UKRAINE DEATH TOLL TOPS 5,000
At least 13 people died after a Donetsk city bus was hit by a shell this morning amid ongoing fights between the Ukrainian army and pro-Russian separatists. It takes the death toll in the Ukrainian conflict to more than 5,000. The attack, during which many more were injured, appears to have been carried out from a minibus. The rebels have blamed it on Ukraine military forces, Pravda reports. It came after the Ukrainian army admitted it had lost control of the Donetsk airport. Hours before, Ukrainian and Russian diplomats in Berlin had agreed to force fighters to pull back heavy weapons from the front line. Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko has asked for a new bailout from the International Monetary Fund, arguing the country might need an extra $15 billion on top of an already agreed rescue package worth $27 billion. Read more from AFP.
ON THIS DAY
Get your 57-second shot of history in our daily video feature — today featuring 1973’s landmark abortion case Roe vs. Wade.
EU TO ANNOUNCE QUANTITATIVE EASING
The European Central Bank is widely expected to announce its first ever quantitative easing program as it hopes to kickstart a stagnant economy and to bolster its stocks. According to the Financial Times, the ECB will print 50 billion euros every month to buy government bonds for at least a year, possibly two, representing a total purchase of 600 billion euros ($700 billion) per year. French business daily Les Echos describes the move as an “historic offensive,” though the Eurozone’s biggest economy, Germany, is fiercely opposed to it, fearing it could reproduce the hyperinflation it faced in the early 1920s. Berlin officials believe the move will reduce its partners’ urgency to reform their economies.
Chinese President Xi Jinping's used his first "domestic inspection tour" of 2015 to try to boost the economy in the impoverished Yunnan Province in southwest China, People’s Daily reports. Some 92 million people in China live in poverty.
Read the full article, Extra! People's Daily On Xi Jinping's War On Poverty.
CLOCK TICKS FOR ISIS HOSTAGES
With less than 24 hours to go until an ISIS-imposed deadline for Tokyo to pay $200 million in exchange for two hostages, officials said they were trying to open a line of communication with the terrorist group but had so far failed to make contact, The New York Times reports. According to Japanese news agency Kyodo, the government has turned to regional allies Jordan and Turkey to help negotiate with ISIS. This comes amid reports from broadcaster Radio France Internationale that 10 former French troops, including explosive experts, are among foreign jihadists fighting with ISIS.
MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD
PEGIDA’S FUTURE IN DOUBT
Germany’s anti-Islamization movement Pegida faces a difficult challenge after its controversial founder Lutz Bachmann’s resignation yesterday. It came after a picture of him posing as Hitler emerged in the press. It will be a blow to movement sympathizers and people who participated in marches in Dresden and other German cities who have repeatedly said their were not xenophobic or Nazi supporters. Anti-Pegida protests have also grown in recent weeks. According to Deutsche Welle, a rival movement called Legida has emerged in the city of Leipzig, where protesters clashed and journalists and the police were attacked.
A new poll shows that 70% of Argentinians believe that Alberto Nisman, the prosecutor who was found dead after accusing President Cristina Kirchner and Iran of covering up a 1994 terrorist attack, was murdered. More worrying for Buenos Aires is the fact that 57% of those who think he was murdered believe the government is behind the killing.
WINDOWS 10 UPSTAGED
Microsoft unveiled its future operating system Windows 10 yesterday, saying it would be available for free for a year for PCs, phones and gaming consoles. But the announcement that really grabbed the tech world’s attention is a new device called HoloLens.
MADURO V. INFLATION
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a 15% rise in government wages and pensions yesterday amid inflation of 64% and food shortages, AFP reports. The Venezuelan economy has been badly hit by falling oil prices, but Maduro dismissed talk of devaluation. Instead, he renewed accusations that his opponents were sabotaging the country’s economy.
As Calcalist’s Omer Kabir writes, Israeli David Placek has coined the names for everything from the PowerBook to Blackberry to your kitchen mop. And there's a method to his magic. “‘The name of a company, a service or a particular product is very valuable,’ explains the 61-year-old branding maven. It is the only thing that remains. Products change, campaigns change, but the name stays. When I tell this to clients, it gets their attention, because people don’t necessarily think that the name is permanent and that they will probably never change it.”
Read the full article, The Brand Man, How David Placek Names Things You Want To Buy.
THE SUN’S “MAMMARY LAPSE”
Just when nearly everyone was praising Rupert Murdoch’s The Sun for scrapping its topless “Page 3,” the British tabloid resurrected it, citing a “mammary lapse.”
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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