Bleg: Local/National Press Reports of Violence in Refugee Shelters?

One thing I've noticed recently is that the national, mainstream German media rarely focuses extended attention on violence and crime in Germany's overcrowded refugee shelters. To get this information, you usually have to scour the websites of local German newspapers. 

When you do, the results are shocking. The picture is of hundreds of random strangers packed into close quarters with very little privacy and no security. There are nowhere near enough German police to bring order to shelters housing 500,000? 600,000? people, and even if there were, the police wouldn't speak the language. Many shelters, therefore, seem to have no security, or only 'private security guards', i.e. rent-a-cops, who are likely low-paid, not trained for this job, and unable to speak Pashto or Arabic. Some of them even turn out to be Islamic extremists or members of organized crime.

I think this is a gigantic scandal. Mainly because women are being raped and Christians, Yezidis and gays threatened with death -- and the criminals doing these things are getting off scot-free and are permitted to move around Germany freely. Also, my personal view is that Germany has allowed far too many people in too quickly without sufficient checks. I get the strong impression that the security situation in many of these places is out of control. (You don't have to agree with that, by the way.)

Lawless zones of random violence, right here in Germany.

So my bleg, if you are so inclined, is to include in comments links to local or national German press coverage of violence in German refugee shelters. Preferably to sources without a clear political bias, although I'll accept those too, if they actually have facts to report, not opinion, speculation or rumors. After I collect enough of these, I'll translate them into English for a worldwide audience and post a longer piece, perhaps even submit it to a newspaper. 

A Shout-Out to My Readers and Commenters

I'm not a sentimental man, but I'd just like to take a minute to thank all the readers and commenters of this blog. According to Typepad, that extremely fickle mistress (lookin' at you, MM), these are the stats so far, and the recent trend:



As you can see, the ratio of posts to comments is 1 to 3. The comments are the life-blood of this blog. The difference between screaming in a padded room and having a pleasant conversation over mimosas. And unlike so many bloggers, I have never had to disable, remove, or screen comments, except to prevent spam. No matter what the language, the discussion in comments is always civilized, even when you're tearing me -- or another commenter --a new asshole.

And ohne Scheiß, as they say in Cologne, I've learned an incredible amount from the comments to this blog. Just today, I learned how to download classical concerts from Youtube in good sound quality. That's just the tip of the iceberg. I've even used stuff from the comments in my boring academic publications. Don't expect a cut of the profits (currently € 0.00) though.

I don't have to tell you to keep it up. I know you will, and I'm counting on it.

Bleg: Better Quality Audio on Youtube Downloads?

And now for something completely different!

This is a golden age of classical music concerts on the web. You can download hundreds of full-length videos of orchestral concerts on Youtube. I usually use aTube Catcher or a website to save them.

The only problem is that the sound is usually encoded at MP3 128Kbps. This is not really satisfactory. Does anyone know if there's a way to improve the sound? Some sort of advanced options box that can be checked? I have a hard time believing that someone would upload a classical music concert in high-definition video, but encode the audio at well-below the current industry standard.

Any help will be gratefully accepted!  

Bleg: Who is on the Murder Commission and Where is Their Report?

Justice Minister Heiko Maas formed a commission last year to reform the definition of murder in Germany's Penal Code. The current version dates from 1941 and is supposedly tainted by the National Socialist criminal-law philosophy of 'criminal types' -- that is, focusing on the nature of the criminal rather than the act.

You can read everywhere on the Internet that Maas formed an 'expert commission' that submitted a long report with suggested reforms (g) to the definition. However, after quite a bit of searching, I haven't been able to find any information about either the commission or the report. It must be out there somewhere, right? Can anyone help?

Bleg: Help me Catch a Cannibal Murderer!

WARNING: A confessed murderer and cannibal is on the prowl in Japan! Here's an interview with him:

Everyone knows who he is, actually. In fact, he's a minor celebrity. So I really want you to help me catch an article about a cannibal murderer. 

The cannibal murderer is Issei Sagawa, a soi-disant Japanese intellectual who killed and ate a woman in Paris in 1981. This is what happened to him afterward, according to you-know-who:

Sagawa's wealthy father provided a lawyer for his defense, and after being held for two years without trial Sagawa was found legally insane and unfit to stand trial by the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who ordered him held indefinitely in a mental institution. After a visit by the author Inuhiko Yomota, Sagawa's account of the murder was published in Japan under the title In the Fog. Sagawa's subsequent publicity and macabre celebrity likely contributed to the French authorities' decision to deport him to Japan, where he was immediately committed to Matsuzawa hospital. Examining psychologists there all declared him sane and found sexual perversion was his sole motivation for the murder. Because charges in France had been dropped, the French court documents were sealed and were not released to Japanese authorities. Consequently Sagawa could not legally be detained in Japan. He checked himself out of the hospital on August 12, 1986, and has remained free. Sagawa's continued freedom has been widely criticized.

So, on the surface we have not only a miscarriage of justice, but also quite possibly an example of two different legal cultures defining legal sanity in different and interesting ways. Just the sort of thing that really rings my bell.

Which brings me to the next mystery: an online law journal that seems to have published only a few issues, then vanished! Here is a citation to an article about Sagawa:

  1.  Morris, Steven (September 20, 2007)."Issei Sagawa: Celebrity Cannibal"New Criminologist, the On-line Journal of Criminology (New Criminologist). Archived from the original on June 14, 2011.[dead link]

As you can see, the link is very dead indeed. To add to the mystery, the New Criminologist started a Twitter account (under the logo Vitam Impenderi Vero) which then mysteriously died after only 4 tweets. The journal's online presence seems not just to have gone dormant, but been deliberately erased. Shoved down the memory hole, if you will!

Can anyone find this article for me? As a bonus, can anyone explain what happened to New Criminologist? 

Bleg: German News Coverage of Failures of German Justice

I am working on an op-ed piece and perhaps an article about journalistic coverage of the German criminal justice system which I hope to publish on paper, in German, in some German newspaper.

The subject is going to be what I perceive to be the imbalance in German-language coverage of the American criminal justice system versus the German criminal justice system. That is, German-language newspapers are full of coverage (of widely varying quality, much of it error-filled) about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, American death row inmate X or Z, but rarely cover problems in the German criminal justice system. Before asserting this, I want to try to make sure it's true!

So what I am looking for is articles in the German-language press by Germans which deal with potential justice problems in courts in German-speaking countries including:

(1) wrongful convictions;

(2) racial, ethnic, or religious disparities in conviction rates or sentencing;

(3) allegations of racial or ethnic or religious bias among German prosecutors and professional or lay judges;

(4) interviews with prisoners currently serving prison sentences in Germany who claim that they are completely innocent of the crimes of which they were convicted; and/or

(5) detailed examinations of systemic problems in German criminal justice or prisons, things such as underfunding, outdated regulations, disproportionate penalties, or the use of unreliable evidence.

I'm interested, in particular, in well-researched studies or in-depth reportings, not just stories like 'this lefty activist claims he was convicted only because the judge was a right-winger and we lefty activist journalists of course totally believe him and feel no need to research the allegations any further!!' There's a lot of that about in Germany, and it's generally justly ignored.

Also I'm not super-interested in stories about the RAF, which I consider to be an irrelevant side issue. I'm interested in well-considered stories about why random anonymous criminal Achmet got 4 years in prison for the exact same crime that random anonymous criminal Detlef got 2 years for.

Thanks in advance for any links in comments.

Blegs: Japanese Readers, I Want Your Help

Over Christmas I visited Japan. Highly recommended and, thanks to the weak Yen, not at all expensive. I've posted some travel shots on my Flickr account for those who are into that sort of thing.

I thought I'd ask the cultured, worldly readers of this blog to help me with a translation or two. First, I bought a ceramic plate at a Nitten shop. Nitten is a nationwide arts and crafts exhibition that, as far as I can gather, is mainly aimed at lesser-known or amateur artists working in traditional Japanese pursuits such as ceramics, calligraphy, etc. People from all over Japan can submit works to be judged by the notoriously conservative panels, and winners are exhibited and some of their works sold in shops.

I bought this dish:

Ceramic Dish

The two women in the rather dusty shop were really excited that I'd chosen this dish, and pressed a piece of paper with the artists' biography into my hands. The only English they could speak was to point at a row of symbols and say 'famous Japanese art school!'

This is the piece of paper, first an overall view, then a detail of what appears to be the artists' biography. If anybody could give me the gist of it -- especially a transliteration of the artist's name -- I would be grateful.

Ceramic Artist Description Page

Ceramic Artist Description Page Detail

Baffling Signs and Posters

1. Schoolchildrens' Superhero or Demon? Japan is also renowned for its amusing/terrifying warning signs. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory because of the pictures, but this one still baffles me. I found it posted outside a school:

Yanaka poster with odd supervillian outside school

Yanaka poster with odd supervillian outside school detail

2. Uniformed People Kicking Ordinary Japanese For Some Reason. This was on the side of a nondescript building. My secret hope is that it's Japanese Communist Party propaganda:

Kyoto poster uniformed men kicking civilians

 3. Red Sash Women Marching. Finally, here is large poster on a wall near a florists' shop that depicts a large number of middle-aged women wearing red sashes marching. First a general view, then a closeup. Pardon the crappy quality, the poster was pretty soiled.

Tokyo red sash women marching-001

Tokyo red sash women marching detail

Any help interpreting these signs is gratefully accepted. I also have less-baffling Japanese signs which I will post in the next couple of days.

Bleg for Facebook Solutions Please?

As I noted, I now post mainly to Facebook. This blog is a hobby, not a business, and I only have spare time in which to maintain it, so I am not going to waste time copying identical content from Facebook to here. I did add an RSS feed to my Facebook profile, apparently, but I'm not sure how that works.

What would be ideal is to have Facebook posts appear here as well as on Facebook, so that all my readers will be happy. So I've been looking into options.

However, the solutions that have been proposed so far don't really work for me. I could migrate this blog to Wordpress, which apparently has some sort ot integration feature, but Wordpress is a much more time-consuming and technical platform than Typepad, and the migration process is not worth figuring out.

I tried to put a Facebook 'Like Box' widget on this blog but I have tried that and it doesn't show up. Apparently you cannot use this widget for personal facebook feeds, but only facebook pages (which are mainly used by businesses or groups). If I convert my personal profile to a page, according to Facebook, I lose my entire history.

So what I'm saying, dear readers, is that I am out of ideas. I am now looking for is a simple, easy way to have my Facebook feed show up somewhere on this Typepad blog, without moving or migrating or converting anything. I am even willing to pay a certain amount of money (for some sort of app) to make this happen! It just has to be simple.

If anyone has ideas, I would be grateful to hear them in comments. And not to be too shirty about it, but if you're considering posting yet another comment about how Evil Facebook Is, don't waste your time. That train sailed long ago.

Bleg: Nice Remote Cabin in Finland?

This summer, I'd kind of like to spend a few weeks in rural Scandinavia. I've never been to Finland and need to make a pilgrimage to Ainola, so I thought I might as well choose Finland. I'm looking for a cabin somewhere, preferably by a lake. Just for one person. I'd like electricity, but Internet is optional, in fact I don't want it. I would stay 2-3 weeks, in late August-early September. I'll probably rent a car, so the location probably isn't too important -- the scenicer the better. The listings on Airbnb look quite interesting, but a lot of the places have no running / drinkable water or flush toilets. I'm not sure how much of a drag that would be in real life.

If anyone has tips about what I should be looking for, or has been somewhere they'd like to recommend, I'd love to hear from ya.