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Sword Of Damocles In The Cold War

Here's all you need to know about political murders

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Sweden's Olof Palme
Sweden's Olof Palme

By Tania Bhattacharya

Some political murders have successfully created a void within the nation, and altered its path in history, such as the 1986 killing of Olof Palme, in Stockholm.

Most people underestimate the immense power of self-awareness and wonder why most of their relationships are less than sweet. A social lockdown can mean the liberation of our own true identity. So why not do ourselves a favor and try and fix traits in ourselves that prevent us from having great relationships with others.

Death is the great leveller, it is said. Until that is, it favours the common man over and above far more successful and visible public figures. Then, it merely becomes the final act in a play about conspiracies and the miscarriage of justice. The victims are usually high profile political and administrative personalities, who were plotting to blow the lid, off whatever had caused their conscience to flail. While scores of such deaths have been registered throughout modern history, at least four from the post-war decades of the last century, deserve to be mentioned. Their cases remain open, despite the many attempts made to close them. The Cold War’s greatest whodunit; the case of Somerton Man, has not been included.

UWE BARSCHEL

Uwe Barschel was elected the President of West Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein, in the October of 1982. He belonged to the Centre-Right Christian Democratic Union which was being headed by Helmut Kohl. Barschel was regarded as being full of promise, and his tenure was counted as a success. Unfortunately, Barschel was falsely implicated on corruption charges by vested interests, which made him resign his post, and embark on a hectic international itinerary, in an attempt to get away from the mess, probably in the hopes that the rumours would soon die down, making his return to West Germany, possible.

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His first choice of destination was Gran Canaria in the Canary islands, following which he made his way to Geneva. With what on his mind did he choose Geneva for a visit, has remained murky. However Uwe Barschel’s widow has alleged, that his getaways were essential as he was concealing incriminating evidence in the form of documents, and photos. The scandal that had consumed Barschel was termed Waterkant-Gate, after the fashion of giving a silent nod to that mother of all scandals; Watergate.

It was in his Geneva hotel room, that Barschel’s lifeless body was discovered. He was fully clothed, and lying submerged in a bathtub. A post-mortem had established that his bloodstream was carrying enough sedatives to put a dozen horses to sleep. There were barbiturates, antihistamines, sleeping pills, and more of such drugs. The official report – brushing aside objections raised by his widow – certified his death as ‘suicide’. But to even an untrained eye, the conclusion seemed erroneous. To begin with, his room bore evidence of others having been present; and many items had been moved around. The position of the corpse seemed to be odd.

Uwe Barschel’s death remains an open-ended case, but progress seems to have been made of late. In 2010, Hans Brandenberger, a Toxicologist from Switzerland, and someone who had built a reputation as a forensic expert, re-opened the case of the politician’s mysterious demise. One of his contentions was, that a number of drugs that were traced in the dead Barschel’s bloodstream, could not have been obtained over-the-counter, or even with an ordinary prescription. In all probability, the lethal combination of medications was forced down his oesophagus, in what he surmised, was a bumping off.

Olof Palme
Former Schleswig-Holstein chancellor, Uwe Barschel.

Investigations into the baffling circumstances surrounding Barschel’s death in the ensuing decades, have thrown up a curious fact. That this successful politician from West Germany, may have been a secret informer of the dreaded East German Secret Police; the STASI. Mere involvement with an espionage agency however, is not enough to prove complicity. The STASI or for that matter, East Germany, had no reason to target Uwe Barschel. This brings us to the most circulated theory about his assassination. Ex-Mossad agent Victor Ostrovsky has insinuated in his writings, that Barschel was a victim of his former employers, who wanted to prevent the politician from denying the use of West German soil, for exacerbating the raging Middle East conflict. It seems Barschel’s family had already been aware of the weapons and training being provided from Shleswig-Holstein, and were opposed to it.

Ostrovsky’s claim has been, that Uwe Barschel signed his own death warrant, by disallowing Israel the use of the ports of his region, which were being recruited for shipping arms to Iran.

In time, the said arms trade, would lead to another grand scandal; this time located on the other side of the globe: the infamous Iran-Contra Affair.

OLOF PALME

Olof Palme is relatively well known among the old-timers in India. He was the Prime Minister of Sweden on several occasions, and was a key figure in the Bofors Scandal. Noble by birth, but a Social Democrat by ideology, Palme bore a unique connection to this country. His great-aunt Anna Palme had married the Bengali doctor Upendra Dutt. Their son Rajani Palme Dutt – referred to by the initials of RPD – grew up to become a leading thinker in the Marxist tradition. RPD remained an anointed figure both in Europe, as well as in his paternal homeland of India.

In Sweden, Olof Palme is a hero, despite the many unsavoury details that dot his biography. This is primarily because Sweden, aside from Count Folke Bernadotte, and Dag Hammarskjold, had not had a national leader who was able to make the country matter, on an international scale. Prime Minister Olof Palme at long last ensured, that Swedish opinion was going to be heeded, through his vocal support of the developing world, and his efforts at keeping his country equidistant from the two power blocs.

As a student at Kenyon College in the United States, it is believed that Palme was sought out by STASI handlers who honed his talents in espionage, sending him on a number of missions for gathering intelligence. A not-so-well known image of the Prime Minister, taken in 1948, was examined by the Scotland Yard sometime ago, and the conclusion they drew was, that it was a doctored photo, probably manufactured to hide the true whereabouts of Palme. Alternative media site Blueshift has the relevant details, here:

https://blueshift.nu/karlas-secret-olof-palme-greatest-spy-of-the-cold-war/

 In the 1980s, the Swedish Premier was embroiled in a child prostitution scandal, with at least two of the victims, now in their fifties, alleging, that among the high profile men they had to service, was Palme himself. Over the years, and many media onslaughts later, neither women – one of whom is named Eva Bengtsson – have budged an inch from their original statements. It is a testament to Palme’s popularity, that he could successfully dodge the accusations being levelled at him from different quarters, retain his popular appeal, and continue to steer Sweden in the path of Democratic Socialism, even though this alienated a section of society that loathed the high taxes he made them pay.

So when Olof Palme was felled on the night of the 28th of February 1986, as he was strolling down from a movie theatre along with his wife, Sweden was in shock. The murder was anything but an open and shut case. There has been no closure till date, with competing theories still trying to establish for a fact, as to what the true nature of events had been.

Media reports had stated that the assassin had sauntered up to the couple and shot Mr. Palme in the back, in the process, injuring his wife Lisbet. Common sense though, finds this assumption had to stomach. Surely, bullets travel on a linear route? How then could the same one have both, killed the Swedish Prime Minister, and simultaneously injured his wife?

Who would have benefitted from Palme’s death? This particular whodunit has vexed the conscience of Sweden more than anything else, in its modern history. It is almost as though the Gandhi of that country, had been made to perish.

 Author and scientist Jan Bondeson has speculated on some feints in his book Blood On The Snow. He informs the reader, that at least three people had warned Swedish law enforcement of Palme’s impending fate. One of them was Yugoslav soldier Ivan Von Birchan, who had claimed that one Charles Morgan of the CIA had hired him and placed a hit on the Prime Minister. To prevent the latter from assuming office once again, a secret organization under the aegis of the American politicians Caspar Weinberger and Henry Kissinger, had approached Von Birchan. If this is true, then a wider, international conspiracy needs to be taken into account.

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 It is notable, that Olof Palme was yet another high-profile player in the trans-Atlantic arms trade. It is entirely possible, that he was privy to sensitive secrets, which vested interests were afraid, would be compromised.

WILLIAM COLBY

Olof Palme
William Colby.

Not many are familiar with his name, not even his own coutrymen. The Man Nobody Knew: In Search Of My Father, is a book by Colby’s son, the documentary filmmaker Carl Colby. William Colby was a former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who was responsible for the success of many of the organization’s operations in the 60s and 70s. He was in knowledge of the CIA’s MK-Ultra program, which was centred upon the development of mind-control drugs that could be used to neutralize enemies or people who posed a threat to the country’s agenda. For a long time, passed off as a mere ‘conspiracy theory’, it is now established for a fact, that MK-Ultra was used on a number of celebrity test subjects such as Ken Kesey, Whitey Bulger, and James Stanley, and was responsible for the November 18, 1978 cult massacres of Jonestown.

In present times, there is a petition on Change.Org demanding an end to mind-control research by the CIA, given its deadly effects. Last year NPR (National Public Radio) of the US, named Sidney Gottlieb as being the chemist who was enlisted by the CIA in developing the MK-Ultra program.

Espionage requires its personnel to carry certain virtues. Attention to detail, secrecy, fastidiousness, and being methodical to a fault, being a few of them. William Colby, as a top spymaster, was presumably in possession of these qualities. Upon his retirement from the agency, he purchased a simple, nondescript home across the marina from Cobb Island, situated near Washington DC. He would spend the weekends rowing his canoe, and never forgot to wear his life jacket.

That is why, when he disappeared in the April of 1996 from his Cobb island home, and didn’t surface for days – quite literally – it caused concern to his family and friends. Especially one particular friend who happened to be an author and publisher, Mr. Zalin Grant.

As is usual with cases of skulduggery involving people of importance, Colby’s disappearance was attributed in its early days to suicide. The more enterprising among the speculators, conjectured that Colby was probably silenced by the people he had opposed during his days as the CIA chief. But it seems as if there was more to the case than previously thought.

Bill Colby had been in the process of writing a tell-all, that was to inform people about the secret and unacknowledged actions of the American deep state; up to and including its denial of knowledge pertaining to extra-terrestrial energy harvesting. His book would have disclosed the machinations of the CIA in its quest for world domination; the global figures it had assassinated or plotted to, and its involvement in the international arms trade.

Mr. Grant has correctly estimated that ex-intelligence agents, especially someone like Bill Colby, who despite being in his mid-seventies was in the prime of his life, were unlikely to commit simple mistakes like not wearing his life jacket before going out to canoe, canoeing on a full stomach, or doing so well after sundown; features that were curiously present during the investigation into Colby’s disappearance. About ten days later, his bloated body had washed ashore at exactly the same place, where search efforts had looked thoroughly multiple number of times in the preceding days.

If Mr. Colby had not planned to write the incriminating tome he was doggedly bent on doing, he might have lived out his entire lifetime.

 THE JFK ASSASSINATION’S NEGLECTED DETAILS

A lot has been written and discussed about the usual suspects pertaining to JFK’s assassination. Reader’s Digest had serialized Jay Epstein’s The Secret World Of Lee Harvey Oswald in the late 1980s, which I used to read passionately. With the birth of the internet, many websites have been created exclusively dealing with the contentious points of Oswald, and Jack Ruby’s roles. Films have been made that pin the blame on the CIA. There are reliable bloggers who have produced photographic evidence of many of Oswald’s images standing solo and holding a weapon, being doctored. These having much literature dedicated to them, I would like to instead highlight some aberrations that appear in the Zapruder film – a citizen’s effort that captures the assassination much to the chagrin of those behind it – in combination with some suspicious happenings that occurred in the aftermath of the event.

A. Umbrella Man

umbrella man
Umbrella Man has been circled.

The grassy knoll in the captured footage moments before the tragedy, has a man attired in black, sitting on it. As the President’s motorcade begins to pass by, he stands up, opens his umbrella and waves it in the air in a circular motion. It almost seems as though he is signalling for action to begin over something, but the man was later questioned, and he defended himself by saying that it was a sign of protest at JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy’s policies when he was ambassador to Great Britain in the late 1930s. The umbrella was a reference to British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who was never seen without one. Even though this may sound plausible, one wonders if the man already had his excuse ready knowing full well that he could be questioned. And if he was indeed gesturing at his co-conspirators, then who was he working for? It had been a sunny day in Dallas, where umbrellas would not have been required.

B. Babushka Lady

An even more mysterious figure in the plot, is a woman who has never been identified, but who seemed to be filming the assassination as it progressed. She is referred to as ‘Babushka Lady’ in reference to the Russian-style scarf that was covering her head. Interestingly, while the other bystanders run for cover once the shots are heard, Babushka Lady remains rooted and unmoved. Theories have abounded as to her true identity. Was she a Russian spy? Once again, the presence of an unusual object – her scarf – raises questions. The clement weather did not require one’s head to be protected from a drizzle. And unlike the other regular female eyewitnesses, her legs are positioned apart. What’s more, even though everyone else told the authorities what they saw that day, BL did not attempt to do so.

C. Dorothy Kilgallen

Dolby Kilgallen
Dolby Kilgallen.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a charismatic television presenter, who doubled as a journalist. She participated in ‘What’s My Line’, a TV show that aired in the 1950s, and remains the only investigator to have spoken with Jack Ruby before his trial began. JFK was a friend of hers. Through exhaustive research, Kilgallen had collated a bunch of evidence that she wished to get published on the President’s murder. Criminal attorney Mark Shaw has detailed her efforts in his book The Reporter Who Knew Too Much. Days before travelling to New Orleans for an appointment with an informer on the case, Kilgallen was found dead in her home. The cause of death was drug overdose. Her diary and paperwork containing proof on the circumstances surrounding the President’s murder, were never found.

 DMary Meyer

Mary Meyer
Mary Meyer.

Mary Pinchot Meyer was a different kind of woman that had been introduced to JFK. She was married to a CIA operative Cord Meyer, and was an educated socialite. JFK had previously been involved with provocatively attired, air-headed floozies from the movie and modelling industries, who rarely if ever, offered him intellectual companionship. They would seek him out due to the aura of power he had about him. He looked upon them as needy and wanting. Meyer was more than a tad different. For the first time, as a skirt-chaser, the philandering President had met his match. He had felt deeply drawn to her educated upbringing, and her talent as a painter. Kennedy’s lovelorn paeons written to Meyer, reveal an unsure man who was craving for Meyer’s attention. The two remained lovers till the time of his death, often consuming LSDs in each-other’s company, in the White House.

Mary Pinchot Meyer became the victim of an unsolved murder in 1964. A Black American man Ray Crump, was arrested on the charges of sexually assaulting and robbing her, but the truth may never be known. As the ex-wife of a CIA aide, and a lover of the President himself, Meyer had long been targeted by powerful forces who were intimidated at her efforts of trying to unravel the facts over JFK’s demise.

E. Sam Giancana

Sam Giancana
Sam Giancana.

Sam ‘Mooney’ Giancana was a well-feared Italian-American* mobster of Chicago, whose brush with politics first occurred when Joseph Kennedy approached him, requesting the former’s intervention in winning a mandate for JFK, during the Massachusetts primary. The mobster willingly helped out by exerting his influence on the pollsters and the polls themselves, involving assassinations, death-threats, and booth capturing; which to a crime syndicate, was just another day at work. The claims were made by investigative journalist Seymour Hersh in his book The Dark Side Of Camelot.

Thus, it was entirely unacceptable to Giancana, when the same forces he had helped to power, turned against him. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, the President’s younger brother, was tasked with eradicating the Mafiosi from American soil, which he had every intention of following through with. In the eyes of ‘Mooney’, this was high treason. Giancana was himself, no stranger to duplicity. He had worked in tandem with the CIA, in trying to assassinate Cuban leader Fidel Castro, and not just once.

Of the many theories posited pertaining to the JFK case, one deals with the culpability of the American underworld in general, and the Chicago mafia, in particular. Did the CIA and Giancana join hands to rid themselves of a common enemy?

A word of caution here. One must be careful not to idolize the Kennedy clan. While the face they present to the world is one of philanthropy and social justice, a background check of their origins will reveal, that they made their fortune through bootlegging and underhand dealings during the Prohibition of the 1930s.

*American Mafia has often been culturally confined. There were Irish gangs, as well as Jewish ones like ‘Murder Inc’ headed by the mobster Bugsy Siegel, just as there were Italian outfits. Over the last few decades, African-American and East Asian syndicates have emerged as well. It would be timely to remind ourselves, that Film Industries and the underworld, all over the globe, have shared a disturbing bonhomie.

 While the Kennedy killing continues to remain a ‘Whodunit’, its consequences are no longer moot. Once again, and not surprisingly, the arms trade makes its appearance, along with the larger role of the Vietnam War that Kennedy had come to oppose.

Investigative reporter Patrick Baab and former Pentagon advisor Robert Harkavy, have published a joint effort named: The Spider Web Of Secret Services: Why Were Olof Palme, Uwe Barschel and William Colby Murdered?

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 It is easy to dismiss Cold War conspiracies and their dynamics as a thing of the past. How, for example, does the Trans-Atlantic arms trade matter anymore?

Well, it matters, because the weapons trade after receiving an initial jolt from the dissolving of the Eastern Bloc and its Afghan War, reinvented itself as the illegal arms market that was made available to the Islamic Jihadis, who discompose us to this day.

Also Read- Castro Gang Murders: How Cuba Eliminated An Opposition

(Disclaimer: All images have been supplied by the author and sourced from Wikimedia Commons).

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Some Interesting Facts About The Language Of Gods: Sanskrit

Read some interesting facts about the oldest language, the language of gods: Sanskrit

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Sanskrit
Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI. Pixabay

BY AAYUSH

Sanskrit is one of the oldest languages known to mankind It is also believed to be the most systematic and technical language of all. It is also referred to as the mother of all languages and is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion and gods. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

Sanskrit is the vehicle through which we have been fortunate to be gifted with the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagvat Gita, and the two great epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. It is the only language that is used in holy functions and ceremonies of the Hindus, as it has always been regarded as the sacred language of the religion. Sanskrit mantras, when recited in combination with the sound vibrations, have a specific effect on the mind and the psyche of the individual.

10 Interesting Facts About the Sanskrit Language

 

Sanskrit language when recited is no less than a beautiful melody is a mystery in itself. Here are 10 interesting facts about the Sanskrit Language.

1. The Language of the Gods

Sanskrit was considered as ‘DEV BHASHA’ or ‘DEVAVANI’, the Language of the Gods by ancient Indians. The script is called DEVNAGARI which means used in the cities of the Gods. It was believed to have been generated by the god Brahma who passed it to the Rishis (sages) living in celestial abodes, who then communicated the same to their earthly disciples from where it spread on earth.

Sanskrit
The Sanskrit language is the oldest language and many other languages are taken from it. Vedicfeed

2. The oldest language in the world

Sanskrit is believed to be one of the oldest languages in the world. The Vedas, the oldest extant texts in any language, were written in Sanskrit.  The earliest form of Sanskrit language was Vedic Sanskrit that came approximately around 1500B.C, a period when knowledge was imparted orally through generations.

3. An innovative language

An old, yet, a highly technical, systematic language of the world. Following research, a report given by the NASA scientist, Rick Briggs, Sanskrit is one of the most suitable languages for computers. It is considered to be very efficient in making algorithms.

4. A language without a default script

Sanskrit did not have a “default” script (like Devanagari- Hindi) until very recently, i.e. less than 200 years back. It was written by everyone in the regional script of their region, in over two dozen scripts. This may make it the language that has been written in the most number of scripts.

Sanskrit culture had a great reluctance towards writing, and this continued for at least a millennium before the first texts were penned. Yet there are as many as 30 million Sanskrit manuscripts with around 7 million manuscripts preserved in India itself. This precisely means that the magnitude of work in Sanskrit surpasses that of Greek and Latin put together!

5. Sanskrit Newspapers and Radios

Sanskrit daily news and newspapers exist even today. It is the language of more than 90 weeklies, fortnightlies, and quarterlies published across India. Gujarat started publishing Vartman Patram and Vishwasya Vrittantam five years back and an all India Radio has been broadcasting daily news in Sanskrit once a day since the year 1974. ‘Sudharma’, the newspaper is published out of Mysore, a historic city in Karnataka, India. It has been running since 1970 and is now available online as an e-paper.

Sanskrit
Even though Sanskrit is old, yet, it is highly technical and systematic. Pixabay

6. Sanskrit speaking hamlets

There are still many villages in India where Sanskrit is still the primary language of communication. The villagers also insist the visitors converse in Sanskrit with them. Banter, greetings, quarrels on the streets, teaching – it’s all in Sanskrit here.

7. A Spiritual Language

The word “Sanskrit’ is a combination of two words – “Sanskar’ and “Krit’; “Krit’ meaning “Inculcating’ and “Sanskar’ meaning “Essence of Moral Values’. Thus Sanskrit means a language that has the capacity to indoctrinate higher values in an individual, the self.

8. A highly versatile language

Sanskrit has the power to say something using the minimum amount of words. There are numerous synonyms for each word each with specific meaning in the language of Sanskrit. For instance, a simple word like the elephant has about a hundred synonyms. English has only one word for love, Sanskrit has 96.

Sanskrit has an amazing wealth of words and synonyms to give great versatility. It has in fact over 70 words for water where English has just got one. Amazingly the Sanskrit language has over 122 words for the action to go each with the specific meaning.

9. The master of Phonetics

Sanskrit is perhaps one of the most accurate languages in pronunciation. It makes use of 49 types of sounds that make pronunciations of different kinds of words very distinct. The attention devoted to the grammar, phonetics, and linguistics in Sanskrit is believed to have been unprecedented until the 20th century.

10. Increases brain power

Sanskrit has also been proven to help in speech therapy. Research suggests that learning the language improves brain functioning and students improve academically; they get better marks in subjects like Mathematics and Science which some people find difficult. It is because Sanskrit enhances memory power and concentration.

Also Read: Revival Of Indian Economy: PM Modi Is Doing His Job, What About Others ?

James Junior School in London has made Sanskrit compulsory. Students of this school are among the toppers in various fields and worldwide exams year after year. Some schools in Ireland also have made Sanskrit compulsory. (VedicFeed)

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Trump Universe Comes to A Stalemate

The tale of Donal Trump and his petty politics continues

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Trump
Trump failing at handelling the crisis. Pixabay

BY SAEED NAQVI

When the tortoise agreed to ferry a stranded scorpion on its back across the river, which was in spate, he didn’t know what he had bargained for. Midway, the scorpion stung the tortoise, deep, through its hard shell.

“Why have you done this?” asked the tortoise. “Now we shall both drown.”

“It’s in my nature,” said the scorpion.

Given its own self-esteem, the US should have been “ferrying” the world through the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the country is itself so overwhelmed by Corona that it has no time for leadership. Fair enough, let the US attend to protecting its people. But Trump’s Washington is not only making a mess of its own crisis, but it is also aggravating the world’s problems. The tortoise did not live to digest the lesson: a cooperative order is simply not possible with Trump.

If US capitalism in the post-Cold War world were scripted like a Webster melodrama, the audience should prepare itself for some frenetic tattooing by the “scorpion”. Even as the world is focused on fighting coronavirus, US claws are out, groping the Venezuelan coastline, using Columbian territory as its very own. Eight mercenaries are reported dead, even as two pedigreed Americans are in Venezuelan custody, presumably, singing like canaries by now. Wordsmiths have already named the expedition as the “Bay of kids”, so infantile has this latest US adventure been to unseat President Nicolas Maduro. Former US Green Beret, Jordan Goudreau has claimed responsibility. President Trump has closed his gloves in front of his face like a pugilist on the defensive. “I knew nothing about it.”

Of course, he knew just about as much as he did about the founder of Blackwater, Erik Prince’s idea of “privatizing” the Afghan War. Don’t laugh, Prince’s 100-page dossier spelt out details of how Afghanistan should be privately governed. The proposal was considered by freaks in the administration. According to the plan, Afghanistan would be ruled, just as India was, under a Viceroy. The plan was shot down. But Prince proved his resourcefulness once again in Venezuela. According to The Guardian, London, Prince secretly met one of Maduro’s closest allies, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez who also looks after security. About eight months ago, Prince was suggesting an invasion of Venezuela by “a private army of 5,000.” This was after the US had recognized Juan Guaido as the OPEC nation’s “legitimate President.” Which side of the street was Prince playing? The tricks have not worked. Trump will have to go into elections with a military failure in his backyard. Will his cohorts allow him to?

The US
The US criples against the pandemic fight. Pixabay

The world has been persuaded to put its head down on Corona. But this does not come in the way of Trump’s military adventure: holding US-Sri Lanka joint training in March and April at Sri Lanka’s Air and Naval base in Trincomalee, despite a ban on travel because of the pandemic.

This military bonhomie at a time when the coronavirus stricken aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, has been advised to dock at Guam. More than 4,500 crew members have been moved ashore. The spike in corona cases among the Sri Lankan Navy and Army can be traced to the companionship with US military personnel.

How can one raise fingers at the island nation’s obsequiousness when the great nation to its north circumvents its own rules to ship Hydroxychloroquine to the US because Trump has threatened “retaliation” if he were not helped in his hour of need.

This is not all. The man who is building a wall to keep Mexicans out, delivers a stark message to his southern neighbour: American economic interest supersede Mexican health interests. In other words, allow workers to operate factories essential not for Mexico but to the US — pandemic or no pandemic.

Germans coped with that mentality in March: the Trump administration tried to lure a German firm, CureVac, to the US. This is not where the audacity ends. The vaccine, jointly developed, would be available to the Americans first. The Angela Merkel establishment politely showed US negotiators the door.

In the German episode, the US comes across as almost elegant compared to the highway robbery at the tarmac of Chinese airport loading protection gear against the virus’ for European destinations. American “highwaymen” paid three times the amount and diverted the equipment to the US. French officials called it the “war of masks”.

Donal Trump
Donal Trump and his petty politics don’t pause even in the wake of a world pandemic. Pixabay

Meanwhile across the sea, Trump’s Sancho Panza (or is it the other way around), Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu is stepping up airstrikes against Syria, attempting Drone assassinations of Hezbollah field commanders, and, in brief, trying to pulverize the “axis of resistance”, with Iran as the prime target. The idea is to provoke just sufficient retaliation to enable Netanyahu to survive corruption charges, also to give Trump an opportunity to beat war drums, always a useful strategy in the election season, particularly when ratings are not promising.

The “Bay of kids” and his Gulf gyrations pale before the high wire act he appears to be developing (or bluffing) vis-a-vis China. Martin Wolf of the Financial Times is one of the many commentators who have chastised Trump’s “irresponsible” diatribe without any credible evidence.

The supremacist, neo-Nazi rally at Charlottesville, Virginia, some years ago, attended openly by the KKK and sundry white nationalists, created ripples and waves which never really subsided. “There are very fine people on both sides” was Trump’s immortal observation, balancing between Klansmen and counter-protestors.

From that persona, Trump never really distanced himself. The result is rampaging anti-Semitism. Israel’s respected newspaper Haaretz has expressed concern. Several protests against the measures taken by states to control coronavirus have featured swastikas and worse.

Also Read: Fair is foul and foul is fair in the Trump universe (Comment)

Jewish Centre for Public Affairs CEO, David Bernstein is convinced, that “as more people become economically disaffected the more they will look for scapegoats.” Since the economic downslide is on an epic scale, so will corresponding racism grow in the US and elsewhere. Should this President get a second term, we shall all surely go down like that tortoise, gasping. (IANS)

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Here’s The Full History Of Mass Shooters From U.S.A

Who commits public mass shootings? What motivates them to kill?

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Shooters
Since 1966, there have been 167 mass shootings in the United States, defined by the Congressional Research Service. Pixabay

On the morning of Aug. 1, 1966, Charles Whitman, a former Marine, stepped out on the observation deck of the University of Texas Tower and aimed his Remington bolt-action rifle at his first victims on the campus below. More than an hour after the shooting began, 15 people were dead and 31 injured. Among those was Claire Wilson, the first target, who was shot in the stomach. Wilson, who was eight months pregnant at the time, lost her unborn child and spent several months recovering in the hospital.

The massacre at the University of Texas at Austin wasn’t the first mass shooting in modern U.S. history. But at the time, it was the deadliest, and marked a turning point in public awareness of mass shootings and shooters in the era of mass media.

On the night of Oct. 1, 2017, businessman Stephen Paddock smashed the windows of his 32nd-floor suite in the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and fired his semiautomatic rifle on thousands of people attending an outdoors country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip. Fifty-eight people were killed and 887 were injured after a massacre that took only 10 minutes.

Mass Shooting
Here’s a Graph explaining the cases of mass shootings in U.S. from 1966 – 2019. VOA

Despite a few similarities in Whitman’s and Paddock’s personal backgrounds and modus operandi, the men were as different as night and day.

Whitman was a former altar boy and Eagle Scout in a difficult but devoted marriage. Paddock had no religious or political affiliations, and had married and divorced twice.

But their attacks helped frame a new database of mass shooters that hopes to inform future research and policy decisions about how to effectively prevent and respond to mass shootings.

VOA
Researchers Jillian Peterson and James Densley. (Amanda Jensen | The Violence Project). VOA

The Researchers

Jillian Peterson, Ph.D., and James Densley, Ph.D., built the groundbreaking database on mass shooters.

Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, told VOA the idea for the database came about after he and Peterson grew increasingly frustrated with television analyses in the aftermath of mass shootings that offered the simplified theory that the violence was caused either by guns or mental illness. The researchers advocated for more data-driven conversations about the phenomenon.

About the data

All shooters have either been charged, convicted, or killed at the scene.

Densley and Peterson, an assistant professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, began initial data collection in 2017, prior to the mass shootings in Las Vegas. Following that massacre, they, along with undergraduate volunteers, spent two years collecting more than 100 pieces of information on each of 171 mass shooters, resulting in The Violence Project Database of Mass Shootings in the United States, 1966-2019.

VOA’s report is based upon that research.

The database, the most comprehensive to date, is available at The Violence Project, defined on its website as a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society and improving related policy and practice through research and analysis.

Mass Shooters (1966 – 2019)

Since 1966, there have been 167 mass shootings in the United States, defined by the Congressional Research Service as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms — not including the offender(s) — within one event, and at least some of the murders occurred in a public location or locations in close geographical proximity (e.g., a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public settings), and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle).”

Put in perspective, mass shootings are statistically rare, accounting for fewer than 1% of all firearm homicides in the United States. But they are occurring regularly in a growing number of venues, leaving a trail of mass destruction that emotionally outweighs their numbers.

According to The Violence Project, nearly all mass shooters have four things in common:

  • Early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age
  • An identifiable grievance or crisis point
  • Have studied the actions of past shooters and seek validation for their methods and motives
  • The means to carry out an attack

The average age for a mass shooter was 34 years old. The youngest was 11 years old, and the oldest was 70.

Mass Shooter
The average age for a mass shooter was 34 years old. The youngest was 11 years old, and the oldest was 70. VOA

Where mass shooters killed

The past decade has seen an increase in mass shootings in a variety of settings. This troubling trend has prompted a debate among proprietors, school administrators and religious leaders about the need to balance openness and inclusiveness with physical security measures.

Current or former workplaces of perpetrators were the most common sites for mass shootings. Most of the shooters had been fired. Densley said a prevention strategy for businesses could include ways for managers to intervene with employees before a tragedy occurs.

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The past decade has seen an increase in mass shootings in a variety of settings. VOA

Almost all of mass shooters at restaurants, bars and retail establishments were strangers to those businesses, while perpetrators in workplaces, houses of worship, and schools and colleges tended to be current or former students and insiders known to the victims.

Densley believes shielding students with bulletproof backpacks and guiding them through lockdown drills, though useful, could also prove ineffectual when nearly all K-12, and college and university shooters are insiders, and likely familiar with the layout of a building and current safety policy.

Multiple profiles

A one-size-fits-all profile of a mass shooter is nonexistent.

Mass shooters have several profiles, unique to where a shooting occurred.

In houses of worship, the perpetrator most often was a white male in his 40s motivated by domestic issues or hate. He had a criminal record and a history of violence, and used handguns or assault rifles he legally owned.

In schools K-12, the mass shooter was a suicidal white male student of the school with a history of trauma. He leaked his premeditated plan before the shooting, and most often used multiple guns stolen from a family member.

By contrast, the typical shooter at a college or university was a suicidal, non-white male student of the institution with a history of childhood trauma. He used handguns legally obtained, and left a video or manifesto detailing his intent.

Densley suggests prevention plans for all of these types of shooters should include domestic violence programs, the disruption of online hate groups and Extreme Risk Protection Orders, also known as red flag laws. Under these laws, police and family members can petition courts to temporarily remove weapons from people who may present a danger to themselves and others.

Female shooters

Of the 171 mass shooters studied, only three were women. In one case, the woman acted in partnership with a man.

While the difference in numbers between female and male mass shooters is stark, it was represented in all U.S. homicides in which 80% to 90% of offenders in a given year were men.

There are few statistics on female perpetrators of homicide, but those that are available help to explain why women tend not to commit mass shootings.

According to a U.S. Justice Department report that looked at U.S. homicide trends from 1980 to 2008, women who committed murder almost always killed someone they know, and 58% of the time, they killed a significant other or immediate family member, compared to only 18% for male killers. Women committed just 6% of all murders with multiple victims.

The circumstances and means of killing also differed between men and women. Drug- and gang-related killings tended to be committed by men. When women killed, they were less likely to use firearms and more likely to use other means, such as poison or arson, the report said.

Childhood trauma

Thirty-nine percent of mass shooters experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. This includes at least one of the following: physical or sexual abuse, neglect, witnessing domestic violence in the household, having a parent who committed suicide or being the victim of bullying.

Multiple studies, including one published in the Journal of American Medical Association in 2018 found a link between childhood trauma and social, mental and physical problems in adults. Those who have experienced trauma as children were more likely to face a host of difficulties as adults, including having violent relationships, becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, having a psychiatric disorder and becoming depressed or suicidal.

Research also shows that the more incidents of trauma a child experiences, the greater the possibility for mental or physical problems to arise in adulthood.

Peterson, who began her career as a special investigator in New York City researching the psychosocial life of death row inmates for their sentencing hearings, discovered that many of the inmates had experienced trauma. She developed a saying in the office: “The worse the crime, the worse the story.”

Mental illness

Two-thirds of mass shooters had a history of mental health concerns, which is higher than the 50% of people in the general population who will satisfy criteria for a mental illness at some point in their lives.

Twenty-three percent had a mood disorder, which includes depression or bipolar disorder. This number was also consistent with lifetime prevalence rates among the general population.

Twenty-six percent had a thought disorder, which includes schizophrenia and psychosis, and was significantly higher than the general population.

Twenty-one percent of mass shooters were on psychiatric medication.

The commonality of mental illness between mass shooters is striking, leading some people, including President Donald Trump, to argue that mental illness should be targeted as the main cause of mass shootings.

Densley urged caution in drawing such conclusions.

“Even if you have a mental illness, it doesn’t mean that the mental illness is driving the behavior,” he said. “People with mental illness may also experience living in poverty. They may also experience discrimination. They may also have a whole host of other things going on in their lives, which step-by-step may be contributing to whatever outcome comes next.”

Signs of crisis

Before they carried out their crimes, more than 80% of mass shooters were in crisis, described by The Violence Project as a marked change in behavior that is noticeable to others. Such behavior includes exaggerated emotional responses, an increased interest in violence and signs of hopelessness.

Densley said in many cases, several people had concerns about a mass shooter’s behavior, but those pieces of information were often not connected.

“You have a school teacher that notices something. You have a friend that notices something, a family member, a law enforcement member. But if those individuals are not talking to each other, that information will never get passed on, and no one will ever know,” he said.

Sixty-eight percent of mass shooters were suicidal either before or at the time of the shooting.

Densley said a shooter’s anger is channeled inward and outward.

“Outward is where the homicide comes into play, because they are angry at a certain group of people or they are wanting to put on a show as their last act. But there is also a lot of inward hatred and frustration and confusion, and that is where the suicide comes into play,” he said.

He suggested adressing elements of a mass shooting similarly to how society addresses suicide. In terms of prevention, “it changes the way in which we see these events,” he said.

Immigrant

Fifteen percent of mass shooters were immigrants. But immigrant shooters were more frequent on college and university campuses, where 5% of mass shootings took place.

The Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007, so far the third-deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, was carried out by a Korean American immigrant suffering from severe depression.

Densely noted possible underlying grievances and motivations in carrying out such a crime at one’s own school.

“It may well be that non-white immigrants feel very disconnected from university life. They may be suffering from racism or exclusion, may feel alienated. And these, we know, are risk factors for these types of shootings. Beyond it is just the race,” he said.

‘Unusual, irrational thoughts’

Charles Whitman, 25, was an ex-engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert sharpshooter from his tour in the U.S. Marines. The UT Tower — at one time the tallest building in Austin — offered him a strategic vantage point.

“A person could stand off an army from atop of it before they got him,” he once remarked to a college friend.

Whitman was the eldest of three sons born to an abusive, domineering father and a God-fearing Catholic mother, whom Whitman adored. Hours before the massacre, he stabbed her in the heart and confessed to the murder in a handwritten note.

To Whom It May Concern: I have just taken my mother’s life. I am very upset over having done it. However, I feel that if there is a heaven she is definitely there now. And if there is no life after, I have relieved her of her suffering here on Earth.”

Two hours later, for reasons Whitman admitted he couldn’t “rationally pinpoint,” he killed his wife.

“She has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have,” he confessed in a note he left next to her body. … “I don’t know whether it is selfishness, or if I don’t want her to have to face the embarrassment my actions would surely cause her.”

The shootings at UT ended with Whitman’s death, not by the army he envisioned, but by two of three police officers who stormed the tower. Fifty-seven percent of mass shooters die at the scene.

In the suicide note he wrote the day before the shootings, Whitman offered a glimpse of his state of mind.

“I don’t really understand myself these days. I am supposed to be an average reasonable and intelligent young man. However, lately (I can’t recall when it started) I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts. … I talked to a Doctor once for about two hours and tried to convey to him my fears that I felt come (sic) overwhelming violent impulses. … After my death I wish that an autopsy would be performed on me to see if there is any visible physical disorder. I have had some tremendous headaches in the past and have consumed two large bottles of Excedrin in the past three months.”

An autopsy conducted the day after the shootings revealed an aggressive, malignant tumor the size of a pecan on Whitman’s brain. The pathologist who performed the initial examination determined the mass had no bearing on the killings.

But a subsequent autopsy ordered by a state task force found the link between the tumor and Whitman’s actions could “not be established with clarity.”

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a subsequent autopsy ordered by a state task force found the link between the tumor and Whitman’s actions could “not be established with clarity”. VOA

Mystery unsolved

Whatever motive Stephen Paddock had to kill and injure hundreds of concertgoers in Las Vegas, he took it to his grave.

The 64-year-old loner did not leave a suicide note, video or manifesto, as 23% of mass shooters do. He killed himself with a gunshot in the mouth as police, security guards and a SWAT team charged into his room. Thirty-eight percent of mass shooters die by their own hand.

Paddock was the eldest of four sons. His father, self-described as a “third-time loser,” was a cunning thief, con man and fugitive who spent eight years on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. Paddock’s mother was a secretary.

In high school, Paddock was considered a “brainy” student. He graduated college with a degree in business administration.

He was a licensed pilot, savvy real estate investor and a high-stakes gambler, spending more time playing video poker in casinos than in the houses he owned, one of which he paid for in cash. Before the Las Vegas shootings, a minor traffic citation was his only known run-in with the law.

The last known communications Paddock had with his family was a text message to his brother Eric inquiring about their 90-year-old mother in Orlando. Hurricane Irma had ripped through her neighborhood, knocking out the power. Paddock followed up with a phone call to her. Two weeks later, he was dead.

Though Paddock was reported to have suffered with bouts of depression linked to financial losses, toxicology reports and a complete autopsy showed anti-anxiety medication in his system, evidence of hypertensive cardiovascular disease, and no indication of dementia. None of the findings solved the mystery of his motive.

In its final report after a nearly 16-month investigation, the FBI concluded that Paddock’s attack was premeditated, that he had acted alone, and was “influenced by the memory of his father” to “attain a certain degree of infamy.”

“Throughout his life, Paddock went to great lengths to keep his thoughts private, and that extended to his final thinking about this mass murder,” the report said.

Comparing the shooter data

Determining why people became mass shooters required a new set of research and data that went beyond basic trends, descriptors and demographics, and broad definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting.

To compile the database for The Violence Project, Peterson and Densley narrowed the definition and broadened the focus on mass shootings and shooters. Where past studies relied on data collected in five-year intervals or only in high-profile cases, their research covered a 53-year span, closely examining variables including age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, education, relationship status, number of children, employment type and status, military service and branch, criminal, violence and abuse history, gang and terrorist affiliation, bullying, home environment and trauma.

What emerged were fleshed-out profiles and motivations of individual shooters, whose crimes can potentially influence current and future policy and prevention.

How mass shooters got their guns

Almost half of all mass shooters acquired at least some of their guns legally through a licensed dealer, unregulated private sale or other legal means.

Charles Whitman and Stephen Paddock amassed their arsenals legally. For his rampage, Whitman, a firearms enthusiast, had seven weapons and 700 rounds of ammunition, including three rifles and a sawed-off shotgun. His purchases were made at a hardware store, a gun shop and at Sears.

VOA
How mass shooters got their guns. VOA

Paddock had 23 weapons in his Mandalay Bay suite and nearly 1,400 rounds of ammunition. At least 12 of his guns were equipped with bump stocks, which enabled him to shoot more people in minutes than Whitman had in an hour.

Types of guns used

Handguns are present in over three-fourths of all mass shootings.

Records show Paddock made purchases in Nevada, California, Texas and Utah. A month before the shootings, he bought tracer ammunition — designed to illuminate a bullet’s trajectory — from a private seller at a gun show in Phoenix.

Densley, the researcher, questions whether legally purchased weapons used in some mass shootings should have been allowed, despite laws that permit access. He points to cracks in the background check process.

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Handguns are present in over three-fourths of all mass shootings. VOA

“We’ve got some individuals who had histories of violence, histories of domestic violence, who somehow got around the background check,” he explained. “We also had examples where the background check process kind of failed. For whatever reason, the data wasn’t inputted into the FBI’s database, and so, it was never flagged. … There are still a lot of gray areas, things that we need to be looking at.”

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Total mass shooting fatalities and injuries per year. VOA

Global perspective

Comparison rates of mass shootings committed in the United States and in other countries are difficult to determine because the definition of mass shootings, as well as how homicide data is collected, varies from country to country.

An exception is deaths by firearms.

The United States had the 28th highest rate of deaths from gun violence, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evolution, which tracks deaths in every country by all possible causes. Gun violence killed four people per 100,000 in the United States in 2017, greater than most other industrialized countries.

The lowest rates of gun deaths were in Asia. Singapore, Japan and Indonesia reported 2-4 violent gun deaths per 10 million. Several European countries, including Britain and Iceland, were not far behind with 6-7 violent gun deaths per 10 million.

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Countries where death by gun violence was worse than the United States included those in Central America and the Caribbean. El Salvador had 43 violent gun deaths per 100,000, according to the data. (VOA)