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Rise in Racist Violence, US Holocaust Museum Goes to Germany

DW World writes about the rise in Neo-Nazi attacks:
Between January and August, some 8,000 offenses perpetrated by right-wing radicals were reported to the BKA -- 20 percent more than the previous year and 50 percent more than in 2004.  While the number of incidents is increasing, the degree of violence is also swelling. In 2006, 325 people had been injured by far-right violence by August, compared to 302 in 2005.  The issue has been catapulted back into public consciousness after the success of the extremist National Democratic Party (NPD) in regional elections in September.
Moreover: "In the professional soccer stadiums, racism has gone underground but is on the rise in the local leagues and in eastern Germany, according to a recent study."
 
"A new exhibition in Dresden -- originally shown at the US Holocaust Museum in Washington -- looks at the pseudo-scientific foundations of racism.", writes Andres Curry in the English version of Spiegel Online. Andrew was a 2005-2006 Fulbright Journalism Fellow and is now a correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor, which recently published his article Where WWII bombs once laid waste, a Dresden gem shines again.

Rieff: Ideology of Exceptionalism is Dangerous to America's National Interest

On Tuesday, President Bush signed into law a bill that critics consider "one of the most un-American in the nation's long history," writes Dan Froomkin for the Washington Post:
The new law vaguely bans torture -- but makes the administration the arbiter of what is torture and what isn't. It allows the president to imprison indefinitely anyone he decides falls under a wide-ranging new definition of unlawful combatant. It suspends the Great Writ of habeas corpus for detainees. It allows coerced testimony at trial. It immunizes retroactively interrogators who may have engaged in torture. Here's what Bush had to say at his signing ceremony in the East Room: "The bill I sign today helps secure this country, and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom." But that may not be the "clear message" the new law sends most people. Here's the clear message the law sends to the world: America makes its own rules.
And the LA Times points out that "the Justice Department moved immediately to request the dismissal of dozens of lawsuits filed by detainees challenging their incarceration."
 
The new law is relevant to the discussion about American Exceptionalism: Gregory Djerejian suspects in The Belgravia Dispatch that many historians will view the Iraq war as a "vanity" war.
Continue reading "Rieff: Ideology of Exceptionalism is Dangerous to America's National Interest"

Murder Rate in the United States and Germany

The Independent asks in light of last week's shooting in the Rockies in Colorado and in the Amish county of Pennsylvania: "Can America ever be weaned off its love affair with guns?" and mentions these shocking statistics:
In the US, there are roughly 17,000 murders a year, of which about 15,000 are committed with firearms. By contrast, Britain, Australia and Canada combined see fewer than 350 gun-related murders each year. And it's not just about murder. The non-gun-related suicide rate in the US is consistent with the rest of the developed world. Factor in firearms, and the rate is suddenly twice as high as the rest of the developed world.
Children are affected particularly hard. An American youth is murdered with a firearm every four and a half hours on average. And an American youth commits suicide with a firearm every eight hours. It's worth remembering that many of the most spectacular mass murders of recent years were really suicides, with the perpetrators choosing to take a few other people with them while they were at it.
Read the entire article at The Independent and the discussion at The Moderate Voice.
Among Germany's 82 million citizens there have been 794 murders in 2005.  That's two more murders than in 2004. These numbers are from "the German FBI" Bundeskriminalamt (pdf). DW World reports about
"Safer Streets, Growing Fear",
Between 1993 and 2003, the number of murders fell by 40.8 percent and domestic burglaries fell by 45.7 percent. All in all, crime in general dropped by 2.6 percent during the 10-year period and today, Germany is considered one of the industrialized world's safer countries.
But among the German populace, the mental picture of the nation's crime rate is markedly different. In a survey conducted in 2004 by the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony (KFN), a representative sample of 2,000 people were asked about their perceptions of crime trends in the previous 10 years. In almost all categories of crime, respondents grossly overestimated crime rates in Germany.
US statistics from Associated Press:
Murders, robberies and aggravated assaults in the United States increased last year, spurring an overall rise in violent crime for the first time since 2001, according to FBI data. Murders rose 4.8 percent, meaning there were more than 16,900 victims in 2005. That would be the most since 1998 and the largest percentage increase in 15 years.
Murders jumped from 272 to 334 in Houston, a 23 percent spike; from 330 to 377 in Philadelphia, a 14 percent rise; and from 131 to 144 in Las Vegas, a 10 percent increase. Despite the national numbers, Detroit, Los Angeles and New York were among several large cities that saw the number of murders drop. The overall increase in violent crime was modest, 2.5 percent, which equates to more than 1.4 million crimes. Nevertheless, that was the largest percentage increase since 1991.
Okay, let's do the math: Murders per 1.000.000 inhabitants in the US: 56,3. And in Germany: 9,7. That means the murder rate is nearly six times higher in the US than in Germany.

Racism in Germany

Newsweek asks "Why can't Germans talk honestly about the hate in the east?"
Violent right-wing hate crimes were up 25 percent in 2005—from 832 the year before, to 1,034—and continued to be a particular scourge of the east. Rural Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg, surrounding Berlin, showed a per capita rate of xenophobic attacks 10 times as high as a western state like Hessia. Adjusting for the far lower number of immigrants in the east, a foreign-looking person is about 25 times as likely to get assaulted in the east as in the west, says University of Hanover criminologist Christian Pfeiffer.
Newsweek opines:
Strangely, Germany's debate over racism seems to be less about racism than about what one is (and isn't) allowed to say about it. (...) Instead of confronting this extremist upsurge head-on, west Germans are largely ducking the issue. An intellectually lazy materialism dominates the debate. If the east weren't so economically depressed, the argument goes, crime and racism would disappear. (...)
To be sure, Germany's crime rate remains one of the lowest in the world, the number of reported hate crimes is small, and major cities where the World Cup will be held are safe.