Monthly Archives: July 2008

Russian Skinheads Suspected In 21 Killings

During World War II, the Soviet Union was invaded by Nazi Germany which resulted in the death of over 25 million Russians, but, for some inexplicable reason, many young Russians appear to have a fascination with Nazism in the first decade of the 21st century. There are thousands of skinheads who wear Nazi regalia and ape the racism of those who killed their grandparents. A group of skinheads in Russia have been implicated in the murder of at least 21 people of various ethnic backgrounds. They are currently charged with the murder of two Uzbek citizens in Moscow, but the investigation appears to have found links between this group of skinheads and the killing of 19 other “individuals with non-Slavic appearances.”

After the skinheads were arrested some of them began confessing to the murder of other people who are from non-Russian backgrounds. They boasted to investigators they murdered a Kazakh man and proceeded to chop up his body and bury them in the courtyard of the apartment building.

An outsider can only suspect the Russian education system has failed to offer students awareness of the dangers of Nazism and the impact of the German invasion on the Russian people. There apparently is a serous void among Russian youth in understanding the brutality of Nazism in their own country.

Non-Reported French Nuclear Accident Raises Questions

An accident in a nuclear reactor in the south of France went unreported in the European press even though the incident raised questions concerning the safety of nuclear energy plants such as the ones France has promised to construct in Libya. The incident occurred the first week in July just as Nicolas Sarkozy assumed the role of president of the European Union. The plant malfunction led to 30,000 litres of a solution containing 12% enriched uranium to overflow from a reservoir into the nearby Gaffiere and Lauzon rivers. Evangelia Petit, admitted the concentration of uranium in the two rivers was now 1,000 times higher than normal but she downplayed the consequences of the accident insisting the risk posed to humans was “slight.”

However, local authorities apparently did not accept her verdict that things were not that bad because there was uranium in the rivers. Inhabitants of nearby towns and villages have been banned from fishing, swimming, drawing well water or using water from the polluted rivers for irrigation purposes. The area is noted for its grapes which are used in making several brands of wines.

The Green Party blog of Malta expressed concern that France was going to construct nuclear energy plants in nearby Libya. There is fear an accident in a nuclear plant to be built on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea might result in extensive pollution to a water body which is essential to the lives of millions.

There is no question great improvements have been made in safety of nuclear plants, but the world has yet to reach a point in which the presence of nuclear plants doesn’t also cause a risk to local populations.

Can You Pass This History Test?

New York state was among the first to initiate a testing program for high school students in order to determine if they had learned required material. The infamous “Regents Exam” is known to every person who attended high school in New York state and who can forget the June dread about the upcoming exam? Marc Epstein, writing in the New York Daily News, derides the supposed difficulty of an exam in which a student need only score 36 out of 65 possible points in order to pass. In the old days, when I was a high school student, anything below 60% was a failing grade.

Epstein offers an example to highlight the supposed difficulty of the exam. Students are shown a photo of the situation in the famous Little Rock High School desegregation event. A caption reads: “on September 25, 1957, federal troops escort the Little Rock nine to their classes at Central High School.” The student is asked the following rather difficult question: “Based on the photograph, what was the job of the United States Army troops in Little Rock, Arkansas?”

The more important issue is whether such tests go any further than identifying short term memory on the part of students. Do tests require students to demonstrate their ability to engage in critical thinking concerning issues in American history?

Indian Untouchable Leader Emerges As Power Figure

The last week has been a rather hectic one for the people of India as its parliament has argued over and finally passed a controversial bill on nuclear energy. During the fractious conflict a new figure has emerged on the political scene, Mayawati, leader of the Dalit community and chief minister of the populous northern Uttar Pradesh state. She has become a symbol of empowerment for the oppressed Dalit group which long has been mistreated and treated like in demeaning ways. As an Indian official in Uttar Pradesh noted: “She may not have achieved much for Dalits on the ground in her past two terms as chief minister, but when she is in power, district officials, police, everyone treats Dalits with more respect.” She rose from the slums, battled discrimination due to being a woman and a
Dalit, gained an education, became a lawyer, and then assumed leadership of the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP).

Many political analysts believe she has the capability of one day becoming a prime minister of India. Such a victory would be analogous to that of Barack Obama becoming president of the United States of America. One problem is the source of her now considerable wealth, she claims it comes from gifts of those who admire her work, but there is always the possibility in India the money comes from sources of corruption.

A Story About Two Illegal Immigrants

They were nameless men who had made the treacherous journey from North Africa to the supposed safety and good life awaiting them in Europe. A meeting with smugglers, a trip across water, huddled on the banks of a sea line in a new world, mumbled words of advice, and the goodbye on some lonely road leading to nowhere. Two men, strangers in a strange land, knowing a few people but uncertain exactly how to reach them. Somehow, they made i to Belgium and tried finding work, but, they were rounded up by a police dragnet and swept into a building in a place called, “internment center.”

Weeks passed, sitting on a cot, eating food at certain hours of the day, listening to the sounds of children weeping or laughing, and exchanging hopeful dreams with other men. Summer, it was hot, the place reeked of smells that invariably occur when hundreds are thrust into something called an “internment camp.”

One day, the two nameless men could take no more. They scrambled to the top of a building and threatened to fling themselves down. The police arrived and a man who spoke their tongue quietly exchanged soothing words of hope. They came down. They could hear the sounds of people below them shouting, screaming, smashing windows and furniture.

It was just another day in an internment camp. No one died. The two nameless men sat on their cots– waiting for Godot.

Historian Charges Secret Armies Aided By CIA Exist

Turkey is experiencing a turbulent investigation into activities of a secret organization known as Ergenekon which allegedly included former top ranking members of the Turkish military who plotted to overthrow the Justice and Development Party(AKP) due to its reform Muslim ideas. Swiss Historian, Daniele Ganser, suggest his research indicates after WWII, NATO and the CIA funded secret armies in their fight against the Soviet Union. He believes there is a possibility Ergnekon, might be connected to the formation of these clandestine forces. Its code name was “Gladio” and it functioned in complete secrecy. The network of secret armies called, “stay behind” were set up by US and British secret service agents and were designed to function as a guerrilla style force in case the Soviet Union advanced into western Europe. Ganser argues there is a possibility that Ergenekon might be connected to the secret operation and those in the organization might have originally obtained their training from the CIA and British intelligence.

“If indeed Ergenekon is the stay-behind for Turkey, the secret army of Turkey, then Turkey is a special case” since it continues functioning years after other European secret armies were closed down. He notes Seymour Hersh, an American journalist, claims the CIA is supporting secret operations inside Iran in their attempts to overthrow the Iranian government.

It frequently becomes difficult ascertaining the accuracy of such claims since one is dealing with “secret” organizations whose existence is only known to a handful of government officials. Turkey needs an honest investigation of Ergenekon to clear up this mystery.

Neo-Nazis Use Internet As Weapon Of Attack

Neo-Nazis in Germany are using the Internet as part of their campaign to intimidate and silence those who oppose their message of hate. Left-wing politicians and activists are discovering their names, photos, and addresses published on web sites in order to encourage these two bit thugs to resort to messages of hate and violence. The police are powerless in most cases to do anything about posting messages filled with anger on a web site. Rainer Sauer, a politician from Bocholt, has received countless insults and death threats via the Internet. He has discovered Nazi symbols painted on his garage door and shots fired in front of his home. There are an estimated 1,700 far right wing Web sites in Germany.

A judge in Kiel sentenced a member of the right wing National Democratic Party to pay a fine. Within days, his address was published on a Web site along with information about his children and urgings to pay him a visit. Trade unionist Ruth B. had words sprayed on the wall of her house and her car was painted by neo-Nazis as a warning.

The Internet is a source of democracy and has strengthened forces of free speech, but along with all important innovations in expanding human rights come the lap dogs of terror and hate trailing in its wake.

Zille Charges: African National Congress In Shambles!

helen Zille, leader of South Africa’s Democratic Alliance and mayor of Cape Town, charged the African National Congress(ANC) was divided as the old National Party of apartheid days, between the “verligtes” and the “verkramptes.” The former were those who wanted to reform apartheid and possible even end it, while the latter wanted to continue the cruel policies of apartheid. “The ANC, after only 14 years, is showing the same schism. It is also divided between its verligtes who support constitutional rule, and its verkramptes who want to subordinate the Constitution to the pursuit of power.” She drew attention to remarks by ANC leader, Jacob Zuma, who said openly that the ANC was more important than the Constitution. Zuma is charged with corruption and could wind up in jail, but Zille believes his supporters will do everything possible to avert this possibility since the ends justify the means.

Zille insists every liberation movement goes through the same cycle of power. “Liberation struggles are about attaining power. Constitutional democracy is about limiting power. Very few activists who have engaged in liberation struggle understand this distinction.” Those who fight to attain power equate their power with furthering the ideas of the struggle and any attempt to limit power is thus regarded as counter-revolutionary.

Zille is seeking to create a new political alignment in South Africa in which ANC believers in constitutionalism will join forces with other groups such as the Democratic Alliance in order to create a new South Africa which is based on respect for constitutional law. South Africa needs a new political vision if it is to pursue the road of democracy.

Can I Drive A Truck If I Don’t Speak English Properly?

Manuel Castillo was driving through the wonderful state of Alabama headed home to California after picking up a load of onions when he halted for a state inspection. An Alabama state trooper did not think Mr. Castillo could speak English in the same proper manner as do those inhabiting the fair state of Alabama so he handed the Californian a $500 ticket for misuse of the English language. Mr. Castillo said he understood the state trooper’s questions about where he was heading and he knew enough to produce his commercial driver license and registration. He responded to all questions in English although he does speak with an accent.

Mr.Castillo was not speeding and the computer check of his vehicle did not reveal any violations of law. Federal law requires anyone with a commercial license to speak English well enough to talk with police and last year about 25,000 tickets were issued for those without proper English language skills.

As one who has lived and taught in Missouri for thirty five years I think they would issue me tickets for improper English language skills because of my New York City accent. Of course, my response to my students invariably is, “You Missourians just don’t know how to speak proper English.!” I believe the same holds true of anyone from Alabama.

When Is A Jew Not A Jew?

Tina Hvidbjerg moved from Denmark to Israel about 16 years ago in order to be with her Jewish husband. After arriving in Israel, she converted to the Jewish religion. When the couple went through a divorce proceeding last year, Ms. Hvidbjerg was questioned about whether she followed Orthodox Jewish practices such as not driving or using electricity on the sabbath. When she admitted she had not, the local religious court ruled she and her children– who were born in Israel–were not Jewish and had never been. The ruling is part of the ongoing battle between religious right wing fundamentalists who seek to impose their medieval minded way of life on conservative and reform Jews and those who believe Judaism is an inclusive religion.

Decisions such as these make difficult the right of these ultra-traditionalists to condemn practices of fundamentalist Muslim clerics. If one brought together Jewish and Muslim traditionalists they soon would realize how much they shared in common.

If the definition of a Jew was one who did not use electricity on the Sabbath or drive or use the Internet or watch TV on Saturday, there would be a dramatic drop in the Jewish population of the world.