German Anti-ISIS News, Europe’s Solar Power, Billboard Shaming

German Anti-ISIS News, Europe’s Solar Power, Billboard Shaming


After agreeing last week to send 650 soldiers to Mali to support 1,500 French troops deployed to fight Islamist extremists, Germany could be about to launch a military campaign in Syria. The German cabinet voted today to send reconnaissance aircraft, a naval frigate and a 1,200-strong military force to the region as part of plans to back the fight against ISIS, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reports. German troops will not, however, engage in combat. This follows an appeal by French President François Hollande for an international coalition against ISIS in the wake of the Nov. 13 Paris attacks. German lawmakers in Berlin are expected to vote on the campaign tomorrow.


Ankara and Moscow should open military communication channels to prevent incidents such as last week’s downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets, Reuters quoted Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as saying today. “We must sit down and talk at the table instead of making unfounded allegations,” he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday accused Turkey of shooting down the Russian jet to protect oil supplies from ISIS militants in Syria. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has called these claims “slander.” Al Jazeera also quoted Erdogan as saying he would resign if the allegations were proven.


One day after the COP21 climate conference opened in Paris, Europe’s largest solar power plant is being inaugurated today near Bordeaux, in France, Les Echos reports. The installation is spread across 642 acres, the equivalent of 350 soccer fields, and will produce enough energy per year to power 50,000 homes. For more about the summit, we offer this Les Echos/Worldcrunch piece, The Earth In Our Hands: Epochal Stakes For Paris Cop21.


Last December’s AirAsia plane crash in the Java Sea that killed all 162 people on board was caused mainly by a faulty rudder control system, The Guardian reports. But the crew’s response to disengage autopilot amid stormy weather conditions to try to fix the situation also contributed to the crash, Indonesian officials said in their final, year-long investigation into the tragedy. The report found that the soldering on a tiny electronic part in the system that controlled the rudder was cracked, leading it to send four warning signals to the pilots, who then reset the system, turning off the autopilot and causing the plane to roll.


Photo: Luo Xiaoguang/Xinhua via ZUMA

Artist Kong Ning wears a wedding dress made of 999 face masks to call attention to pollution in Beijing. Air pollution in the Chinese capital reached a record high today, soaring to 35 times the safety levels.


A poorly planned terrorist attack simulation at the University of Nairobi yesterday turned to chaos when it led to panic across the campus. One university employee was killed and about 40 people were injured, two of them seriously. According to Radio France Internationale, most people on campus weren’t notified about the simulation and started to flee when they heard shots and saw armed men dressed in black suddenly appearing around the university. Last April, Al-Shabaab terrorists killed 148 people at Garissa University in eastern Kenya. In September 2013, the same group killed 67 people when it attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi.


Synaesthesia is a gift, a special quality that affects perception â€" a kind of constant intoxication of the senses in which letters and numbers have certain colors, and sounds might have a sweet or salty taste to them, Die Welt’s Julia Naue reports. “Emotions can be another trigger, producing sensory experiences that are not only linked to one but multiple senses. A synaesthete might, for example, associate a person’s character with a color. Less is known about this particular form of synaesthesia due to the difficulty of reproducing feelings under laboratory conditions.”

Read the full article, A Peek Into The Strange And Colorful World Of Synaesthesia.



With 53.5% of the vote, Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, from the Movement of People for Progress party, has been elected Burkina Faso’s new president, the country’s electoral commission announced today, according to the daily Sidwaya. Kabore, the second civilian to become Burkina Faso’s leader since the country gained independence in 1960, will replace a transitional government set up after longtime leader Blaise Compaoré was toppled in October 2014. Read more from Le Blog.


Happy 80th, Woody! The film icon and more in today’s 57-second shot of history.


The Lebanese military and the al-Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s branch in Syria, conducted a long-awaited, Qatar-brokered prisoner exchange today outside Lebanon’s border town of Arsal, where a group of Lebanese soldiers were kidnapped last year, al Jazeera reports. The al-Nusra Front released 16 Lebanese security officers, in exchange for 13 prisoners, five of whom are women.


A Brazilian campaign called “Virtual racism, real consequences” is using billboards to publicize racist messages posted on Facebook and Twitter as a way to denounce and shame racists in the multicultural country. Though the authors of the offensive comments aren’t being exposed, the billboards are being placed near the homes of the offenders.

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

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.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


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.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

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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