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Archive for the ‘International Affairs’ Category

“The Polish police said Friday that the iron sign over the gate to the Auschwitz memorial with the infamous phrase ‘arbeit macht frei’ — ‘work sets you free’ — has been stolen.

“Katarzyna Padlo, a police spokeswoman, said the police believe it was taken between 3:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. Friday.

“Ms. Padlo, who was quoted by The Associated Press, said the sign over the main entrance to Auschwitz, the former Nazi death camp in southern Poland, near Krakow, was removed by being unscrewed on one side and pulled off on the other. She said the authorities immediately launched an intensive search.

“The sign was erected soon after Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi extermination camp, was built in May 1940, and more than a million people died during the four-and-a-half years of Auschwitz’s existence. The victims were mainly Jewish men, women and children but included Polish political prisoners, Soviet prisoners of war, Roma families, gay men and lesbians, people with disabilities and prisoners of conscience.

“The camp was liberated by the Red Army on Jan. 27, 1945.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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“Egypt’s most senior antiquities official will visit Britain tomorrow to push on with a campaign to have the Rosetta Stone returned from the British Museum to its native country.

“Speaking in his offices, amid piles of Pharaonic books, museum records and archaeological dig requests, Zahi Hawass, the head of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, said he would not be swayed by the British Museum’s refusal to return the item, which he considers the ‘icon of Egyptian identity’.

“Dr Hawass, who will meet egyptologists in London, has been encouraged in his campaign by his success in securing the return of five ancient fresco fragments from the Louvre in Paris. Dr Hawass is also pursuing the return of the Queen Nefertiti bust from Neues Museum, Berlin, the Dendera Zodiac from the Louvre and a bust of the pyramid builder Ankhaf from the Boston Museum of Fine Art. Dr Hawass, 52, said he has an ‘entire department’ working to uncover evidence of other stolen Egyptian antiquities.

“‘We have evidence, direct evidence, that proves exactly what was stolen. For all of our history our heritage was stolen from us. It is important for Egyptians that it is returned,’ he said.” (cont’d @ TimesOnline)

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“It was a revolution that began with a lie.

Vaclav Havel, the dissident leader who spearheaded the Velvet Revolution that overthrew communism in Czechoslovakia and kicked off twenty years ago on November 17, 1989, once declared that ‘truth and love must triumph over lies and hatred.’ Yet the revolution — its name a reference to the clenched fist in the velvet glove — was sparked by a false rumor that to this day remains a mystery.

“On Tuesday, thousands of Czechs are expected to march through the streets here, to the sound of wailing sirens and the growls of police dogs, eerily replicating a non-violent student march, 20 years ago, in which police rounded on demonstrators and rumors spread that a 19 year-old mathematics students named Martin Smid had been brutally killed. Scores had indeed been violently beaten. But no one, in fact, had died.

“Jan Urban, a dissident leader and journalist who helped to disseminate the lie, recalled in an interview that news of the alleged death had spread quickly, helping to wake a nation out of its collective apathy and lighting the spark — eight days after the fall of the Berlin Wall — for the peaceful rebellion that culminated in the regime’s demise.” (cont’d @ NY  Times)

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cheney-panicAndrew Sullivan wonders, “Is Cheney Panicking?”:

“The one thing you saw most plainly in the Plame affair is how obsessed Dick Cheney is with public image, the chattering classes and spinning stories that might reflect poorly on him. The act is the elder statesman, authoritatively reviewing the world scene, soberly making judgments, calmly explaining it later to those pesky people who are required to elect you every four years. The reality is a man who lost it on 9/11, leapt immediately to apocalyptic conclusions, and then, as the dust cleared, was unable to go back on the war crimes he had authorized and so dug in ever more deeply to justify them. I don’t think anyone begrudges that kind of misjudgment at the beginning, although one would have hoped for calmer heads in a crisis, but the attempt to institutionalize the torture of first resort into an entire program of black sites, torture manuals, Orwellian euphemisms, and legal fantasy was bound, like the institutionalization of Gitmo, to collapse under any successor who actually wanted to return the US to the rule of law and the world of civilized nations.

“Did Cheney believe he could hide all this for ever?

“Did he believe that hundreds of randomly seized human beings could be consigned to the black hole of Gitmo for ever? And was he really going to launch this kind of appalling attacks on his successors whenever they tried to move past this stuff or be forced, by the law itself and the Geneva Conventions, to investigate and prosecute violations of core human rights?

“The ratcheting up of the rhetoric – ‘I think you have to be very careful. The world outside there — both our friends and our foes — will be quick to take advantage of a situation if they think they’re dealing with a weak president or one who’s not going to stand up and aggressively defend America’s interests’ – is particularly Weimar. He’s lashing out now, and using his surrogates to write chilling op-eds defending all of it. I see this as a sign of weakness, not strength. Obama draws these people out like moths to the flame.

“That flame is the truth. Let us see it all.”

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killingfieldHolocaust deniers aside, the world is not ignorant of the systematic Nazi slaughter of some six million Jews in World War II. People know of the gas chambers in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen; many have heard of the tens of thousands shot dead in the Ukrainian ravine of Babi Yar. But little has been known about the hundreds — perhaps thousands — of smaller killing fields across the former Soviet Union where some 1.5 million Jews met their deaths.

“That is now changing. Over the past few years, the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum and research center in Israel has been investigating those sites, comparing Soviet, German, local and Jewish accounts, cross-checking numbers and methods. The work, gathered under the title ‘The Untold Stories,’ is far from over. But to honor Holocaust Remembrance Day, which starts Monday evening, the research is being made public on the institution’s Web site.” (more @ NY Times)

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“In “Defiance,” a clunky but well-meaning action film set during World War II and starring Daniel Craig, the Bielski brothers save hundreds of fellow Polish Jews by battling Nazis in the Belarussian forest. Directed by Edward Zwick and based on a true story, the movie, released around New Year’s, tried among other things to counter Hollywood’s usual tales of Jewish helplessness during the Shoah.

“Whether it did, or instead implied that Jews who didn’t fight bore a measure of responsibility for their own fate, became a matter of some passing debate in America.

“But the film provoked a different sort of fuss shortly before it arrived here some weeks later. Movie critics in Poland wondered whether Hollywood would ever get around to showing Polish partisans as heroes, as opposed to anti-Semites. . . .

“As Europe diversifies, nearly every nation and culture on the continent seems to battle for victimhood status. Poles have especially good reason to see themselves as long oppressed, having been fought over and occupied for much of the last century by vicious regimes. Shifting political power struggles during and after the war, among other complications of Polish Jewish history, led some Polish Jews at certain points to side with Soviets against Nazis and Polish partisans. The whole moral morass, essential to Polish identity, tends to be lost on outsiders, many of whom unthinkingly regard the country, throughout most of the last century at least, as just a Jewish killing field.” (more @ NY Times)

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cartoon-protest“Prints of the Danish cartoon depicting Islam‘s Prophet Mohammed as a suicide bomber in 2005 — much to the chagrin of the international Muslim community — will now be sold by the Denmark Free Press Society for $250 each. One thousand copies are to be printed and sold, with each having a designated number and signature by the artist, Kurt Westergaard, who has been in hiding due to numerous death threats. . . .

“The controversial cartoons caused riots throughout the Muslim world in early 2006, resulting in a number of deaths, property damage and a general wounding of diplomatic relations between east and west that has still not fully healed.” (more @ Huffington Post)

“Westergaard, 73, is one of 12 cartoonists whose drawings of the Muslim prophet were first published in Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005, sparking controversy among Muslims worldwide.” (more @ Straits Times)

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