Welcome to Thursday, where Kim Jong-un offers to reopen hotline with Seoul, a 96-year-old Nazi war crime suspect flees and a Turkish man gets so drunk he joins a search party for himself. From France, we also take a look, and listen, to the surprisingly loud noises of the countryside.
[*Xhosa - South Africa]
🌎 7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW
• Kim Jong-un offers to reopen hotline with Seoul: The North Korean leader said he was willing to restore the severed communication hotline, cut off since August, with South Korea. Kim used the same statement to accuse the U.S. of proposing talks without changing its "hostile policy" towards North Korea.
• U.S. ahead of critical vote to avoid government shutdown: The House and Senate are rushing to vote today on a short-term bill to fund the federal government until December, aiming to avoid a potential shutdown before funding expires at midnight that experts warn could spark a wider economic crisis.
• Ecuador prison riots death toll rise: At least 116 people were reported to have died in a fight between rival gangs in a prison in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil, making it the worst prison violence in the country's history. The government decreed a state of emergency in Ecuador's prison system.
• Sarkozy sentenced to one year in prison: France's ex leader Nicolas Sarkozy was convicted for breaking the country's campaign spending laws during his 2012 reelection bid, having spent about €22.5 million, almost twice the maximum legal amount. Sarkozy appealed the conviction, which put the sentence on hold.
• Nazi war crime suspect, 96, flees before trial: Irmgard Furchner, a former Nazi concentration camp secretary, now aged 96, is "on the run" on the day her trial was due to start, a court said. She is accused of having contributed as an 18-year old to the murder of more than 10,000 people when she worked in the Stutthof concentration camp in present-day Poland.
• Britney Spears' father suspended from conservatorship: A judge has suspended Jamie Spears from the legal arrangement that gave him control of his daughter's life for 13 years, marking a major victory for the singer who had accused him of abuse. Fans around the world had supported her with the #FreeBritney campaign.• Turkish drunk man, reported missing, participates in own search operation: A missing man in Turkey accidentally joined a massive search party to help the rescue effort for several hours, before realizing it was him they were looking for. He had wandered away from his friends in a forest while drunk.
🗞️ FRONT PAGE
"Prisons can't take it anymore," titles Ecuadorian daily Expreso, reporting on a riot between rival gangs in one of the country's largest prisons, which left at least 116 dead. This is the latest of several violent episodes that prompted the government to issue a state of emergency in Ecuador's prison system.
#️⃣ BY THE NUMBERS
In mid-September, Mont Blanc, Europe's highest peak, reached 4,807.81 meters (15,773 feet). This is 92 centimeters (3.1 ft) lower than in 2017 according to experts. The Alpine peak, which sits on the border of France and Italy, has been losing an average of 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) in height each year since 2001. These findings reflect the growing concerns worldwide over the loss of glacial ice, with many such peaks impacted by climate change.
📰 STORY OF THE DAY
Where are the doses? How U.S. and Europe vaccine pledges look in Africa
In recent weeks, European Commission President Ursula von Der Leyen and U.S. President Joe Biden have very publicly doubled down on commitments to help vaccinate the whole world against COVID-19, donating hundreds of millions of additional doses to try to save lives in developing countries and defeat the global pandemic once and for all. But in many places, the situation on the ground is lagging behind the public promises.
💉 In Africa, the world's least vaccinated continent, the global Covax initiative aims to raise the vaccinated rate from the current 3.6% to 40% by March 2022. But as Jeune Afrique magazine reports, obtaining the 470-million doses to make it possible will be a serious challenge. "We complained about a lack of transparency," Aurélia Nguyen, managing director of the Covax Facility, tells Jeune Afrique. "We have the funding and the contracts to vaccinate 37% of the African population by March, but we will need a very rapid increase in deliveries to achieve our goals."
🌍 Given its colonial connections and geographic proximity, European countries like Belgium, France, Germany and Portugal have decided to largely focus on Africa for their Covax donations. Still, Africa has only received 167 million doses so far (67 million through Covax) and the 27 EU member countries have delivered just 60% of its promised deliveries.
🔬 The EU has chosen a more long-term approach to aiding Africa through the pandemic, investing one billion euros to develop the technology and infrastructure to produce and distribute vaccines domestically. In July, Brussels gave the green light to support vaccine manufacturing at the Institut Pasteur in Dakar, Senegal. But the question remains whether this will do enough to reduce vaccine inequality, with African vaccine coverage inching toward 20% by the end of the year.
➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
"Iran will not tolerate the presence of the Zionist regime near our borders."
— Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh defended Tehran's decision to hold military exercises tomorrow near the country's shared border with Azerbaijan. The former Soviet republic, which shares a border with northwestern Iran, imports arms from Israel. Earlier this week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had criticized Tehran over the drills: "Every country can carry out any military drill on its own territory. It's their sovereign right. But why now, and why on our border?"
🇫🇷🐓 IN OTHER NEWS
Rooster, mon amour: on France's complicated relationship with its famous countryside
To most, the French countryside evokes an idyllic paradise, from the southern Provence region with its lavender fields to vineyard-covered Burgundy to the castles of the Loire Valley. In this postcard vision, you can smell the soft air, see the grazing cows and hear the silence, broken only by the rare tolling of local church bells.
You probably never considered ... the noise.
In the eastern region of Haute-Savoie, a local farmer Denis Bauquois has been on trial for several years because of his roosters crowing. After neighbors, infuriated with the birds' continuous cocoricos, sued him, Bauquois was sentenced to a 3,000-euro fine in 2019 for "neighborhood disturbances" but he appealed the decision, which brought back the case to court this month, France Bleu reports.
Defense lawyers argue that the neighbors moved in 25 years ago at a time when Bauquois already owned a dozen roosters, and they should have known what to expect. "It's as if tomorrow, a city dweller said 'I'm moving in the city but I'm complaining about the noise of the cars,' Then you need to move elsewhere," the lawyer told the local radio.
The neighbors' lawyer points out a rooster has a "very powerful crow" and that "a bailiff's report found that at 4 a.m., 18 successive cocoricos were recorded in just over two minutes."
Alas, we French people have a special relationship with our rural areas we affectionately call la province, in particular opposition to the all-encompassing capital of Paris. Singer Michel Delpech wrote a song about his love for his family living in the Loir-et-Cher region, people who "don't show off", and who make fun of him for his city habits, and being afraid of walking in the mud.
In 2019, another rooster named Maurice had made headlines after his owner Corinne Fesseau had been sued by a retired couple who had bought a holiday home nearby and complained of noise pollution. A petition that gathered nearly 140,000 signatures in support of Maurice became a symbol of the division between urban and rural communities. A court eventually ruled in favor of the rooster and his owner.
Maurice's case and others across France, involving ducks, frogs and cicadas, eventually prompted the government to act. In January, a law was passed to protect the "sensory heritage of rural areas," from being silenced or swept away, including sounds and smells such as the roosters' crow, cow bells, tractor noise ... and, yes, pungent manure.
"Living in the countryside implies accepting some nuisances," Joël Giraud, the government's minister in charge of rural life, told the Senate. But since the law isn't retroactive, it won't apply in the case of Denis Bauquois, who will have to wait for the court's verdict in November.
While the law will certainly prevent similar cases from finding their way into courts, it won't silence the complaining. A man who bought a house in a village in the central département of Puy-de-Dôme last December decided to launch a petition against the local church's bells, regional daily La Dépêche reports. The man denounced "the racket of the bells," which ring every hour and half-hour, 24 hours a day. His petition, however, only gathered 17 signatures. The lack of support speaks volumes: If you live in the country, get used to it.
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger
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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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