Global News Journal
Beyond the World news headlines
The United Nations has been sending mixed signals lately about NATO’s record with civilian casualties in the alliance’s sixth month of air strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s troops and military sites. U.N. officials and diplomats said it was hardly surprising that different senior officials at the world body are finding it hard to keep a consistent line on the conflict, which, back in March, most of them had hoped would be over in a few weeks.
But it has dragged on. Now Gaddafi’s government is complaining about what it says are mounting civilian casualties caused by NATO bombs, many of them children. Diplomats from alliance members acknowledge that there have been some civilian casualties, which they regret. But they question some of the figures that have been coming out of Tripoli. Libya’s state television, which was targeted by NATO late last month, regularly broadcasts gory images of blood-soaked bodies it says are civilians being pulled from rubble after NATO bomb attacks.
Last week the head of the U.N. cultural and scientific agency UNESCO, Irina Bokova, issued an unusually sharp rebuke of the alliance for its July 30 air strikes against Libyan state television, which she said killed several “media workers.”
“I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,” Bokova said in a statement. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions.”
There is something a bit bizarre, yet fascinating, about the way Berlin and the local media mark the anniversaries of the Berlin Wall’s construction on Aug. 13, 1961 and the anniversaries of its collapse on Nov. 9, 1989.
There are many of the same things each time: sombre speeches, fancy ceremonies, countless thousands of stories in the print and TV media and a general consensus that A) the Wall was a horrible thing B) the Communists who built it were loathsome liars C) its collapse was a glorious moment in German history and D) its memory should serve as a global symbol of the yearning for freedom.
Yet like Berlin itself, which has gone through what are probably the most dynamic changes of any big city in Europe in the last two decades, elements of the commemorations have been shifting over the years and the city’s view of the wall has also been transformed. Incredibly enough, some Germans now miss the Wall – a few diehards both east and west who feel their standing of living has gone down since 1989 want it back the most (about 10 percent, according to a recent poll) . But many others, especially those too young to remember it, lament that there is so little left of it to see and feel.
Indeed, almost all of the Wall is gone. Yet 10 million tourists still come to Berlin each year looking for it. “Where’s the Wall?” is probably one of the most commonly asked questions by visitors. The answer – unfortunate or fortunate, depending on your point of view – is that there’s almost nothing left.
It was all torn down in a rush to obliterate the hated barrier in late 1989 and early 1990. Only a few small segments were saved – one 80 metre-long section, for instance, behind the Finance Ministry that was saved thanks to one Greens politician who declared it to under “Denkmalschutz” – a listed monument. That enraged many Berliners at the time.
Despite the lack of Berlin Wall to look at and touch, a thriving cottage industry has grown up at some of the places where it once stood. You can get a “DDR” stamp in your passport if you want from a menacing looking soldier in an authentic East German border guard uniform (who appreciates tips) at Checkpoint Charlie or have your picture taken with others wearing Russian army uniforms. You can buy Wall souvenirs at many of the points where the Wall once stood.
Some leaders such as Mayor Klaus Wowereit now admit it might have been a mistake, from today’s point of view, to so hastily tear down all but a few tiny bits of the Wall in 1989. “There’s a general complaint that the demolition of the Wall was a bit too extensive,” he told me recently. “That’s understandable from today’s point of view and it would probably have been better for tourists if more of it could have been preserved. But at the time we were all just so happy to see the Wall gone.”
Today marks the 65th anniversary of the end of World War Two. No big deal, you might say. And on the surface there is certainly nothing all that extraordinary about May 7, 2010. There has been none of the celebrating that marked the 40th or 50th or even 60th anniversaries.
But what is interesting about this 65th anniversary of the end of the fighting in Europe is that it means every German (and Austrian) born before the war’s end has now reached retirement age. In other words, the entire war-era generation – even those who were infants on V-E Day – is now in retirement. It means all those running Germany now – in government or management, or running factories or driving busses – had, as documented by their birth certificates, nothing whatsoever to do with World War Two.
February 2003. Anti-French sentiment sweeps across the United States. President George W. Bush and his top aides can barely contain their irritation at the French government for undermining U.S.-led efforts to get the U.N. Security Council to authorize the impending invasion of Iraq. With the aid of Germany and Russia, France torpedoes the drive for a new resolution authorizing war. Frustration erupts into anger. Bottles of French wine and champagne are emptied into toilets and some restaurants rename French fries “freedom fries.”
from Afghan Journal:
It must take a particularly determined lot to bomb a bus full of pilgrims, killing scores of them, and then following the wounded to a hospital to unleash a second attack to kill some more. Karachi's twin explosions on Friday, targeting Shia Muslims on their way to a religious procession were on par with some of the worst atrocities committed in recent months.
It also came just two days after a bombing in Lower Dir, near Swat, in which a convoy of soldiers including U.S. servicemen were targeted while on their way to open a girls school. Quite apart from the fact that the U.S. soldiers were the obvious targets, the renewed violence along with fresh reports of flogging by the Taliban calls into question the broader issue of negotiating with hard-core Islamists as proposed by the Afghan government just over the border.
from Africa News blog:
The simple answer to the question of how many people died in Congo’s civil war is “too many”.
Trying to get a realistic figure is fraught with difficulties and a new report suggests that a widely used estimate of 5.4 million dead – potentially making Congo the deadliest conflict since World War Two - is hugely inaccurate and that the loss of life may be less than half that.
from The Great Debate UK:
- François Grignon is Director of the Africa Program at the International Crisis Group. the opinions expressed are his own. -
Four years ago, the Sudanese people were promised a brighter future. A peace deal had finally ended the two-decades-long civil war between north and south, which killed more than two million people and devastated the south. But today, that bright future is looking decidedly tarnished, and Sudan is sliding towards violent breakup.
If there were a Nobel Prize for Theology, large parts of President Barack Obama's Oslo speech could be cut and pasted into an acceptance speech for it. The Peace Prize speech dealt with war and he made a clear case from the start for the use of force when necessary. While he began with political arguments for this position, his rationale took on an increasingly religious tone as the speech echoed faith leaders and theologians going back to the origins of Christianity.
It started with a hat-tip to Rev. Martin Luther King when he said "our actions matter, and can bend history in the direction of justice" -- echoes of King's 25 March 1965 Montgomery speech saying "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
Entering the Munich court this week to cover the trial of John Demjanjuk, 89, accused of helping to force 27,900 Jews into gas chambers at an extermination camp in 1943, was like stepping into a history book.
Inevitably, the spotlight was on Demjanjuk himself.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s most wanted Nazi war suspect lay under a white blanket on a mobile bed in the middle of the courtroom. Was this old, expressionless and clearly weak man really the “face of evil”?