Category: Society

Amnesty International cares about the Forgotten Prisoner? Forget about it.

Amnesty International and the Forgotten Prisoner? Forget about it.

Today, amnesty international stands with the Sheriff of Nottingham, not with Robin Hood.

Political correctness gives a **** about free speech

In the turmoil of the second gulf war (Iraq invasion by Bush Sr. & friends) I became one of the many people who wanted to work against injustice. I joined amnesty international in Aachen and offered all my volunteer capacities in the years 1993 – 1996 for Gruppe 1517. We were the coordination group for cases in Cameroon and we also were in charge of the case of a former police officer in Laos who served arrest – with his family – in a re-education camp in a remote place near Sop Pan where there was no real chance for fleeing.

I participated in countless urgent actions. Amnesty international starts an urgent action when a person becomes arrested on the mere assumption that he or she is a prisoner of conscience. Amnesty international’s original mission is to care for those people who disappear when police or other government forces take hold of the person and put them in a regular prison or to some hidden place where nobody can find them and thus nobody can get into contact with them.

History shows that sometimes tens of thousands of people can disappear this way because they side with the wrong party in their country. Well-known examples are Argentina, Chile or Guatemala. Today it is common and verified knowledge that military kidnapped left-wing students, put them in helicopters and threw them from high altitude into the Ocean from. Others were killed in mass shootings, as we can know from mass graves found in the provinces throughout Latin America.

Children were separated from their parents when these were suspected of communist activities including simple opposition against the government, or working for the labour union, and the parents were brutally murdered and the children, orphans, given away for adoption to families who were leaders in the country. Particularly the police and military from countries in Central America are know to have been trained the dirty war on its own population by the experts in The School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia (USA).

With these lessons learnt, amnesty international, once they became aware that someone was taken prisoner because of their political activities, they send out letters worldwide to their branches and call for an urgent action. Supporters of amnesty international then write letters and faxes to the Police Chiefs, to the Prosecutors, to the Ambassadors, to the Presidents, to the Dictators asking for the release of the prisoner or at least for fair trial proceedings under public observation. The urgent actions help to make sure that such forgotten prisoner does not become tortured and killed by the police.

Often, these urgent actions show some success, because the government or forces who arrested someone (a prisoner of conscience) realized now that they are under observation world wide. It is one instrument of intimidation to silently remove people from the public and jail them somewhere. This tactics is known from the NKWD in the Soviet Union, form the Gestapo in Hitler-Deutschland and  from the Stasi in post WW2 Eastern-Germany.

On 25 May 2018, Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon, also known under the alias Tommy Robinson, was arrested in Leeds by the British Police as he was life streaming when reporting in the neighbourhood of the Crown Court in Leeds.

Tommy Robinson is a right wing activist who has been rallying for several years for creating awareness of what is known as “grooming gangs” in the United Kingdom. Men of oriental descent, many from Pakistan and of Islam faith, have organised for several decades the sexual exploitation of young girls in the united Kingdom.

The UK police, the justice system, the social welfare organisations and the politics, the government and also the press, the media had turned a blind eye on what is known now as systematic rape of youngsters and children by a group of men which can statistically easy be stereotyped.

Only recently some action was taken, but those officials who spoke out about this horrific crimes run in danger of losing their position. Tommy Robinson has become an activist in this matter and relied constantly, also because one of his relatives had become a victim of one of these “grooming gangs”.

He was arrested by Police because of contempt of court, because of breach of peace. The same day he was sentenced by the judge for 13 months prison time. This is certainly interesting because the courts have taken years before they were ready to jail rapists, at least some of them. But to jail someone who openly complaints about the lack of justice takes only one day – when it is someone Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon.

Therefore I was counting on amnesty international to step in and release an urgent action, particularly because the judge had released a gag order about the case. It was indeed forbidden to report about the case. In the United Kingdom. This is really a big story. But that story was not being told. Because it was not allowed to being told. Tommy Robinson was about to become a forgotten prisoner.

However, amnesty International did not release an urgent action. Therefore I contacted the amnesty international headquarter in London and also some national sections of amnesty international. The German Section responded they cannot help and suggested to find an attorney in UK. Wow: ai suggest to seek the advice of a lawyer.

Lately I have sent my pleas to ai in Germany and Switzerland, and the UK in order to inquire why amnesty international has largely remained silent over the arrest and conviction of Tommy Robinson.

When I volunteered in my very early 30s many years ago for amnesty international group 1517 in Aachen Germany, I used to write plea letters to dictators, corrupt leaders and ambassadors, and the like.

Now, I am writing such letters to amnesty international. Think about it.

Amnesty helps for example a blogger and government critical named Jabbar Savalan in Azerbaijan, who rallied publically for a “day of rage” in his country. Certainly he has every right to do so and  police and state prosecutors should not trick him over a drug possession charge into prison for 2 1/2 years. Good that amnesty helped.

Amnesty raises its voice for the underprivileged families of platinum mine workers in South Africa. This is not part of the core mandate of ai, but it’s fair enough that ai reports on that matter to raise awareness and move the money makers to share their wealth a little more with the working poor in their neighbourhood around Pretoria and Johannesburg.

I also agree with that ai points the finger to the abuse of sub Sahara migrants, which even become victim of gang rape in Libya – a country whose society has been destroyed by western people who were voted into office by western people. There is little comfort that my own country, Germany, was reluctant with joining the other democracy-spreading countries in bombing Libya and tearing it literally apart.

What I do not understand, however, is that amnesty international did not speak up when it surfaced that so-called “grooming gangs”, a horrific euphemism, had been abusing minors and children for several decades; the numbers of victims goes in the thousands, and the police and justice and juvenile/family services and politics turned a blind eye on this.

And when someone like Tommy Robinson freaks out over this – we have every reason to freak out over this – then the state steps in and locks him up.

I have read amnesty international’s definition of “free speech” on its webpage, which was launched in December 1st 2017. There, amnesty writes, for what ever wild reason or motivation:

«You might not expect us to say this, but in certain circumstances free speech and freedom of expression can be restricted.»

Correct. I did not expect amnesty international to write such nonsense.

The responses I got so far from ai read not much different than the response I would expect from the PR Office of the H.M. Home Office or from the Court itself. When you are siding with the UK government in the matter of Tommy Robinson, but not in the matter of Jabbar Salavan, for example, then maybe you should move in with your HQ into the government.

AI’s silence over this matter will become a stain in amnesty’s reputation and it is not going away so soon, methinks.

As a human rights organisation you belong to the last line of defence against government overreach. Also in the United Kingdom. While Azerbaijan is not know to the OSCE as a country which embraces free speech and its people’s liberties, the United Kingdom is. And the UK is on a very slippery slope towards lower standards in human rights and civil rights.

Jailing Tommy Robinson for speaking up, who lays the finger in the wounds of those in charge of child protection, cannot be met by amnesty international with citing paragraphs of the criminal code that he has violated. Robinson’s jail time is as much politically motivated by the UK as the jail time of Jabbar Savalan is motivated by Azerbaijan.

Amnesty international refuses to help Tommy Robinson because “he broke the law”? What a ridiculous and low level response. Nelson Mandela broke the law. Mahatma Gandhi broke the law. Alexander Solschenizyn broke the law. Andrei Sacharow broke the law. Robin Hood broke the law.

There you can see how times change.

When I stood in 10 December 1995 (Memorial day for human rights declaration) at the market place in Aachen hosting our amnesty international booth, I knew I was doing good when I decided not to work that day, that week on my diploma thesis. Back then, amnesty international was standing on the side of Robin Hood.

Today, when I read what the HQ of amnesty international explained to me in the case of Tommy Robinson, which reads like the press release form the Court or from the H.M. Home Office, I know: Today, amnesty International stands with the Sheriff of Nottingham, not with Robin Hood.

Hong Kong, 19 July 2018


Chefkoch Harald Wohlfahrt: abserviert

Vor einigen Jahren erschien im Fernsehen eine Reportage über einen Koch, der in einem kleinen Schwarzwalddorf ein vielbesuchtes Restaurant führte.

Eine Szene zeigte, wie der Koch in der Küche seine jüngeren Kollegen über seine experimentelle “Kreation” informierte und die weitere Vorgehensweise für den Ofen vorschlug.

In einer anderen Szene erklärte der Koch dem Fernsehreporter, dass er nur solche Köche einstellen könne, die selber unabhängig arbeiten könnten. Dies wäre nötig, damit er selber genügend Zeit hätte, sein Kochgebiet weiter entwickeln könne.

Und schließlich zeigte die Kamera, wie der Koch im Restaurant zu den Gästen ging – von Tisch zu Tisch – und sich nach deren Wohlbefinden erkundigte.

An einem Tisch bat ein Paar den Koch um seine Signatur auf der Menükarte. Der Koch kam der Bitte freundlich entgegen, nahm Menükarte und einen Stift und signierte dieselbe.

Später im Interview machte ihn der Reporter auf dieese Szene aufmerksam und fragte “Wenn man Sie bittet, die Menükarte mit ihrem Autogramm zu versehen, dann sind Sie ja eigentlich so etwas wie ein Prominenter, oder nicht?”

Der Koch blickte etwas zur Seite, überlegte kurz und nickte dann. So jedenfalls habe ich die Szene in meiner Erinnerung.

Besonders in Erinnerung geblieben ist mir die Aussage, dass er sein Gebiet als Koch weiterentwickeln wollte. Der Kochberuf ist ein kreativer Beruf. Diese Einstellung kann ich als Wissenschaftler sehr gut nachempfinden.

Am 25. Juli 2017 meldeten die Zeitugen, dass sich der Koch Harald Wohlfahrt per Gerichtsbeschluss in seine Küche klagen würde.

Diese Meldung ließ mich aufhorchen, und bald ahnte ich, daß es sich bei Harald Wohlfahrt um den besagten Koch aus der Fernsehreportage handelte. Nicht nur die Boulevardpresse brachte diese Meldung, sondern seriöse Zeitungen.

Wer sich mit diesem Fall beschäftigt, kommt zu dem Schluß, das es sich bei Harald Wohlfahrt nicht um einen Starkoch und erst recht nicht um einen Fernsehkoch handelt. Das Manager Magazin bezeichnet ihn in seiner Meldung am 25. Juli respektvoll als Spitzenkoch:

Nach vier Jahrzehnten Zusammenarbeit und 25 Drei-Sterne-Jahren für die “Schwarzwaldstube” stehen sich der Inhaber und der Spitzenkoch Harald Wohlfahrt vor Gericht gegenüber.

Einen Stern im bekannten Michelin Führer zu errreichen bedeutet für Koch und Restaurant, die höheren Weihen der kulinarischen Kunst zu besitzen:

ein Stern – „Eine sehr gute Küche, welche die Beachtung des Lesers verdient“

Harald Wohlfahrt ist für seine Arbeit in der Schwarzwaldstube sogar mit der Höchstzahl von 3 Michelin Sternen ausgezeichnet.

drei Sterne – „Eine der besten Küchen – eine Reise wert“.

Wer hätte gedacht, daß ein solcher Koch einmal darauf klagen würde, in seine Küche zurück zu dürfen?

Harald Wohlfahrt konnte das höchste Niveau von 3 Sternen 25 Jahre lang ausnahmslos halten. Damit ist er eine Autorität in der Welt der Kochkunst. Das bescheinigte ihm die New York Times, als sie ihn 1994 zu den zehn besten Köchen wählte.

Ich hatte bisher nicht das Vergnügen und die Ehre, Wohlfahrts Kreationen in der Schwarzwaldstube zu studieren. Obwohl ich gelegentlich mit dem Gedanken gespielt hatte – auch wenn ich weder Namen von Restaurant noch Koch kannte.

Aus meiner Pilgerfahrt zur Schwarzwaldstube nach Baiersbronn, um dort zu speisen und die Menükarte von Spitzenkoch Harald Wohlfahrt signiert zu bekommen, wird leider nichts werden. Harald Wohlfahrt wird das Restaurant, welches ihm über ein Vierteljahrhundert 3 Michelin Sterne verdankt, verlassen.

Zwar versuchte der 3-Sterne Koch, sich nach einem Streit mit seinem Arbeitgeber per Gerichtsbeschluß zurück in seine Küche zu klagen. Harald Wohlfahrt war bewußt, daß seine Beförderung zum kulinarischen Direktor einer Degradierung zum Frühstücksdirektor gleichkam.

Für einen Koch, der, wie oben in meiner Einleitung erklärt, unabhängige Mitarbeiter braucht, damit er selbst die Kunst und die Wissenschaft des Kochens weiterentwickeln kann, kam diese Beförderung einem Berufsverbot gleich. Zeitweise hatte der Spitzenkoch Hausverbot im Restaurant.

Aber gestern einigten sich Chefkoch Wohlfahrt und sein Arbeitgeber auf einen Vergleich, mit dem wohl auch Wohlfahrt zufrieden sein kann, glaubt man seiner Stellungnahme in Presseberichten vom 26. Juli 2017.











Has The Transition From Fossil Fuel to Hydrogen Economy Finally Begun?

Yesterday was a highlight. My First Ride in a Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car
The first time for one of my business trip I drove a hydrogen propelled fuel cell car. A Hyundai ix35.

Dr. Artur Braun filling Hyundai ix35 fuel cell car with hydrogen at the COOP pronto gas station in Hunzenschwil, Switzerland.

Since 2008, major part of my scientific activity was the production of solar hydrogen in photo electrochemical cells. Together with my group members and our collaborators worldwide we have run experiments, done investigations, wrote research proposals to get project funding, supervised PhD theses, MSc theses and BSc theses for this topic, wrote publications, participated in and spoke on conferences, organised conferences and so on, and so on.

For almost 10 years I, we, an entire community worldwide which has demonstrated and experienced an explosion rate growth, had a great time for a new technology for renewable energy production. I felt the time is coming that this solar hydrogen technology is going to make it into the market.

Lately, my organisation has built a hydrogen pumping station where you can fill your car with hydrogen, provided it feeds on hydrogen. And more recently, a major grocery retail store chain in Switzerland, the COOP company established a hydrogen filling station at one of their many COOP pronto gas stations in Hunzenschwil in the Canton of Aargau. It came in the news, in the TV, in the internet.

Hyundai ix35 at the COOP pronto gas station hydrogen filling terminal in Hunzenschwil, Switzerland.

On 10 November 2016 I participated as a founding member in the inauguration of the Daylight Academy, a new institution funded by the VELUX Stiftung in Switzerland. The foundation promotes the use of daylight for humankind. The inauguration ceremony took place at the WSL, the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research in Birmensdorf.

For my business travels in Switzerland I frequently use the vehicles of my employer’s car pool. I did so for the travel to the inauguration to Birmensdorf WSL, because on the next day I would have another very early ride to EPFL in Lausanne. On my way back at night from the Daylight Academy inauguration I gave my colleague Dr. Rudolf Struis from Paul Scherrer Institute a ride to the train station. He had also participated in the inauguration workshop and ceremony. In the car we discussed many things, also our work on environmental sustainability and the use of car pooling. Then it popped up in my memory that my employer had recently acquired a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle from Hyundai. So I told him that my next booking of a vehicle from the car pool would be the fuel cell car.

This was exactly yesterday on the 16 December where I visited him and two of his colleagues for a project discussion on a synchrotron experiment on dye sensitised solar cells which we are planning for.

The fuel cell car was a spacious sports utility vehicle which reminded me of my 2001 Grand Jeep Cherokee. But the Hyundai appeared to me more speedy. I did not feel the heavy weight which I was used from the Jeep. Push the gas pedal and the fuel cell car speeds of. It had automatic transmission and was easy to use. Actually, I did not really notice this was a fuel cell car when driving it. It felt like any normal car.

One problem at this time is that there are not many hydrogen gas stations. In Switzerland there is one at Empa in Dübendorf by Zürich. And the one at COOP in Hunzenschwil. There was one near Lac Le Man which is currently being moved to Neuchatel. And there is a research hydrogen station in Martigny operated by EPFL. That’s about it at this time.

Have we finally arrived at the fuel cell vehicle age?

Has The Transition From Fossil Fuel to Hydrogen Economy Finally Begun?

When I was Physics student in Aachen, some of my Korean friends studied Maschinenbau, some of them were in the groups of Prof. Franz Pischinger, an internationally renown Professor for combustion engine technology.

When I moved to Switzerland for my doctoral thesis, I entered the field of electrochemistry. My PhD thesis research project was funded by the Swiss Priority Program on Materials Research and was supposed to produce an electrochemical double layer capacitor, a “Supercapacitor” to be used in electric locomotive trains. So I worked in a project on alternative energy for mobility applications with Dr. Rüdiger Katz, my supervisor.

In 1998 or 1999, I do not remember exactly anymore, I joined a brainstorming led by ETH Professor and PSI Director Meinrad Eberle, where a project on fuel cell vehicles had been discussed. While Prof. Eberle was known as a hardcore automotive combustion engineer, he listened to the various minds in the brainstorming and in the end basically said “OK, then let’s go for the fuel cell car project”. I thought for a classical combustion engine guy like Eberle this would be a big move.

I knew about the fuel cell for automotive applications since I joined PSI as a PhD student in 1996. I shared my office with Dr. Felix Büchi, a fuel cell stack expert and Dr. Hans-Peter Brack, a polymer membrane expert. On a side note, I want to acknowledge that learned a lot from them during my three years at PSI.

So, anyway – the big expectations and frequent doubts over fuel cell cars that I witnessed in the late 90s – here it is, the fuel cell car which runs on hydrogen. I drove it.

Where does the hydrogen for the fuel cell cars come from?

Most of the hydrogen produced by chemical industry is made from water vapour guided over hot coal. The water-gas-shift reaction makes that the water H2O molecule is split into hydrogen gas and oxygen, the latter combines with the coal to carbon monoxide CO, a toxic gas. This process can be called thermolysis. So, this hydrogen is won from fossil fuels.

The water can also be split (oxidised) and converted to hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis. The electric power necessary for this process can be taken from the electricity grid. The electricity can be produced from coal and gas power plants, from nuclear power plants, from wind and maritime tide power plants and also from photovoltaic – from solar energy. The exhaust of a fuel cell car is only water vapour.

The electric power for the hydrogen I pumped at COOP pronto in Hunzenschwil comes directly from a Swiss mountain water power plant. So this hydrogen comes from renewable energy. In contrast, the combustion engine cars with imported fossil fuel, which produces as exhaust water, carbon dioxide and possible other reaction products, such as the NOx.




Curiosity and the freedom to doubt

  • To many Physicists, Richard P. Feynman is either known as the Nobel Laureate who shared his prize with Julian Schwinger about some mathematical problems in quantumelectrodynamics and how to solve them – with a trick.
  • Or they know Feynman as the author of the Feynman Lectures in Physics, I think three books on Experimental Physics which were even recommended for the Theoretical Physics course at my alma mater.

Or they know Feynman for both.

  • I know Feynman particularly for the other books – about him. Surely you’re joking, Mr. Feynman. Six not so easy pieces. Six easy pieces. What do you care what other people think? …

On the night of the 14 August 2015 I came across a YouTube video with Bertrand Piccard, where he gave a public lecture on Zeitgeist Americas 2013:

Piccard, who is known for a number of pioneering which I would call “aeronautical stunts”, starts out in his lecture with a claim, a statement which he had read at the entrance to his auditorium. It’s being claimed there:

Everyone is looking for new things all the time.

Piccard then comments on this quote:

I’m not sure it’s true. I believe that maybe here in this room we are all looking for new things. We are curious. And actually we find our balance into the unknown. But so many people in life don’t trust life at all. So many people are afraid of the unknown. Afraid of the doubts. Afraid of the question marks. So what do they do? They try to find completely other tools than curiosity. They try to find control, power, speed. Because this helps them to fight against the doubt and the question marks. This helps them to fight against the uncertainty, against the “changeants”. Against everything that can threaten their comfort zone. So what I love so much in ballooning actually is the fact that when you fly a balloon you learn exactly the other things, exactly the opposite, exactly the contrary. You learn to have – no power. Because you have no engine. You learn to have no control, because you’re pushed by the wind. …”

Now this is very interesting, the distinction between a) people who are curious and in there find their balance, b) and those people who are scared of doubts and questions and rather seek power and control for their balance.

When I heard these words from Piccard, I was then reminded of Feynman who elaborated on the “Meaning of it all” and “The Freedom to doubt”.

Let me quote ( here Richard Feynman from the book “What do you care what other people think?:

The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn’t know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty darned sure of what the result is going to be, he is in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress we must recognize the ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty — some most unsure, some nearly sure, none absolutely certain.

Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure – that it is possible to live and not know. But I don’t know whether everyone realizes that this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle. Permit us to question — to doubt, that’s all — and not to be sure. 

And this reminds me of an opinion brought forward by John F. Kennedy in his well known speechThe President and the Press“, where Kennedy says

No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary.

Obviously, the principle of doubt (controversy) which is known to scientists as a painful evolution (Galileo Galilei) has made it also into modern politics, at least by Kennedy, and to at least one ancient lawmaker (Solon), if you read on Kennedy’s speech.

Whereas in law making and in politics, doubt could be considered a necessary systemic reflex against unilateralism and totalitarianism, in science I believe it could have a true academic origin, this is the curiosity.

Coming back to Piccard’s speech, he says there is two sorts of people, the ones who are curious, I would say the ones who seek questions, rather than answers. And then there is the other class of people, those who  cannot stand questions and won’t rest until they have an answer. The latter are the ones who need control over things, the ones who are not apt to the idea of freedom.

Can the aforementioned systemic reflex of doubt against unilateralism still be considered as originating from the same field like the freedom to doubt in scientific affairs?

Global language


Today I was pointed to a landmark in South Korea, heavy stones, monoliths piled up like in Stonehenge, Great Britain. The Korean word for that is “dol” and means basically rock or stone. The German word for big stones which are arranged in a tumb, grave stones, are called “Dolmen”. The “Dolomiten” is the alpine mountains in the northern Italy part in Tyrol.

I am struck by the similarity of the Korean word “dol” for stone and its European counter parts which sound similar. There many such similarities in Asian and European languages.

Last year on my way from Arizona to New Mexico I chose to pass Sedona and the Coconino area. Above Oak Creek Canyon there was a resting place at the highway with scenic view. And a group of native americans, “indians” were trying to sell their jewellery there. At the lower end of the row of salesmen and tribesmen was one single man who had a much darker skin and looked way different from the other tribes people. He was selling T-shirts and tried to lure me into a conversation – and eventually in a deal. It seemed he was quite literate about languages and anthropology and the spread of language. He knew that Lithuanian language bears similarities with the Indian sanskrit and  lectured me over this.