The Witch Hunt Continues in Papua New Guinea as Two More Are Beheaded

As police standby last week, two elderly women were beheaded after three days of torture by an angry mob which is the latest in a string of sorcery related crimes. According to the Post-Courier police could not overtake the angry mob leaving them helpless to save the two women from a grisly public death. As Bougainville police inspector Herman Birengka explained to the paper: “We were helpless. We could not do anything” as his officers were threatened while trying to release the women. He described the killing as barbaric and senseless as the women were held captive since Tuesday by relatives of a former school teacher who died recently. He explained that, “The two women were rounded up and taken to Lopele village after they were suspected of practising sorcery and blamed for the death of the former teacher, who was from Lopele village.” The report states that the two women were tortured for three days, suffering axe and knife wounds, before the beheading in front of the police who were there to mediate. The reports comes only days after another report that six women accused of witchcraft were tortured with hot irons in an Easter sacrifice in the southern Highlands and just last month a women accused of the same was burned to death by a mob. Amnesty international  is calling for the government to end the sorcery related violence in Papua New Guinea and stamp out the practice where there is a widespread belief in sorcery and where people do not accept natural causes to explain a death. In recent years, there has been several of these cases as well as cannibalism in the country even reports of a man eating his screaming newborn as part of a sorcery initiation ceremony in 2011.

 

Here Comes World War III

The comparisons are numerous only this time we managed to put ourselves smack-dab in the middle of the controversy that does not directly involve the United States. Isn’t this really a matter for the United Nations to take care of? Is history really going to repeat itself? The reason for the two photos is to compare the rallies of now and the rallies of the past which seem to look rather similar. In today’s times, a little overreaction goes a long way as the world prepares for some sort of conflict whether on a large scale like World War or on a smaller scale such as the Korean War: The Remix. Let’s look at the facts and decide for yourself whether they add up to something we all should be concerned about.

On Wednesday North Korea ratified, according to Reuters, the following:

“We formally inform the White House and Pentagon that the ever-escalating U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK (North Korea) and its reckless nuclear threat will be smashed by the strong will of all the united service personnel and people and cutting-edge smaller, lighter and diversified nuclear strike means of the DPRK and that the merciless operation of its revolutionary armed forces in this regard has been finally examined and ratified,” a spokesman for the General Staff of the Korean People’s Army said in a statement carried by the English language service of the state news agency KCNA. (Writing by Kevin Liffey; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

If these are empty threats as most of the U.S. government even South Korea believes then why are we taking precautions? According to the Agence France Presse, the United States has set up THAAD missile defense battery to defend its bases on the Pacific island of Guam following threats from North Korea on Wednesday said the Pentagon. The news came after two Aegis anti-missile destroyers were sent to the western Pacific to intercept any North Korean strikes against the U.S. or allied targets. Guam is a U.S. territory 2100 miles southeast of North Korea in the Pacific Ocean which is home to 6,000 American military personnel, including Marines, submarine and bomber crews (hello, Pearl Harbor).

Does the United States actually know what technology North Korea has or doesn’t have? Short answer would be no. North Korea reports the Associated Press moved a missile with considerable range to the east coast on Thursday according to South Korea’s defense minister but said there was no sign of the North preparing for full scale conflict. The report came hours after he statement release to authorize the attack on the U.S. see above. It is believed that the North at this time does not have the technology to miniaturize nuclear bombs in order to mount them on long range missiles. South Korean Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin has dismissed reports in the Japanese media that the missile could be a KN-08 which does have the capabilities to hit the United States if operable. He believes the missile does not have enough range to hit the U.S. mainland and could be the missile know to the North Koreans as Musudan with a range of 1800 miles which could make South Korea, Japan and U.S. bases in both countries targets even though he doubts the accuracy of the missile.

Analysts and experts see the threats of strikes and a potential war as North Korea’s way to provoke softer policy with South Korea, to win diplomatic talks with Washington and to show the strength of their leader Kim Jong Un. As Kim has said the North is not preparing for a full scale conflict as they have shown no signs of mobilization of troops, but does worry about a small scale provocation against the South as in 2010 with the shelling of a South Korean island where four people were killed. The N0rth has become increasingly agitated by the joint U.S. South Korean military exercises taking place in the South as well as the U.N. sanctions for its February nuclear test.

With all the rhetoric it makes hard to believe that full scale war will break out, but some of North Korea’s actions do have some cause for concern. On Tuesday, North Korean announced the restarting of their plutonium reactor and the construction need to restart has already begun according to the U.S. research institute. For the second day on Thursday, the Northern border authorities denied entry to South Korea who manage jointly run factories in Kaesong in North Korea, but allowed South Koreans to return home. The South has already come up with a plan if the North takes workers hostage in Kaesong according to Defense Minister Kim. North Korea has started working to rebuild their nuclear arms program especially working toward an atomic bomb small enough to mount on a long range missile as Kim Jung Un has made it a priority for the North to build their nuclear arsenal along with rebuilding their economy. The U.S. Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies looked at recent commercial satellite imagery of Nyongbyon nuclear facility which was shutdown in 2007 under the disarmament agreement discovered that one cooling tower for the reactor was destroyed in 2008. As the Associated Press reports the analysis published on Wednesday to the institute’s website, 38 North, says the tower will take six months to rebuild but a recent March 27 photo shows the building may have already started for an alternative cooling system that could be operational in weeks even though experts believe it could take three months to year to restart the reactor.

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.”

Korean War Part II: The Remix

Ban Kimoon North KoreaYongbyon Nuclear Plant

As North Korea has already made public the cutting of communication with South Korea and the ignoring of the armistice that ended the Korean War, the fear of war breaking out in the region is very real as the worldwide community waits with bated breath to see what North Korea will do next. The United Nation chief has already chimed in with fears North Korea is on a collision course with other nations that could lead to war. With recent sanctions on North Korea’s nuclear program and threats of potential strikes on the United States, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon believe the isolated nation appears to be “on a collision course with the international community” amid rising tensions on the Korean Peninsula reports the Associated Press. Ban (pictures above), a former South Korean Foreign Minister, said Tuesday in Andorra that the crisis has gone too far because of increasing threats of war by North Korea against the United States and South Korea. He said international negotiations are needed now even though he believes no one intends on attacking North Korea.

North Korea said Tuesday it will escalate production of nuclear weapons materials including restarting the plutonium reactor which leads many outsiders to believe that Pyongyang is trying to extract concessions from the United States by fear of war. As the Associated Press reports, the North’s General Department of Atomic Energy announced their scientist will begin readjusting and restarting uranium enrichment that could make a bomb’s worth of plutonium each year as experts consider the announcement a public declaration that the highly enriched uranium could be used for bomb fuel. The declaration has Washington and its allies concerned that North Korea’s timetable for a nuclear tipped missile aimed at the United States may happen sooner than later even though it is believed to be years away from that technology. The recent weeks are seen as an effort by Pyongyang to force disarmament for aid talks with Washington and to boost domestic loyalty to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un by portraying him as a powerful leader according to Hwang Jihwan, a North Korean expert at the University of Seoul reports the Associated Press. The Korean Central News Agency stated that the North Korean atomic spokesman said the measure is meant to address the country’s electricity shortahe but also to “bolstering up the nuclear armed force both in quality and quantity.” The Uranium enrichment program worries outsiders due to the fact that the technology can be hidden much easier than huge plutonium facilities and highly enriched uranium can be used for nuclear weapons. Kim Jin Moo, a North Korean expert at the Korean Insitute for Defense Analysis in South KOrea, believes the announcement of highly enriched uranium through adjustments is North Korea’s way of “blackmailing the international community by suggesting that it will now produce weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium.” China, Pyongyang’s only major economic and diplomatic supporter, expressed disapproval as Chinese Poreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei stated: “We noticed North Korea’s statement, which we think is regrettable.”

Pyongyang conducted a nuclear test in February prompting new U.N, sanctions that caused North Korea to declare that the armistice ending the Korean War in 1953 is void shutting down communication with Seoul, threatening to launch strikes against the U.S. and its allies, and recently declaring at a high level government assembly to make nuclear arms and a stronger economy as the top priority. The Korean Peninsula is in a state of war a the truce not peace treaty ended the Korean War and the United States stationed 28, 500 troops in South Korea as a deterrent to the North. Washington has taken all of the North’s threat seriously even though the White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that the U.S. has not detected any military mobilization or reposition from Pyongyang. As the North raises the stakes, the United States took it a step further by flying nuclear capable bombers and stealth jets at the annual South Korean U.S. military drills. The latest atomic test from the North in February led to the sanctions against the Asian nations as it could not be determined whether highly enriched uranium or plutonium stockpiles were used since other countries including South Korea failed to detect radioactive elements that may have been leaked from the test.

 

 

 

Controlling the Multibillion-Dollar Global Arms Trade

As the United States continues to debate gun laws and regulations, the United Nations seems to be having an easier time agreeing on how to regulate the global arms trade by adopting an international gun treaty after decades of trying to keep illicit weapons out of the hand of terrorists, insurgents, and organized crimes. The U.N. General Assembly approved the first treaty to regulate the multi-billion dollar global arms trade with a vote of 154 to 3 with 23 abstentions as the assembly chamber broke out with applause and cheers as the numbers were revealed. As the British Foreign Secretary William Hague states, “This is an historic day and a major achievement for the United Nation. The world wanted this treaty and would not be thwarted by the few who sought to prevent the introduction of robust, effective and legally-binding controls on the international trade in weapons.” The treaty will take effect once the 50 countries ratify it and much depends on who does or doesn’t as well as how it’s implemented. Last Thursday, Iran, North Korea and Syria blocked the adoption by consensus at a negotiating conference and on Tuesday the three voted “no” on the resolution while Russia and China abstained as they are both major arms exporters pushing Britain and other treaty supporters to seek a vote. The United states as well as many countries who voted for the treaty  control their arms exports, but there has never been an international treaty to regulate it. Australian Ambassador Peter Woolcott believes that the treaty will “make an important difference by reducing human suffering and saving lives.” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry agreed but stressed that the treaty only applies to the international trade “and reaffirms the sovereign right of any state to regulate arms within its territory.”

The three countries which opposed the treaty and many countries that abstained complained that the treaty has many loopholes and can easily be “politicized” stating the key argument is the treaty favors  exporters like the United States over importers who need arms for self-defense and doesn’t include provision to ban sales to armed groups, according to the Associated Press. The treaty does not cover domestic arms trade, but will require countries who ratify it to establish national regulations to control transfers of conventional arms, parts and components as well as arms brokers. According to Diplomats, on the insistence of the United States a list of regulated arms was dropped- it covers battle tanks, armored combat vehicles, large caliber artillery systems, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles launchers, small arms and light weapons- leading many supporters to believe that this will limit the scope of the treaty. The treaty prohibits ratified states to transfer conventional weapons if they violate arms embargoes or promoted genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes as well as prohibits the exports of conventional arms if they are used on civilians or civilian building such as schools and hospitals. The treaty also requires parties to take measures to prevent the spread of weapons to illicit markets.

Ammunition was a key issue in negotiations as some countries want the same controls as for arm sales, but the United States and others opposed such tough restrictions according to the Associated Press. The final decision for each ratified country calls for the establishment of regulations for export of ammunition “fired, launched or delivered” by the weapons covered by the convention. Hopes of reaching an agreement were dashed last July when the U.S. followed by Russia and China needed more time to consider the accord, so the General Assembly in December decided to hold their final conference and deadline last Thursday. This time, the United States supported the final text, but Iran, North Korea and Syria used the U.S. consensus requirement to block adoption of the treaty however a provision in the treaty allowed the U.N. members to go to the assembly for a vote if consensus wasn’t reached. The General Assembly resolution had over a 100 cosponsors before the vote on Tuesday and it only required a majority vote from the 193 member world body. As Brian Wood, Amensty Internatoinal’s head of arms control and human rights, had this to say adter the vote according to the Associated Press: “The world has been waiting a long time for this historic treaty. Despite Iran, North Korea and Syria’s deeply cynical attempt to stymie it, the overwhelming majority of the world’s nations have shown resounding support for this lifesaving treaty with human rights protection at its core.” The treaty will be open for signatures from member states on June 3 and the supporters will continue to campaign to get all the countries to sign and then ratify it.

 

The Ongoing Korean War

 

On Wednesday, North Korea announced it was cutting the last line of communication with South Korea as war could break out any moment warning the United States and South Korea of nuclear attack a few days earlier. The threat comes in line with the latest from North Korea in response to new U.N. sanctions imposed after the third nuclear test in February and to hostile military drills under way in South Korea with the United States according to Reuters. The North stopped communicating with the U.S. military that supervises the heavily armed Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and the Red Cross line that both sides use. As the North’s KCNA news agency reports, a military spokesman stated that, “Under the situation where a war may break out at any moment, there is no need to keep north-south military communications which were laid between the militaries of both sides. There do not exist any dialogue channel and communications means between the DPRK and the U.S. and between the north and the south.”

However, few believe North Korea, formally known as Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), will start a full scale war as North and South Korea are still at war after the 1950-1953 civil conflict ended with an armistice not a treaty which the North will not honor anymore, Reuters reports. The “dialogue channel” used everyday is to process South Koreans who work in the Kaesong industrial project which is comprised of 123 South Korean firms who employ 50,000 North Koreans to make household goods and on average 120 South Koreans are stationed here at any one time. It is the last remaining project the two Koreas share as South Korea cut off aid and trade in response to the shooting of South Korean tourist in Pyongyang and the sinking of a naval vessel. As a last resort, Pyongyang would close Kaesong which is one of the last currency earners for North Korea doing $2 billion a year in trade with the South. The South said it would take steps to protect the workers at Kaesong but would not elaborate according to Reuters.

As the Death Toll Rises, The Great Gun Debate Rages On

From the Debates at home to the debate abroad, the U.S. needs to address and take a firm stance on gun control as the death toll rises. Everyday more people are dying from gun related deaths and nobody has address the real issue which is not the second amendment but finding better ways to regulate the gun trade in America. Here is a compilation of events that will make any American whether for or against gun control to think twice about what is really important.

Hitler Gun Control

When Ohio’s school board president posted her opposition to gun control she used Adolf Hitler’s image to get her point across, while a well known conservative commentator argued about the efforts to restrict guns he commented that if the Jews in Poland had more arms there would of been more survivors of the Holocaust. In the months since the Newtown shooting in Connecticut, some gun rights supports have compared the U.S. gun control efforts to Nazi restrictions on firearms arguing the government is leaving the people defenseless against tyrants reports the Associated Press. Isn’t that what the military is for? However some experts argue that the argument distorts history since Hitler loosened tight gun laws governing World War I Germany evening barring Jews from owning weapons and moved to take them away. Oh those fact checkers strike again. Gun advocates who cite Hitler in the U.S. gun debate fail to realize that Jews in the 1930s Germany were a small population with few guns before Nazis take over, even though it fits the current debate the truth is that Hitler’s firearms laws made no difference in the Jews’ survival. As historian Steve Paulsson, an expert whose family survived the city’s destruction, said, “Objectively, it might have made things worse” if the Jews who fought the Nazis in the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising in Poland had more and better guns. Nonetheless the comparison remains strong online as former Major League Baseball pitcher John Rocker wrote in January, “Absolute certainties are a rare thing in this life, but one I think can be collectively agreed upon is the undeniable fact that the Holocaust would have never taken place had the Jewish citizenry of Hitler’s Germany had the right to bear arms and defended themselves with those arms.” National Rifle Association President David Keene thinks the analogy is appropriate – Gov Andrew Cuomo depicted as Hitler at a New York rally in February- during an radio interview on March 1 saying, “Folks that are cognizant of the history, not just in Germany but elsewhere, look back to that history and say we can’t let that sort of thing happen here.”

However according to the Associated Press, the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, has asked that Hitler and the Nazis be kept out of the debate saying the rhetoric “is such an absurdity and so offensive and just undermines any real understanding of what the Holocaust was about. If they do believe it, they’re making no serious examination of what the Nazi regime was about.” As Harcourt explains, “To suggest that the targeting of Jews in any of the gun regulations or any of the other regulations is somehow tied to Nazis’ view of guns is entirely misleading because the Nazis believed in a greater deregulation of firearms. Firearms were viewed, for the good German, were something to which they had rights.” U.S. gun rights advocates disagree pointing to the 1943 Warsaw ghetto uprising where 700 armed Jews fought off  a large German force for days until they fled to tunnels and the ghetto was burn to the ground house by house. The problem with this argument as Paulsson points o9ui is that if the Polish Jews would of limited their resistance the Nazi troops might not have destroyed the ghettos allowing more to survive and escape, but when they chose to fight other times in 1930s and 1940s Poland it incited vicious counter attacks. However, Heller a gun activist said the uprising and ore guns might not have stopped the Holocaust but gave the Jews a fighting chance and saved many from the concentration camp according to the Associated Press. But Paulsson, whose mother was freed from Auschwitz at the end of the war, dismisses this twisting of facts: “Ideologues always try to shoehorn history into their own categories and read into the past things that serve their own particular purposes.”

Thousands of gun deaths since Newtown

The Huffington Post has tracked gun-related deaths in the United States since Newtown. Click here for an interactive map of those who have died. In the 98 days since the Sandy Hook Massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, guns have killed at least 2,243 more people. Click here to read about the thousands of gun deaths since by Huff Post “One Nation Under Guns.”

Arms Trade Treaty Nra

The United Nation’s Arms Trade Treaty, an international convention on small arms sales now being negotiated at the United Nations this week and next in New York, has drawn more than a 100 demonstrators at Lafayette Square on Friday urging the U.S. to back the treaty according to Huff Post. The supporters are optimistic even though the treaty would face political and policy hurdles. Salil Shetty, secretary general of Amnesty Internation, told the Huff Post before addressing the protestors across from the White House that, “We are still very hopeful that we’ll end up with a treaty. The important thing is [that the Arms Trade Treaty must] protect human lives and protect human rights. We will get a treaty, the question is ‘how good is it, how strong is it?’ That’s a bit up in the air right now.” The intended purpose for the treaty would be to prevent the transfer of arms across boarders to governments using  them in war crimes, genocide and other human rights violations. There are a few sticking points though. Among the most contentious was ammunition sales as opposed to weapons sales would be covered in the treaty as the United States delegation opposes including ammunition in the ATT which has angered a number of protestors. As Shetty explains to the Huff Post: “The argument the U.S. is making is a very practical one, saying that it’s very difficult to track [things like ammunition]. But there are many governments that produce ammunition, and they’re not blocking [it from being included in the treaty].” As Paul O’Brien, the vice president of policy and campaigns for the human rights group Oxfam explains, “We’re confident we’re going to get something. But something isn’t good enough. If we don’t get a strong treaty, it’s not going to mean anything for the people on the wrong end of violence.”

What would it be without the National Rifle Association voicing its concern? Well of course the NRA chimed in along with strong resistance stateside from gun rights advocates portraying the treaty as in international poly to deprive Americans of their Second Amendment rights states the Huff Post as NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre demanded last summer during a U.N. speech: “We have watched [the treaty] with increasing concern and, one year ago, I delivered … our objections to including civilian arms in the ATT. I said then, and I will repeat now, that the only way to address NRA’s objections is to simply and completely remove civilian firearms from the scope of the treaty.” During the predawn hours of Saturday, two amendments were put forth in the Senate: one to prohibit the U.S. from signing the ATT which was approved in the Senate 53-46 and the other to affirm that the international treaty would not trump the U.S. Constitution which passed by a voice vote. According to Huff Post, both amendments will be worked on in committee then proceed to the House as the Senate departed for Easter recess after passing the budget bill.