February 10, 2016
Premium stories from Worldcrunch's own network of multi-lingual journalists in over 30 countries.
Welcome to Tuesday, where North Korea reportedly fires a missile over Japan for the first time in five years, Ukrainian President Zelensky signs a decree vowing to never negotiate with Russia while Putin is in power, and a lottery win raises eyebrows in the Philippines. Meanwhile, Argentine daily Clarin looks at how the translation of a Bible in an indigenous language in Chile has sparked a debate over the links between language, colonialism and cultural imposition.
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• Zelensky says “never” to negotiations with Putin: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has signed an official decree stating that Kyiv would not conduct negotiations with Russia as long as Vladimir Putin is its president.
• North Korea fires missile over Japan: North Korea fired a suspected missile over Japan on Tuesday. It was for the first time tests invaded Japan’s air space since 2017, setting off a rare alert to some Japanese citizens to take cover.
• Hurricane Ian death toll tops 100: As rescue teams continue to search for missing people, the death toll from Hurricane Ian has reportedly risen to more than 100 in Florida. President Joe Biden is expected to visit the state on Wednesday, after his Monday visit to Puerto Rico, which was struck by Hurricane Fiona just days before Ian hit Florida.
• Ecuador prison fight kills 15: A clash between prisoners in Ecuador's Cotopaxi jail has left at least 15 inmates dead. Authorities say that prisoners fought with guns and knives before guards managed to regain control.
• Trial over alleged rape in Australia parliament begins: Bruce Lehrmann, a former Australian government staffer charged with raping coworker Brittany Higgins in a Parliament House office in March 2019, will stand trial in Australia starting Tuesday. A panel of 16 jurors was selected for the trial, which is expected to run for between four and six weeks, and has provoked nationwide protests about the treatment of women in politics.
• Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to 3 scientists: Alain Aspect, John F. Clauser and Anton Zeilinger, scientists respectively from France, the U.S. and Austria were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering work on quantum information science.
• Suspicious Philippines lottery win:433 people won the top prize of the Philippines’ Grand Lotto on Saturday, drawing scrutiny from officials, including Philippines senate minority leader Koko Pimentel, who has called for an inquiry into the "suspicious" results.
Greek daily Nea Kriti devotes its front page to soaring fuel prices, writing that a full tank is now equivalent to the price of 100 liters of milk, 33 liters of oil or two lambs. Greece plans to submit a proposal for a cap on natural gas prices to the European Union later this week to mitigate the impact of sky-rocketing gas and power prices linked to the war in Ukraine.
Police had to intervene over a row in Kolkata, India, in the middle of Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival to honor the goddess Durga. Visitors were outraged by one particular element of decoration depicting the goddess killing an Asura (असुर), a power-seeking deity: Bald, wearing little round glasses and holding a walking stick, the demon bore a strong resemblance with Mahatma Gandhi, the “Father of the Nation.” Calling the similarity purely “coincidental,” the organizers were forced to change the look of the idol, adding a wig and a thick mustache and removing the glasses.
The Jehovah's Witnesses in Chile have launched a Bible version translated into the native Mapudungun language, evidently indifferent to the concerns of a nation striving to save its identity from the Western cultural juggernaut, reports Claudia Andrade in Argentine daily Clarin.
✝️📖 The Bible can now be read in Mapuzugun, the language of the Mapuche, an ancestral nation living across Chile and Argentina. It took the Chilean branch of the Jehovah's Witnesses, a latter-day Protestant church often associated with door-to-door proselytizing and cold calling, three years to translate it into "21st-century Mapuzugun". The church's Mapuche members in Chile welcomed the book when it was launched in Santiago last June, but some of their brethren see it rather as a cultural imposition.
✊ The Mapuche were historically a fighting nation, and fiercely resisted both the Spanish conquerors and subsequent waves of European settlers. They are still fighting for land rights in Chile. The Mapuche Confederation of Neuquén made clear on Facebook that they view the Biblia Mapuzugun Mateo-Apocalipsis as another attempt "at colonization and religious domination" using that church's "enormous economic power." For the Mapuche, the language is both "a symbol of identity" and "vehicle of ethical values."
💬 The head of the Jehovah's Witnesses remote translation office in Chile, Rodrigo Pérez, says the Mapuche are traditionally respectful of religion, though "the majority" had no literacy in their own language. Geraldine Abarca, a bilingual education specialist who attended the Bible launch in Chile, said it is "interesting" and probably more effective to promote "an understanding of the world" in one's own language. Is this patronizing? They're repeating in different words what the Europeans have been telling native Americans for 500 years — that they are not civilized.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
I say clearly that these riots and the insecurity were engineered by America and the occupying, false Zionist regime.
— In his first public comments since the protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini started in Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has blamed the U.S. and Israel for the unrest, saying foreign powers could not tolerate Iran “attaining strength in all spheres.” The Supreme leader added that although the young woman’s death “broke [their] hearts,” it was not normal that some people “without proof or an investigation, have made the streets dangerous.”
✍️ Newsletter by Sophia Constantino, Laure Gautherin and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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The southern advance in the Kherson region is closing in along the west bank of the Dnipro River to cut off Russian supply lines.
Seven months after Russia’s invasion, the Pope finally called on Vladimir Putin directly to stop the war. But just days earlier, Francis had offered an elaborate theory on the causes of the war, which he blamed on competing “imperialisms” of Russia and the West, and the need to have wars to sell weapons.
For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.
Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.
Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.
Then there is Mariupol, under siege and symbol of Putin’s cruelty. In the largest city on the Azov Sea, with a population of half a million people, Ukrainians make up slightly less than half of the city's population, and Mariupol's second-largest national ethnicity is Russians. As of 2001, when the last census was conducted, 89.5% of the city's population identified Russian as their mother tongue.
Between 2018 and 2019, I spent several months in Mariupol. It is a rugged but beautiful city dotted with Soviet-era architecture, featuring wide avenues and hillside parks, and an extensive industrial zone stretching along the shoreline. There was a vibrant youth culture and art scene, with students developing projects to turn their city into a regional cultural center with an international photography festival.
There were also many offices of international NGOs and human rights organizations, a consequence of the fact that Mariupol was the last major city before entering the occupied zone of Donbas. Many natives of the contested regions of Luhansk and Donetsk had moved there, taking jobs in restaurants and hospitals. I had fond memories of the welcoming from locals who were quicker to smile than in some other parts of Ukraine. All of this is gone.
Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
According to the latest data from the local authorities, 80% of the port city has been destroyed by Russian bombs, artillery fire and missile attacks, with particularly egregious targeting of civilians, including a maternity hospital, a theater where more than 1,000 people had taken shelter and a school where some 400 others were hiding.
The official civilian death toll of Mariupol is estimated at more than 3,000. There are no language or ethnic-based statistics of the victims, but it’s likely the majority were Russian speakers.
So let’s be clear, Putin is bombing the very people he has claimed to want to rescue.
Putin’s Public Enemy No. 1, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, is a mother-tongue Russian speaker who’d made a successful acting and comedy career in Russian-language broadcasting, having extensively toured Russian cities for years.
Rescuers carry a person injured during a shelling by Russian troops of Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine.
Yes, the official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, and a 2019 law aimed to ensure that it is used in public discourse, but no one has ever sought to abolish the Russian language in everyday life. In none of the cities that are now being bombed by the Russian army to supposedly liberate them has the Russian language been suppressed or have the Russian-speaking population been discriminated against.
Sociologist Mikhail Mishchenko explains that studies have found that the vast majority of Ukrainians don’t consider language a political issue. For reasons of history, culture and the similarities of the two languages, Ukraine is effectively a bilingual nation.
"The overwhelming majority of the population speaks both languages, Russian and Ukrainian,” Mishchenko explains. “Those who say they understand Russian poorly and have difficulty communicating in it are just over 4% percent. Approximately the same number of people say the same about Ukrainian.”
In general, there is no problem of communication and understanding. Often there will be conversations where one person speaks Ukrainian, and the other responds in Russian. Geographically, the Russian language is more dominant in the eastern and central parts of Ukraine, and Ukrainian in the west.
Like most central Ukrainians I am perfectly bilingual: for me, Ukrainian and Russian are both native languages that I have used since childhood in Kyiv. My generation grew up on Russian rock, post-Soviet cinema, and translations of foreign literature into Russian. I communicate in Russian with my sister, and with my mother and daughter in Ukrainian. I write professionally in three languages: Ukrainian, Russian and English, and can also speak Polish, French, and a bit Japanese. My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
At the same time, I am not Russian — nor British or Polish. I am Ukrainian. Ours is a nation with a long history and culture of its own, which has always included a multi-ethnic population: Russians, Belarusians, Moldovans, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Romanians, Hungarians, Poles, Jews, Greeks. We all, they all, have found our place on Ukrainian soil. We speak different languages, pray in different churches, we have different traditions, clothes, and cuisine.
My mother taught me that the more languages I know the more human I am.
Like in other countries, these differences have been the source of conflict in our past. But it is who we are and will always be, and real progress has been made over the past three decades to embrace our multitudes. Our Jewish, Russian-speaking president is the most visible proof of that — and is in fact part of what our soldiers are fighting for.
Many in Moscow were convinced that Russian troops would be welcomed in Ukraine as liberating heroes by Russian speakers. Instead, young soldiers are forced to shoot at people who scream in their native language.
Starving people ina street of Kharkiv in 1933, during the famine
Putin has tried to rally the troops by warning that in Ukraine a “genocide” of ethnic Russians is being carried out by a government that must be “de-nazified.”
These are, of course, words with specific definitions that carry the full weight of history. The Ukrainian people know what genocide is not from books. In my hometown of Kyiv, German soldiers massacred Jews en masse. My grandfather survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, liberated by the U.S. army. My great-grandmother, who died at the age of 95, survived the 1932-33 famine when the Red Army carried out the genocide of the Ukrainian middle class, and her sister disappeared in the camps of Siberia, convicted for defying rationing to try to feed her children during the famine.
On Tuesday, came a notable report of one of the latest civilian deaths in the besieged Russian-speaking city of Kharkiv: a 96-year-old had been killed when shelling hit his apartment building. The victim’s name was Boris Romanchenko; he had survived Buchenwald and two other Nazi concentration camps during World War II. As President Zelensky noted: Hitler didn’t manage to kill him, but Putin did.
Genocide has returned to Ukraine, from Kharkiv to Kherson to Mariupol, as Vladimir Putin had warned. But it is his own genocide against the Russian-speaking population of Ukraine.