Eine perfide Erfindung

A perfidious invention: barrel bombs the Assad government is throwing out of helicopters onto residential urban areas of Syria. The steel barrels contain accelerant and e.g. nails, for large possibly napalm-like explosions that distribute sharp shrapnel. Opposition sources indicated these hardware-store bombs are being used for terrorism of civilians living in rebel-controlled areas; one was dropped near a school for example.

Meanwhile, the peaceful protesters who tried to oust the violent Assad family by nonviolent means and then understandably fled the country in droves suffered in an unusual blizzard last month, which dropped ~40 cm of snow on Jerusalem in early December 2013. German news showed footage of families living in tents on frozen dirt floors, with plastic tarp walls not even keeping out the wind, in Jordan, or a dozen people crowded into one unheated room with a weeping wet ceiling in Lebanon. Asking for several billion dollars in aid, especially from wealthy neighbors like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the United Nations estimated the number of Syrian refugees would increase to several million in the next year, while three-quarters of Syria’s population might experience food shortages. There’s talk too of a lost generation because, it was estimated in a U.N.H.C.R. report, ~3 million Syrian children aren’t attending school because of the war.

Update on 29 Dec 2013: Spiegel.de said a “rebel-friendly human rights organization” reported that Syria’s air force used the dreaded barrel bombs to blow up an open-air fruit-and-veg market in Aleppo’s old city on a Saturday morning.

Update on 19 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal said the Assad troops dropped >300 barrel bombs from helicopters in March 2014; it’s unclear whether that was just over Aleppo or all battle zones in Syria.
For what it’s worth, a London-based Arabic-language newspaper said the Assads are hiring foreign mercenaries as pilots, possibly because some Syrian troops have refused to fly these helicopters.

(Eye nah   peah FEE dah   eah FINNED oong.)

Gemeinsames Terrorabwehrzentrum, G.T.A.Z.

“Joint Terrorism Defense Center.” Apparently the German police and secret services have been working together at this institution since its founding in 2004 under poor Otto Schily. Many Germans are terrified by the idea of police and spies working together.

If the reasonable, brave, intelligent, energetic and left-leaning defense attorney Otto Schily, cofounder of the German Green party in 1980, could as interior minister in an S.P.D. + Green party coalition federal government help set up the “antiterrorism” cooperations that Otto Schily apparently did, then institutions in governments around the world could use a good hard review by politicians who don’t want to see themselves forced into similar stances in the very near future.

A recent review of Germany’s antiterror laws by the interior ministry and the justice ministry, examining in particular who has what authorities and who checks their work, has concluded and published its nonbinding report. Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) was satisfied with the current laws but justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger (F.D.P.) is not: she is calling for a new law providing uniform and limiting rules for antiterror centers where police and intelligence services exchange information.

“When we’re talking about intervention authorizations that go deep, precisely the ones that penetrate into the privacy and personality spheres of individual people, then there have to be definitive rule-of-law procedures, mandatory notifications, inspection and controls, transparency.”

(Geh MINE zom ess   TARE or OB vare tsent room.)

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