COUNTRIES LAUNCH POST-PANAMA PAPERS PROBES
After yesterdayâ€™s first reports into the massive leak of confidential documents from law firm Mossack Fonseca, known as â€œthe Panama Papers,â€ several countries have launched investigations into allegations of money laundering and tax fraud, the BBC reports. Among those countries are Australia, Austria, France, Spain, the Netherlands and even Panama.
- Todayâ€™s new revelations from The Guardian focus on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and those around him, explaining among other things how a businessman close to the Assad managed to hold luxury London apartments.
- Germanyâ€™s Süddeutsche Zeitung, the newspaper that received the initial leak, takes a closer look at Germans â€œdecorated by the countryâ€™s Order of Merit, brothel kings and top managersâ€ involved in shell companies that the papers reveal. The daily also provides details about the 28 national financial institutions involved in the scandal, including at least 14 banks. Deutsche Bank alone is said to have been connected to more than 400 offshore companies.
- Le Monde, meanwhile, reports that close associates to far-right leader Marine Le Pen also worked with Mossack Fonseca to stash money overseas. The newspaper puts a French bank in the limelight too: Société Générale, which opened 979 shell companies with the law firmâ€™s help, making it among the top five banks implicated. HSBC leads the pack with 2,300 offshore companies.
- Iceland Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson will face a vote of confidence later this week over his participation in the scheme. As many as 10,000 protesters gathered yesterday outside the parliament in Reykjavik, throwing eggs on the building. An online petition is calling for Gunnlaugssonâ€™s resignation.
- â€œFiscal Terrorism,â€ reads the front page of this week's satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the leak. See the cover here.
A New York Times photographer traveled to Palmyra, the Syrian city the government recently recaptured from ISIS, and took some stunning pictures of whatâ€™s left of the ancient ruins.
AZERBAIJAN, ARMENIA VIOLENCE REIGNITES
A conflict between Azerbaijani and Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-populated enclave in Azerbaijan, has left at least 20 people dead over the past few days, and now itâ€™s threatening to escalate into a â€œlarge-scale war,â€ Al Jazeera reports. The disputed region has been marred by violent conflicts between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijani before, but tensions have been largely quiet in recent decades. AFP reports that neighboring Russia and the U.S. have called for a ceasefire, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan â€œfueled tensionsâ€ by insisting that the Armenian-controlled region would â€œone dayâ€ return to Azerbaijanâ€™s control. Read more from The New York Times.
Photo: Ringo Chiu/ZUMA
Both California and New York adopted legislation yesterday to push their statewide minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next few years. â€œThis is an important day,â€ California Gov. Jerry Brown said. â€œItâ€™s not the end of the struggle, but itâ€™s a very important step forward.â€
CRITICAL WISCONSIN PRIMARIES TODAY
Presidential front-runners Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are heading into todayâ€™s Wisconsin primaries both fearing â€œembarrassing setbacksâ€ that could give new momentum to their main opponents, Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz, The Washington Post writes. The result will be particularly crucial for Donald Trump, who last week had arguably the worst of his campaign so far, and a victory for Cruz could â€œresetâ€ the race for the Republican nomination.
Argentine companies are adding to the international trend to open up workspaces and make them transparent and fun, Ana Broitman reports for Clarin. At the IT company Globant, â€œOffice design evolves further after a space is used and employees offer feedback,â€ Broitman writes. â€œFor example, the conference room, which has hammocks, was extended with spaces associated with outdoors, leisure and sustainability (such as a barbecue, a terrace and a little garden). There are also rooms with musical instruments for use by so-called â€˜Globers,â€™ or Globant employees participating in competitions the company organizes.â€
Read the full article, Working Happy: Open Office Space 2.0, Latin America Style.
INDIAN POLICE GET LIFE FOR SIKH MURDERS
A special Indian court convicted 47 police officers of murdering 11 Sikh pilgrims in 1991, sentencing them to life in prison, India Today reports. The pilgrims were deliberately killed as they returned from visiting holy sites, and the police later lied about their identities, claiming they were terrorists to justify the slaughter. Another 10 officers convicted in the case have since died.
ON THIS DAY
Twenty-two years ago, Kurt Cobain joined the 27 Club. That, and more, in todayâ€™s 57-second shot of history.
ZUMA FACES IMPEACHMENT VOTE
South Africaâ€™s lawmakers will debate a motion today to remove President Jacob Zuma from office, following last weekâ€™s court ruling that he violated his countryâ€™s constitution, the Mail & Guardian reports. But the vote is unlikely to lead to Zumaâ€™s impeachment because a two-thirds majority is required.
MY GRAND-PEREâ€™S WORLD
WHO WILL SUCCEED BAN KI-MOON?
Former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clarke has officially entered the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon, who will leave the helm of the United Nations in December. â€œIâ€™m not campaigning as a woman candidate,â€ Clarke told the BBC. â€œIâ€™m campaigning as the best person for the job.â€ If elected, she would be the first female UN Secretary-General. She said that she would make the UN Security Council â€œlook more like the 21st Century world we live in today.â€
With a three-pointer at the buzzer, Villanova vanquished No. 1 seed North Carolina in last nightâ€™s stunning NCAA national championship. While the Tar Heels mourn, the Villanova campus has canceled todayâ€™s classes to make way for an extended celebration.
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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