EarthLink – News
Police: Owner blew up house on his daughter’s wedding day
Sat, September 14, 2019 11:01 EDT
EDGEWOOD, Pa. (AP) — A homeowner near Pittsburgh blew up his house on his daughter’s wedding day, police said shortly after his body was found in the rubble late Saturday.
The man had been seen standing in front of his house in Edgewood shortly before it exploded and caught fire, authorities said, but for several hours he couldn’t be accounted for. His death has been ruled a suicide.
Officials are still investigating the explosion’s cause, but “it looks like he disconnected the gas line in the basement of the house,” Police Chief Robert Payne said. “And of course, it wouldn’t take much of a spark to explode the house.”
Most of the family was out of the house at the time for the wedding, officials said.
Police said they had been to the home before for domestic issues relating to mental illness.
A house next door that was damaged by the fire had recently been sold, and officials say a family had been planning to move in soon.
EarthLink – News
2,246 fetal remains found at home of former abortion doctor
Sat, September 14, 2019 05:29 EDT
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — More than 2,000 medically preserved fetal remains have been found at the Illinois home of a former Indiana abortion clinic doctor who died last week, authorities said.
The Will County Sheriff’s Office said in a news release late Friday that an attorney for Dr. Ulrich Klopfer’s family contacted the coroner’s office Thursday about possible fetal remains being found at the home in an unincorporated part of Will County in northeastern Illinois.
The sheriff’s office said authorities found 2,246 preserved fetal remains but there’s no evidence medical procedures were performed at the home.
The coroner’s office took possession of the remains. An investigation is underway.
Klopfer, who died Sept. 3, was a longtime doctor at an abortion clinic in South Bend, Indiana. It closed after the state revoked the clinic’s license in 2015.
Klopfer’s license was suspended by Indiana’s Medical Licensing Board in November 2016 after finding a number of violations, including a failure to ensure qualified staff was present when patients received or recovered from medications given before and during abortion procedures.
EarthLink – News
Sikh preaches love 18 years after brother killed over turban
By ANITA SNOW | Sat, September 14, 2019 01:00 EDT
PHOENIX (AP) — Indian Sikh immigrant Rana Singh Sodhi still preaches love and tolerance 18 years after his brother was gunned down in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks by a man who mistook him for a Muslim because of his turban and beard.
“I want there to be more awareness, more peace in the world,” said Sodhi, who spent much of the first year after his brother Balbir Singh Sodhi’s death speaking at schools and houses of worship. “I believe education is very important for our community. I made a commitment to reach as many people as I can.”
The community was remembering Balbir on the anniversary of his death Sunday with a special meal at a local temple.
Often working through the Arizona Interfaith Movement, Sodhi has been recognized by the state’s chapter of the Anti-Defamation League and by the White House under President Barack Obama’s administration.
The shooter Frank Roque is serving life in prison for the first-degree murder of Sodhi’s older brother at his Mesa, Arizona, gas station on Sept. 15, 2011. Balbir was the first of scores of Sikhs as well as Muslims targeted in hate crimes after 9/11.
Another brother, Sukhpal, was shot and killed 10 months later as he drove his cab in San Francisco. Authorities did not confirm the second killing as a hate crime, saying it appeared to be a stray bullet from a gang shooting, but the family doesn’t doubt he died because of his Sikh identity.
In the case of Balbir, at least, “I feel like we got justice,” Sodhi said.
Despite the loss of his brothers, Sodhi, now 52, said he considers himself lucky to live in a country that was founded by immigrants and that allows him to practice his religion, even while the Trump administration makes it harder for other newcomers to settle in the United States.
Three years ago, Sodhi forgave Roque in a telephone call to him in prison. After hearing remorse in Roque’s voice, he said: “If I had the power to take you out from prison, I would do it right now,” according to a highly publicized recording of the conversation.
Sodhi said the family immigrated to the U.S. in 1985, one year after anti-Sikh violence killed thousands of people in their native India. They first settled in California, then Arizona.
Balbir was shot dead while planting flowers at the gas station just four days after the 9/11 attacks. Roque had reportedly said he was “going to go out and shoot some towel-heads.”
Roque was also accused of drive-by shootings later that same day at an Afghan family’s home and a Lebanese man’s convenience store, although no one was injured in those other shootings.
Attacks against Sikhs following 9/11 helped spark the creation of the Sikh Coalition , the largest Sikh advocacy group in the United States. Several documentaries about the attack on Sodhi’s brother were produced.
Since then, the worst attack against Sikhs in the U.S. has been the killing of six people in 2012 at a temple, or gurdwara, in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.
Federal law enforcement began tracking hate crimes against Sikhs in 2015, but many states still do not.
Most Americans know little about the monotheistic faith founded more than 500 years ago in India’s northern Punjab region that rejects the caste system and idolatry. The coalition says it is the world’s fifth-largest religion with about 25 million adherents worldwide, including about 500,000 in the United States.
Sikhs do not shave or cut their hair, and the men typically wear a turban to protect their long locks. The men’s turbans and beards are articles of faith that sometimes make them targets of people who assume they are Muslim.
The Sikh Coalition has campaigned against that ignorance and declared a major victory in September when the Arizona State Board of Education in September approved new history and social science standards that included information about Sikhism for the first time. New York, New Jersey, Texas, Tennessee, Colorado, Idaho and California also include information about Sikhism in their standards for public schools.
Earlier this year, the coalition and other Sikh groups spoke out about the Nordstrom department store’s marketing of a blue Gucci turban as a fashion accessory, calling it offensive. Nordstrom apologized.
Another group, the Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund , did its part in 2014 by producing a public service announcement for television, which it airs annually to educate people in the U.S. about Sikh Americans. The fund’s spokeswoman, Gujari Singh, said the organization also brings young Sikhs to Washington to work with their congressional representatives.
But continuing violence against Sikhs in the U.S. worries community leaders.
Sikh Indian immigrant Parmjit Singh, 64, was stabbed to death Aug. 25 during an evening walk in Tracy, California.
Anthony Kreiter-Rhoads, 21, of Tracy, was later arrested in the killing and has pleaded not guilty. Authorities have still not released a motive.
“When these things happen, we know that there is a very good chance it is related to hate,” said Amar Shergill, of the American Sikh Public Affairs Association in Sacramento. An attorney, Shergill said he isn’t involved with the case but attended the vigil for Singh.
“The work of Rana is very commendable,” said Shergill, praising Sodhi’s “chardi kala,” a Sikh concept that calls for joyous optimism in the face of great challenges.
“But the work must continue to stop the bigots.”
Follow Anita Snow: twitter.com/asnowreports .
EarthLink – News
Germany’s Merkel faces decisive week on climate protection
By GEIR MOULSON | Sat, September 14, 2019 03:00 EDT
BERLIN (AP) — Germany faces a decisive week in its efforts to combat climate change, with Chancellor Angela Merkel pledging Saturday that Europe’s biggest economy will find good solutions but her governing coalition still haggling over a long-promised policy package.
Merkel’s government has said for months that it will unveil a package of measures on Friday to ensure that Germany cuts its greenhouse gas emissions by 55% by 2030 compared with 1990. It is under pressure to deliver a result that offers convincing measures without overly burdening the economy and voters, but parties in the coalition have argued about how to do so.
The package is a test of credibility both for the fractious coalition of Merkel’s center-right Union bloc and the center-left Social Democrats and for the chancellor herself. It offers her the chance to reclaim the mantle of “climate chancellor,” a title often used in her early days in office that has faded over the years, especially in her final term as German leader.
In her weekly video message, Merkel said “climate protection is a challenge for humanity” and that “we need a real feat” to deal with it.
“It is not enough for us to act internationally,” she said. “Of course we must do that too, but we must do our homework here, at home … unfortunately, we are not yet as good as we should be.”
Germany is set to miss its own emissions goals for 2020 and the country has seen frequent protests, especially by young people, demanding faster action to fight climate change and reduce coal use.
On Saturday, thousands demonstrated in Frankfurt to speed up moves in the auto industry to fight climate change as the world-famous Frankfurt Motor Show opened to the public and another climate change protest took place in the northern city of Hamburg.
Merkel said “we want to give carbon dioxide a price” because “when something has a price, people have an incentive to reduce CO2 emissions.”
She stressed that the German government doesn’t want to take in more money overall, but how exactly the pricing should work has been a bone of contention.
The Social Democrats have advocated raising taxes on energy sources such as gasoline and heating oil, while conservatives prefer an emissions certificate trading system that energy firms would have to participate in. Other proposals have included a reduction of the value-added tax on train tickets and raising taxes on domestic flights.
Coalition leaders met for over five hours on Friday night and agreed to meet again Thursday to thrash out the final details of the climate package.
“I want us to succeed in making the climate protection law a resounding success and not to get lost in little things and individual measures,” the Social Democrats’ general secretary, Lars Klingbeil, told the dpa news agency.
Merkel said she is confident of finding satisfactory solutions.
“I am absolutely certain that Germany can find its way to good climate protection,” she said.
For more Associated Press stories about climate change, go to https://www.apnews.com/Climate
EarthLink – News
Berlin celebrates postwar visitor program for expelled Jews
By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER | Sun, September 15, 2019 03:34 EDT
BERLIN (AP) — Berlin was the last place Helga Melmed had expected to see again.
She was 14 when the Nazis forced her and her family onto a train from their home in the German capital to the Jewish ghetto in Lodz, Poland, in 1941.
That started a gruesome odyssey that later saw her imprisoned at Auschwitz and Neuengamme outside Hamburg before she was finally freed by British soldiers in 1945 from Bergen-Belsen in northern Germany, a 46-pound walking skeleton.
For years, she never considered returning to Germany until she was invited on a trip by the city of her birth, in a reconciliation program meant to help mend ties with former Berliners who had been forced out by the Nazis.
Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the program has successfully brought people like Melmed on one-week trips to Berlin to reacquaint themselves with the city. Some 35,000 people have accepted the invitation since it was first issued in 1969, and while the numbers are dwindling a few new participants still come every year.
“I thought I’d never come back,” Melmed, 91, who emigrated to the U.S. via Sweden after the war, told The Associated Press in an interview.
The “invitation program for former refugees” has brought back primarily Jewish emigrants who fled the Nazis, or those like Melmed who survived their machinery of genocide.
On Wednesday, she and other former program participants were invited to Berlin City Hall to celebrate the half-century anniversary.
At a ceremony mayor Michael Mueller thanked them for coming back — despite all they suffered at the hands of the Germans.
“Many people followed our invitation, people who had lost everything they loved,” he said. “I want to express my strong gratitude to you for putting your trust in us.”
Despite skepticism at the time that anyone persecuted by the Nazis would want to return, in 1970 — one year after the program’s launch — there was already a waiting list of 10,000 former Berliners who wanted to come back for a visit.
More than 100 other German cities and towns have instituted similar programs but no municipality has brought back as many former residents as the capital.
Berlin, of course, also had the biggest Jewish community before the Holocaust. In 1933, the year the Nazis came to power, around 160,500 Jews lived in Berlin. By the end of World War II in 1945 their numbers had diminished to about 7,000 — through emigration and extermination.
All in all, some six million European Jews were murdered in the Holocaust.
Melmed’s father was shot dead in the Lodz ghetto — where the Nazis concentrated Jews and forced them to work in factories — a few months after their arrival and her mother died of exhaustion a few months later, shortly after Melmed’s 15th birthday.
Melmed, who lives in Venice, Florida, received her invitation under the reconciliation program 42 years ago.
“One day, out of the blue, I found a letter in the mailbox inviting me to come back for a visit,” the retired nurse said at the hotel where she was staying with two of her four children and a grandson.
“So, in 1977, my husband and I traveled to Berlin.”
They were part of an organized group tour of dozens of other former Berliners who had been persecuted by the Nazis.
“I don’t know if the trip was a dream or a nightmare,” Melmed said. One afternoon, she went for a coffee at Berlin’s famous Kempinski Hotel — today called the Bristol Hotel — just like she used to do as a little girl with her mother and dad, a banking executive.
“It was heart-breaking,” Melmed said.
Her life story is chronicled in the exhibition “Charter Flight into the Past” about the program, which opened Thursday at Berlin’s City Hall and will run through Oct. 9.
Johannes Tuchel, the director of the German Resistance Memorial Center, which curated the exhibition, said that many returnees had conflicting emotions.
They didn’t trust the Germans — especially in the early years of the program, when many people they saw in the streets still belonged to the Nazi generation. Often, memories of loss and pain were stirred up by the visit, but at the same time many were also able to reconnect with a city that harbored many happy childhood mementos for them.
For Melmed, closure came only at an old age. In 2018, when she turned 90, she decided to return once again to Berlin. It was then that she met the current tenants of her old family home in the Wilmersdorf neighborhood of Berlin. They invited her back into the apartment and organized a plaque-laying ceremony last week to commemorate her parents on this year’s visit.
Last week, city officials presented her with her original birth certificate and her parents’ marriage certificate.
“Now it’s all closure for me,” Melmed said with a peaceful smile as she touched her golden necklace with a Star of David pendant. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”