Russia’s Syria Plans, Angry Obama, Non-Neutral Anthem

Russia’s Syria Plans, Angry Obama, Non-Neutral Anthem


The Russian airstrike campaign in Syria could last three to four months, Alexey Pushkov, the head of the lower house of the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee, was quoted as saying Friday by the French radio station Europe 1. Pushkov, a close ally of Vladimir Putin, also said the airstrikes would intensify.

  • This comes two days after Moscow started officially bombing ISIS positions in war-torn Syria, and a few hours before Putin was set to meet with French President François Hollande, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.
  • That meeting was slated to focus on Ukraine, where a fragile ceasefire has been in place since last month. But the Paris summit will likely be overshadowed by talks on Syria, according to Le Monde.
  • Pushkov brushed off accusations that Russian air strikes had targeted Western-backed opponents to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. “These opponents to Bashar are very close to Daesh ISIS,” he said.
  • Pushkov also accused the U.S. of “pretending” to bomb ISIS this past year. “Only 20% of their operations produced results, 80% of them did not lead to bombardments.”
  • Iranian troops are reportedly being deployed in Syria in support of Russia and the Assad’s government, Al Jazeera reports.


Photo: Andy Nelson/The Register-Guard/ZUMA

U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation for the seventh time in seven years following a mass shooting, after a gunman killed nine people and wounded as many as 10 at the Umpqua community college in Oregon on Thursday.

  • “As I said just a few months ago, and I said a few months before that, and I said each time we see one of these mass shootings, our thoughts and prayers are not enough,” Obama said in a strongly worded speech repeating calls for tighter gun control laws. “Somehow, this has become routine. The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this.”
  • The gunman, identified as Chris Harper Mercer, 26, died of a gunshot wound, though it is not clear if he committed suicide or was killed by police.
  • Reports say the gunman asked some of his victims whether they were Christian before opening fire.
  • His online activity shows he indicated support for the IRA.
  • The gunman may have warned of his actions on the 4chan platform.


Hervé Pighiera is on a mission: to clean roadsides, 800 kilometers of them. For L’Obs, Caroline Brizard followed the man who left on foot from Aix-en-Provence in the south of France, heading for Paris, picking up mountains of trash on his way: “The roadsides are littered with all sorts of trash and sometimes odd objects that owners must have lost by accident. He's already found "a screwdriver, T-shirts, baby pajamas, a plastic watering can, a National Front membership card, pie-baking dishes, bolts, a pair of size 13 shoes, a phone, a condom â€" still in its packaging â€" and road maps,” he enumerates.”

Read the full article, Why This Man Is Walking Across France To Collect Garbage.


Two people were killed Friday in a shooting outside New South Wales state police headquarters in western Sydney, a local police statement says. According to The Sydney Morning Herald, at least one gunman opened fire on a police IT worker outside the State Crime Command, before a police officer returned fire.


Hundreds of Israeli troops were searching for a suspected Palestinian gunman Friday, after an Israeli couple was killed Thursday night while driving between the settlements of Itamar and Elon More, in the north of the Palestinian territory, the AFP reports. Their four children were found unharmed in the back of the car. The couple, both in their thirties, were residents of the central West Bank settlement Neria, northwest of Ramallah.


Rooooooooooooooooooxanne â€" and much more, on today’s 57-second shot of history!


“Modern Chinese society has lots of contradictions, and if people want to send a message about their anger or make a point, they can get explosives from any mine,” the South China Morning Post quoted Pan Zhiping, a Chinese domestic security expert at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences, as saying. Earlier this week, a series of 17 deadly blasts in the southwestern city of Liuzhou, believed to have been coordinated by one single individual, killing at least seven and injuring more than 50, shows how easy it is to acquire explosives in the world’s second largest economy. In China, gun crime is extremely low, but explosives are widely available from the sprawling mining and fireworks industries.



The Swiss recently voted for a new national anthem. Check out our Le Blog item about the not-so-neutral economist who wrote the winning hymn.

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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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