Thursday, 16 July 2015

S Korea ferry disaster: Temp teachers discriminated, even in death

On April 16, 2014, 26-year-old Kim Cho-won and 31-year-old Lee Ji-hye, teachers from Danwon High School, rushed downstairs from their fifth-floor cabin as the ferry they were on began to list.

They ran across the doomed vessel in a desperate attempt to get as many students to safety as they could. It was the last time they were seen alive, as the two teachers were among 304 killed when the Sewol ferry capsized on that fateful day.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Personnel Management said the two could not be subject to the screening process to be considered "killed in the line of duty." The reason was that they were temporary teachers. This effectively barred their families from being compensated in the same way as those of the nine other teachers who died in the accident.

"I cannot accept that my daughter is being discriminated in her death. I urge the people to help me so my daughter's honour can be restored," Kim Seok-woo, the father of late Kim Cho-won, said Tuesday at a press conference in front of Seoul Government Complex. He and Lee Jong-rak, father of Lee Ji-hye, visited the government officials and submitted a petition to reconsider their decision, signed by 120,000 teachers across the country.

The incident was a reminder of the discrimination temporary teachers in the country still face, even the ones who had perished in what is widely considered a heroic death.

In Korea, one wishing to acquire a permanent teaching job at elementary, middle and high schools must receive a teacher's credentials from certified colleges or universities. Then they must pass a state-commissioned test and be appointed by the government to receive the status of "education civil servant."

Those who were college-certified but did not pass the state test can only get temporary jobs, which deprives them of many benefits other teachers are entitled to. This includes job security, joining the civil servant pension programme, and providing financial compensation to government officials who are killed on the job.

Temporary teachers say they often fall victim to discrimination at work, both from the school administration and their coworkers.

"My students received an award from a state-sponsored competition, so I filed a report on it. But then I learned that temporary workers cannot claim credit for their contribution, so I had to fill in the forms under the name of another teacher who held a permanent post," said a 31-year-old temporary teacher at a Seoul-based middle school.

Temporary teachers are also the first in line for doing remedial classes, he added. Some faculty members, like the principal, even ask them to run personal errands.

In 2012, the local court ordered schools to pay bonuses to the temporary teachers. The case is currently pending decision by the Supreme Court.

Whether or not the temporary teachers should be considered education civil servants has sparked controversy here. The Personnel Ministry stated that Kim and Lee could not receive benefits for education civil servants, as they had different working conditions and did not contribute to the civil servants pension programme.

But a study by the National Assembly Research Service ― commissioned by Rep. Jeong Jin-hoo of the minor Justice Party ― found that the current law implies that temporary workers should be subject to the education civil servant law.

Clause 32 of the education civil servant law states that those appointed as temporary teachers are considered "education workers," and clause 2 of the same law stipulates that education workers working at an educational institute are considered education civil servants.

Last month, 69 lawmakers including Jeong proposed a joint resolution that urged the government to recognise Kim and Lee as education civil servants killed on the job.

Local teachers' groups have also voiced complaints about the temporary teachers not being entitled to privileges.

"Teachers exist for students. And a teacher trying to protect lives of students should be respected above all, whether one is a temporary teacher or not," said Kim Dong-seok, the spokesperson for the Korea Federation of Teacher's Associations. He said that compensating the deceased teachers as education civil servants can contribute to boosting the morale of all temporary teachers, since it delivers a message that the government respects teachers who are willing to sacrifice themselves for students.

The Korea Teachers and Education Workers' Union on Tuesday submitted a petition ― signed by 90,000 citizens ― urging the government to compensate all teachers equally.

"Both Kim and Lee tried their best even though they were treated unfairly. But now they are being discriminated in their death," said the KTU. "We will continue fighting with the families (Kim and Lee) until our demands are accepted by the government."

While Education Minister Hwang Woo-yea has expressed hopes for the two teachers' recognition, the ministry's efforts have been limited. "In principle, we hope that it will happen. But there isn't much we can do since it is really not up to us," said a high-ranking ministry official Wednesday, denying earlier reports that the education and personnel ministries had agreed to pursue policies to compensate the two teachers as education civil servants.

Kim Seong-wook told local media that he would not give up until his daughter receives what he believes is the proper treatment as a teacher at Danwon. "Her students came up to me and asked why she was discriminated (in the government compensation). To them, she was their teacher. They don't care if she held a temporary job or a permanent one," he said.

Thursday 16 July 2015

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Natural disaster and extreme weather death toll on the rise

In the first half of 2015, 16,000 people died worldwide in natural tragedies, including earthquakes and heatwaves, up from 2014. There has been a major global spike in deaths resulting from natural catastrophes, including earthquakes and heatwaves, in the first half of 2015, according to data from the largest reinsurance company in the world, Munich Re.

The mid-year natural disaster assessment was marked by catastrophic earthquakes in Nepal and intense heatwaves in India and Pakistan, together amounting to some 12,000 fatalities. "The natural catastrophes in the first half of the year show us once again that vulnerability to natural catastrophes needs to be reduced, particularly in emerging and developing countries,” said Munich Re Board member Torsten Jeworrek in a statement.

In total, in the first six months of the year, 16,000 people worldwide died as victims of severe weather and earthquakes.

The number is a major increase from 2,800 natural disaster deaths in the same period in 2014, the reinsurance company reported. In Nepal's 7.8 magnitude earthquake in April alone, at least 8,850 people were killed and thousands of homes and institutions left in ruins.

But while the death toll is on the rise, the cost of disasters is down by about US$7 billion, falling to US$35 billion from US$42 billion, according to Munich Re. Some of this year's extreme weather is related to the strong El Nino event predicted for 2015, a climatic phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean that can trigger floods, droughts, and other extreme conditions around the world.

"The currently already intense El Nino phase is expected to become even stronger as we head into the autumn," said Munich Re. But El Nino's disruption of regular climatic patterns could also mean fewer Atlantic hurricanes in the U.S., even while it unleashes tornadoes in southern U.S., scorching heat in Asia, drought in the Caribbean, floods in South America, and other extreme weather.

The frequency and intensity of extreme weather events like heatwaves are expected to increase with climate change. Scientists have warned that the world could face climate and public health catastrophe in ten years if decisive action is not taken.

Thursday 16 July 2015

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A year later, MH17 relatives grieve, wait

A year on from the grotesque calamity that killed all 298 people aboard MH17, the Dutch Safety Board, which has coordinated the investigation, is yet to present conclusive evidence as to the cause.

The relatives of victims have requested to be sent seeds from the field of sunflowers that encircle the crash site.

On their son Bryce's birthday this year, Silene Fredriksz-Hoogzand and her husband Rob went to a Dutch air base, watched pall bearers solemnly unload seven coffins from a military cargo plane and wondered if they contained parts of the remains of Bryce or his girlfriend Daisy Oehlers.

For many families of the 298 people killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was brought down July 17 last year over eastern Ukraine, uncertainty and agonising waiting is still woven into the fabric of life a year later.

"Your world stops with a bang," Silene said at her home in Rotterdam, where flowers and mementos to Bryce and Daisy still dominate the living room. The couple's bedroom is still the same disorderly mess it was the day they left for a Bali holiday.

"Everything around you continues. You try to participate, but it's just hard."

As if waiting for remains of loved ones was not bad enough, families also have still not received conclusive answers to many questions about the crash: who brought down the plane? Will the perpetrators ever face justice? Why was the Boeing 777 heading from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur even flying over a war zone?

International investigators say it will be October before they publish the official cause of the crash. A Dutch-led criminal investigation into the downing won't be done until the end of the year - adding to family frustrations.

"I understand their impatience. They want to know exactly what happened. They want answers," said Fred Westerbeke, the prosecutor leading the probe.

"Many big criminal investigations do take a lot of time and because of all the circumstances this investigation is not an easy one."

Along with the impatience, there is understanding from some relatives.

James Rizk, a 22-year-old real estate agent from Melbourne, is confident that the slow but methodical investigations will eventually mean that the killers of his parents Albert and Maree Rizk will face justice.

"I've got confidence in our government. They're doing a good job and I believe they're on the right track at the moment," Rizk said.

The investigation is focusing on a Buk surface-to-air missile downing MH17 as the most likely scenario, but is also working to rule out other possible causes.

The Dutch Safety Board said in a preliminary report that the plane was hit by multiple high-energy objects, a conclusion experts said bears the hallmarks of a missile strike.

Ukraine blames Russian-backed separatist rebels, Moscow blames Ukraine. Countries who lost citizens in the disaster are trying to establish a United Nations tribunal to prosecute any suspects eventually identified.

The disaster was a second and tragically familiar blow to the extended Rizk family in only four months. Maree Rizk's stepmother Kaylene Mann lost a brother Rod Burrows and sister-in-law Mary Burrows on Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, thought to have plunged mysteriously into the Indian Ocean on March 8. That plane and all its 238 passengers and crew remain missing.

At least James Rizk didn't have to wait too long for his parents' bodies to return home. They were the first of the 38 Australian permanent residents and citizens killed on Flight 17 to be repatriated, six weeks after the tragedy.

Others have had a hard period of uncertainty. Evert van Zijtveld buried only partial remains of his 18-year-old son Robert-Jan and 19-year-old daughter Frederique in December.

"You can't keep saying 'I'm not going to do anything'," he said.

"We got something back - small as it was - so we gave it a place. The graveyard is close to our home."

But since the funeral, later Dutch missions to recover human remains from the scorched crash site in eastern Ukraine have returned with more fragments of the teenagers, confirmed through DNA analysis by a team that has, since the crash, positively identified remains of all but two of the victims.

Now "we don't know what to do. It's very difficult to take the decision to open the grave to add pieces of bone," Van Zijtveld said.

On Friday, families will again gather and hold commemorations.

James Rizk is going to Canberra, where MPs are interrupting their six-week mid-year break for a memorial that includes the unveiling of a plaque in the House of Representatives garden listing the victims' names.

The family will then fly from to Melbourne for commemorations at their beloved Sunbury Football Club the next day. James Rizk plays at the Aussie rules club, where his father was a committee member and his mother volunteered in the canteen. Albert and Maree will be remembered with a plaque on a grandstand to be built within the next year.

In Rotterdam, Silene and Rob take comfort from friends and family as the anniversary approaches, but the pain of their loss, if anything, is just getting worse.

"We're a year further, but actually we've made no progress," Rob said.

"For us, every day is July 17."

Thursday 16 July 2015

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6 illegal migrants die after boat sinks off Çanakkale coast

Six illegal migrants were killed while one went missing on Tuesday night when the boat they were in sank off the northwestern province of Çanakkale in the Aegean Sea while trying to reach to the island of Lesbos in Greece through Turkey.

The Cihan news agency said the boat was carrying Syrians. Ten passengers were saved while search and rescue efforts were under way for the missing person. Four of the dead were children, according to the Doğan news agency.

The migrants were taken to the Ayvacık and Ezine state hospitals for treatment while the bodies were sent to the Bursa Council of Forensic Medicine for autopsy.

Thursday 16 July 2015

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The missing: 275000 Britons disappear each year

ODD place, Britain. Every day, 13 million CCTV cameras track our movements. We’re PINnumbered, databased, credit-rated, nannied, Neighbourhood Watched, Facebooked, e-mailed and GPS-ed.

You wouldn’t think any of us could slip away unnoticed.

But we do, in ever-increasing quantities. An Independent on Sunday investigation has established that the numbers of Britons who disappear each year is now at record levels. Missing People, the charity that helps both the disappeared and those left behind, told us that 250 000 missing persons reports each year — more than 30 000 higher than any previous total — is “probably an underestimate”; others put the total nearer 275 000.

This, the equivalent of the entire population of Plymouth being spirited away, means that, across the country, one person goes missing every two minutes.

The vast majority are swiftly found, or return of their own volition, but many don’t. Some disappear for decades, and sources, including some inside the police, say the number of people in Britain who have been missing from family, friends and usual haunts for more than a year is at least 16 000 and could be as many as 20 000.

Among them are people like Melanie Hall, last seen in a Bathclub nightclub in 1996, whose parents had to endure 13 years of waiting and wondering before her remains were found, a week ago, beside the M5.

She had been murdered. Nor does death always bring closure. At any one time, there are an estimated 1 000 unidentified bodies lying in the country’s mortuaries and hospitals. Many have been there for years — unknown, unclaimed citizens. The long-term missing inhabit a looking-over-their-shoulder world of false names, cash-in-hand jobs, hostels and short lets.

For their families, they leave behind not only trauma, grief, guilt, anger and despair, but also, if they are breadwinners, more practical problems. Missing people are deemed neither dead nor properly alive, so salaries are stopped, insurance companies won’t pay out, bills can’t be paid and corporate “helplines” won’t discuss the disappeared’s affairs because of the Data Protection Act. But, most of all, the long-term missing leave behind an aching sense of mystery: what has become of them, and why did they go?

This is the story of Britain’s long-term disappeared — of people such as Joyce Wells, Alan Hobbs and Janet Cowley; of those as young as seven-year-old Daniel Entwhistle, missing from his Great Yarmouth home since May 2003, or as elderly as 88-year-old Mary Ferns, missing from West Lothian for 16 months now. All an agonising riddle.

Why did the Gloucester librarian Angela Bradley leave her spectacles in her car, the keys in the ignition, and walk away one January day in 1995? What happened last November to Quentin Adams, a 40-year-old father of three from Banchory, Aberdeenshire?

He popped out to buy cigarettes and has not been seen since. And where on earth is the 14- year-old Doncaster schoolboy Andrew Gosden? Some 93 percent of the children who go missing do not live in a two-parent household, and single children are more likely to run away than those with brothers and sisters. Andrew fell into neither category, happily living, according to testimony from his caring family, with his mother, father and elder sister, Charlie. He was doing well at school, and no one had noticed him behaving in any way that would set alarm bells ringing.

And yet, one day two Septembers ago, he left for school, waited for his parents to go to their work as speech therapists, returned to the house, changed his clothes, went to a cash machine, withdrew £200 of his savings, and boarded a train to London. We know this because he was seen on CCTV arriving at King’s Cross, a slight figure dressed in black jeans and T-shirt. No one has seen him since.

The despair, the not knowing, hit his father, Kevin, like a truck. He tried to commit suicide, hanging himself from the banisters, and his life was saved only because the vicar — who had a key to the house — arrived at that moment. The efforts to find Andrew could not have been greater. Police were swiftly alerted, as was Missing People and local media.

His face is on the web, on posters, and on 15 000 leaflets that were distributed in London by three coachloads of family, friends, schoolmates and teachers, who travelled to London and searched for him a year after his disappearance.

His 14-year-old face stares from a page on the Missing People website, increasingly a reminder of what he once was, rather than an aid to recognising him now. The Andrew who left the house in his school uniform is no longer the Andrew who might be found.

So an age-progressed face will feature on a new leaflet, to be emailed to snooker halls and, if permission is granted, to be handed out at a Muse gig, one of Andrew’s favoured bands. Back in Doncaster, his family keep his childish things, and the clothes that will no longer fit him, in a room unchanged since that day in September 2007.

They can still look and hope. What they cannot do is grieve. Kevin Gosden told us: “We have all reacted differently in our house. It’s been a battle with depression for me. I haven’t reached the point where I can give up — there’s always another chance to find him. Sometimes it feels like we’re going round and round in circles, like we’re trapped in a work by Escher.”

Children make up the bulk of the missing persons reports in Britain. But, as teenagers who stay out a night or two from their care or foster home, or who sleep on a friend’s sofa to cool down after a row with a parent, they are also likely to be the cases that are resolved within a few days. Teenage runaways are overwhelmingly female: 71 per cent of missing 13- to 17-year-olds are girls. With adults, it is different. Men predominate, with 73 per cent of all disappeared people over the age of 24 being male. Adult missing cases are also far less likely to be resolved quickly, or at all.

A 2003 study found that only 20 per cent of missing adults traced by Missing People decided to return to the place they had left, and 41 per cent of those located were not prepared to make contact with those who were looking for them.

The conclusion is that they’re fleeing something — in their own minds or in reality — far more deep-seated than the cause of a teenager’s tiff with Mum, Dad, a step-parent or friends. There have always been the elderly and confused, the alcoholics, drug addicts and obsessive

There have always been the elderly and confused, the alcoholics, drug addicts and obsessive loners who drift out of contact, until the family, wishing to try again, finds there is no forwarding address. And there will always be the utterly inexplicable disappearances — people such as Anne Simpson, a mother of 60, who went for a walk near her home in Ingoldmells, Lincolnshire, in September 2004 and never returned.

But the most intriguing of the missing are those ordinary folk who have some discernible pressure in their lives, but one which seems on the surface no worse than that experienced by the millions who simply keep battling on.

It might be job stress, money worries (the recession is a major cause of a rise in missings), or relationship breakdown. But what is it that tips them over some invisible edge and compels them to make a sudden bolt for the door? And what is it like to be the family left behind? To find out, we sat down with Anne and Peter Langridge, sister and nephew of Bernard Coomber, who went missing in January this year. His story contains many of the ingredients of other missing cases.

You could call it “A Very Average Disappearance”. Bernard was 55, unmarried, and lived alone in Sevenoaks, Kent. He was an outdoor person, who often went walking and the job he liked best was landscape gardening.

“That was his first love,” says Anne, “but he had back problems, so he went into a factory that made parts for showers. He worked for an agency that made him redundant; he was taken on again when the work picked up, then they made him redundant again.” By early this year, he had not worked for two years and “had totally run out of money”. So she gave him £50.

One day in late January Anne was called by one of Bernard’s neighbours. The woman could get no reply at his house.

Anne went round, let herself in, and found the house empty. On the kitchen table were laid out Bernard’s mobile, and beside it was the £50 Anne had lent him. He was, she explained, a proud man and hated accepting money. “He took nothing with him,” says Anne.

“Not a bank card, small change, not a rucksack or holdall. He just walked out with whatever he’d got on. His coats were still in the house. And it was a bitterly cold day.” It was, in a phrase used by so many families of the missing, “totally out of character”. Peter says: “He was a loner, really. He led a simple life, but he was quite a grounded sort of person.” He was, however, “a bit down, having problems finding a job”, says Peter. And, like many on benefits, things did not run smoothly.

Anne says: “He had flu at Christmas and, because he didn’t sign on by phone, they signed him off and he didn’t get his money. So, within a month, there was no money coming in . . . he didn’t get on with the man at the Jobcentre and wanted to be referred to another one, but they wouldn’t allow that.”

Bernard’s last words to Anne were: “I’ve got myself in a mess, and I’ll get myself out of it.” Like quite a few of the mature missing, Bernard had been a sort of carer, to his father, who died seven years ago. “Bernard did have one girlfriend,” says Anne, “but, sadly, my dad made that one fizzle out. He was frightened of being left on his own.”

Instead, with his money problems, bad back and a troublesome recent hernia operation, it was Bernard who was left on his own. Kent Police have carried out extensive searches, traced all possible contacts, travelled to interview Bernard’s friends up north, talked to his doctor, publicised his details, and checked any bodies that have turned up.

Appeals have appeared in local newspapers, on the net, in The Big Issue, and on posters besides the paths where he used to walk. But nothing. Anne says: “My only feeling is that he may have taken his own life in the old quarry, where he knew he wouldn’t be found, because he wouldn’t want to put me through the cost of a funeral. If he’s taken his own life, he’ll have put himself

want to put me through the cost of a funeral. If he’s taken his own life, he’ll have put himself somewhere we won’t find him for a long time.”

As soon as the leaves are off the trees, police will use a helicopter with thermal-imaging equipment to see if any remains can be found in Bernard’s favourite rural spots. Anne and Peter say that Missing People (who call regularly), and the police, both the Kent force and the National Policing Improvement Agency’s missing persons bureau, “could not have done more”.

The offices of the charity Missing People are the closest this country has to a nerve centre for the disappeared.

Above a supermarket on a busy west London street is an operation that looks like a police incident room. Phones are constantly manned, and, on the wall, there are wipeboards with lists of names, and when and where they were last seen. Missing People, founded 20 years ago in the wake of the disappearance of Suzy Lamplugh, who lived near by, runs three helplines — for young runaways, missing adults, and the families of the disappeared, all manned 24 hours a day.

They receive 120 000 calls a year. The chief executive, Martin Houghton-Brown, says they can barely cope with the volume. In the early hours of last Monday morning, for instance, the two volunteers had 30 calls in an hour.

They included sightings, relatives making initial reports and the missing phoning in. A recent sample: “James” (13) missing from care and sleeping rough on a park bench, angry and upset, who agreed to be put in touch with a social worker; “Paula”, a long-term disappeared who had swallowed a large amount of paracetamol and drink, who eventually allowed Missing People to call an ambulance; “Adrian” (50) who had walked out on his wife, but wanted to let her know he was safe; and “Aina” (24) from Bradford, whose parents had her booked on a flight that night to go to a forced marriage.

She was frantic; Missing People put her in touch with organisations such as the Asian Women’s Domestic Helpline.

Mr Houghton-Brown and his policy and research director, Geoff Newiss, are clear about what needs to be done to help Britain’s missing and their families. First, a government department needs to take responsibility for the issue. Second, comprehensive information on the missing needs collating and analysing centrally (we are better at keeping tabs on missing cars than missing people, according to Helen Southworth, Labour MP for Warrington South and a long-time campaigner for the missing). Third, all agencies must have a duty to co-operate. And, fourth, underpinning all this, these responsibilities need to be statutory.

“It means resources,” says Mr Houghton-Brown, “but we’re talking about people dying every day.”

Adults, unless illegality is involved, have a perfect right to go missing, assume a new identity, and live out of contact with their former friends and family. (One man who disappeared told Missing People when he was traced: “How dare you look for me!” — and threatened to sue.) This has fed the myth that the police regard any missing case which is not that of a child, or where a crime is suspected, as beyond their remit. It may once have been true, but not now. In Bramshill, Hampshire, the NPIA’s missing persons bureau logs and helps investigate cases. And it is thanks, in part, to its work that families such as Bernard Coomber’s testify to the lengths to which most forces go to find their lost loved one.

Down in Surrey, police still keep active Operation Scholar, the search for Ruth Wilson, a sixthformer who went missing 14 years ago. She left Dorking just after 4pm on 27 November 1995, and, instead of going home, took a taxi to an isolated pub on Box Hill. Intriguingly, she had ordered flowers for her parents to be delivered two days later. More significantly, police later learned that Ruth, the bookish-looking daughter of two teachers, was in the habit of going to the remote spot on the way home from school. (As an example of the almost limitless trials facing families of missing persons, the Wilsons were asked if they were willing to appear on a game show where the audience would vote on the best step the family could next take to try to get their daughter back. They declined.)

Although Missing People uses a specialist in age-progressed likenesses to portray people missing over the long term, there is a limit to what it, and the police, can do. So families hand out leaflets, put up posters, tramp the streets, offer rewards (£10,000 is not an uncommon amount), hire private investigators (an extensive search can cost more than £15,000), and even, as Kent Police told us, consult mediums. They also start groups on Facebook, and launch websites such as the one for Nicola Payne, who went off to collect clothes for her baby in December 1991, took a short cut across fields, and has not been seen since. Among the poignant messages on the site is one from her son Owen – now 17, but just seven months old when his mother disappeared: “I envy my older cousins who remember her well, and they tell me what a fun-loving girl she was… My one wish would be to have my mum found and to be able to understand the confusion, mystery and heartbreak of the past 17 years.”

Some do return. About 10 disappeared persons a week are found through the work of Missing People, among them Billy Andrews, who went missing from his family after his marriage broke up. He began sleeping rough, and defied all the efforts of his mother, Kathleen, and his four sisters to find him. Twelve years went by, and then Kathleen saw an advertisement for Missing People and rang. Within four weeks, the charity’s case managers had found him. Kathleen says: “One day I was watching my favourite soap when the phone rang. It was Billy. We both wept.” Billy says: “I was so happy when I got the phone call from Missing People telling me that my mum was trying to find me. To be back in touch with her and my sisters after so long was a dream come true.” So why did he lose touch? He felt he had let them down and was ashamed of the state he was in. He is now settled, and has remarried. “It is,” says Kathleen, “a second chance for all of us.”

Thousands of Billies, Bernards, Ruths and Andrews will join the ranks of the long-term missing this year. Maybe it isn’t so curious that they can elude all the tabs kept on us, all of our petty nannyings and risk assessments. We may have officials logging missing cars, we might microchip our dogs, and indelibly mark our possessions, but we’re awfully casual about lost humans. After all, in 2009 there is no government department responsible for listing and finding them. Odd place, Britain.

The trafficked girls

Among the passport pictures of the disappeared staring out from the Missing People web pages a sizeable number are of teenage girls of Far Eastern origin. Xia Wang, 17, has been missing from Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, since November 2006; Qin Wang, 16, from Bournemouth since January 2007; Yan He, 17, from Worthing since July 2007; Dung Thi Nguyen, 17, from Catford since April 2007; Lihua Hi, 16, from Birmingham since June 2006. There are many others. Having been brought to this country illegally, such girls – whose only common characteristic, says Missing People, is their region of origin and their vulnerable prettiness – are warned by those who transported them to trust absolutely no one. They are taken into care, but, a short while later, are often seen getting into a car driven by an older male oriental. They have been trafficked.

Britain’s unclaimed bodies

Who was the man known as Mr Seagull, whose body was found on Chesil Beach, Dorset, in 2002? Who was the white man aged between 30 and 40 killed at Canterbury by the Londonbound train in October 2001? Who was the man whose badly burnt remains were found on Parley Common, Dorset, when firefighters tackled a heathland blaze in August 2006? Their bodies, and hundreds more, lie refrigerated in Britain’s mortuaries, awaiting identification. One reason there are so many is because there is no database of the DNA of missing people, which Dr Tim Clayton of the Forensic Science Service has described as “a national disgrace”. And an investigation in Scotland by the Daily Record last January found that police there have the DNA of just 34 of 450 long-term missing cases on their books.

Thursday 16 July 2015

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Lithuanian chief rabbi protests excavation of WWII mass grave

The chief rabbi of Lithuania appealed to authorities to prevent the excavation of a mass grave of Holocaust victims in the country’s north. Rabbi Chaim Burshtein issued the statement Tuesday about the mass grave discovered this week during road construction work in Siauliai, a city located 120 miles northwest of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital.

“Please halt all disturbance and moving of these human remains,” Burshtein wrote in reference to the work, which he called “the humiliation of the excavation of the human remains of hundreds of people from the Holocaust-era mass-murder grave uncovered this week.”

Originally written in Russian, the statement was translated to English and reproduced by Dovid Katz, an American scholar of Yiddish who runs the website on Jewish issues in Lithuania.

Though some human remains were unearthed during construction, a forensic excavation has not yet begun, though a local government commission gave its approval for one on Monday, the Delfi news agency reported.

“It’s been decided to excavate the remains, do anthropological tests and then rebury them and also mark this place,” archaeologist Audrone Sapaite, who is in charge of the investigation, told the BNS news agency. She said that the remains of 40 people were found at the burial site. In all, approximately 700 people shot dead by the Nazis were buried there. The reports by BNS and Delfi did not mention Jews.

According to halachah, or traditional Jewish law, Jewish burial sites are not to be disturbed unless there is danger to the dignity of the dead or other special reasons. For this reason, archaeologists’ desire to conduct forensic tests on mass graves has prompted fierce opposition by rabbinical groups throughout Eastern Europe.

Before World War II, Siauliai was home to some 6,600 Jews, according to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum. Many escaped to the Soviet Union, but the Nazis and Lithuanian collaborators murdered hundreds of those who stayed in 1941 and in later mass killings. Some Jews from the city were conscripted to forced labor.

According to Sapaite, the bodies found in the mass grave belonged to “prisoners of various nationalities.”

Thursday 16 July 2015

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