Later On

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After a Florida Democrat said she’d take donations from the marijuana industry, Wells Fargo closed her bank account

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The US is becoming an odd place. Christopher Ingraham reports in the Washington Post:

Wells Fargo Bank recently terminated the campaign account of a Florida political candidate after inquiring into whether the candidate intended to receive donations “from the medical marijuana industry in any capacity,” according to documents released Monday by the campaign.
Democrat Nikki Fried, running to be the state’s agriculture commissioner, is a former lobbyist who worked on behalf of a number of industries, including medical marijuana. The documents show that not long after opening a campaign account with Wells Fargo, the bank inquired about her stance on medical marijuana and her intent to accept donations from the medical marijuana industry. The bank subsequently closed her account, citing its “responsibility to oversee and manage banking risks.”
The move is highly unusual. If such a policy were applied nationwide it could potentially jeopardize the banking access of dozens of state and national politicians, as well as state agencies tasked with regulating the marijuana industry and collecting taxes on marijuana sales.
On June 13, Fried’s campaign opened an account with Wells Fargo, according to documents released by the campaign.
Campaign treasurer Gloria Maggiolo noted that the campaign had “never received a request of this nature from a financial institution” and confirmed to the bank that Fried would probably receive contributions “from lobbyists for the medical marijuana industry, as well as from executives, employees and corporations in the medical marijuana industry.” Maggiolo said that Fried was a former lobbyist for the industry and that any contributions from any source would happen under “all applicable IRS rules, FEC regulations, and Florida elections law.”
According to the campaign, on Aug. 3, it received a phone call from Wells Fargo indicating that its account would be terminated “because of [Fried]’s relationship to the medical marijuana industry.” The bank mailed a formal notice dated Aug. 3, stating that following an account review done “as part of our responsibility to oversee and manage banking risks,” the account would be closed within 30 days.
At a news conference on Monday, Fried said that “Wells Fargo’s actions against my campaign are emblematic of what is wrong with our government and politics today,” adding that she was “kicked out of a bank for voicing support of a law that is literally codified in the Florida constitution.”
In a statement, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Bridget Braxton declined to comment on the specifics of Fried’s case but said that “it is Wells Fargo’s policy not to knowingly bank or provide services to marijuana businesses or for activities related to those businesses, based on federal laws under which the sale and use of marijuana is illegal even if state laws differ.” By phone, she clarified that “activities related to those businesses” would include donations, to politicians or any other account holders.
While medical and recreational marijuana are legal in dozens of states, the drug remains illegal for nearly all purposes at the federal level. This has made banks wary of dealing with state-legal marijuana businesses for fear of running afoul of federal law.
In closing Fried’s account, Wells Fargo appears to be taking that skittishness one step further by denying banking access not to a marijuana business but to a political candidate who may receive donations from the marijuana industry. That could spell trouble for the dozens of national politicians who have received donations from the industry in this campaign cycle.
The National Cannabis Industry Association, for instance, a trade group for the industry, has donated thousands of dollars to more than 30 U.S. representatives and senators from across the political spectrum. Total marijuana industry lobbying has already exceeded $1 million dollars for the year.
Industry insiders worry that other marijuana-friendly politicians could see themselves targeted if other banks adopt similar guidelines. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 August 2018 at 6:11 pm

Malignant Narcissism diagnostic checklist

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Interesting and perhaps even useful, at the personal or national level.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 August 2018 at 7:33 am

Effective treatment for depression: Transcranial magnetic stimulation

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Transcranial magnetic stimulation is relatively new but has proved effective against depression when talk therapy and/or medication has not worked. The link is to an article by the Mayo Clinic, which begins:

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression. TMS is typically used when other depression treatments haven’t been effective.

How it works

During a TMS session, an electromagnetic coil is placed against your scalp near your forehead. The electromagnet painlessly delivers a magnetic pulse that stimulates nerve cells in the region of your brain involved in mood control and depression. And it may activate regions of the brain that have decreased activity in people with depression.

Though the biology of why rTMS works isn’t completely understood, the stimulation appears to affect how this part of the brain is working, which in turn seems to ease depression symptoms and improve mood.

Treatment for depression involves delivering repetitive magnetic pulses, so it’s called repetitive TMS or rTMS.

Mayo Clinic’s approach

Why it’s done

Depression is a treatable condition, but for some people, standard treatments aren’t effective. Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) is typically used when standard treatments such as medications and talk therapy (psychotherapy) don’t work. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2018 at 2:13 pm

Vaca Entera: Grilling an entire cow, butterflied

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I really want to go to Argentina at some point. Years ago I read “Argentina on two steaks a day,” which whetted my appetite. And now Gastro Obscura has this note:

In Argentina, beef is a way of life, and a stroll down most any street will yield a parilla(a term that refers to both the grill and the meat-serving establishment) hawking freshly grilled steaks and other prime carnal bits. It only makes sense that a country this passionate about beef would mastermind the vaca entera—a whole, thousand-pound cow splayed and suspended over an open fire.

Grilling an entire cow is equal parts cooking project and construction project. It begins with a massive grilling cage and a dozen or so people heaving the enormous bovine into the apparatus, strapping it in tight, and lighting fires underneath. The full-day or all-night process is all about controlling the fire and using brute strength to manually rotate the grilling cage like a rotisserie. With scalding fat dripping from the flesh, a blazing fire, and searing metal grates, this part requires concentration and finesse.

The shopping list for this recipe is brief: a butterflied cow and a pound of salt. Accoutrements such as a gallon of chimichurri, the Argentinian green herb sauce, are nice but not entirely necessary. The real challenge lies in the non-edible supplies: incredible amounts of wood and a heavily reinforced pulley system. Lastly, tackling a vaca entera requires around a dozen loyal and robust insomniacs willing to wait out the night while tending the beef and (in rural areas) fending off foxes or other animals, all for the love of beef.

A small number of chefs hold grilling sessions that double as performances. Try following chef Dante Ferrero for an announcement of his next vaca-entera event. When you attend one, be sure to try many different cuts of meat, which is part of the payoff of grilling an entire cow.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2018 at 11:00 am

Posted in Daily life, Food, Low carb

The Growing-ups: A modern life stage for 18- to 29-year-olds

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Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, Professor of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts and an author of Getting to 30: A Parent’s Guide to the 20-Something Years, writes in Aeon:

I will readily admit, it took me a long time to grow up. I graduated from Michigan State University in 1980 at the age of 23 with a freshly printed bachelor’s degree in psychology and no idea what I really wanted to do. I’d learned to play guitar in college and, intent on avoiding the drudgery of a crummy low-paying job, I now worked up a repertoire of songs large enough to enable me to make money by playing in bars and restaurants. I made enough to live on, but only because I had moved back home with my parents and didn’t have to pay for rent or groceries.

After a couple of years, I entered graduate school in psychology, but even after I got my PhD four years later, I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do. In the romantic department, I was no further along either. I’d had lots of girlfriends by then, but never come close to marriage. Eventually, I did find my way in love and work, but it took many years more: I got my first long-term job (as a professor) at 35, married at 36, and had my kids (twins) at 42.

When my research on how young people make their way to adulthood first began, the initial inspiration was my own odyssey. I was in my early 30s and thinking about how long it was taking me – and lots of my peers – to get there. But I have maintained my research focus on these 18- to 29-year-olds because I found they were so rewarding to talk to.

I had studied adolescents for years before that, mostly high-school students, focusing on their media use and risky behaviours such as driving while intoxicated. I enjoyed this research, but found that adolescents often clammed up when I tried to interview them. They were wary of me – a potentially intrusive adult – but it seemed that they also lacked self-reflection and self-understanding. Their egocentrism prevented them from being able to take a step back and reflect thoughtfully on what they did and why they did it.

But ‘emerging adults’, in the 18-29 age group, did have that ability, and not only those who were college-educated like me. My most memorable interviews were with emerging adults whose experiences were totally different from mine – those who had been in prison, or abused as children, or raised by a drug-addicted single mom. Across the board, I found them to be insightful about what they had experienced and who they were becoming now. It was this insightfulness, expressed with humour and everyday eloquence, that led me to devote my career to understanding them and explaining them to others.

Since then, I’ve written two books about this distinct life stage, in part to help emerging adults and their parents understand the longer road to adulthood in America today. I’ve also directed two national surveys, the Clark Poll on Emerging Adults in 2012 and 2013, which have given us a picture of this age group nationwide.

I was to discover, however, that there were many others who didn’t share my warm and benevolent views of emerging adults. Quite the contrary.

In 2004, after a decade of interviewing 18- to 29-year-olds in various parts of the US, I published a book announcing the theory of emerging adulthood as a new life stage between adolescence and adulthood, and summarising what I’d found in my research, on topics ranging from relations with parents to love and sex, education, work and religious beliefs. Prior to publication, TIME magazine told my publisher, Oxford University Press, that they were planning to run a cover story inspired by the book. Naturally, I was excited. However, when the TIME piece came out, it was shockingly bad. The cover photo showed a young man clad in a dress shirt and pants, sitting in a sandbox. Readers were invited to meet today’s young people, ‘who live off their parents, bounce from job to job and hop from mate to mate… THEY JUST WON’T GROW UP’. The text was mostly a lament on their deficiencies and an invitation to ridicule them for taking longer to enter marriage, parenthood and full-time work than their parents or grandparents did.

Ten years later, I am no longer surprised by this view of emerging adults, but I remain puzzled and dismayed. I have spent a regrettable amount of my time in the past decade playing Whac-A-Mole with the derogatory descriptions that my fellow Americans reflexively apply to emerging adults: they’re lazy, selfish and they never want to grow up. Oh, and they’re worse than ever, certainly worse than the adults now criticising them were in their own youth. Is there is any truth to these stereotypes or are they just unfair?

One of the most common insults to today’s emerging adults is that they’re lazy. According to this view, young people are ‘slackers’ who avoid work whenever possible, preferring to sponge off their parents for as long as they can get away with it. One of the reasons they avoid real work is that have an inflated sense of entitlement. They expect work to be fun, and if it’s not fun, they refuse to do it.

It’s true that emerging adults have high hopes for work, and even, yes, a sense of being entitled to enjoy their work. Ian, a 22-year-old who was interviewed for my 2004 book, chose to go into journalism, even though he knew that: ‘If I’m a journalist making $20,000 a year, my dad [a wealthy physician] makes vastly more than that.’ More important than the money was finding a job that he could love. ‘If I enjoy thoroughly doing what I’m doing in life, then I would be better off than my dad.’ Emerging adults enter the workplace seeking what I call identity-based work, meaning a job that will be a source of self-fulfillment and make the most of their talents and interests. They want a job that they will look forward to doing when they get up each morning.

You might think that this is not a realistic expectation for work, and you are right. But keep in mind it was their parents’ generation, the Baby Boomers, who invented the idea that work should be fun. No one had ever thought so before. Baby Boomers rejected the traditional assumption that work was a dreary but unavoidable part of the human condition. They declared that they didn’t want to spend their lives simply slaving away – and their children grew up in this new world, assuming that work should be meaningful and self-fulfilling. Now that those children are emerging adults, their Baby Boomer parents and employers grumble at their presumptuousness.

So, yes, emerging adults today have high and often unrealistic expectations for work, but lazy? That’s laughably false. While they look for their elusive dream job, they don’t simply sit around and play video games and update their Facebook page all day. The great majority of them spend most of their twenties in a series of unglamorous, low-paying jobs as they search for something better. The average American holds ten different jobs between the ages of 18 and 29, and most of them are the kinds of jobs that promise little respect and less money. Have you noticed who is waiting on your table at the restaurant, working the counter at the retail store, stocking the shelves at the supermarket? Most of them are emerging adults. Many of them are working and attending school at the same time, trying to make ends meet while they strive to move up the ladder. It’s unfair to tar the many hard-working emerging adults with a stereotype that is true for only a small percentage of them.

Is striving for identity-based work only for the middle class and the wealthy, who have the advantages in American society? Yes and no. The aspiration stretches across social classes: in the national Clark poll, 79 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that: ‘It is more important for me to enjoy my job than to make a lot of money,’ and there were no differences across social class backgrounds (represented by mother’s education). However, the reality is quite different from the aspiration. Young Americans from lower social class backgrounds are far less likely than those from higher social backgrounds to obtain a college education and, without a college degree, jobs of any kind are scarce in the modern information-based economy. The current US unemployment rate is twice as high for those with only a high-school degree or less than it is for those with a four-year college degree. In the national Clark poll, emerging adults from lower social class backgrounds were far more likely than their more advantaged peers to agree that ‘I have not been able to find enough financial support to get the education I need.’ That’s not their fault. It is the fault of their society which short-sightedly fails to fund education and training adequately, and thereby squanders the potential and aspirations of the young.

Another widespread slur against emerging adults is that they are selfish. Some American researchers – most notoriously Jean Twenge, a professor at San Diego State University and a well-known writer and speaker – claim that young people today have grown more ‘narcissistic’ compared with their equivalents 30 or 40 years ago. This claim is based mainly on surveys of college students that show increased levels of self-esteem. Today’s students are more likely than in the past to agree with statements such as: ‘I am an important person.’

With this stereotype, too, there is a grain of truth that has been vastly overblown. It’s probably true that most emerging adults today grow up with a higher level of self-esteem than in previous generations. Their Baby Boomer parents have been telling them from the cradle onward: ‘You’re special!’ ‘You can be whatever you want to be!’ ‘Dream big dreams!’ and the like. Popular culture has reinforced these messages, in movies, television shows and songs. Well, they actually believed it. In the national Clark poll, nearly all 18- to 29-year-olds (89 per cent) agreed with the statement: ‘I am confident that eventually I will get what I want out of life.’

But – and this is the key point – that doesn’t mean they’re selfish. It certainly doesn’t mean they are a generation of narcissists. It simply means that they are highly confident in their abilities to make a good life for themselves, whatever obstacles they might face. Would we prefer that they cringed before the challenges of adulthood? I have come to see their high self-esteem and confidence as good psychological armour for entering a tough adult world. Most people get knocked down more than once in the course of their 20s, by love, by work, by any number of dream bubbles that are popped by rude reality. High self-esteem is what allows them to get up again and continue moving forward. For example, Nicole, 25, grew up in poverty as the oldest of four children in a household with a mentally disabled mother and no father. Her goals for her life have been repeatedly delayed or driven off track by her family responsibilities. Nevertheless, she is pursuing a college degree and is determined to reach her ultimate goal of getting a PhD. Her self-belief is what has enabled her to overcome a chaotic childhood full of disadvantages. ‘It’s like, the more you come at me, the stronger I’m going to be,’ she told me when I interviewed her for my 2004 book.

The ‘selfish’ slur also ignores how idealistic and generous-hearted today’s emerging adults are. In the national Clark poll, 86 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed that: ‘It is important to me to have a career that does some good in the world.’ And it is not just an idealistic aspiration: they are, in fact, more likely to volunteer their time and energy for serving others than their parents did at the same age, according to national surveys by the US Higher Education Research Institute.

As for the claim that they never want to grow up, it’s true that entering the full range of adult responsibilities comes later than it did before, in terms of completing education and entering marriage and parenthood. Many emerging adults are ambivalent about adulthood and in no hurry to get there. In the national Clark poll, 35 per cent of 18- to 29-year-olds agreed with the statement: ‘If I could have my way, I would never become an adult.’ That’s not a majority, but it’s a lot, and that 35 per cent is probably the basis of the stereotype. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2018 at 9:43 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Science

Secret Israeli Report Reveals Armed Drone Killed Four Boys Playing on Gaza Beach in 2014

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Rober Mackey reports in The Intercept:

A CONFIDENTIAL REPORT by Israeli military police investigators seen by The Intercept explains how a tragic series of mistakes by air force, naval, and intelligence officers led to an airstrike in which four Palestinian boys playing on a beach in Gaza in 2014 were killed by missiles launched from an armed drone.

Testimony from the officers involved in the attack, which has been concealed from the public until now, confirms for the first time that the children — four cousins ages 10 and 11 — were pursued and killed by drone operators who somehow mistook them, in broad daylight, for Hamas militants.

The testimony raises new questions about whether the attack, which unfolded in front of dozens of journalists and triggered global outrage, was carried out with reckless disregard for civilian life and without proper authorization. After killing the first boy, the drone operators told investigators, they had sought clarification from their superiors as to how far along the beach, used by civilians, they could pursue the fleeing survivors. Less than a minute later, as the boys ran for their lives, the drone operators decided to launch a second missile, killing three more children, despite never getting an answer to their question.

Suhad Bishara, a lawyer representing the families of the victims, told The Intercept that Israel’s use of armed drones to kill Palestinians poses “many questions concerning human judgment, ethics, and compliance with international humanitarian law.”

Remotely piloted bombers “alter the process of human decision-making,” Bishara said, and the use of the technology in the 2014 beach attack “expands the circle of people responsible for the actual killing of the Bakr children.”

Just hours before the attack, on the morning of July 16, 2014, the public relations unit of the Israel Defense Forces had been promoting the idea that the live video feeds provided by drones enabled its air force to avoid killing Palestinian civilians.

The PR unit released operational footage, apparently taken from the screens of Israeli drone operators, which documented how three Israeli airstrikes had been called off that week because figures, identified as civilians, had appeared close to targets in the densely populated Gaza Strip.

Those images were released one week into Israel’s Operation Protective Edge, a 50-day offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza in which Israel would eventually kill 1,391 civilians, including 526 children.

Later that same day, at about 3:30 p.m., an Israeli Hermes 450 surveillance drone hovering over a beach in Gaza City transmitted images of eight figures clambering from the strand onto a jetty.

A small shipping container on the jetty had been destroyed by an Israeli missile the day before, based on intelligence indicating that it might have been used by Hamas naval commandos to store weapons. Some analysts have questioned that intelligence, however, since there were no secondary explosions after the structure was hit and journalists staying in nearby hotels reported that no militants had been seen around the jetty that week.

The Israeli military police report reviewed by The Intercept documents what happened next. After one of the figures on the jetty entered the container that had been destroyed the previous day, an Israeli air force commander at the Palmachim air base, south of Tel Aviv, ordered the operators of a second drone, which was armed, to fire a missile at the container.

AS MY COLLEAGUES Cora Currier and Henrik Moltke reported in 2016, although the Israeli government maintains an official stance of secrecy around its use of drones to carry out airstrikes, hacked Israeli surveillance images provided to The Intercept by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden showed an Israeli drone armed with missiles in 2010.

Speaking privately to a visiting American diplomat after Israel’s 2009 offensive in Gaza, Avichai Mandelblit, who was the country’s chief military prosecutor at the time and now serves as its attorney general, acknowledged that two missiles that injured civilians in a mosque had been fired from an unmanned aerial vehicle, according to a leaked State Department cable.

One reason that Israel might decline to acknowledge that its drones have been used to kill Palestinian children is that such information could complicate sales of its drones to foreign governments. In June, the state-owned company Israel Aerospace Industries signed a $600 million deal to lease Heron drones to Germany’s defense ministry. That deal was initially delayed by concerns from German politicians that the drones, to be used for surveillance, could also be armed. The same state-owned company has also sold drones to Turkey, a strongly pro-Palestinian nation, which has nonetheless used the Israeli technology to bomb Kurds in Iraq.

The Israeli military police report on the 2014 strike seen by The Intercept offers the most direct evidence to date that Israel has used armed drones to launch attacks in Gaza. Testimony from the drone operators, commanders, and intelligence officers who took part in the attack confirms that they used an armed drone to fire the missile that slammed into the jetty, killing the person who had entered the container, and also to launch a second strike, which killed three of the survivors as they fled across the beach.

According to the testimony of one naval officer involved in the strikes, the mission was initially considered “a great success,” because the strike team believed, wrongly, that they had killed four Hamas militants preparing to launch an attack on Israeli forces.

Within minutes of the two strikes, however, a group of international journalists who had witnessed the attack from nearby hotels reportedthat the victims torn apart by the missiles were not adult militants but four small boys, cousins who were 10 and 11 years old. Another four boys from the same family survived the attack, but were left with shrapnel wounds and deep emotional scars.

Harrowing images of the children running desperately across the beach after the first missile had killed their cousin were quickly shared by a Palestinian photographer, an Al Jazeera reporter and a camera crew from French television.

A brutal image of the immediate aftermath captured by Tyler Hicks of the New York Times, one of the journalists who witnessed the attack, made the killing of the four boys, all of them sons of Gaza fishermen from the Bakr family, reverberate worldwide. . .

Continue reading.

Read the whole thing. Very grim photos at the link. One can understand why Palestinians dislike and distrust Israel.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2018 at 7:09 am

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

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A fascinating disturbing recent history with a glimpse of what lies beneath is presented 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.

The three had been living together in the town of Zwickau in an apartment that Zschäpe burned down after she learned of the deaths of Mundlos and Böhnhardt. When police later searched the scorched apartment, they found newspaper clippings about the murders of the Turkish-German businessmen, copies of the Pink Panther DVD, and the Česká pistol. This was early evidence that linked Mundlos, Böhnhardt, and Zschäpe to the murders that had first been investigated by the Bosphorus group.


On 6 May 2013, after two years of sensationalist speculation about the NSU in the German press, Zschäpe appeared for the first time in a Munich courtroom, charged with nine murders, an attack on police that included a murder, and two attempted murders by bombing. Four other men also stand accused of providing support to the NSU.

Rather than investigating how far-right killers could have operated undetected for so long, most of the German media opted for lurid coverage of the NSU, insisting that it consisted of only three people. Der Spiegel took the lead with a cover story dedicated to “ice-cold precision” of what it called the “Brown Army Faction”, with photographs that portrayed Zschäpe, Mundlos and Böhnhardt as natural-born killers, ready for their Hollywood close-ups. For the media, it was Bonnie and Clyde and Clyde – offering the salacious possibility of a murderous menage a trois. The German tabloid Bild ran the headline “The Devil has dressed up,” after Zschäpe appeared at the opening of the trial in a trouser-suit, jewellery and freshly dyed hair.

Zschäpe, now 41, has been sitting in court every weekday morning in Munich for the past three years, but she has revealed almost nothing – despite the urgent pleas of the families of the victims. While she claims that she now understands that Mundlos and Böhnhardt had conducted bank robberies and killings, she claims not to have known anything about their plans or activities while she lived with them. “They had become my family,” she said. Her plea is not guilty.

But the significance of the trial is far larger than what Zschäpe did or did not know about the killing spree. Germany’s sense of itself is also on trial. The findings of the prosecution suggest that Germany, a nation that prides itself on having confronted the dark recesses of its past with unique diligence, has left a thriving underground culture of rightwing extremism untouched.

Alternative für Deutschland – the first far-right populist party in Germany to enjoy sustained electoral success since the second world war – is only the latest in a series of symptoms of a widespread animosity toward the postwar liberal consensus. Darker currents of discontent are openly displayed on the internet – and on newsstands and television, where rightwing arguments have increasingly found favour.

The German government has been content to write off the NSU as a stand-alone terror cell of sociopaths – an unfortunate, but exceptional recrudescence of a political syndrome that the country has long since inoculated itself against. However, the NSU murder investigation and Zschäpe’s trial suggest that the organisation may have been carefully supported and protected by elements of the state itself.


The first thing to understand about the National Socialist Underground is that it was never really underground. . .

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Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2018 at 6:39 pm

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