Jokermen, Art And The Limits Of Politics

Manipulation and violence, animus and hypocrisy: Such is the stuff of politics on almost any given day, in any corner of the world. But, on our best days, politics holds out the possibility of actually making things better and solving our problems. These are not our best days.

In the war-torn country of Colombia, a much-hailed peace settlement to end a half-century of armed conflict was voided by a national referendum 39 days later. Not even the surprise announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is likely to help fix the country’s broken politics.

Art is a different story. The Bogota-based newspaper El Espectador describes a major new installation in the capital by famed Colombian artist Doris Salcedo. Her Sumando Ausencias ("Adding Up Absences"), where hundreds of volunteers have written with ash on white sheets the names of some 2,300 victims of civil war, depicts not so much a country that is polarized politically, but simply broken. “Art is not just an instrument for reflecting on reality in times of crisis,” writes El Espectador’s Arturo Charria, “but also saves and repairs what has become irreparable by other means.”

Some might search for answers in another surprising Nobel announcement. Since he was awarded the 2016 Nobel prize in Literature yesterday, Bob Dylan hasn’t spoken a word publicly. He did, as is his habit, play a concert last night in the appropriately surreal location of Las Vegas, Nevada. The American troubadour/sphinx, who has written some of the most memorable politically-tinged songs, will certainly not be speaking out (or probably even writing) about what is happening right now to the politics of his country. Here, instead, are just a few words from his 1983 song “Jokerman expand=1]”:

You're a man of the mountains, you can walk on the clouds,

Manipulator of crowds, you're a dream twister …



“There is nothing the political establishment will not do â€" no lie that they won’t tell, to hold their prestige and power at your expense,” Republican candidate Donald Trump told a crowd of supporters in Florida, in response to accusations published yesterday that he sexually assaulted women. “These claims are all fabricated,” he said. The New York Times meanwhile stood by its report and refused to retract the story.


King Bhumidol, the world's longest-reigning monarch, as well as the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, died yesterday in Bangkok at age 88. See how the country’s media paid tribute to the king.


Everybody’s favorite pooh turns 90 today. That, and more, in today’s 57-second shot of history.


Colombia’s government has extended the current ceasefire with the FARC rebels, which was due to expire on Oct. 31, until the end of the year, El Espectador reports. Opponents to the peace deal, led by former president Alvaro Uribe, presented the government with new proposals yesterday centered mostly on victims’ rights and the FARC’s access to political institutions.


Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified this morning an agreement with the Syrian government that authorizes the indefinite deployment of Russian air force in Syria, Sputnik reports.


Everybody’s heard about Sweden’s education and welfare model, but the Nordic nation is also an inspiring leader in premature baby care. Writing for Le Figaro, reporter Pauline Fréour explores this more natural, less clinical approach that takes into consideration the babies’ affective and physiological needs. “Sweden insists on keeping parents close to prematurely born babies, whatever their level of vulnerability. Parents are invited into the medical routine as ‘privileged caring partners.’ At night, Samira sleeps on a bed close to Amro's cot. She will stay there for as long as her baby's state of health requires, be it weeks or even months. In Sweden, parents of a child with a serious illness are given unlimited parenting leave from work.

When the baby needs less supervision, he or she can share a room with the parents, where they can also cook and wash their clothes. The parent is ‘responsible for the child's health and nobody would understand their not being there,’ says Charlotte Casper, a neonatology professor at Toulouse University who completed part of her training in Sweden. ‘This is written in people's minds and in the law itself.’”

Read the full article, In Sweden, A More Hands-On Approach To Premature Births.


A total of 113 Asian entrepreneurs became billionaires in 2015, making Asia the continent with the fastest wealth creation rate, with about one new billionaire every three days, the latest UBS/PwC Billionaires Report shows. But at the same time, Asia also saw 80 lose their billionaire status.


The Bigger Picture â€" Ajaccio, 1969


Twenty-one of the schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram terrorists in 2014 in northeastern Nigeria, were freed yesterday after 911 days in captivity, Vanguard reports. A minister quoted by the newspaper denied claims that Boko Haram detainees were released in exchange for the girls, 18 of whom now have babies. This comes amid reports that military forces of Nigeria, Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Benin are preparing a final assault on Boko Haram.



Soccer legend Diego Maradona managed to get into an argument with fellow Argentine Juan Sebastian Veron. At a charity game. For peace. Organized by Pope Francis.

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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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