Geopolitics

​What The Alexei Navalny Saga Tells Us About Putin’s Intentions On Ukraine

In the year since the arrest of Vladimir Putin's last opponent a new Cold War has begun. In the absence of internal enemies, Russia's increasingly powerful yet isolated ruler must turn to external targets.

-Analysis-

One year ago this week, on Jan. 17, 2021, Vladimir Putin effectively disposed of his last viable domestic opponent when Alexei Navalny was detained at the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow.

Putin had long struggled with how to handle the firebrand anti-corruption lawyer and politician — and finally decided to eliminate him. Months before, in fact, Navalny was poisoned with the deadly biological weapon Novichok but miraculously survived. The surveillance and attempted murder were carried out by Russia’s FSB state security operatives, one of whom confessed to Navalny himself in a phone conversation.

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When The Nazis Stole Christmas

Both the Nazis and East German Communist Party tried to use Christmas for their own ends, and distance it from its Christian meaning. Writer and historian Karl-Heinz Göttert looks at the attempts to hijack Christmas throughout German history, and why it matters today.

BERLIN — As far back as the Romantic era, there has been an abundance of theories about the Germanic precursor to Christmas, Yuletide. After the First World War, when Germany was searching for a new sense of identity, these ideas were hijacked by youth organizations and reform movements with nationalist leanings. They sought to replace Christmas with solstice celebrations or combine the Christian festival with the Germanic festival of light, sometimes as an attack on Christianity, sometimes as an attempt at symbiosis. They looked back to earlier national roots, to popular traditions, in a reaction against international modernity.

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Germany or Sweden? Two Models Of Social Democracy Put To The Test

From afar, new Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson and incoming German Chancellor Olaf Scholz share much, both in their views and the political system where they rule. But subtle differences, which arose in the rubble of World War II, can be everything.

My dad has died ...

That was my first thought a few Fridays ago when I saw that Netflix had added another series to its growing Nordic-noir category: a six-part crime drama about the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme.

Well, OK, my very first thought was trying to guess who they’d picked for the role of Palme’s assassin; but almost immediately after that, my second thought was that indeed, most certainly yes, Gunnar Karlsson had clocked out.

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Not All Immigrant Politicians Think Alike — About Immigration

Migrant associations and activists are saying there are not enough politicians of migrant origin in the new German Bundestag. But are such politicians guaranteed to support policies that benefit migrants? There are prominent examples that suggest otherwise.

BERLIN — No sooner than the twentieth German Bundestag had been elected in September, activists were examining how diverse its members were. The result: compared to wider German society, women and people of migrant origin — either those who immigrated themselves or who have at least one parent not born in Germany — are underrepresented. For the third time in a row, the number of members of parliament of migrant origin has risen, but it still stands at only 11%, whereas in Germany as a whole, 25% of people come from a migrant background.

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Society
Eva Eusterhus

Why An Iconic Pharmacy Is Turning Into A Sex Toy Museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg thanks to its industrious owner. Now, her daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop.

The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner, who is sitting next to her at the table. Genger and Müllner are surrounded by heavy wooden drawers and antique glass vessels labelled with the Latin names of their contents, as is often found in old pharmacies.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Omicron Restrictions, Iran Nuclear Talks Resume, Thai Monkey Festival

👋 Kaixo!*

Welcome to Monday, where the Omicron variant prompts new restrictions and border closures, talks on Iran’s nuclear deal resume in Vienna and Thailand’s monkey festival is back. We also take you on an international journey into the wonderfully weird world of microstates.

[*Kie-sho, Basque]

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Coronavirus
Daniel Friedrich Sturm

Texas In Germany? Saxony Mixes Anti-Vaxxers And Far-Right Politics

When it comes to vaccination rates, there are striking parallels between Germany and the United States. The states with the most opposition to vaccines differ politically from those with the highest vaccination rates. Now the consequences for booster shots are starting to become visible, especially in the United States.

-Analysis-

WASHINGTON — Ok, so Saxony was singled out last week in a New York Times article as an example of the disastrous vaccination situation in parts of Europe. The article talks about the link between anti-vaxxers and the political success of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party in the eastern German state.

In a sense, Saxony is Germany's Texas. For instance, 59% of U.S. citizens are fully vaccinated, but in strictly Republican Texas, where Donald Trump overwhelmingly won the 2020 election, this figure stands at 54%.

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In The News
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank, Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

New Zealand To Reopen, Sweden’s First Female P.M., Albatross Divorce​

👋 Rimaykullayki!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where New Zealand is set to reopen to foreigners after nearly two years, Sweden elects its first ever female Prime Minister and climate change has unexpected consequences on albatross couples. Die Welt journalist Steffen Fründt meets undertakers preparing for a new coronavirus wave as Germany becomes one of the world's worst-hit COVID hotspots.

[*Quechua]

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Coronavirus
Steffen Fründt

Pandemic Omens Revisited: Undertakers Prep For Germany's Fourth Wave

Funeral homes are getting ready to deal with more infectious bodies this winter as Germany has become a COVID-19 hotspot. They require more time and money for safety measures — the cost of which is passed on to relatives. But the true cost for friends and family lies elsewhere.

ROSENHEIM — In a storeroom in Rosenheim, Michael Hartl's stockpile of supplies is carefully stacked: he has ordered 75 white plastic body bags and plenty of disinfectant, gloves and protective clothing for himself and his colleagues. In the COVID-19 hotspot of Upper Bavaria, the undertaker is preparing for what may come his way over the next few days, when the fourth wave washes up on his doorstep.

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Geopolitics
Nikolaus Doll

Diplomacy 101 In Belarus: Talking To Bad People Is Part Of The Job

A German politician lashed out after Angela Merkel spoke on the phone with Belarus strongman Alexander Lukashenko. But like in other hot spots, avoiding the worst along the Belarus-Poland border means casting aside moral superiority and naiveté.

BERLIN — It may well be that in just a few weeks there will be a Green Party politician at the helm of the German diplomacy. It may be co-party leader Annalena Baerbock, or someone else. Either way, what would it mean if the foreign minister was from the Green Party?

Well, we may get a hint of what could happen by looking at Green politician Omid Nouripour's reaction to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel's actions regarding the refugee crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border. It does not bode well.

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Migrant Lives
Tim Röhn

A Wall At The Poland-Belarus Border? Europe Must Make Hard Choices

Hundreds of migrants arrive in Germany every day from Poland, which makes the Belarus border a national issue for Germany. It's long past time that Europe acknowledge that tough measures are needed — maybe even walls...

-OpEd-

BERLIN — In May I spent a night by the border fence in Ceuta, the Spanish autonomous city on the north coast of Africa. I watched as every few seconds someone swam across the border into European Union territory. Spain's Guardia Civil seized people, dragged them along the ground, opened the gate in the border fence and shoved them back into Moroccan territory. In the space of a few hours, thousands of people came across an apparently endless stream. Then the army turned up.

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Coronavirus
Anna Schneider

"My Body, My Choice" Counts For Vaccines — Not Just Abortion And Euthanasia

The decision not to get vaccinated against coronavirus is a personal one, a matter of individual freedom. But the fact that not everyone sees it this way shows the extent to which the pandemic has politicized the private sphere.

-Essay-

BERLIN — I don't know about you, but for the libertarian in me, at least, the past few weeks in Germany have been very difficult. Although I have long since reconciled myself to the idea that we need a certain measure of law, order and solidarity to enable us to live together in society, I strongly believe that we should keep state intervention in the lives of citizens to a minimum.

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Geopolitics
Anna Akage

The Stakes Of A Ukrainian-Russian Drone Arms Race

A recent unmanned attack could heighten tensions in the conflict zone and have broader geopolitical consequences.

Last week Vladimir Putin complained that even without accepting Kyiv into its ranks, NATO could place missiles in Ukraine near Russia's borders. Russian media was quick to help prove Putin's point, writing about Washington's current military aid to Kyiv, Ukraine's talks with London on obtaining British Brimstone missiles and Turkish drones in Donbas, which has been a disputed site of conflict since 2014.

Just days later, the Ukrainian military for the first time used the Turkish Bayraktar TB-2 drone in Donbas. The incident Tuesday could seriously change the situation in the conflict zone and have consequences for both Russian-Ukrainian and Russian-Turkish relations.

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In The News
Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Sudan Coup, Drug Lord Busted, Bulls Are Back

👋 Здравейте!*

Welcome to Monday, where an apparent coup is underway in Sudan, Colombia's most-wanted drug lord gets caught, and Michael Jordan's rookie sneakers score an auction record. We also focus on a report that the Thai government is abusing the country's centuries-old law to protect the monarchy from criticism (lèse-majesté) to target pro-democracy activists and protesters.

[*Zdraveite - Bulgarian]

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Future
Carl-Johan Karlsson

How Facebook's Metaverse Could Undermine Europe's Tech Industry

Mark Zuckerberg boasted that his U.S. tech giant will begin a hiring spree in Europe to build his massive "Metaverse." Touted as an opportunity for Europe, the plans could poach precious tech talent from European tech companies.

PARIS — Facebook's decision to recruit 10,000 people across the European Union might be branded as a vote of confidence in the strength of Europe's tech industry. But some European companies, which are already struggling to fill highly-skilled roles such as software developers and data scientists, are worried that the tech giant might make it even harder to find the workers that power their businesses.

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Society
Eva Marie Kogel

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.

-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.

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