto by Navesh Chitrakar

When Pooja Bohara heard that the two men who had dragged her into a toilet and raped her had been released from prison nine months ago, the Nepali teenager, seen above through a door of the Raksha Nepal rehabilitation centre, went into shock.

But despite being blamed and stigmatised by some in her community in western Nepal for reporting the rape and forced to seek refuge in the capital, the 17-year-old says she is not giving up her fight for justice.

“Society and some family members blame me. My uncle even suggested that I should be placed in a heap of straw and burnt to death, but my father was for justice,” said Bohara, sitting in the rehabilitation centre in Kathmandu.

“It is not our fault that we are raped. Victims should come out and tell their story to the courts and seek justice.”

The two men, who had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years imprisonment in March 2013, were acquitted by an appeals court last April due to a lack of evidence…

Growing awareness in Nepal of crimes against women has helped an increasing number of victims like Bohara to challenge a culture that often blames or shuns them into silence, say police and activists…

But despite improvements and greater awareness, most women still remain unaware of their rights and do not come forward to report crimes due to fears of stigmatisation, said Menuka Thapa, head of Raksha Nepal, the charity sheltering Bohara…

Mustering the courage to come forward and report violent crimes is just the first step in a long and often painful process to get justice. But Bohara is not waiting. The teenager has appealed to the Supreme Court, which is expected to hear her case later this month.

Another important chapter in Reuters’ “The Wider Image” series.

The Gulf War photo no one would publish

The Iraqi soldier died attempting to pull himself up over the dashboard of his truck. The flames engulfed his vehicle and incinerated his body, turning him to dusty ash and blackened bone. In a photograph taken soon afterward, the soldier’s hand reaches out of the shattered windshield, which frames his face and chest. The colors and textures of his hand and shoulders look like those of the scorched and rusted metal around him. Fire has destroyed most of his features, leaving behind a skeletal face, fixed in a final rictus. He stares without eyes.

On February 28, 1991, Kenneth Jarecke stood in front of the charred man, parked amid the carbonized bodies of his fellow soldiers, and photographed him. At one point, before he died this dramatic mid-retreat death, the soldier had had a name. He’d fought in Saddam Hussein’s army and had a rank and an assignment and a unit. He might have been devoted to the dictator who sent him to occupy Kuwait and fight the Americans. Or he might have been an unlucky young man with no prospects, recruited off the streets of Baghdad.

Jarecke took the picture just before a ceasefire officially ended Operation Desert Storm—the U.S.-led military action that drove Saddam Hussein and his troops out of Kuwait, which they had annexed and occupied the previous August. The image and its anonymous subject might have come to symbolize the Gulf War. Instead, it went unpublished in the United States, not because of military obstruction but because of editorial choices.

RTFA for a sensitive, thoughtful discussion – decades after this young man was killed. My hatred for war is no surprise to any of our regular readers. Even the only “just” war in my lifetime – the war against fascism, World War 2.

That war produced two books which have guided my whole life – in war and peace, about war and peace. I doubt if either are easily available anymore. BEACH RED by Peter Bowman is a short novel in what he called sprung prose, as much poetry as prose – as much about death and dying as anything else. DAYS AND NIGHTS by Konstantin Simonov is a heroic tale from a journalist who lived through the siege of Stalingrad. It is a love story.

Photographs like this are also an important part of how we look at war. Outside of dispatches published in newspapers; curt, prosaic sound bites on TV. As hard as it is to look at this photo, I think it should be a required part of anyone’s education.

Thanks, Mike

US State Department halts anti-drone activist’s visa before he gets to testify before Congress

Collateral damage

An anti-drone activist said he’s been denied a U.S. visa ahead of a planned trip to bring surviving victims of a strike in Pakistan to testify before Congress.

Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow with the British human rights group Reprieve and director of the Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Rights, said he and three clients applied for visas to travel to the United States to offer testimony before a House committee investigating the Obama administration’s policy on drone strikes, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Akbar said visas were approved for his three clients — Rafiq Rehman, his 13-year-old son Zubair, and his 9-year-old daughter Nabila. The family survived an alleged U.S. drone strike in their village in North Waziristan, a Pakistani province on the border with Afghanistan…

Rehman’s mother was killed in the attack, Akbar said…

“It’s not like my name is scratched because there is some sort of confusion. My name is blocked,” Akbar told The Guardian. “Before I started drone investigations I never had an issue with obtaining a U.S. visa. In fact, I had a U.S. diplomatic visa for two years.”

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., invited Akbar and the Rehman family to testify before Congress and said the reason for Akbar’s visa problem hasn’t been explained to him.

“I don’t know why the State Department has taken this action, but I think it’s extremely important that when it comes to a national security matter like drone attacks, we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims,” Grayson said.

Cold War tactics never went away. Suppressing testimony unpopular with a sitting administration never went away. As the number of media sources in the United States diminished, shrank into cute little soundbites of entertainment – it just became easier to tuck away unpleasant truth.

Court approves release of Boy Scouts’ “perversion files”

Oregon’s highest court cleared the way on Thursday for the release of thousands of pages of documents detailing accusations and investigations of sexual abuse or other improprieties by Boy Scout leaders around the nation from the mid-1960s into the 1980s.

The files played a central role in a civil case in 2010 over the abuse of six boys by a scout leader in Portland, Ore., in the 1980s. That trial ended with an $18.5 million punitive judgment against the Boy Scouts of America, the largest ever by far against the organization in a sex case jury trial.

The “perversion files,” which the Boy Scout organization said were kept as a way of weeding out bad leaders and preventing abuse, instead became evidence in the trial. And the state judge in the case, John A. Wittmayer, ruled that as evidence, the files should be released to the public under the open records provision of the Oregon Constitution, but with the names of possible victims and people who had reported accusations redacted. Thursday’s ruling by the Oregon Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Boy Scouts of America, and said the judge had not exceeded his authority.

“Oregon’s framers sought to require the courts to conduct the business of administering justice in public — that is, in a manner that permits scrutiny of the court’s work,” the court said in its unanimous 31-page ruling…

The Boy Scouts of America said in a statement that the file system was kept confidential to encourage reporting of bad or questionable behavior by scout leaders, and that details of old cases, coming to light years after the fact, could still harm innocent victims…

A lawyer for the victims in the Portland case, Paul Mones, said the documents were not likely to lead to criminal prosecutions or many civil actions because of restrictive statute of limitations laws around the country. The documents in their current form, as shown to the jury and at issue before the Supreme Court, included the names of those accused of abuse, he said…

Mr. Mones said the stories and cases documented in the files, in whatever form they emerge for public inspection, would still give voice to victims who suffered anonymously. “They suffered very silently, and this is a way to recognize the real devastation that was wrought on their lives,” he said.

RTFA. One more organization that kept information hushed up, damning to lawbreakers, equally damning to an organization that didn’t act sufficiently to protect minors in their charge.

Five-year-old girl discovered to be a victim of forced marriage

Different case – same story

A five-year-old girl has become Britain’s youngest known victim of forced marriage…The child, who has not been named, was among 400 children dealt with by the Home Office’s dedicated Forced Marriage Unit, last year. An 87-year-old woman was also a suspected victim.

But campaigners warned that the case could be just the tip of the iceberg with “thousands” of children in some communities believed to have been promised in marriage from birth…

Currently it is not illegal in Britain to force someone to get married against their will.

That is criminally absurd.

The strongest sanctions available are “Forced Marriage Orders”, a type of civil court order which operate like an injunction but are viewed as little more than a “slap on the wrist” by critics.

Last year David Cameron signalled his support for tightening up the law likening forced marriage to “slavery” and Theresa May pledged to “stamp out this appalling abuse”. But a similar consultation exercise eight years ago – which led to the introduction of the civil orders – prompted the then Government to decide against criminalising forced marriage.

That followed claims from some quarters that the law might “stigmatise” communities and drive the practice even further underground…

That is the act of political cowards. Not so surprising.

Jasvinder Sanghera, herself a former victim who now runs the support group and helpline The Honour Network, said it is likely the girl had been promised from birth to a first cousin. The practice is particularly prevalent among Muslims of Pakistani origin, she said.

Although the marriage would not be recognised by law in Britain, children can take part in religious “Nikkah” ceremonies – or weddings – in a Mosque or even a private home…

She said that many such cases only come to light because the child stops attending school.

The professionals are not looking at this as child protection, they are just pandering to concerns around cultural sensitivity,” she said.

Sound familiar? Civil Rights of minorities – all the way up to the largest minority in every society, women – find politicians worrying about someone else’s sensibilities. Someone other than the minority.

Cowardice beneath contempt.

Supreme Court deepens rights of accused in plea bargains

The Supreme Court considers robes to match Congressional garb

Criminal defendants have a constitutional right to effective lawyers during plea negotiations, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday in a pair of 5-to-4 decisions that vastly expanded judges’ supervision of the criminal justice system. The decisions mean that what used to be informal and unregulated deal making is now subject to new constraints when bad legal advice leads defendants to reject favorable plea offers.

“Criminal justice today is for the most part a system of pleas, not a system of trials,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote for the majority. “The right to adequate assistance of counsel cannot be defined or enforced without taking account of the central role plea bargaining takes in securing convictions and determining sentences.”

And that…is a beancounters’ ethic at work. The leading motive for plea-bargains is the budget.

Justice Kennedy, who more often joins the court’s conservative wing in ideologically divided cases, was in this case in a coalition with the court’s four more liberal members. That alignment has sometimes arisen in recent years in cases that seemed to offend Justice Kennedy’s sense of fair play…

Claims of ineffective assistance at trial are commonplace even though trials take place under a judge’s watchful eye. Challenges to plea agreements based on misconduct by defense lawyers will presumably be common as well, given how many more convictions follow guilty pleas and the fluid nature of plea negotiations…

Scholars agreed about its significance.

RTFA for all the legalistic blather. The conservative cabal – including Chief Justice Roberts are always most concerned about the number of cases that will spin from this decision.

The best part of was the ruling about defendants having a right to an effective lawyer. While I’ve known a fair number of talented and skillful lawyers [which they coupled with care for our Constitution and dedication to ordinary people’s needs] – there seems to be a constantly growing crop of incompetents. A conclusion I feel is matched by the truly awful – but politically connected – who seem to end up as judges.