Monthly Archive for July, 2005

1500 grams…

sonogram 2005-07-21
… 38 centimeters and growing…

Call for Help

Famine in Niger (source: AFP)The famine in Niger escalates: About 2-3.5 million people are affected by it, around 150,000-800,000 children already suffer from undernourishment and might die in the near future. The numbers vary a lot, but considering the situation it’s not surprising. Milton Tetonidis of Medecins Sans Frontieres has been quoted that response has yet been very low – spread the word.

German:

Spiegel Online
Ärtzte ohne Grenzen
Care
Plan Deutschland

English:

United Nations – OCHA IRIN Africa News
Doctors without Borders
Unicef
Allafrica
Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN
USAID
Relief Web

On Hiatus

I’m sorry I have to focus on other stuff until mid August, so there might not be much or any blogging at all during that time. Since I postponed things I have to take care of for weeks now, it leaves me little time to continue writing regularily. If you want to read something interesting during the break, try Hugo Dobson’s Japan and United Nations Peacekeeping: New Pressures, New Responses. See you after the summer.

Infestation

We’re back. There would be lot to write about (in short: it was great, Belgium is a great country), but one mishap on Tuesday kept me busy until today. After my first post from our host’s computer on Monday, I’ve been told that the computer has problems.

Several dozen viruses, beside Sobig, AntiSpyware Viruses, Trojans and as far as I could tell, keyloggers as well. Since I couldn’t rule out that my passwords for Blogger and several Emailaccounts were compromised, I spent the day with changing all of them. It was time for reneval anyway, but it hits you when you least expect it.

Korean Traces in Bruxelles

Fighting against a French style, by IME Korean and English keyboard enabled computer, copy&pasting the commas because I can’t find it and the “m” and the “@” symbol for email doesn’t work right – this is my first post from our hosts computer. We’ll spend the next three nights at Mrs Park’s house, who offers mainly Koreans, but also other people a place to stay in Bruxelles.

Our trip started out a little bit problematic, since we couldn’t buy a ticket for the regional express train to Cologne. Three ticket vending machines didn’t accept my money or my card, so we didn’t have a choice but to dodge the fair. The ride with the Thalys was great, for ten Euros per person I would even stand all the way, but we had comfortable seats and it went smooth all the way until … well until “Brussel-Zuid”. I blame the hot weather that I was looking out for “Bruxelles-Midi”, as it was written on our tickets, so when the train stopped at Brussel-Zuid, we didn’t get out. “Zuid” also sounds a little bit like “Sued” or “south” in German, but it was indeed Bruxelles-Midi. Just before the train was ready for departure to Paris, we jumped out.

Finding the hostel wasn’t too difficult, although nobody knew the street we were looking for. The place is nice, actually a private apartment with a guest room with four beds. Tonight we share the room with two guys from Swissm using a mixture of German, French and English. After checking in, we went for a walk through a park to the Basilica d’Elizabeth nearby. Walking towards it, we realized its sheer size – and even better, it had an illuminated red cross on top! Perhaps it was sponsored by a South Korean (churches over there always have that kind of a cross), on the backside we saw that one of the windows had a Korean map and the flag. We’ll check it out tomorrow again since it was already closed tonight.

I can’t wait for the Korean breakfast tomorrow morning…

German Media in English

If you’re interested about the German media landscape, Sign and Sight offers a great daily insight, focusing on cultural and intellectual life in Germany. Unlike other sites (see below), Sign and Sight strives for objectivity and gives overviews. I recommend the digests and articles about Merkel’s new middle, What do the conservatives want? and Writers warn about Linkspartei.

If you’d rather read news yourself instead of digests, try one of the following sites:

My favorite newspaper, Die Zeit is unfortunately not available in English. Learn German. 🙂

There’s one popular site I have to advise against: David’s Medienkritik regularily posts about events and news in Germany and focuses about German news about the U.S. It is some kind of self proclaimed watchdog that already disqualifies itself by its inaptitude to see a difference between the Spiegel and Stern, thus often only serving right-wing audience by focusing on Anti-Americanism (keeping its definition as vague as possible), failing to differentiate even the most basic interrelations and possibly even prone to censorship. In some cases, it happened to raise valid points, far too often it pushs its own agenda – but since it extremely focuses on a handful of topics it presents a grossly distorted perception.

Warriors of the Net

Explain the Internet to a kid using simple terms and concepts… or just show them a video. Like this one. Depending on the age, die Maus is a good alternative (in German).

Warriors of the Net

Japanese Text Initiative

Here’s a great library about Japanese texts from Man’yôshû till the end of the Edo era. From ?? (Bashô) to ?? (S?seki), ???? (Genji monogatari) and other stories, you’ll find a broad selection of texts.

UVa Library Etext Center: Japanese Text Initiative

A Letter To The Terrorists, From London

From the The London News Review

London rocked by terror attacks

Just one day after London has been chosen to host the 2012 Olympics, a terrorist attack on the Underground network with an explosion and three blasts on busses left between two and a dozen people dead. The time of the first blast was this morning – the timing reminiscent of the September 11th attacks. A few minutes ago, the German intelligence service BND confirmed that a terrorist attack is very likely – also a claim of responsibility by a group called Secret Organization — al-Qaeda in Europe surfaced.

Spiegel Online published an article with 22 pictures of the attack.

The attackers aimed at the public transportation service for several reasons:

  1. to hurt as many civilians as possible during rush hour
  2. spread fear among the population
  3. hurt a modern society there where it’s most vulnerable: its openness

BBC: London rocked by terror attacks

Blogroll addition: The Marmot's Hole

The Marmot’s Hole added to Blogroll. It’s a group weblog centered around all things Korean, including news, events, culture and history. Writing since January 2003, the linklist to other Korean blogs is extensive – if you want to participate in the discussions though, you have to register (an extreme, but safest way to prevent spam in comments). You’ll notice the absence of a design or any colors with the default theme, so nothing’s going to distract you from the content.

update: Firefox with enabled adblock blocks their weblog’s header image…

The Face of the Enemy

???? (Tori Jangun), 1978During breakfast, I told my wife about how North Korea said that Japan doesn’t belong in the six-way talks on their nuclear weapons program because…

The nuclear issue of the Korean Peninsula is not a matter for such an insincere and clumsy political dwarf as Japan to deal with

so they should step aside and let the big guys talk (Hat tip to Cominganarchy). This is not the first time North Korea snapped at its neighbor, but the region is not known for favorable views of neighbors and good relations. For example, after the short anecdote my wife told me that when she was a kid she watched an animation for children called ???? (Tori Jangun, 1978). Click on the image to see the details.

The interesting part of the story is, the pig in red cloth in the upper right corner was a not at all flattering portray of Kim Il-Sung Yuri Irsenowich Kim a.k.a. Kim Jong-Il (who at that time was the Party secretary of organization and propaganda and already designated as successor of his father, Kim Il-Sung). The wolfes in the lower left represent North Korean soldiers – the imagery is quite vivid. Tori Jangun was not only shown in the movies, but also in schools throughout the South Korean half of the penninsula.

p.s.: unflattering appears to be a false friend?

p.p.s.: During research, I came across Dictatorofthemonth.com

Memories

Southern Bridge to Pag, Croatia, on September 11th, 2001That’s as close as I can get right now. I never had the chance to visit the place before the attacks, but I’ve been there last year during the Model UN simulation. The story began three and a half years ago. I was in Croatia, meeting my brother while he took a few days off from his internship at the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation office in Zagreb. On September 11th, 2001, we drove all the way down to the coast to meet with our aunt, to celebrate her birthday together. Like our uncle and her husband, she’s an architect who at that time happened to work on an infirmary at Pag, which is an island in the Adriatic Sea. The island is connected to the mainland with a long and high, newly constructed bridge. On our way there, I thought it looks much like the Moon, or perhaps Mars, because of the stone desert around us. It seemed dead, all of it. No tree, nothing but stones. The weather was warm, a blue sky, with a single cloud here and there, but it felt cold.

We met in the late morning hours, went out to eat sea food at a great restaurant and talked a lot about family stuff, how everyone was and enjoyed life. I think I’ve never eaten so much again. After a few hours my brother and I slowly had to drive back to Zagreb again, but just when we wanted to say goodbye, the radio was turned on but something wasn’t right. The reported said something about an attack on New York City, but after a minute or two it was still difficult to understand what was going on, just that it was a catastrophe. A neighbor ran by and we all went into his house. They had CNN turned on and we sat down, watching planes flying right into the World Trade Center. I can remember the shock when we watched it as if it was yesterday. I looked at my brother and he looked at me, in disbelief what we watched was real. I knew that when I looked at him, I saw what he saw. I watched myself.

We watched the reports for about an hour, the two building burning, people jumping out of the windows and in the end, how the towers collapsed. At a certain point we had to drive back. On the road, we listened to the radio: The first half of the day it played music as ever, but since the attacks were reported they only played slow, purely instrumental and melancholic pieces with the occasional interruption with the same news.

That afternoon I didn’t speak much, just looked outside the window … and perhaps tried to find something, not really knowing what I was searching. I could remember that a year ago, we had a ??? (party) in Shinya’s (one of our buddies) room of the international students dorm in Japan. Most of the nine Germans who were at Ritsumeikan University at that time were present, with one or two German girls who visited us. I don’t know why they started talking about it, but the ones who came from southern Germany/Bavaria exchanged their memories about where they were and what they did when Franz Josef Strauß died in 1988. One year later that afternoon I thought with this it is going to be the same way in the future.

I have a completely black T-shirt with New York City written in white letters. It was a present I got in 2000. The T-shirt’s meaning changed on September 11th, but that wasn’t the only thing.

Every year, I think of my aunt on her birthday as well as New York. Visiting the place itself last year made it much more clear what happened – although you couldn’t see much anymore (except a concreted square and memorial plaques), the feeling of being there was similar to an experience I had once in Germany. I was walking through a park when I noticed a small stone with a decayed inscription – it said that this was the place of a concentration camp outpost where people died in slave labor. A tragedy followed by six decades of history, but strangely it adhered to the place so that you could feel it – tonight I learned that the Ustaša regime established a concentration camp on Pag in 1941.

Where were you on September 11th, 2001?

Maki Teshima and Alex Liss: Congratulations!

Maki Teshima and Alex Liss were married for the second time at Gokonomiya Shrine in Kyoto, Japan on June 17th . Here’s the full collection of photos.Maki Teshima and Alex Liss

p.s.: How many I-House people are married?

Afghanistan: ISAF

Afghanistan: convoy in the countrysideGermany’s Bundeswehr has currenty some 7000-8000 soldiers sent out all over the world. The biggest operations are Enduring Freedom (1800 soldiers), ISAF (2500 soldiers) in Afghanistan (English Link), KFOR (2700 soldiers) and EUFOR (1000 soldiers) in the Balkans beside UN observer missions, support of Allied stabilisation efforts for Iraq and operations in Ethiopia & Eritrea and the Mediterranean Sea. In contrast to other armies, the Bundeswehr is a conscript army with 257,000 military and around 125,000 civilian personnel. Its role is described in the Grundgesetz (German Basic Law) as being defensive only (Article 87a (1): The Federation shall establish Armed Forces for purposes of defense.), but since the end of the Cold War the Bundeswehr is undergoing a transformation to adapt to the new and fast-paced changing global security issues.

Afghanistan: ISAFOne of my friends I know since highschool times decided to join the Bundeswehr right after school. It’s not his first time abroad, but he’s currently in Afghanistan with the ISAF. Last week I recieved several interesting pictures and videos, of which I added three images to this post. If you’re looking for other – officially approved – pictures about ISAF, try their website. Stationed at Camp Warehouse, which is the is the operations center for the multinational force in Kabul (????)- it’s hot, dusty and every now and then a rocket hits a camp as on May 30th. I’m following the news about ISAF closely, like two days ago, when the two German soldiers who got killed last week, arrived at Köln-Wahn airport. I hope my friend will come back in one piece.

My friend also told me that lots of mercenaries are hired to replace military U.S. troops. PBS published an indepth report about private warriors. Right now, around 120,000 mercenaries are in Iraq – outsourcing call centers and support desks, alright, but outsourcing troops is not in the same league. War is too important to be left to companies – where’s the legal framework for private military firms anyway – if they loose control who’s liable?

Plans to split the forces into three major parts – intervention, stabilization and support forces – are accompanied by a strong reduction of the overall size. Right now, it happens that draftees sue because the equity of conscription for all male youths is not kept – if you’re 23, married or have been categorized as T3, you’re not drafted anymore. Also, since the European Court of Justice opened up military service to women, there are around 12,000 women serving in the Bundeswehr.

Afghanistan: mercenariesFor years, there have not only been developements to transform the Bundeswehr to a more modern army, but also to change its very basic structure and abolish the conscript system. The FDP as well as the Green Party are for it, the SPD and CDU want to keep it. While some seem to think a professional army would cost less, experiences of other countries have shown that cost is not a factor. The major difference between a conscript and professional army is the purpose and the intended effect on society. A conscript army can’t provide as many ready-for combat troops, since most soldiers serve as draftees for a certain time (nine months in Germany) and are not fit for deployment, but a citizen in uniform has a positive effect on the society a professional army never could. A conscript army comes with another perk: Youths who don’t want to
join the army do civilian service – loosing that support, many social institutions would have extreme problems to keep up their service for elderly, handicapped people etc.

On the other hand, a professional army would enable Germany to increase its participation for global security, affirm its claim for a seat in the UN security council, but at the same time “locate” the army outside German society, compared to the current condition and would probably be even more expensive (German politicians who want to raise the budget – say, for a bigger contribution on the international stage – have a hard time defending their stance). Professional soldiers have a different motivation and such troops basically make more sense in regard to the current global political situation. Nevertheless: As long as the issue of a looming omission of the civilian service and the overall political and societal impact is not properly addressed to, a switch to a professional army is probably a bad idea. It needs to be done, but done the right way.

N.B.: Since most links in this posting lead to German sites, you might want to try Babelfish to translate the content into English or French.