WILL BLATTER SURVIVE AS FIFA PRESIDENT?
The world of sports continued to reel today after the arrests of seven top FIFA officials on corruption charges, with the fate of the international soccer body’s longtime chief Sepp Blatter hanging in the balance. The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and others are calling for the postponement of Friday’s FIFA election, where Blatter is standing for a fifth term as president. But Greg Dyke, chairman of the English Football Association, told the BBC that it’s still likely to go ahead, but that Blatter’s challenger, Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, could win.
- UEFA President Michel Platini said that as long as Blatter was FIFA president, the organization would lack credibility.
- Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona said he was relieved by the U.S. and Swiss probes into the organization that runs the World Cup. “Today the FBI revealed the truth. FIFA has reserves of $1.5 billion, and there are players who earn no more than $150. Those liars were caught by surprise,” French sports daily L’Equipe quoted him as saying.
- Blatter, who has called an emergency meeting for today, is apparently not implicated in the investigation, though probes have been opened into the bidding contest for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.
- Blatter said in a statement yesterday that the arrests of top FIFA officials demonstrate his efforts to eradicate corruption. “As unfortunate as these events are, it should be clear that we welcome the actions and the investigations by the U.S. and Swiss authorities and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken to root out any wrongdoing in football,” he said. “Let me be clear: Such misconduct has no place in football, and we will ensure that those who engage in it are put out of the game. We will continue to work with the relevant authorities, and we will work vigorously within FIFA to regain your trust.”
Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip proceed through the Royal Gallery after the Queen gave her annual speech Wednesday in Westminster’s House of Lords in London.
MALAYSIA POLICE INVOLVED IN HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Two Malaysian police officers have been arrested in connection with human-trafficking camps and 139 graves found last week in the remote north of the country, near the Thai border, reporters were told during a press conference today, The Malaysian Insider reports.
“I am sending a manuscript into time. Will any humans be waiting there to receive it?” author Margaret Atwood said as she handed over the manuscript she penned for the Future Library project in Norway. What she wrote will be kept secret until 2114, when it will be printed on paper provided by recently planted pine trees. Each year for the next 99 years, one author will be asked to write a manuscript. Read more from The Guardian.
U.S. ARMY’S ANTHRAX FOUL-UP
Up to 22 U.S. military personnel at the Osan Air Base in South Korea “may have been exposed” to live anthrax after an Army laboratory in Utah “inadvertently” sent samples of the lethal toxin there, a statement from the military base said Wednesday. “All personnel were provided appropriate medical precautionary measures to include examinations, antibiotics and, in some instances, vaccinations,” it said, adding that “none of the personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure.” The anthrax was also distributed to at least nine labs in the U.S., but no victims have been reported.
Since November 2013, Nidaa Badwan has refused to leave the first floor of her family home in Deir al-Balah, a Palestinian city in the Gaza Strip. As L’Obs reports, she’s been living cloistered inside nine square meters that serve as both a bedroom and workshop, where her reflections come to life. “The 28-year-old Palestinian artist has isolated herself voluntarily,” the newspaper writes. “She’s walled up in a territory that has itself been transformed into a prison. ‘This is the only place where I really feel free,’ she says. Badwan's self-portraits represent weeks of preparation. She poses in front of her typewriter, or on her multicolored bed, facing her computer, sometimes in a lotus position, her head turned to the ceiling, maybe with her eyes closed, as if in ecstasy. She calls the project “100 Days of Solitude,” in reference to Gabriel García Márquez's novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which she reread during the first weeks of her confinement.”
Read the full article, Self-Imprisonment As Protest: A Gaza Woman's Harrowing Performance Art.
ISIS “WILL NOT DESTROY” PALMYRA RUINS
ISIS video released yesterday shows the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra intact as the terrorist organization said it would “only” destroy statues it deems polytheistic, The Guardian reports. But an airstrike campaign launched by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the area has raised fears for Palmyra’s unique ruins. It came after regime forces abandoned the city and its inhabitants as the jihadist group approached. ISIS is believed to have executed 20 pro-regime foreign fighters in the city’s majestic Roman theater, in addition to 400 other people.
ON THIS DAY
Fahrvergnügen! Happy Birthday to the German car company Volkswagen, which was established 78 years ago today. Time now for your 57-second shot of history.
NEBRASKA ABOLISHES DEATH PENALTY
Nebraska became the first U.S. state in more than 40 years, and the 19th out of 50, to abolish the death penalty yesterday. Lawmakers voted 30-19 to override Gov. Pete Rickett's veto. “We are a nation that is turning away from the death penalty,” USA Today quoted Danielle Conrad, executive director of the Nebraska American Civil Liberties Union, as saying. “This victory stands as a testament to what can happen in our sister states.”
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
NUSRA FRONT SAYS “NO PLANS” TO TARGET WEST
In an interview with Al Jazeera, al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani said his al-Qaeda-affiliated group operating in Syria had no intention of attacking Western countries unless provoked, and that its main objective was to defeat Bashar al-Assad’s regime. “We received clear orders not to use Syria as a launching pad to attack the U.S. or Europe in order to not sabotage the true mission against the regime,” he said. “Maybe al-Qaeda does that but not here in Syria.”
MANKINIS, THE PERFECT TOURIST REPELLENT
Newquay, a town in the British county of Cornwall, has noticed that anti-social behavior and crime have dropped and that tourism has grown around its coast since 2009. That was the year the town banned “mankinis” from public areas. Case rested.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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