A U.S. commander said Tuesday he is “deeply ashamed” by the Marine killings of Afghan civilians in March and reported that the American military has made condolence payments to their families.

“Today we met with the families of those victims: 19 dead and 50 injured,” said Col. John Nicholson, commander of the 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, deployed in eastern Afghanistan. “We made official apologies on the part of the U.S. government” and payments of about $2,000 for each death. (AP via USA Today)

Old news, but I only came to learn of it during my commute back from work on NPR two days ago. Turns out the U.S. military makes condolences payments — officially called “solatia” payments (unofficially also “martyr” payments) — to the families of those accidentally killed during combat fire.

The Pentagon has set $2,500 as the highest individual sum that can be paid. Most death payments remain at that level, with a rough sliding scale of $1,000 for serious injury and $500 for property damage. Beginning in April of last year, payments of up to $10,000 were possible for “extraordinary cases” but only with a division commander’s authorization.

The report, titled The Department of Defense’s Use of Solatia and Condolence Payments in Iraq and Afghanistan (pdf),” offers a particularly coldblooded example of how payments are estimated, drawn from CERP‘s operating procedures: “Two members of the same family are killed in a car hit by U.S. forces. The family could receive a maximum of $7,500 in CERP condolence payments ($2,500 for each death and up to $2,500 for vehicle damage).”(WaPo, 06/18/07)

Some pics of these condolences payments being made from this article that makes it sound okay:

I’m frankly at loss for words. Can’t figure out what aspect to begin commenting on first. I don’t believe monetary apology to be valid after any wrongdoing. But let’s suppose that your life situation is desperate, and you make the trip to the official place to get ‘reimbursed,’ how far does $2,500 really go? Take any of the following scenario for instance, what do you suppose the money given to the victim’s family could most effectively be used for?

Approximately $8,000 was paid by the Pentagon to two children who lost their mother when the taxi in which she was traveling came under fire. The vehicle was said to have run a checkpoint. The children were alongside their mother when she died and were also injured. A measly “condolence” payment of $500 was paid to the family of a deaf man shot outside a museum in Samarra and a larger condolence payment of $2,500 was granted to the parents of a 4-year-old girl who died when a bullet fired from a Humvee struck her.

In what the U.S. military said “negligent fire,” an Iraqi ambulance driver was shot dead on his way to a bomb scene by a coalition soldier. The dead man’s family was paid $2,500. (AmericanFreePres)

Iraq Body Count, a Web site that reputedly maintains most accurate account of casualties of the war, reveals more instances where American military has put a supposedly justified price on lives or limbs lost. Please also read these two articles on the NYT, and listen to a report on NPR to learn more.

Lastly, I don’t mean to compare but, I would like to point out the amount given to the families of victims who lost their lives on the space shuttle Columbia in 2003: $26 million. This is far too sad for me to disrespectfully end the post with the usual clever comment. Because even these families likely are not satisfied, and would much rather have their loved ones returned, instead.

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It’s amazing how this absurd anti-dark skinned mentality is so prevalent across the globe. Whitening creams are huge in China and India, among both girls and guys. It’s an abhorrent practice from the cosmetic company’s part. They take as much advantage possible of these insecurities created by the media, sometime in the most detestable manner. Look at this ridiculous commercial from South Asia where the girl is self conscious of her tan hand!

There are many resources on the Internet that explain this screwy phenomenon. But I’m not in the mood to preach, solve problems or raise concerns. But perhaps inspire? Actually, I just want an excuse to play this song that actually sounds real good. I heard it play on the radio today when I was running to veggie-friendly Baja Fresh during lunch. It’s India Arie featuring Akon, “I am not my hair.” I know you’ll enjoy it.

Firstly, nothing is sadder than the fact that there is an abundance of material available for us to even consider such a ridiculous comparison.

It seems that nooses are the new (nazi) swastikas. They are popping up everywhere I turn. Some cowards hang them up anonymously. While others believe it to be a harmless Halloween season decoration. They claim that nooses in these cases do not carries a racist significance and that one is only looking to get offended if they assume so.

Here are some examples before we begin the conversation. First at the Universities:

(N.C. State University) Campus Police responded to a report of a noose being hung last Thursday, after which the news of the incident began to spread around campus and media outlets. (link)

University of Delaware police are investigating a report of a noose spotted on campus, as school officials reaffirm their zero-tolerance policy on hate crimes. (link)

On September 7, a noose was found hanging from a tree outside of the multicultural center at University of Maryland. (link)

Police are trying to find out who hung four nooses in a classroom on the Central Michigan University campus. A student discovered the hangman’s nooses in the Engineering and Technology Building on Monday. (link)

Did anyone catch that? I didn’t even need to allude to the incident at Columbia University. But I digress. Let’s now look at cases involving nooses during Halloween season.

A Gahanna man removed a noose from a display after hearing complaints from those who considered the decorations offensive. (link)

A Stratford family became the focus of attention when their Halloween display, featuring a figure hanging from a noose, offended some people. (link)

A Halloween-happy man discovered this week that decorating his city trash truck with nooses was a bad idea, especially in light of recent events nationwide. (link)

Will you help me figure out what is worse? Because I can’t decide. The fact that the perpetrators at the academic institution are aware of nooses’ history in America as primarily being used to lynch black folks. Or the fact that a certain population of this country is ignorant of this piece of history and unintentionally offend many.

I come to the conclusion that you should face some criminal charges if responsible for either scenario. Intentional or unintentional, ignorance is never an excuse to offend anyone. And neither is knowledge.

Something new at Post Secret

November 14, 2007

postsecret4I have problems. I’m sure you do as well. Even when life is pretty close to perfect, there always remains a little factor that one would rather modify. At times these negative factors can get the best of you, and that’s called depression . . . I think.

We each have our specific mechanics of dealing with situation during these moments — some smoke cigarettes, others exercise, slashing the wrist is pretty popular, I tend to just walk it out. Quiet a few folks, though, design or view a postcard to describe how they are feeling — a trend that started at postsecret.com.

Post Secret is the largest advertisement-free blog that’s updated every week with a new set of postcards designed by anonymous individuals, in which they reveal their secret in a creative manner. The categories of confessions are pretty diverse — humorous, suicidal, aspiring, proud or anything else personal the author needs to get off his/her chest. More often than not, you likely will relate to one or few of these postcards.

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But not necessarily always. ; )

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Regardless of that fact, I personally make certain to visit the blog every week. It really gives me strength. I know it’s curious. And I can’t explain why. But “106,646,241” relate.

But after finishing reading these postcards, I can’t help feeling a bit unfulfilled. I always either want to immediately discuss with someone what I just saw, see more secrets, or maybe just reveal my own anonymously without the effort of making a creative postcard.

I guess they read my mind. Because when last I checked for new updates, I noticed something different – a banner that leads to a Web site that does exactly what I was requesting through telekinesis, and a whole lot more. Introducing Post Secret Community!

 

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On Oct. 8 of last year, four men lured 29-year-old Michael J. Sandy, an interior designer from Williamsburg, N.Y., to meet with them at the parking lot of Plum Beach with the intentions of robbing him. Their strategy was simple: the foursome believed since Sandy was gay, he wouldn’t resist to robbery. Nor would he likely report the crime. On the day of the meeting, things did not go according to plan. Rather, they turned for the worst.

When he arrived he was set upon by the others. Sandy bolted for the nearby Belt Parkway with his attackers in close pursuit.

They caught up with him in one lane of the highway and as Sandy broke free he was struck by a car, sustaining massive head injuries.

The 28 year old died a week later after his family instructed doctors to take him off a life-support machine. (link)

District Attorney Charles Hynes claimed this was a hate crime. He said, “He was murdered because he was gay.”

In a twist, one of the perpetrators, 21-year-old Anthony Fortunato, claimed that he himself was not straight. He said, “I could be homosexual or bisexual. … I was leading two complete double lives.” Fortunato even had three men testify to his newly claimed sexual orientation.

All three said they met Fortunato through internet chat rooms. Two of them said that when Fortunato arrived at their homes he was wearing a bra and women’s panties.

“To my shock he was wearing ladies’ undergarments, he had a bra, if I remember correctly, and a G-string,” one of the men, Henry Rudolph testified.

Fortunato has been convicted of manslaughter in the second degree as a hate crime as well as petty larceny. The three others were similarly convicted.

(Megan) Williams (second from right) was found by police at a home in Logan County in early September. She says she was held against her will, sexually assaulted, stabbed and even threatened with death. All six people charged in connection with the incident are white and face charges of kidnapping and sexual assault. (link)

But the six alleged attackers aren’t being charged for hate crime, despite the pleas of the 400 who marched to Charleston, W.Va. on Saturday. Williams’ lawyer, Brian Williams, said it’d be difficult to prove this to be a hate crime because she had a “social relationship” with one of the attackers before the alleged incident.

 

“Hate crimes are out of control in America,” Malik Shabazz, pictured above, a legal adviser to Williams and her family and a founder of Black Lawyers for Justice, told the group at a rally before the march. “Nooses are being hung and our women are being raped by white mobs. What happened to Megan Williams was a hate crime and we want this prosecuted as a hate crime.” (link)

A hate crime carries an additional sentence of ten years. Although if convicted for kidnapping, the alleged attackers could face a life sentence.

Zayid Muhammad, the national minister of culture for the New Black Panther Party, came to the rally from Newark, N.J.

“As a father of a daughter and a child of African ancestry, the idea that I can sit by idly, (in) the face of one of the most violent and obscene acts committed against a black woman in my life, was too appalling,” Muhammad said. “I had to come.”

A one on one interview with Megan Williams describing the assault in detail is available here.

1964-2007

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African reggae star Lucky Dube was shot and killed in front of his son and daughter, SABC radio reported on Friday.

Dube, 43, was killed on Thursday night in an apparent car hijacking attempt and police were searching for three suspects, the radio said. (link)

Dube was more that a ‘South African reggae star.’ And it’s no justice to his life dedication of addressing poverty and promoting brotherhood to only refer to him as such.

Dube sang in English about social issues, racism, justice and poverty. With “Together As One” he was the first black person in South Africa whose songs were aired on a white radio station.

President Thabo Mbeki described him as “a great South African artist”, promoting efforts against crime in a country where, in 2006 alone, as many as 20,000 counts of murder have been recorded.(link)

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