MACEDONIA CLOSES BORDER TO MIGRANTS
Some 2,600 people are stranded on the Greek side of the border with Macedonia after the Balkan nation closed its borders to incoming migrants yesterday afternoon, AP reports. Macedonia, which is not an EU member, took similar steps for two days last week. The authorities are, however, allowing in migrants who wish to go to Austria or Germany.
- This comes after reports that the EU is considering sealing off Greece from the rest of the union within three months if Greece doesnâ€™t reverse â€œserious deficienciesâ€ in how it manages its border, the southernmost border of the Schengen passport-free zone.
- At least 24 migrants, including 18 children, have drowned after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean on its way to Greece, Al Jazeera reports. Rescue operations are still ongoing.
- Sweden is planning to expel between 60,000 and 80,000 migrants whose asylum applications have been rejected, Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told newspaper Dagens Industri. â€œThe first step will be to go with voluntary return, and to create the best conditions for that,â€ Ygeman said. â€œBut if that doesnâ€™t work, we will need to have returns backed up by force.â€ Read more in English from The Local.
â€œGo home and hug your families. This fight is ours for now in the courts. Please go home,â€ Ammon Bundy, the arrested leader of a month-long occupation of an Oregon federal wildlife reserve, said in a statement to those who remain at the site. â€œTo those remaining at the refuge, I love you. Let us take this fight from here. Please stand down,â€ The New York Times quotes Bundy as saying.
U.S. CONSIDERING LIBYA INTERVENTION
The U.S. is considering an intervention in Libya, which remains in chaos despite a recent UN-backed national unity program. Four years after leader Muammar Gaddafi was toppled by a NATO-backed uprising, Washington is â€œworried about the metastasis of ISIS in a number of locations, Libya being just one of those locations,â€ a Pentagon spokesman said. He acknowledged that officials were â€œlooking at military optionsâ€ to stop the terrorist group from spreading outside of Syria and Iraq.
GOOGLEâ€™S AI BREAKTHROUGH
Photo: Brian Jeffery Beggerly
Google-built artificial intelligence software has beaten Fan Hui, the European champion of the ancient Chinese game of Go, a breakthrough that was only recently thought to be a decade away, Nature reports. Go is a complex game for algorithms to crack, with the average game containing more possible moves than there are atoms in the universe.
CHEAP OIL COULD TRIGGER DEFAULT WAVE
The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are considering a $4 billion emergency loan package for Azerbaijan, an oil producer whose currency has been badly hit by falling crude prices. According to the Financial Times, this could be the â€œfirst of a series of bailouts stemming from the tumbling oil price,â€ and experts are forecasting that prices will remain low this year with dire consequences for the global economy. Both organizations are also reportedly monitoring the situation in Brazil, Ecuador and Venezuela.
The Hamburg Morgenpost is flipping the blue bird on its front page today: The German daily features a four-page analysis of what it calls "The Hate-Net." Read more on this on Le Blog.
Italian museum officials covered up prized nude statues for Iranian President Hassan Rouhaniâ€™s visit. But such overly eager attention to Muslim sensibilities may be misguided, Massimo Gramellini writes in La Stampa. And what about our own? â€œIf an Italian woman goes to Iran, she covers her head properly. If an Iranian comes to Italy, we unfairly cover up the nude statues. In one direction or another, we are always the ones doing the covering. And the sensibilities not to be offended are always theirs. But what if the presence of women covered from head to toe on an avenue in Tehran or Baghdad hurts my sensibility? I donâ€™t think that the Ayatollahs would allow them to wear a miniskirt out of respect for me.â€
Read the full article, Covering Up Roman Nudes For Rouhani, A Question Of Respect.
ON THIS DAY
From the Eiffel Tower to LEGO, here is your 57-second shot of history.
LAURENT GBAGBO TRIAL BEGINS
The trial of former Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who is accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, began this morning in the Dutch city of The Hague, where he pleaded not guilty, AFP reports. The charges relate to the violence that erupted after Gbagbo lost the 2010 presidential election to rival Alassane Ouattara, a conflict in which 3,000 people were killed over five months. Gbagbo is the first former head of state of appear in front of the International Criminal Court, and according to BBC reporter Anna Holligan, this could be â€œthe most important trial in the ICC's history.â€
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
JAPANESE ECONOMY MINISTER RESIGNS
Japanâ€™s Economy Minister Akira Amari has announced his resignation after a weeklong controversy over graft allegations. Amari, whom Bloomberg describes as â€œa key engineer of the governmentâ€™s â€˜Abenomicsâ€™ program,â€ denied receiving cash for favors, claiming instead that the estimated 12 million yen ($100,000) he pocketed were political donations.
UK train fares are notoriously expensive. But a young English blogger saved Â£7.72 ($11) by going â€œthe extra 1,017 milesâ€ and flying from the northern English city of Sheffield to his home in Essex via Berlin, instead of going by rail.
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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