Human Tragedies Around the World Today

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On Wednesday, military planes carried the first bodies of victims of the Malaysian Airlines crash left eastern Ukraine giving some relief to the grieving relatives who must still wait for positive IDs and answers to who caused the disaster, according to the Associated Press, Two military aircraft carrying the first bodies of victims of the Malaysia Airlines left eastern Ukraine Wednesday. In the afternoon, the Dutch government declared a national day of mourning as the first bodies are due to arrive from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crash that killed 298 people most who were Dutch citizens. Though U.S. officials are confident that a missile brought down the plan, they have yet to determine Russia’s role if any in the tragedy. On July 23, 2014, at Kharkiv airport in Ukraine, Ukrainian soldiers carry coffins during a sombre ceremony followed by the first plane carrying these coffins left for the Netherlands. The other military plane, Australian, left as well midday headed for Eindhoven air base to be met by Dutch King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima, Prime Minister Mark Rutte and hundreds of relatives. Dutch government spokesman Lodewijk Hekkin said 60 coffins were expected but not sure, while Jan Tinder the Dutch official in charge of the international team dealing with the dead said 200 bodies were aboard the train and more remains may be found once the body bags are examined. According to Air Accidents Investigation Branch in Britain, on Wednesday Dutch authorities delivered the black boxes to the agency in Farnborugh, south England, where information from the data and voice recorder will be downloaded. On Tuesday, the European Union imposed sanctions against Russian individuals again, but did not target entire sectors of Russian economy until Moscow’s role is known in the disaster.

While loved ones deal with the loss of loved ones who died tragically on Flight 17, Israel and Gaza continue to fight costing not only innocent lives but may also cost both groups their support. On Tuesday, the United Nations said Palestinian civilians in densely populated areas in Gaza have no where to hide from Israel’s military offensive and children are paying the heaviest price, Stephanie Nebehay reported In Gaza, No Safe Place For Civilians: UN. Israel continued to bombard targets across the Gaza Strip as no ceasefire deal was near. Meanwhile, U.S. and U.N. diplomats are urging talks to end the fighting that has killed 600 lives in the three week conflict. Jens Laerke, spokesman of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told a news briefing in Geneva that the death toll is rising in the coastal enclave with a density of 4,500 people per square kilometer. Nearly 5000 homes have been destroyed by Israeli air strikes and 100,000 people have sough shelter in schools of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), where they need food, water and mattresses, he said. The UNRWA in a statement Tuesday said it was raising its emergency funding appeal to $115 from $60 million. As Juliette Touma of the U.N. Children’s Fund reports, an overwhelming majority of people being killed are Palestinians including 121 Gaza children under 18 and 900 Palestinian children have been injured. Laerke said: “According to an assessment by aid workers on ground at least 107,000 children need psycho-social support for the trauma they are experiencing such as death, injury or loss of their homes.” Meanwhile, more than 1.2 million out of 1.8 million have no water or limited access to water as power networks are damaged or no fuel for generators. In addition, Laerke remarked, “we do have reports of sewage flooding which is a threat to public health.” Spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs of the U.N. World Food Program states emergency food rations and vouchers have been given to 90,000 people adding: “Ready to eat food stocks are running low in Gaza given the conflict has lasted two weeks and the needs are increasing.” The World Health Organization said 18 health facilities have been damages including hospitals. In a statement on Tuesday after WHO visited sites, they found that hospitals in northern Gaza are overwhelmed by high number of trauma cases with little supplies. The International Committee of thr Red Cross, guardian of the rules of war, stated on late Monday that warring parties are obliged under international humanitarian law to protect medical personnel, ambulance and facilities condemning the attack on the Al-Aqsa hospital which have been in direct fire four times. The Associated Press reports that since the U.N. top human rights official warned all sides in the Gaza Strip not to indiscriminately attack civilians and was ignore that violations may amount to warm crimes. On Wednesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said around three quarters of those killed in Gaza Strip were civilians and thousands more injured totaling 657 Palestinians and 31 Israelis killed. Among the Palestinian dead, Pillay said at least 147 were children and 74 were women. At the session, Palestinian Foreign Minster Riad Malki accused Israel of committing crimes against humanity and violating international human rights laws, while Israeli Ambassador Eviatar Manor accused Hamas of committing war crimes.

Meanwhile in Europe, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Italy on Tuesday said they would combat the rising anti-Semitic protests and violence over the conflict in Gaza in their own countries, according to Kirsten Grieshaber article European Politicians Condemn Anti-Semitic Demonstrations. In a joint statement issued in Brussels, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, France’s Laurent Fabius and Italy’s Federica Mogherini said: “Anti-Semitic rhetoric and hostility against Jews, attacks on people of Jewish belief and synagogues have no place in our societies.” In addition, they said that they will respect demonstrators right to assemble and freedom of speech, however, will fight against “acts and statements that cross the line to anti-Semitism, racism and xenophobia.” On Tuesday afternoon in Berlin, 500 pro-Palestinian demonstrators marched chanting slogans like “Israel is murder” and “Israel bombs, Germany finances.” In France, pro-Palestinian youth clashed with police on Sunday setting fire to cars, pillaging stores and attacking two synagogues in the Paris suburbs. Italy as well has seen non-violent demonstrations. Jewish groups have expressed shock and discuss about the growing anti-Semitism. Stephan Kramer, director of the European office on anti-Semitism of the American Jewish Committee in Brussels said: “We have reached a new level of hatred and violence in all of Europe that cannot even be compared to the anti-Semitism seen during previous conflicts in Israel.”

Europe and the Middle East see their fair share of conflict and clashes with militants, Nigeria is still reeling from a different type of tragedy. It has now been three months since Islamic extremists have kidnapped more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls and according to residents of Chibok, where the girls were kidnapped from, 11 of their parents have died as well. Michelle Faul explains in her article, 11 parents of Nigeria’s abducted girls die, that the town has been cut off my militants who have been attacking villages in the region. This month, seven of the fathers were among the 51 bodies brought to the Chibok hospital after an attack on Kautakari, a village nearby. In addition, four more parents have died from heart failure, high blood pressure and other illness the community believes was induced by the mass abduction 100 days ago, said community leader Pogu Bitrus and provided the names. He explained, “One father of two of the girls kidnapped just went into a kind of coma and kept repeating the names of his daughters, until life left him.” President Goodluck Jonathan met with parents Tuesday pledging to continue working to see the girls are brought back alive, according to his spokesman. Danger is on the horizon though as Boko Haram is closing in on Chibok by attacking the villages that surround it. Community leader Bitrus siad a food crisis looms along with money and fuel shortages as villager swarm into the town from towns close by straining resource. Many girls who escaped are recovering said a health worker, under conditions of anonymity for fear of retaliation from Boko Haram, and many are now talking about their experience even considering how to continue their education. Boko Haram filmed a video threatening to sell the students into slavery and as child brides. Additionally, the video showed two girls describing their conversion from Christianity to Islam. Most of the girls are believed to be held in the Sambisa forest that borders on sand dunes marking the edge of the Sahara, while sightings of the girls and their captors have been reported in Cameroon and Chad. Local leader Bitrus warns of a famine coming soon due to the fact families are putting up four and five other families arriving with nothing since livestock has been looted by Boko Haram. The town and nearby villages are targets due to the fact they follow Christianity in a predominantly Muslim north Nigeria. The number of soldiers guarding Chibok increased from 15 to 200 following the kidnapping but does little to secure the town since soldiers refuse to deploy to villages under attack even with advance warning 90 percent of the time. Residents feel abandoned after a plea was made this month to the United Nations to send troops and the U.N. told the Nigerian government to live up to its international responsibility. The Defense Ministry says it knows where the girls are but fears any campaign could lead to their deaths. This week, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau released a new video demanding that President Goodluck Jonathan release detained extremists in exchange for the girls. After three months. the residents have little hope that the girls will return.

Please Help: He Served His Country in WWII Now He’s Served with An Eviction


To help out grandpa please click here.

The worst part is the eviction is coming from an unlikely place…his daughter and son in law. With so many people suffering around the world due to the financial crisis, so many people have come together to help their fellow man in this time of need without any incentive to do so. To all those everyday heroes, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The man above of course is not my grandpa, but refers to himself on YouTube as grandpa who reminds me of my grandfather and other men who dutifully served their country in its greatest hour of need. It tugs at my heart strings to see the payback veterans of wars and let’s be honest the elderly in general get which is zilch. Sometimes people look at them as a forgotten relic of history inching every closer to deaths door (just look at nursing homes), however I see them as an insight into the past and the greatest story tellers. Some witnessed, participated and influenced the greatest moments in history and hold true to oral traditions the way they happen not the way we as Americans hear it. So a tribute to the man above is in order, I want to tell his story in hopes of everyday heroes coming to this humble mans rescue with help from an AOL article.

While scrolling through the myriad of articles on AOL, I happened upon this man’s story. Why did it touch me so? I have a grandfather like everyone else and like his granddaughter I have had to deal with feuding among family member over sorry to say some really stupid things. My goal as I am sure her goal is to ensure his quality of life remains the same and stays surrounded by the memories built in his home and not what works for everyone else. According to the article, a family feud between father and daughter could leave this 91 year old World War II veteran out on the street after his daughter gained ownership of his southern Ohio home and served him with eviction papers. His granddaughter, Jaclyn Fraley, is trying to keep him in his home he built as the deadline approaches on June 12.

The back story seems even more tragic. Fraley told AOL that when the elderly Potter fell ill he signed over his power of attorney then transferred his Zaleski, Ohio home to his daughter, Janice Cottrill (Fraley’s mother) in 2004. The man built his home 54 years ago according to WCMH-TV in Columbus. When Cottrill took custody of her autistic brother who was living in the home with the elderly Potter, a feud erupted between Cottrill and Potter over visitation rights ending in Cottrill serving Potter with eviction papers. His granddaughter sees how much it hurts her grandfather and has not spoken to her mother except through her lawyers over the past two years. When the two went to court to try and get the home back, the court sided with Cottrill in a May 2012 decision saying the statue of limitations had expired. The judge is expected to hand down an eviction time frame to Potter on June 12 according to AOL.

Both Janice Cottrill and her husband Dean declined to comment as their attorney, Lorene Johnston, told AOL that the two are “attempting to stir up public sentiment for themselves.” The craziest part of the story as most attorney would say is the case has been reduced to nothing more than a “a simple eviction process for someone who doesn’t own the home and doesn’t pay any rent.” Call me crazy but the man own the home and built it so I am confused. Dean Cottrill did say to WCMH that Potter had filed suit against him and Janice for visitation rights with his song and “For him to stay in that home, it is real simple. Leave Joe alone and stop the lawsuits.” Imagine a father that wants to see his son…hmmmmm…oh yeah this old man deserved everything he gets for being a good dad (I am being sarcastic if you could not tell).

Here is where the help comes in pay attention. Now the granddaughter (pictured left with grandpa) has decided to try and raise the money to keep her grandfather in his house. The goal is $125,000 so she can buy back the house from her mother, so far she has raised as of Wednesday evening $9,442 through donations and a lot of support. She’s set up a fundraising site on GoFundMe.com and says her grandfather is overwhelmed with the support he has received so far. “I hope he gets his house back, and lives out his best years in his house,” donor John Pirrone wrote on Fraley’s fundraising page. “Thank you for coming through for us in WWII, I hope that we can come through for you,” wrote donor Robert Sharpe. One veteran even donated $1,000 to her effort, she said. “The veterans community has been overwhelmingly supportive,” Fraley said. “To see this go almost viral, it’s what happens when one of your wildest dreams come true.” Thank you AOL for reporting on this as the news doesn’t report enough about the good people are doing on a daily basis. If you would like to help out this grandpa representing all of our elderly, please go to the site underneath the YouTube video and pledge your support.

The Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Deval Patrick Boston Marathon

The capture of the second suspect for many closed the first chapter in the mystery surrounding the Boston Marathon Bombing last Monday, but now many not just the government want answers to why and how. As the lone survivor of the Boston Marathon bombing lies in a heavily guarded room recovering from injuries, no one knows what the 19 year old will say or when as on Sunday he was in serious condition after being pulled bloodied and wounded from a tarp covered boat in a Watertown backyard. One thing is for sure, the American Civil Liberties Union and the federal public defender raised concern over the plan to interrogate Dzhokhar Tsarnaev without reading his Miranda Rights. The capture came on Friday night hours after his 26 year old brother Tamerlan died in a gun battle with police. The U.S. official said an elite interrogation team will be used without reading him his rights invoking the exception because of immediate danger to the public such as bombs planted and ready to go off. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero called the legal exception in this case as non-compliant with the rule since the rule states that continued threat to public safety and OT an open ended exception to Miranda rights which guarantees the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. The Massachusetts’ federal public defender’s office said they would represent him once charged, however a lawyer should be give as soon as possible because of issues regarding possible interrogation.

As of right now, no charges have been brought against Tsarnaev as it is unclear what charges will be filed according to Huff Post. The twin bombing injured 180 and killed three which can carry the most serious charge of a possible death sentence because the use of a weapon of mass destruction to kill people, however Massachusetts does not have a death penalty. According to the Associated Press, President Barack Obama said there are many unanswered question about the bombing including whether the brothers had help and to delay judgement about the motives behind it. Gov. Deval Patrick said on Saturday that Tsarnaev is unable to communicate at this time as he is still recovering at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where 11 victims were treated.

The all day manhunt on Friday lead police in Boston to a Watertown neighborhood and left the city for much of the day at a standstill. The break came when a homeowner spotted blood on his boat and pulled back the tarp to see a bloody Tsarnaev hiding inside. After some gunfire, he was seized, taken into custody in an ambulance and to where he currently resides to treat injuries suffered during the battle. During the night, Tsarnaev brothers killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and took part in a shootout and car chase hurling explosives at the police reports AP. The explosives were similar to the ones used at the Boston Marathon attack according to authorities who recovered a pressure cooker lid embedded in a car down the street. Watertown Police Chief Edward Deveau also confirmed that the suspects tossed two grenades before Tamerlan ran out of ammo and police tackled him. But while handcuffed, officers had to dive out of the way as Dzhokhar drove at them in a carjacked Mercedes, while the SUV dragged Tamerlan’s body down the block. Police were able to track the escaped suspect by a blood trail left after abandoning the Mercedes.

Investigators cannot offer a motive for the Boston attack at this time, however interviews with officials and those who knew the brothers has painted a picture of the older brother as someone embittered with the U.S. becoming increasingly radical in his Muslim faith and influential over his brother. According to AP, the Russian FSB intelligence service told the FBI in 2011 that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was a follower of radical Islam two law enforcement officials confirmed Saturday. In an FBI news release, a foreign government possibly Russia said Tamerlan Tsarnaev appeared to be a strong believer and his ideology drastically changed since 2010 as he prepared to leave the U.S. for a region in Russia to join an unspecified group. In response, the FBI interviewed the older brothers and relatives finding no domestic or foreign terrorism activity in phone records, online, his travels or his associations. An uncle of the brothers confirmed a falling out with Tamerlan over increased commitment to Islam and spoke to the fact that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger brother, has had his life wasted by his older brother and was used for his brother’s benefit not his own. A neighbor of the older brother in Cambridge said that Tamerlan had strong political views about the U.S. quoting Tamerlan as sating the U.S. uses the Bible as “an excuse for invading other countries” AP reports. As of Saturday, 50 people remain hospitalized and three in critical condition.

Some lawmakers have criticized the FBI for not placing Tsarnaev under watch after questioning him over radical beliefs. According to Huff Post, on Sunday Sen. Lindsey Graham of, R-S.C., felt the ball had been dropped while Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. said the FBI repeatedly overlooked possible links to terrorist activity among a subset of Muslims in America. A mosque in Cambridge, Mass. confirmed Saturday that the Tsarnaev brothers infrequently attend services at the center that was a 10 minute walk from their apartment. According to a statement released by the Islamic Center of Boston, “In their visits, they never exhibited any violent sentiments or behavior. Otherwise they would have been immediately reported to the FBI. After we learned of their identities, we encouraged anyone who knew them in our congregation to immediate report to law enforcement, which has taken place.” The Los Angeles Times reports that Tamerlan was kicked out of the mosque three months ago after becoming argumentative with the imam leading the service who praised Martin Luther King Jr. Becoming enraged, Tamerlan shouted, “you cannot mention this guy because he’s not a Muslim!” There were no more incidence after that. The statement released by the center also  said, “Right now, our focus will remain on grieving for the victims and their families, praying for a speedy recovery for the injured, and offering what support we can to all in need.” The investigation of course is ongoing into the motivation for the crime.

As the week came to a close, some of Boston resumed some normalcy with tension still running high and another race pays tribute to the fallen and injured. On Saturday, Governor Patrick of Massachusetts and dozens of local and state police appeared at the first home game for the Boston Red Sox since the bombing on Monday. While at home the streets of Boston began to buzz with life again, thousands of runners participating in the London Marathon on Sunday paid tribute to those killed and injured in the Boston Marathon six days earlier. According to the Associated Press, participants paused for a moment of silence in the beginning wearing black ribbons o their chest in solidarity while two runners finished carrying a banner “For Boston.”  As Valerie Bloomfield, a 40 year old participant from France, put it,”It means that runners are stronger than bombers.” The London Marathon is the first major international marathon since the bombing on Monday and some 35,000 runners took part in the race that drew tens of thousands of spectators turning up to show their solidarity and strength with no fear. Authorities in London boosted security by 40 percent adding in extra surveillance to be safe. Many who were present when the bombs exploded in Boston were determined to run in the London Marathon this year. Yet some did show apprehension and anxiety on Sunday as some feared a copy cat bombing might happen telling friends and family not to come.

As the race began, a moment of silence was given to the city of Boston and many showed support for the bruised city. Many in the crowd wore Boston t-shirts as half a dozen police officers mingled and chatted with the runners. Before the race began, announcer Geoff Wightman announced over the loudspeaker that a moment of silence would be given for the city of Boston as running is a global sport that united people in every continent in a spirit of friendship. During the moment of silence, only the buzz of helicopters and beeping trucks could be heard AP reports. Security was on high alert but not intrusive to the race as marathon staff, officials and journalist were bag checked before the race in response to the Boston attack. Marathon organizers plan to donate money to a Boston fund set up for victims, while in Germany 15,000 runners participated in the Hamburg Marathon wearing armbands with the slogan “Run for Boston.”

Meanwhile back in Boston some groups fear retaliation in the form of hate crimes, while the city braces for a very large bill. In the days after the bombing, the region’s Muslim community has condemned the violence and distanced themselves from the suspects. It is unclear if the possible motives were related to politics, religion or difficulty assimilating after immigrating to the United States nearly a decade ago. The Muslim community faces a hard questions now: Do they accept the men as Muslim despite the allegations against them? If so, will Tamerlan get an Islamic burial? Mosques and Islamic groups fear retaliation if associated with the brother after friends and family identified them as Muslim and their interest in Islamic Chechen insurgency groups according to social accounts. Disagreement about whether to bury Tamerlan as a Muslims have arisen among mosques in the Boston area with the Islamic Institute of Boston claiming the brother does not deserve a Muslim burial and the other Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center saying the brother should be buried according to his religious traditions. No funeral has been set as the body is in the possession of law enforcement for forensic experts, medical examiners and investigators to inspect for more details about his death and actions. Several organizations have released statement appealing for restraint and understanding after the identities of the bombing suspects were publicized and reveled to be of Chechen descent, AP reports. As for the amount of money lost because of the bombing, the numbers are only estimates. Due to closed streets and the increase in state resources used for the manhunt, the estimated bill according to Jim Duffley, chief regional economist at research firm IHS, could be between $250 and $333 million per day for the shutdown Business Week reports. The Washington Post’s WonkBlog according to Huff Post took a shot at calculating the cost and put their estimates closer to a billion dollars a day but the effects could be smaller than that more like a major blizzard.

Cheers and Prayers Erupt Nationwide As the Boston Manhunt Ends Friday

Friday night ended with the capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev wanted in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing Monday according to Boston Police Department. According to the Associated Press, authorities say the suspect, along with his slain 26 year old brother, killed an MIT police officer, severely wounded another lawman and hurled explosives at police in a car chase and gun battle. Law enforcement responded to gunfire around 7 p.m. in Watertown, Mass. an hour after lifting the lockdown on the area where Tsarnaev, 19, was hiding in a small boat. Police cornered the suspect not so far from the shootout the previous night that killed his brother and accomplice, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The AP reports the suspects were identified as ethnic ChenChen brothers living in Dagestan neighboring Chechnya in Southern Russia, but had moved to the U.S. a decade ago living in Cambridge, Mass.

David Henneberry was not trying to be a hero when he spotted the 19 year old suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, near his boat following a shootout earlier on Friday. Henneberry tipped off police leading to the capture of the suspect Friday night. Speaking to the “Today” show, family spokesman Robert Duffy described how his stepfather came across the wanted suspect in his 20 foot boat in the backyard. Duffy explained that his mother and David stepped into the backyard to get some air after the ban was lifted and noticed the tarp over the boat was flapping in the wind. He decided to take a closer look at saw the retention strips were cut not worn, so he decided to take a closer look inside the boat noticing a small amount of blood. He knew something was wrong, backing off, and calling the police. The family was moved to a safe location while the police investigated the tip  leaving the family with no way to communicate with their family that they were safe.

Soon after the suspect was taken by ambulance to be treated for his wounds, the streets of Watertown erupted with cheers as the manhunt ended with the suspect alive. According to Huff Post, residents were relieved to see the heavily armed ambulance headed east on Mount Auburn Street even though it was unclear who was inside, but the sense of danger was over. A Justice Department Official, according to Huff Post, says the Boston Marathon suspect will not be read his Miranda rights as the government was invoking a public safety exception. Two officials came forward saying the 19 year old will be questioned by a special interrogation team for high value suspects. The public safety rule allows law enforcement to engage in a limited and focused interrogation of a suspect and allows the government to introduce the statement into evidence in court. The rule may be used when police officers find objectively reasonable need to protect the police or public from immediate danger.

Within the few minutes of the news reaching stadiums, televisions and radios around the country, people began to cheer and shout in elation as the bombing suspect was captured alive. When the news finally sunk in about the second bomber being captured in Watertown, the town and crowds around the country cheered with excitement as police radios echoed the words “suspect in custody.” Sports fans rejoiced after learning Friday night of the capture at stadiums around the country. New York’s Citi Field, home of the Mets, saw fans jump to their feet and cheer at the news during the game with the Washington Nationals chanting “USA!USA!” and similar reactions in Houston, Cincinnati and at the St. Louis Blues’ home game against the Dallas Stars. In Watertown, church bells rang as crowds lined the streets with teenagers waving flags, cars honking, and loud cheers as emergency vehicles went by. Hundreds of people marched down Commonwealth Avenue, chanting “USA” and singing the Red Sox Anthem “Sweet Caroline” heading toward Boston Common as the police blocked off traffic to accommodate the impromptu parade. Fans in Arlington, Texas, Anaheim, California, and San Fransisco Giants sang along with the Rangers, Angels and Giants  to the tune also between innings breaks. In Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, where an 8 year old boy killed in the bombing lived, people set off fireworks in celebration on Friday night.

As people continue to celebrate the capture of the second bomber, many in Boston and around the country are praying not only for the victims of the bombing but for the suspects as well even echoing this sentiment in social media. Prayers for the victims can be seen on twitter, but prayers of another kind are being posted, according to Huff Post, for Tsarnaev. Reverend Manny Alvarez, a preist for the Archdiocese of Miami, tweeted shortly after the arrest that, “A wise young lady just reminded me that as we pray for everyone in Boston, we must pray for this 19 year old too…because we’re Catholic.” CatholicOmnia tweeted from their twitter account: “We also need to remember to pray for the suspect, because we are Catholic. He is also a child of God, after all.” @OpenlyCatholic wrote,”While you’re praying for the suspect, also keep the petitions to heaven going for all the victims of the #BostonBombers , alive and dead.” Besides the clear religiously connected prayers, many other people offered up their elation over the capture even offering up prayers for the suspect as well. In a sleepy town in Kyrgyzstan, where the two brothers lived previously, former neighbors were greeted with shock and disbelief as they recall a quiet family that was never in trouble and two decent, obedient boys.

Silence Speaks Louders Than Words During Holocaust Memorial Day


On Monday, many turned out for the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Yad Vashem memorial with some survivors participating in the “Every Person Has a Name” ceremony that tries to preserve the memories of the many who died during the holocaust by sharing the personalized stories of individuals, families and communities destroyed during World War II. As pictured above six survivors lit six torches representing the six million victims of the Nazi genocide during the opening ceremonies in Jerusalem on Sunday April 7 2013. The annual memorial begun with a ceremony to mark the 70 years since the Warsaw ghetto uprising. Among the crows was a retired American Air Force colonel from San Fransisco who cam to honor his family he never new as Bertrand Huchberger was too young to remember his parents reports the Associated Press. Along with him, his older sister was also sent to the french countryside to escape the Nazis during World War II and for three years was hidden before being sent to an orphanage eventually being adopted by American Jews at 11 and taken to New York.  Now, 75, Huchberger took part in the ceremony by reading the names of his relatives who were all killed. As he explains, “It is still settling in. It was just overwhelming. This place is `terra sancta’ (holy ground) for people who have been associated with the Holocaust. Now I feel that I find myself and my heritage, and it’s just uplifting … it helps build a spiritual bridge to my parents.” At the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, President Shimon Peres, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other officials read names of their relatives killed in the Holocaust.

The country came to a standstill at 10 a.m. Monday to honor the victims with a siren that wails for two minutes across the country as part of the annual tradition with many more poignant moment to follow. The momentary pause allowed everyone to reflect on the past as pedestrians stood still, buses stopped on streets and cars pulled over as the drivers stood on the roads with their heads bowed. Homes and businesses took time to pause and pay homage to the victims of the brutal Nazi genocide that claimed a third of the worlds Jews.  A wreath laying ceremony followed at Yad Vashem with Israeli leaders, Holocaust survivors and visiting U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance while at schools, community centers, and army bases ceremonies took place to commemorate the day with prayers and musical performances. The day marks one of the most solemn days on the calendar in Israel as restaurants, cafes and entertainment shuts down and radio as well as TV programs focus on Holocaust documentaries, interviews with survivors and somber music.

The Israeli flag flew at half-staff to commemorate the day as Peres, 89, in parliament recite the names of his family members and 2060 members of their community who were killed in August 1942 in Vishneva, Poland now Belarus. The Nazis and their local collaborators rounded up the Jews and herded them into wooden synagogue where his grandfather lead the community into the building where the Nazis shot at the structure and set it on fire burning the people to death. This year marks the 70 year anniversary since the Warsaw ghetto uprising symbolizes the Jewish resistance against the Nazis that helped to inspire other acts of uprising and underground resistance. At the opening ceremonies Sunday night at Yad Vashem, Israeli leaders linked the Jewish revolt of 1943 to the warrior mentality that enabled the establishment of Israel five years later reports the Associated Press.  They also tied the Nazi genocide to Iran’s drive to acquire nuclear arms urging the world to stop them as Iranian leaders have denied the scope of the Holocaust while making references to the destruction of Israel. Netanyahu explained, “The murderous hatred against the Jews that has accompanied the history of our people has not disappeared, it has just been replaced with a murderous hatred of the Jewish state. What has changed since the Holocaust is our determination and our ability to defend ourselves.” Just three years after the war Israel was created as hundreds of thousands of survivors came to the country, while today fewer than 200,000 elderly survivors remain and the Jewish genocide of World War II still plays a major role in the Israeli psyche.

Honoring the Past and Embracing the Future

It’s official Pope Francis was formally installed as the Bishop of Rome on Sunday with less of the pomp and pageantry than the usual ritual even taking time to honor those that came before. Francis in another display of his humility toward the post, he arrived at St. John in Latern Basilica to honor a wildly popular past pope by blessing a plaque renaming a corner of the piazza outside the church after Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005. Arriving a half hour early, he gave the blessing after the mayor of Rome unveiled the plaque marked “Giovanni Paul II Square” in one section of the piazza which holds free rock concerts, political and labor rallies. The pope fashion was simple as he wore a plain white cassock and the Italian cardinal wore his red cape. The two hour long installation in the early evening was significant for the church due to the fact a pope is a pontiff because he is elected Bishop of Rome but not visa versa.

The basilica is Rome’s most ancient, with the foundation dating back to the early 4th century, and the ceremony stems from centuries of traditional ritual that modern popes have updated to the times, but Francis is sticking true to his own tradition of simplicity and humility. While most ornately dressed pontiffs in centuries past arrive in horse drawn carriage, Francis came through the side entrance of the basilica complex in an open topped white jeep. Before entering the doors, the vehicle stopped again and again so that the security team could pass babies to him to kiss. When the wind picked up, Francis took off his skull cap exposing his head to the wind and tussling his hair according to the Associated Press. Later Francis wore the peaked bishop’s hat and wearing cream colored vestments sat in the mosaic studded basilica chair known as the “Cathera Romana” which represents the post of Rome’s bishop. He then was handed the pastoral staff, symbolizing a bishop’s care for  his flock. During his homily, Francis said, “It is with joy that I am celebrating the Eucharist for the first time in this Lateran Basilica, the Cathedral of the Bishop of Rome. I greet all of you with great affection… those who love are able to understand, to hope, to inspire confidence; they do not give up, they do not burn bridges, they are able to forgive.”

Throughout the ceremony and well after, the pontiff surprised and delighted the crowd with his humility and continued to set news standards for the church. Francis during the ceremony updated the obedience pledge recited by Cardinal Valilini, who is the pope’s prelate, when professing obedience to the pope’s teaching and leadership replacing the pontiff as being “in an elevated position to govern” with the pontiff as “presiding over the Churches in charity.” In honoring John Paul, Francis also paid tribute to a pontiff who embraced his role as bishop of Rome as the late pontiff would visit Rome parishes, hundreds of them and poor neighborhood on the city’s outskirts on Sunday mornings. When Francis mentioned that John Paul “closed his eyes to this world” eight years ago this month, the new pope drew so much applause he could not finish his sentence the Associated Press reports. Francis may be the pope that decided whether or not the Polish Born Pontiff will receive the church’s highest honor, sainthood. The church process to certify the first miracle needed for John Paul’s beatification only took six years from his death until Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2001 which is the shortest time in modern history and the last formal step before sainthood according to the Associated Press.  The pope in his Vatican apperance on Sunday called for the faithful to “go into the piazzas and announce Christ our savior” to the people and “Bring the Good News with sweetness and respect” referring to the Gospel of course. John Paul, Benedict and Francis have all made shoring up flagging faith a priority of their leaderships. The new pope will be leading the Catholic youth pep rallies this summer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, during a pilgrimage to his home continent.

Remembering the Past to Preserve the Future

Rivaled only by Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Center and the Washington Holocaust Memorial Museum in historical value, Bad Arolsen contains 30 million documents on survivors of Nazi camps, Gestapo prisons, forced laborers and displace persons. One example of the power of preserving the past is George Jaunzemis who received a letter in 2010 from the International Tracing Service in Bad Arsolen which changed his life finding out his real name was Peter Thomas and had a nephew as well as a cousin in Germany. He never knew that the Latvian women he emigrated with to New Zealand was not his mother and had no memory of his early years as he was only three and half at the end of WWII when he separated from his mother as she fled with him from Germany to Belgium. Jaunzemis, 71, told Reuters, “I was astonished, thrilled. After all this time, I was an uncle. You don’t know what it’s like to have no family or childhood knowledge. Suddenly all the pieces fitted, now I can find my peace as a person.” Even though the story has a seemingly happy ending, it took Jaunzemis three decades of searching to find the vast archive in a remote corner of Germany.

Many people don’t even know the archive exists as it was only opened to researchers in 2007 after being widely criticized for overprotecting the original material locked in its facility, but Bad Arolsen still struggles to receive the recognition it deserves says many academics. Only 2,097 people visited Bad Arolsen compared to 900,000 who visited Yad Vashem reports Reuters. Rebecca Boehling, a historian from the Dresher Center for Humanities at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, wants to change this, “We have a new agenda. We’re sitting on a treasure trove of documents. We want people to know what we have. Our material can change our perspective on big topics related to the war and the Holocaust.” Boehling is the first archive director not affiliated with the International Committee of the Red Cross who managed Bad Arolsen since 1955 who handed the reins over to an international commission of 11 countries in January hoping to open the archives for academic study.  Boehling hopes to open the archive for international conferences, get foreign students to use the ITS, publish research and host teachers’ workshops even though the budget of 14 million euros from the German government may not cover it all. The archive, as Boehling believes should be used as an educational tool for the younger generations as the ITS can provide an abundance of personal stories from victims and hope the events they host will draw more than just the townspeople and groups of pupils from nearby.

The location of the archive site in Bad Arolsen was chosen because of its central location between Germany’s four occupation zones and located next to a site where Hitler’s SS officers once had barracks according to Reuters. The problem now is there are no big cities nearby and connections to Berlin and Frankfurt are slow as the town itself is location on the norther edge of the state of Hesse population of just 16,000. The archive itself hold clues to the fate of 17.5 million people housed in a white building that included 25 kilometers of yellowing paper showing typed lists of Jews, homosexuals and other persecuted groups, files on children born to the Nazi Lebensborn program to breed the master race and registers of arrivals as well departures from concentration camps. A carbon copy of Schindler’s List is even housed here with the 1,000 Jewish workers saved by German industrialist Oskar Schindler. As spokeswoman, Kathrin Flor explains, “At death camps like Sobibor or Auschwitz, only natural causes of death are recorded – heart failure or pneumonia. There’s no mention of gassing. The last evidence of many lives is the transport to the camp.”

The ITS receives 12,000 inquiries a month to and reunites 50 families  a year as the number of Holocaust survivors decrease the work continues as the new phenomenon of grandchildren and great grandchildren want to find out about the fate of their loved ones during the war. The task of digitalizing the records is an ongoing project in order to make the archive user friendly and easier to search the large database. Even though the location is remote, Boehling says the archive will not be moved as it has become a memorial to the Holocaust survivors like Auschwitz inmate Thomas Buergenthal who came in 2012 after getting new information on where his father perished Reuters reports. He himself escaped Nazi shooting squads, Auschwitz gas chambers and a death march before the age of 12 later he was found by his mother found him in a Polish orphanage in 1947 through the Red Cross. As he explains from his home in the U.S. at 78, “This is my hallowed ground. These documents are more important for the future than for the past. They will be the common heritage of mankind of what really happened during that period. (They are) what we need to prevent it happening elsewhere in the world.”