North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Germanys Anniversary and current challenge

Germany's capitol building lit up for the celebration

On October 3, 1990, Germany was formally reunited - its West German and East German components combined after the fall of the Soviet Union. This past Sunday, October 3, 2010, Germany marked 20 years since reunification with pomp and ceremonies — and a final payment for outstanding interest due on loans dating back to the end of World War I. The reunited country has emerged as the economic powerhouse of Europe and a leader on the world stage. The final payment was a symbolic (though quite real) gesture, marking the end of financial obligations imposed by the victorious nations after WWI, but which had also set up the discontent which Adolf Hitler exploited on his way to seizing power.

An alternative choice would have been the day the Berlin Wall came down—November 9, 1989, which coincided with the anniversary of the proclamation of the German Republic in 1918 and the defeat of Hitler's first coup in 1923. However, 9 November was also the anniversary of the first large-scale Nazi-led pogroms against Jews in 1938 (Kristallnacht), so the day was considered inappropriate as a national holiday.

Besides the final payment, there were celebrations and street parties around Germany including one at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, where the infamous wall of separation had been, as well as the scene where the equally famous Berlin Airlift kept West Berlin from starving by a Soviet blockade for 10 months between June 1948 and May 1949.

Street celebrations at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate

While Germany's East-West boundaries have blurred over time, many "Ossis" and "Wessis" – the nicknames for those born and raised in the east and west – still seem to stick to old mindsets and keep to themselves. The two increasingly live side-by-side in German cities, but it's still relatively rare for social circles to cross the east-west divide.

Angela Merkel, the current Chanceller of Germany (Europe's richest country), still hoards food. That's how much power Cold War-era habits still hold over Germans like Merkel who grew up in the communist East, a full two decades after reunification. The chancellor still does her laundry with an East German liquid detergent, prepares East Germans' favorite Soljanka soup (made with sausages and pickle juice) – and can't fight the urge to stockpile goods she sees at the supermarket. "This inclination to hoard is deeply ingrained in me, because in the past, in times of scarcity, you took what you could get," Merkel said, referring to former times under communism when people would stand in line for hours to buy a few bananas or oranges.

While the dark challenges of the 20th century (WWI, The Third Reich, WWII, divisions between Communist East and Democratic West) have been met, a new challenge has emerged in this century - the rise of militant Islam that affects even the blond, blue-eyed Germany nation. US drone attacks in Pakistan the last few days have killed German militants who were in the Taliban controlled areas, training to return to Germany and other European Union countries to conduct mass killings. The plot has led to French security forces arresting a dozen suspected Islamist militants in the country's south, the US issuing a travel warning to citizens traveling in Europe, and a intensification of surveillance in Great Britain of its hardline Islamic population.

German police and intelligence authorities say over 100 Muslims who grew up in Germany have travelled to terrorism training camps in the tribal border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan in recent years, and that many of them have returned. The head of Germany's police federation, Konrad Freiberg, said there were some 40 militants living in Germany who had received explosives training. "An increasing number of people have traveled from Germany to the training camps there -- and many of them returned and are now living here. ...We have to expect attacks." He said the police didn't have the means to keep them under 24-hour surveillance.

Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere reiterated on Wednesday that Germany had no indications that any attack was imminent. "No one should be in any doubt that Germany too is a target area for terrorists, but that on the other hand there is no concrete imminent attack plan that we are aware of," he told Deutschlandfunk radio.

The center of Germany Islamic extremism loosely centers around a mosque in Hamburg - the Al-Quds Mosque. The mosque was a center of extremist teaching, and one that Mohammed Atta, the leader of the September 11, 2001 attacks, attended. It took nearly nine years before German authorities finally shut the mosque down on August 9 2010 along with an adjacent cultural center, and banned the cultural organization behind it. The Taiba organization's committee was notified of the ban early Monday, according to a statement from the Interior Senate of Hamburg. "At the same time, the group's premises and the homes of its leading members were searched and the organization's funds seized," the statement said.

The Al-Quds mosque and cultural center now shut down and guarded by police

"Recent events have again shown that instructional courses, sermons and seminars held by the organization and texts published on its website are not only aimed against constitutional regularity, but also seek to radicalize their listeners and readers," the town statement said. Christoph Ahlhaus, Hamburg's Interior Minister, said "Behind the scenes, an alleged cultural organization has shamelessly exploited the freedoms of our constitutional democracy to promote the cause of the 'holy war,'" pointing out that the courses, sermons and seminars at the mosque "spread an ideology that was hostile to democracy" and sought to radicalize young Muslims. Ahlhaus insisted that Hamburg "must not serve as the incubator for Islamists willing to use violence."

German Islamic militants who gathered at the mosque


Sarah said...

fascinating about the hoarding of food! So amazing how things are so deeply ingrained in us though you'd think that the Chancellor wouldn't find herself doing it!

Also - amazing that the final payment for WW1 was just paid. Are there still payments being made for WW2? For other wars? Are other countries paying for other wars?? I didn't know that happened.

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