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News from Germany and German-American Relations

German Politics:
•  The Italian navy handed over to German command the UN naval force tasked with intercepting arms shipments along Lebanon's coastline following Israel's war with the Shiite movement Hezbollah.

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German politicians propose internet registry for sex offenders. Sound familiar?

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Observing Hermann about a new survey about poverty and underclass in Germany:

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A German high court will consider this week the appeal of Mounir el Motassadeq, a man convicted of belonging to a terrorist organization for his involvement with three of the Sept. 11 hijackers.

German-American Relations:
•  The topping-off ceremony for the new U.S. Embassy building in Berlin took place on October 10, 2006, two years after the groundbreaking. The ceremony celebrated the structural completion of the building.

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At an event of the American Academy in Berlin, John B. Bellinger III talked about the current legal situation of detainees in Guantánamo. "Trials will be held in the near future."

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U.S. Ambassador to NATO Nuland spent a full day in Berlin conducting interviews with German media. In her interview with news channel NTV she explained U.S. policy vis-à-vis Afghanistan and North Korea.

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Pinkerton on :

This is a very interesting article. I was especially interested in the link discussing the Internet Registry for sex offenders. I don't know anything about the constitutional laws in Germany, however, I believe that this registry is very important for the safety of children. Time and time again in the US we are hearing about sex offenders who have had multiple run-ins with the law who eventually end up raping and killing. Without this registry, there is no way to know that this behavior exists in a person, they are masters at hiding behind a mask and blending in with society. Those sex offenders who commit these crimes cannot be rehabilitated, IMO. I'm not sure of any studies that say otherwise, they may exist. I can understand the theory that this makes it impossible for someone who has served their time in jail for the offense to try and make a clean start, but isn't it the job of our courts to protect the public from these types of crimes? If their hands are tied with laws that only allow the courts to jail a person who committed these crimes for a short time, what else are they to do? IMO, this is the very least that could be done. The Bavarian Youth Union (JU) who feel these criminals should be jailed could possibly be speaking out about such measures because the other measures have proven to be weak. Like I said, I am not German, nor from Germany, so I am unfamiliar with this group and their leanings. I hope Germany does adopt this law of Internet Registry for sex offenders and are not deterred from the one incident in Massachusetts.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

I don't know how helpful such an internet registry could be to prevent more sex crimes, but I know that public opinion wants the harshest punishments for such crimes. I don't know, how serious the constitutional concerns are. Might not be so serious. I could imagine that some idiots would look up the internet registry and decide to take justice in their own hands and attempt to kill/injure/hurt a pedophile. They might be so angry that they confuse his address or mistake that guy with someone else, who looks similar. They then might end up killing/injuring/hurting an innocent person. I don't know how big that risk is. Is Maine the only case, where something like that happened? Is the internet registry successful in preventing crimes? Even if not, I can understand that Americans feel safer, when they have a chance to look up their neighborhood in the registry. This Boston Globe article might be interesting: [quote="Boston Globe"]One of the two Maine sex offenders killed by an apparent vigilante was listed in the state's online registry because of a 2002 conviction for having sex with a minor when he was 19. The death of William Elliott, 24, is reigniting the national debate over sex offender registries. His anguished mother said yesterday that he should not have been on the same list as criminals who preyed on children. He had been convicted of having sex with a girlfriend who was two weeks shy of her 16th birthday, the mother said. ''My son was not a pedophile," said Shirley Turner. ''He shouldn't have been labeled that. . . . He just wanted to love that girl and make a family; that's all he wanted to do." Without the registry, ''he'd still be alive today," Turner said. ''I'd still have him." In Massachusetts, information on only the most serious sex offenders is posted online, but in Maine everyone convicted of a sex crime is listed with an address and picture in a database accessible to anyone with an Internet connection.[/quote] [url]http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/04/18/sex_crime_disclosure_questioned/[/url]

Don on :

I think this makes a good point, Joerg. I have to wonder whether the sex-offender registry hasn't gone too far. We pride ourselves on being civilised because we have mostly done away with shot-gun (forced) weddings (which used to be the custom in many such cases). A girl of 16 is under the legal age of consent and the man committed the crime of statutory rape - even if it was love or mutual lust. Yet in times past statutory rape was often overlooked in cases like these when the man was willing to 'do the right thing'. The law was largely there to provide motive for 'doing the right thing'. Look at it this way: In 20th century America Romeo and Juliet would not have worked out. Romeo would have been on a sex-offenders list after he did hard time in jail - and that is simply wrong. I think we need justice - but justice tempered with mercy....

Zyme on :

"I don't know, how serious the constitutional concerns are. Might not be so serious." They are very serious in germany. I highly doubt that any serious attempt will be made to provide such an internet registy database. It will be considered unconstitutional due to fact that it violates the human dignity. And since this is the most important principle in our current constitution, you may forget about that measure here.

JW-Atlantic Review on :

That was a stupid comment of mine. I didn't think twice, before writing it. Dignity. How could I have forgotten the first article in the Grundgesetz (constitution)...

Pinkerton on :

Like I said earlier, I'm not aware of how the Constitution in Germany is set up. Perhaps, however, the American system could have been better thought out so as not to include people who were convicted of a crime when at the age of 19 may have had sex with a 16 year old girl. Of course, common sense must be used when making or enforcing such laws. However, in the case of a true pedophile or a rapist who has used a weapon, the registry can be a good thing. Think of this scenerio...you have a daughter who is 23 years old. She meets someone at a bar or a guy who works in your area. If you have looked at the registry and have seen the pictures of these people, at the very least you have some warning. I know it sounds paranoid and maybe it is giving a false sense of security, but in my view it is better than nothing.

Zyme on :

@ Pinkerton We currently have a different approach to the problem: When a particular dangerous criminal person has spent the jail-time, there is the possibility to use a measure called "Sicherungsverwahrung". It means that the person will remain for further two years in prison. When those years are over, according to the opinion of a psychological expert the person will be released or remains in prison for another two years. This procedure may be repeated until death.

Pinkerton on :

Zyme Wow, that is really interesting. So, a person can remain in jail for additional time without further trial. That does sound like a viable option. Of course, in the United States that would be impossible because of the way our laws are set up. Our system is very flawed when it comes to how the courts decide on punishments. Oftentimes, dangerous criminals are set free because the courts are so backed up and our jails are so crowded. I love the German language...how does the word Sicherungsverwahrung translate? Or can it be translated? Just curious. Thank you, Zyme, for the information.

Zyme on :

Our approach is not fail-safe either: When the psychological experts make a mistake, then a still dangerous person can be set free again. But with each mistake that happens they become more and more cautious, since such mistakes are always covered a lot by the media. Hmm let me try to translate Sicherungsverwahrung: Maybe the meaning would be "protective custody" in english.

Pinkerton on :

Zyume Thanks for the translation....now if I could only pronounce it! The difference between Germany and the US seems to be that with each mistake you become more caustious and it is covered by the media. In the case of the US, each mistake is buried and the media does little investigation anymore.Of course, the crime in the US is much higher than Germany, if I recall. Our courts and jails are over crowded and crimes like stalking rarely bring out convictions. In fact, many times a person can ask for an order of protection and it does little to help. Our police are also overworked. In general, there are many areas of the US where crime is rampant and just trying to keep it under a modicom of control seems like an insurmountable task. Thanks again for your answers.

Zyme on :

Maybe the difference as regards numbers of policemen per citizen results out of a different need for security by the average citizen? I recall many americans saying that as soon as the state fails to protect them, they have their own weapons ready. For germans such a situation is unimaginable - we rather accept the state using harsh methods of suppressing violence to keep up public order than seeing citizen militias who arm up themselves. Furthermore as regards efficient prosecution, we may have some historical advantage in experience: The Sicherungsverwahrung is only one measure in a row introduced back in 1933. Few of the most efficient ones are compatible with the current shape of our constitution though ;)

JW-Atlantic Review on :

What is the difference between US and Germany as regards numbers of policemen per citizen? I don't think the German police and legal system is harsher than the American police and legal system. I think the opposite is true. Though I have not seen a proper comparision. If know of one or if you see one at some point in the future, please let me know. I think Germany is in some fields harsher or tougher. And the US is in some fields harsher or tougher. However, many Americans think that Germany and other European countries are soft on crime and terrorism etc. And I will write about it, when I have more time. Though one piece of information already now: Niels C. Sorrells spent a year researching German surveillance policy with a grant from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and writes in Foreign Policy about Surveillance in Germany: [quote="Foreign Policy"]If a nation with a quarter of the U.S. population and seven times the number of wiretaps is not able to show better results, can there be hope for the United States? If anything, Germany has shown that an overreliance on technical methods keeps authorities from using basic detective tools to weed out terrorist elements. The same can already be seen in the United States, where some of the major successes in the war on terror have come through concerned community members who alert authorities to suspicious activity.[/quote] Read the entire article: [url]http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=3583[/url]

Pinkerton on :

JW I think it's difficult to access overall police strengths or weakness in the US. Each state runs its own police force and local or state courts are the ones who handle most of the everyday crime. The number of officers on the street varies from town to town depending on how much money they have to support them. The larger cities, such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles will have different problems than the smaller suburbs or towns. For an example, I will use the city of Chicago since this is the area I live in. If you go into the city, the police are busy dealing with break-ins, drugs, murder, rapes, and gangs etc. They handle traffic control, but aren't going to be too fussy unless the driver has committed a serious violation. Whereas you go into the suburbs of Chicago, where there are few crimes of rape, drugs or murder, they are going to concentrate on traffic related issues such as speeding, or driving drunk. This is where a large proportion of their revenues comes from. The more traffic tickets they give out, the more money they have to take care of their expenses. The city police have much bigger fish to fry and they aren't too worried if someone doesn't make a complete stop at a stop sign. The more wealthy suburbs will have police with the best equipment available, the poorer towns or suburbs will have old junky cars and outdated equipment. I had just heard recently that Chicago had a test for evacuation in case of terrorist attacks and did quite well, however, the emergency room doctors failed to be able to identify or handle situations with mass casualties due to chemical based weapons. They are working to get the doctors up to speed on that. Personally, I think there is a false sense of security in the US when it comes to terrorism. We haven't had that many incidents and I think we are under great threat of smaller attacks such as bombs on trains or busses. I also don't feel our airports are as secure as they would like you to believe. It may look like they are doing a lot if you judge by the long lines at the check in areas, but it's not true. It's very easy to get something by if you really want to.

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