Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for July 15th, 2018

The neo-Nazi murder trial revealing Germany’s darkest secrets

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A stunning report by Thomas Meaney and Saskia Schäfer in the Guardian:

In the beginning, they were known as die Dönermorde – the kebab murders. The victims had little in common, apart from immigrant backgrounds and the modest businesses they ran. The first to die was Enver Şimşek, a 38-year-old Turkish-German man who ran a flower-import company in the southern German town of Nuremberg. On 9 September 2000, he was shot inside his van by two gunmen, and died in hospital two days later.

The following June, in the same city, 49-year-old Abdurrahim Özüdoğru was killed by two bullets while helping out after hours in a tailor’s shop. Two weeks later, in Hamburg, 500km north, Süleyman Taşköprü, 31, was shot three times and died in his greengrocer’s shop. Two months later, in August 2001, greengrocer Habil Kılıç, 38, was shot twice in his shop in the Munich suburbs.

The crime scenes indicated that the killers favoured a particular killing method. Typically, several shots were fired at close range to the face. Most of the bullets were traced back to a single weapon, a silenced Česká CZ 83 pistol. Police assumed that the professional method of killing, as well as the intimate nature of the murders – when they died, the victims were presumably looking directly into the eyes of their killers – meant that the murders must have been carried out by Turkish gangsters fighting out turf battles. No hard evidence ever substantiated this theory. Nevertheless, the taskforce assigned by the German authorities to the case was given the name “Bosphorus”.

The Bosphorus team tried to persuade the widow of Enver Şimşek, the first victim, to say that her husband was connected to the Turkish mafia. They invented a false story of marital infidelity – that Şimşek was having an affair and had a secret family elsewhere – in the hope that her fury would lead her to reveal his non-existent underworld ties. She said nothing, but the police continued to waste time and resources attempting to prove the killings were the work of Turkish gangs.

Three years later, in 2004, Mehmet Turgut, 25, was murdered in a kebab shop in the city of Rostock on the Baltic coast. The next attack came later that year in the form of a bomb detonated in the Keupstrasse area of Cologne – a part of town popular among Turkish immigrants. Twenty-two people were wounded. In June 2005, İsmail Yaşar, 50, was shot in his kebab shop in Nuremberg – the third murder in that city.

The following year, a 41-year-old Greek-German locksmith named Theodoros Boulgarides was killed in his newly opened shop in Munich. He was the first victim without a Turkish background. In 2006, a kiosk vendor named Mehmet Kubaşık, 39, was shot in the western city of Dortmund. Only two days after that, Halit Yozgat, 21, was killed while sitting behind his desk in the internet cafe he ran in the central German city of Kassel, 160km away.

The killings occurred in seven different cities across Germany, and were often separated by months or years. This made it difficult to connect them, though no one expected it to take until 2006 for the authorities to grasp how they were related.

From the very start, the investigation was riddled with basic errors and faulty assumptions. First, at least two of the murders took place at locations close to police stations, which should have made them unattractive sites for mafia murders. Then there was the problem of the two “Eastern-European-looking men” on bicycles whom eyewitnesses described leaving several of the crime scenes. More baffling still was a fact that surfaced during the investigation of Halit Yozgat’s killing: a German intelligence agent had been inside the cafe when the murder took place – something he later neglected to report.

In 2006, Alexander Horn, a young police profiler who prepared a report on the case for the Bosphorus team, began to cast doubts on the idea that the murders were connected to the Turkish mafia. In several cases, the victims were killed on days when they had broken with their daily routine, and were in places that no one could have predicted. It seemed more plausible that the victims had been chosen randomly by the killers, rather than singled out for vengeance by professional hitmen.

By using the same weapon, the killers also appeared to be drawing attention to their crimes and underlining the connection between them. Horn identified this as a typical tactic of far-right groups. Some officers were assigned to pursue this lead, but the focus of the investigation remained on the police’s initial theory. The media continued to refer to the killings as dieDönermorde.

In November 2011, more than a decade after the first murder, DVDs containing a curious recording were dropped off at the offices of several German newspapers. They featured a doctored episode of the 1960s cartoon series, the Pink Panther, which appeared to be a message from the killers. For the first few minutes, the Pink Panther strolls around a city, where he sees a poster calling on citizens to “Stand with your country” and “Stand with your people”. Accompanied by the jaunty chords of Henry Mancini’s theme song, the character bombs a grocery store – then the video cuts to news footage of a shop that had been similarly attacked in Cologne in 2001.

The Pink Panther lounges on his couch and watches television news clips about the so-called Dönermorde. The clips flickering on his cartoon television are of real news reports from the murder scenes, with gruesome photographs of the victims. The Pink Panther’s eyes glaze over with boredom at how long it takes the German public to realise who is behind them. With a huff of impatience, the narrator indicates a sign on the screen: the murders, the video suggests, are the work of a group calling itself the National Socialist Underground (NSU).

By the time the German press was puzzling over the Pink Panther video, the investigators’ focus had finally narrowed to a cluster of extreme rightwing groups operating in the country. The authorities had still not figured out how to find the killers, but their confusion was brought to an abrupt end on 4 November 2011, when two men used bicycles in a bank robbery in Eisenach, a town in the central German state of Thuringia. After the robbery, they loaded the bikes into a rented camper van.

After a tip-off, police found the vehicle nearby. The two men had a vast stockpile of guns and ammunition inside the vehicle, but they did not try to fight their way out. Instead, according to investigators, they chose to kill themselves and set fire to the van. (An official report later concluded that one of the men had set the van alight, killed the other and then himself.)

The bodies were identified as those of Uwe Mundlos and Uwe Böhnhardt, two longstanding but hitherto unremarkable members of Germany’s enduring far-right scene, who had escaped the police with their friend Beate Zschäpe 13 years earlier. Even before identifying the corpses, investigators had found in their van the gun of a murdered police officer, Michèle Kiesewetter, whose killing five years earlier had never been solved.

Four days after the death of Mundlos and Böhnhardt, Zschäpe called the police in the Thuringian city of Jena. “Beate Zschäpe here,” she said. “I’m the one you’re here for.” The local authorities did not immediately grasp the significance of the call, even though more than a decade earlier the police had searched for all three in connection with a series of smaller crimes. German intelligence services had also been keeping tabs on the rightwing radical scene that Zschäpe was a part of, but had lost track of her, along with Mundlos and Böhnhardt when they went underground. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 8:36 pm

Judge orders LA Times to remove info from story

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Quite disturbing, particularly when combined with Trump’s routine bashing of the press and, as Stelter notes:

White House pulls Bolton from CNN interview

Let’s rewind the tape, for a moment. At Friday’s presser, Trump criticized CNN. After he did so, Jim Acosta said, “Mr. President, since you attacked CNN, can I ask you a question?” Trump refused, and instead called on John Roberts from Fox.

Fast forward a day later. Trump tweeted Saturday morning about the incident, characterizing his refusal to take a question as a supposed “takedown” of CNN. Hours later, the White House took action. Jake Tapper tweeted that National Security Advisor John Bolton had been “locked in” for a Sunday interview, and was still willing to do it, but that the White House had canceled it over the incident…

“Disrespected” ?!

Sarah Sanders on Saturday confirmed that Bolton had been pulled by the White House. She wrote in a tweet that Acosta “disrespected” Trump, and that, “Instead of rewarding bad behavior, we decided to reprioritize the TV appearances for administration officials.”

>> CNN spokesman Matt Dornic‘s reaction: “Rules of engagement: The act of asking a question during a press conf is now ‘bad behavior’ and the act of answering questions is now ‘reward.'”

Bolton skirts around the issue on ABC

Bolton landed on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, where he was asked about the kerfuffle by Jon Karl. “Is it really appropriate to deny a news organization access to a White House official because a reporter tried to ask a question at a press conference?” Karl asked.

Bolton replied with a non-answer. “Look, in reality I don’t seek out the press, I don’t talk to them, I — I appear when I’m — I’m asked to and if I’m not — if I’m not asked to appear, I don’t do it,” Bolton said…

>> Moments before: Karl also asked Bolton about Trump’s attacks on the press as a whole, and whether that contributes to the efforts by Putin and other authoritarians to undermine the press. His response? “Of course not. Really, honestly, Jonathan, I think the question’s silly.”

Fox’s Howard Kurtz… sides with the White House?
Immediately after Trump’s flap with CNN, journalists came to Acosta’s defense, decrying Trump for his anti-media rhetoric. This continued throughout the weekend. But over on Fox News, Howard Kurtz saw things differently. On “Media Buzz,”Kurtz said, “What’s gotten missed in a lot of the controversy here is that [Trump] called on John Roberts.” Kurtz then accused Acosta of “interrupting” and said he was “trying to hijack the question.” Mediaite has video here…

Keep that in mind, the read this from the same newsletter:

Judge orders LA Times to remove info from story

Disturbing: A federal judge ordered the LA Times on Saturday to remove information from one of its articles. The information, which the LAT said described a plea deal between prosecutors and a detective accused of working with the Mexican mafia, was never supposed to be made public.

According to the LAT, the details of the plea were accidentally posted to PACER, when they should have been filed under seal. When the LAT noticed the plea agreement, its journalists reported on it. “We believe that once material is in the public record, it is proper and appropriate to publish it if it is newsworthy,” LAT exec editor Norman Pearlstine said. The newspaper intends to challenge the judge’s decision…

Scary stuff, scary times. And it’s been noted that Trump’s constant denigration of the press that reports things he doesn’t want reported plays very well with Putin’s own idea of the press and how to treat it, though of course Putin murders journalists and Trump just refuses to take their questions.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 8:15 pm

Is Elon Musk starting to decompensate?

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I read this in Brian Stelter’s newsletter:

Elon Musk continues to make (terrible) headlines with his tweeting. Over the weekend, he tweeted an unfounded accusation about a Thai cave rescuer… (CNN)

Musk seems to be doing a lot of odd things. Like praising how he moved the assembly link to tents constructed outdoors in the parking lot. He seemed to regard it as “innovative” and “agile,” but it was just that he could not get the main assembly line to work. And that’s his job 1: make the assembly line go.

I think he must be feeling a lot of pressure, and he’s spread pretty thin. And the reported behavior seems… odd.

I hasten to add that this is but a personal opinion, and I have no formal training in psychology or mental health. Totally the observation of a layman. It’s just an opinion—question, really—about a public figure who sees to court coverage.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 7:49 pm

When it matters

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Formerly I would routinely forget my smartphone: leave it beside my chair when I went out, typically.

Now that I added Pedometer++ to keep count of my steps, not only do I never forget it, I also carry it in my shirt pocket around the house. Until I get dressed until I go to bed: that’s when I have the phone with me. Never an uncounted step.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 7:26 pm

Halibut cheeks again, and then a second life for the dish

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There’s a local store that seems regularly to have halibut cheeks. I bought a package of them and made this recipe, using my 4-qt sauté pan:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 very large leek, sliced
2 shallots, chopped small
6-8 cloves minced garlic,
1 cup chopped celery,
1 large yellow zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into chunks,
1 large green zucchini same deal,
1 red bell pepper, cored and chopped,
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped small (including seeds and core),
10–12 sliced cherry tomatoes,
juice of half a lime,
juice of half a lemon
salt, pepper, and Aji-no-moto.

I cooked that until vegetables start to get done, then I put the halibut cheeks on top, covered, and simmered it for 10 minutes.

It was a fairly small package of halibut cheeks, and when I had eaten them for lunch, most of the vegetables were left over, so I added:

1 boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into large dice (or small chunks)

I stirred them into the vegetables, covered the pan, and simmered 10 minutes.

The whole thing is 4 points, and I would say it’s at least 4 one-cup servings, so about 1 point per serving.

I’m going to make this again, and just use 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (no halibut cheeks).

I have to say I like zucchini.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 2:25 pm

Curry Lime Chicken Salad (0 points)

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Weight Watchers has a very nice curried chicken salad with lime juice, but not quite enough dressing. Here’s my suggestions for ingredients:

2 cup(s), chopped cooked skinless boneless chicken breast(s), cubed
1 small fresh apple(s), Fuji-variety, diced
1/2 cup(s) uncooked celery, thinly sliced
1/4 cup(s) uncooked shallot(s), minced
1/2 cup(s) fat-free plain Greek yogurt
2 Tbsp cilantro, minced, fresh
1 tsp curry powder
3/4 tsp fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp lime zest, finely grated
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 Tbsp uncooked scallion(s), chopped (optional)

I doubled the recipe so I could get several meals from it, and basically in the doubled recipe used the zest from 1 lime and then the juice from that lime.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 2:18 pm

New York health officials recommend marijuana legalization in report to governor

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Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

The New York Department of Health has issued a report concluding that “the positive effects of a regulated marijuana market in NYS outweigh the potential negative impacts.”

Initiated at the request of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, health officials reviewed the “health, criminal justice and public safety, economic, and educational impacts of a regulated marijuana program” in the state.

It found that the legal regime of marijuana prohibition has “not curbed marijuana use and has, in fact, led to unintended consequences,” like the disproportionate criminalization and incarceration of minorities. It estimates that a statewide legal marijuana market would be worth between $1.7 billion and $3.5 billion, which could generate anywhere from $248 million to $677 million in annual tax revenue for the state.

The report is notable for its full-throated adoption of arguments that have been put forth by legalization supporters for years. It acknowledges that marijuana is less harmful than legal drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, and that legalization and regulation is the best way to mitigate the harm posed by use of the drug.

It notes evidence supporting medical uses for marijuana, particularly its potential to help curb the opioid crisis. It suggests that the greatest risks associated with marijuana use are due to the legal status of the drug, which has led to “more than 800,000 arrests for marijuana possession” in New York in 20 years. The report also makes an economic case that legalization will lead to a reduction in law enforcement costs, and bring jobs and tax revenue to the state.

The study represents something of an about-face on marijuana policy for New York, which has lagged behind a number of its neighbors, including Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada on marijuana policy. The state didn’t have a medical marijuana policy until 2014, nearly two decades after California voters approved the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996.

As recently as last year, Cuomo maintained that he was opposed to marijuana legalization because he believed that the plant was a “gateway drug” — a claim refuted by the new Department of Health report, which says that “the research community generally does not recognize the premise that marijuana leads to the use of other substances as a legitimate or plausible assertion.”

Cuomo is facing a primary challenge this year from former “Sex and the City” actress Cynthia Nixon, who has put the issue of legalization front and center in her campaign. “In 2018, in a blue state like New York, marijuana shouldn’t be an issue,” Nixon said in an April campaign video. “If there was more political courage coming out of Albany, we would have done this already.”

May Quinnipiac poll of New York voters found that 63 percent supported “allowing adults to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Support was 71 percent among Democrats, 66 percent among independents, and 40 percent among Republicans.

About 15 percent of New Yorkers over the age of 12 already use marijuana in any given year, according to federal survey data. FBI crime statistics show that there are nearly 16 marijuana possession arrests each year for every 1,000 marijuana users in the state, putting New York in the middle of the pack on users’ likelihood of getting arrested. . .

Continue reading. Interesting chart at the link showing the odds of being arrested for marijuana, by state.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 12:34 pm

Story told by elevator buttons

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This is in our apartment building.  You’ll note that people rarely take the elevator up to the second floor—faster to walk than wait for the elevator (hydraulic, fairly slow)—and that people often walk downstairs rather taking the elevator (since the “1” button is less worn than “3” or “4.”

As you might expect, the “4” button gets the most use.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 11:53 am

Posted in Daily life

Once Militantly Anti-Abortion, Evangelical Minister Now Lives ‘With Regret’

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Terry Gross interview:

Evangelical minister Rob Schenck was once a militant leader of the anti-abortion movement, blockading access to clinics to prevent doctors and patients from entering.

But after more than 20 years in the movement, Schenck experienced a change of heart. Though firm in his evangelicalism, he has disavowed his militant anti-abortion stance.

“I live with regret,” he says of some of his former tactics. “I remember women — some of them quite young — being very distraught, very frightened, some very angry. Over time, I became very callous to that.”

Schenck now sees abortion as a moral and ethical issue that should be resolved by “an individual and his or her conscience” — rather than by legislation.

“This is not a question for politicians,” he says. “When your end goal is a political one, you will, without exception, exploit the pain and the suffering and the agony of those who face the issue in their daily reality, in their real life.”

Schenck describes his change in outlook as one of several “conversions” he has experienced as an evangelical Christian.

“Change is a part of the spiritual life,” he explains. “Anytime we stop changing, we stagnate spiritually, emotionally, intellectually; we stop growing.”

Schenck’s new memoir, Costly Grace, tells the story of the different phases of his religious and political life and explains why he changed — and how he now preaches a more inclusive message, embracing the people he once demonized.

Interview Highlights

On becoming an anti-abortion activist in 1988

There was a very close identification with the civil rights struggle, and I came to see this as a kind of civil rights struggle for the most vulnerable of human beings, those in the womb. And so as time went on, I embraced that. It took me a little while to become totally convinced of the rightness of that cause and I would take that into more than 20 years, actually 25 years, of activism.

On ways he and his fellow anti-abortion activists made it difficult for women seeking abortion

We engaged in mass blockades. Sometimes, we would have a dozen people in front of the doorways to a clinic. Other times, it would be hundreds. On occasion, we actually had thousands. And so we created human obstacles for those coming and going, whether they were the abortion providers themselves, their staff members, of course, women and sometimes men accompanying them that would come to the clinics. And it created a very intimidating encounter.

There were, of course, exceptions. There were women who would later thank us for being there. There were adoptions arranged where women would go through with their pregnancy, deliver their child, the child would be adopted through the pro-life network, but that was a relatively rare exception to the rule.

On reflecting on how his rhetoric while protesting abortion clinics and doctors may have contributed to the violence toward abortion providers, such as Dr. David Gunn, who was murdered in 1993; Dr. George Tillerwho was was wounded in 1993 and murdered in 2009; and Dr. Barnett Slepianwho was murdered in 1998

This became more about us, about me, about our need to win, to win the argument, to win on legislation, to win in the courts. I will tell you that my acceptance of that responsibility had to come only after a long period of reflective prayer, of listening deeply to those who were gravely affected by those murders, in therapy with my own — I will be careful to say — Christian therapist, who helped me come to terms with what really happened and how I may have contributed to those acts of violence through my rhetoric, and eventually in a confrontation, a very loving one but nonetheless an encounter, a very strong, very powerful encounter, with the relative of one of the doctors shot and stabbed. … And it was … actually at a Passover Seder table when I was confronted very gently and very lovingly by a relative who happened to be a rabbi of that one abortion provider. In that moment, I realized my own culpability in those in those terrible, terrible events.

On the evangelical support of Donald Trump . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 9:15 am

A way to catch typos: Have your computer read the passage aloud

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Jimi Smoot blogs a good tip (and there’s a screenshot at the link):

Email is such a wonderful medium for communicating with people but if you’re like me it can be a bit of an issue.

Sometimes I’ll draft an email that I think looks great. Before I send I read it, re-read it, and even read it out loud only the come back later and find that the email is missing words or had things misspelled.

Usually, for something important, I have my wife read it back to me out loud. But sometimes she isn’t around so I use the computer.

Heres how you can use this hack if you are using macOS and Chrome.

In Chrome, highlight all the text you want the computer to read back to you, right click, go to the “speech” section and click “start speaking”. At this point the computer will read out loud exactly what you’ve written. This also works for blog posts or articles that you want the computer to read while you are doing something else.

Using macOS to read you anything

For bonus points, if you want the computer to read something that is not in the browser, you can use macOS’s built in TextEdit application. To find TextEdit go to the “Applications” folder and click on the TextEdit application.

Next just paste in the text you want the computer to read, then select the text, right click, and look for the same “speech” menu as in Chrome. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 8:59 am

Nice willow on good walk

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Today was as pleasant as a walk in the park, because it was (in part) a walk in a park, where I walked around this spectacular willow tree. It’s in Rutledge Park.

Walk was 5800 steps, so I’ve already met my day’s goal. The Nordic walking poles are getting to be second nature, and my arms do not tire so easily as they did the first day.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 8:29 am

Unconditional Surrender this morning with the iKon Shavecraft X3

with 4 comments

I broke down and ordered the matching aftershave (made by Chatillon Lux) to Declaration Grooming’s Unconditional Surrender, a very nice shaving soap with a good fragrance. I now use Canadian vendors, of course, and this order came (quite promptly) from Canadian Beard & Blade (see link in link list at right).

Three passes with the redoubtable X3 left a perfectly smooth face, to which I applied a splash of the aftershave and then set out on my morning walk (after getting dressed, natch). See next post.

Written by Leisureguy

15 July 2018 at 8:23 am

Posted in Shaving

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