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Russia Bristles, Pentagon Viagra Budget, Veggie Tech Wear

Russia Bristles, Pentagon Viagra Budget, Veggie Tech Wear

CALL FOR PEACEKEEPERS RANKLES RUSSIA
Russia reacted strongly to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s call yesterday for UN peacekeepers to be deployed in eastern Ukraine. Russian UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said it “raises suspicions that he wants to destroy the Minsk accords,” the BBC reports. Pro-Russian rebels encircling the town of Debaltseve had refused to lay down their weapons despite the ceasefire that officially began Sunday, claiming the town was their own territory.

  • According to French President Francois Hollande’s office, the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France talked on the phone earlier today, during which both Poroshenko and Putin denounced the ceasefire breach and called for full implementation of the Minsk agreement.

ON THIS DAY

On Feb. 19, 1963,
Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique was published. Time for your 57-second shot of history.

OBAMA VS. EXTREMISM
During a counter-extremism summit in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama urged more than 60 countries to join the fight against violent extremism and terrorist groups such as ISIS. “We are not at war with Islam. We are at war with people who have perverted Islam,” he said, adding that it was crucial “to confront squarely and honestly the twisted ideologies” that target young people, The New York Times reports. This came amid claims that ISIS is harvesting organs from slain civilians for money. The United Nations said it would launch an investigation.

  • Libya’s foreign minister, meanwhile, asked the UN to lift a weapons embargo to help the army fight the rise of an ISIS-affiliated group. But critics have repeatedly blamed the lack of a functioning government since the 2011 uprising as the main reason for the rise of extremist groups.

VERBATIM
“It was like a near-death experience without the inconvenience of coming close to dying,” Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste told the BBC about his 400 days in an Egyptian prison.

GREECE REQUESTS LOAN EXTENSION
After days of tough negotiations, Greece has formally asked the European Union for a six-month extension of its current bailout program in a last-ditch effort to avoid running out of cash at the end of the month, AFP reports. Eurozone finance ministers will meet in Brussels tomorrow afternoon to discuss a potential agreement. Greece has been trying not to renew the current bailout program and the austerity measures attached to it, but the loan request will buy the government some time to begin implementing reforms.

SNAPSHOT
Photo above: Cheong Kam Ka/Xinhua/ZUMA
People in Macau, southeastern China, perform a “dragon dance” Thursday to ring in the Year Of The Sheep.

$41.6 MILLION
The Pentagon spent $84 million on erectile dysfunction drugs for active and retired service members last year, including $41.6 million on Viagra alone, a report in The Military Times shows.

NIGER VILLAGE BOMBED
At least 37 people were killed Tuesday after a military plane dropped a bomb on a village in Niger, on the border with Nigeria. Survivors are blaming the Nigerian army for the attack, CNN reports. Nigerian officials have denied the charge, saying the army wasn’t conducting air raids against Boko Haram that day. According to Radio France Internationale, the bomb fell on a mosque during a funeral ceremony. The incident is likely to worsen an already tense situation between the two countries, as Boko Haram threatens the whole region.

FRANCE REGISTERS DEFLATION
Consumer prices in France fell 1% in January, meaning the year-on-year inflation rate was -0.4%, the lowest since 2009, business daily Les Échos reports.

MY GRAND-PÈRE’S WORLD


JEB BUSH HIS “OWN MAN”
Possible Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush distanced himself from the legacies of his father and brother in a speech outlining his vision for U.S. foreign policy, CNN reports. “I love my father and my brother,” the former Florida governor said. “I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions they had to make. But I am my own man.” But The Washington Post reports that 19 of his 21 advisors, including neoconservative hawk Paul Wolfowitz, worked for his father or brother, sometimes both. He also slammed Obama’s foreign policy, which he said had “left America less influential in the world,” and sided with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran and U.S. officials will resume negotiations tomorrow.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Clarin’s Berto Gonzalez Montaner reports, architectural and planning innovations have given new life to Bilbao, Spain, transforming it from a grey post-industrial city into a trendy tourist destination. “‘This used to be all filth,’ a local recalled of the area before. ‘All the industrial and sewage waste ended up in the river, which was completely polluted and gave off an unbearable stench. When it rained a lot and the sea rose, the waters of the Nervion could not be evacuated, so there was flooding. All the way to the Arriaga theater at the gates of the old quarter there were up to four meters of water!’ But when they took the polluting factories out of town, created the treatment plant and cleaned the river, everything changed.”
Read the full article, The Story Of Bilbao: Clean A River, Save The City.

VEGGIE TECH WEAR
Forget about Google Glass or the Apple Watch. This Japanese wearable tomato machine is the real deal.

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Society

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

-Essay-

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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