Welcome to Monday, where pressure continues on Germany to authorize sending tanks to Ukraine, the suspect is found dead in a shooting that killed 10 near Los Angeles and Machu Picchu is shut down amid violent Peru protests. Meanwhile, Turkish online news website Diken takes us to the historic urban gardens of Yedikule, in Istanbul, now put at risk by a city restoration project.
History will judge Germany for holding back tanks from Ukraine
In Berlin-based daily Die Welt, a retired German general spells out in clear language what the choice is for Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and what the long-term consequences of half-hearted support for Kyiv as it battle for survival against the Russian invasion.
The German television newscaster cheerfully predicted last Friday morning: “Today the German evasive maneuvers are ending...” And yet, the high-level meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group at the Ramstein military base, proved this prophecy completely wrong.
The burning issue of Germany stalling and blocking the approval of battle tank deliveries to Ukraine continues to burn.
As intense as the international pressure was, Berlin has once again refused to make a commitment. Rhetoric about the difference between what one wants and what one can achieve, the endless counterarguments, the citing of numbers...none of it however, make them any more credible. In reality they are excuses, with which Chancellor Olaf Scholz shirks the responsibility which, after all, the great, prosperous Germany will not be able to escape.
[A Sunday evening comment by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock that Berlin "would not stand in the way" of other countries providing German-made Leopard tanks is only provisional, and still mentions nothing about Germany sending its own tanks.]
The final decisions are ultimately in the hands of Scholz, and one wonders if he is unable to be swayed from an idea he's committed to. Or perhaps he continues to listen to Angela Merkel’s former advisor, General Erich Vad, who said before authorizing the sending of tanks to Kyiv, it would first have to be clear whether the Russian forces should be driven out of Ukraine at all.
The only plausible explanation is that Scholz and parts of his Social-Democratic Party take the Russian threats seriously. Hadn’t the chancellor claimed in the summer before the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee that the delivery of infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine would cause "a terrible escalation?" This mindset seems to have been overcome for those vehicles, but why now the completely artificial limit is drawn on battle tanks?
Other allies are ready to hand them over for the simple reason that Ukraine urgently needs them in its fight for survival.
Now the Defence Minister Boris Pistorius has announced an "inventory" of existing Leopard tanks (number, models, condition) before any decision is made. Why didn’t that take place long ago, including preparations for training, maintenance and so on? The recognition of how much time was lost since the Bundestag resolution of April 28, allowing the transfer to Ukraine of "heavy weapons," doesn’t seem to impress the chancellor.
And why is such an inventory not set up on a Europe-wide basis, as an introduction to the long-proposed joint supply of battle tanks by a "consortium" of the 13 "Leopard nations?"
Nobody is "going it alone," as so feared by Scholz's Social Democrats — and yet Germany should finally take the lead.
It is utterly scandalous that the German government is blocking the battle tanks from arriving in Ukraine. The justification that "no applications have been submitted yet" is ridiculous: Formal applications are, of course, only submitted when the nations concerned, which have made their intentions publicly clear, do not have to expect a refusal.
This attitude will not soon be forgotten - after all, the attitude towards Germany in the Baltic states is still shaped today by the fact that for many weeks after the start of the Russian offensive, Estonia was denied permission to supply Ukraine with old artillery pieces from East German stocks. Moreover, in the eyes of many of Germany's allies, this ongoing refusal to take the lead is an about-face from the famous Scholz "Zeitenwende” declaration that the Ukraine war was a "turning point" for Germany's role in the world.
It all leaves one ashamed of the German government, because it shows a basic lack of empathy towards the suffering of the Ukrainian people.
Ukraine is currently facing constant air attacks against the civilian population and vital facilities, a loss of momentum in the recapture of stolen territory (not least because its pleas for armored combat vehicles have gone unheeded for months), cruelly high human casualties, and Russian preparations for renewed large-scale offensives by means of superiority in manpower and firepower.
None of this can be reversed without the appropriate military capabilities, and that clearly must include German-made tanks.
Should Ukraine one day be dismembered, subjugated and wiped out, do we want to have to say to ourselves that our help was half-hearted, that we only acted under pressure and did not do everything we could?
If the chancellor is worried about fluctuations in public opinion with his party, he should raise this question again and again, and at the same time make it clear that if Vladimir Putin achieves his goals, the cost to us, too, will be much higher than anything we currently have to "endure" in terms of inflation and energy prices.
So we can say that Olaf Scholz has prevented Germany from "going it alone," as he understands it. But within NATO and the European Union, Germany has suddenly gotten quite lonely. One must fear for what the long-term consequences are for the nation's reputation. A leader acts very differently.
— Klaus Wittmann / Die Welt
• Pressure continues on Germany over tanks for Ukraine: On Monday, European foreign ministers pressed Berlin to let countries send German-made Leopard tanks, after Germany appeared to open the door to such shipments by Poland, but has not authorized their sale yet. Meanwhile, Russia's foreign intelligence service (SVR) accused Ukraine, without providing any evidence, of storing Western-supplied arms at nuclear power stations across the country.
• Suspect found dead in L.A. Lunar New Year mass shooting: On Saturday, a man opened fire inside a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, California killing 10 people and injuring 10 others. The shooting took place in a majority-Asian community on the eve of its Lunar New Year celebrations. The main suspect, identified as 72-year-old Huu Can Tran, shot himself and died as police approached his vehicle in the nearby city of Torrance.
• Massive Pakistan power cut: Pakistan suffered a huge power cut early Monday following a breakdown in its national grid, leaving millions of people without electricity. Power was out in all the country's major centers, including the biggest city Karachi, the capital Islamabad, as well as Lahore and Peshawar.
• Machu Picchu shut indefinitely over protests: Peru has closed tourist access to Machu Picchu indefinitely over the ongoing protests against the country's new president. The government said the decision was taken to protect tourists and citizens after 418 people remained stuck for hours at the foot of the 15th Century Inca citadel as rail services were suspended on Thursday after train tracks were damaged.
• Netanyahu fires top cabinet minister to comply with Supreme Court order: After days of balking, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dismissed Aryeh Deri, a top cabinet member with a criminal record, complying with a Supreme Court ruling and avoiding a constitutional crisis. Deri’s ultra-Orthodox party is key to maintaining the ruling hard-right coalition.
• Canada settles suit over “cultural genocide”: Canada is set to pay more than $2 billion to hundreds of Indigenous communities to settle a class action lawsuit seeking compensation for the loss of language and culture caused by residential schools. The settlement will be placed in a trust fund independent of the government and will be used to “revitalize Indigenous education, culture, and language – to support survivors in healing and reconnecting with their heritage,” according to a government statement.• Marilyn biopic and Tom Hanks score Razzie nominations: Blonde, the biopic on Marilyn Monroe, has received the most nominations for this year's Razzie Awards, the parody award show that honors each year’s worst cinematic achievements. Blonde got eight nods, including one for Worst Picture, and Tom Hanks was named three times, including recognition for his overdone Southern accent in Elvis.
The New Zealand Herald says it’s “back to basics” for the country, as incoming prime minister Chris Hipkins vows to focus on “bread-and-butter” issues. Hipkins, who will be sworn in on Wednesday, was appointed to the top job after the surprise resignation last week by Jacinda Ardern after six years in office.
James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the long awaited sequel to the extraterrestrial epic Avatar, has surpassed the $2 billion mark in worldwide ticket sales. This puts Cameron in unique standing as a money-making director, with three of his films now among the six to have made over $2 billion in box office.
Tour of Istanbul's ancient Yedikule gardens, at risk with urban restoration
The six-hectare gardens in the center of Istanbul, which are more than 1,500 years old, have helped feed the city's residents over the centuries and are connected with its religious history. But current city management has a restoration project that could disrupt a unique urban ecosystem, reports Canan Coşkun in independent online Turkish news site Diken.
🌱🍅 The historic urban gardens of Yedikule in Istanbul were first farmed by Greeks and Albanians, then people from the northern city of Kastamonu, near the Black Sea. Now, a wide variety of seasonal produce grows in the garden, including herbs, varieties of lettuce and other greens, red turnip, green onion, cabbage, cauliflower, tomato, pepper, corn, mulberry, fig and pomegranate. Yedikule is unique among urban gardens around the world, says Cemal Kafadar, a historian and professor of Turkish Studies at Harvard University.
🏗️ As we toured the gardens, we saw this soil archive firsthand, and heard from people who learned to farm this land from their parents, who in turn learned from their parents. Our first stop was the garden of Recep Kayan, famous for artichokes. Kayan says he feels nervous after seeing the gardens of his friends demolished. “We earn a living here," he says. "We have been fighting here for eight years, but it is uncertain what will happen. Tomorrow they may have us out."
🧑🌾 The gardeners are seen as "occupiers," and pay an occupation tax to the municipality. On one hand: a gardener picking sorrel in a garden he has tended for 40 years; on the other, a municipal construction machine, damaging the walls, tearing up the garden and destroying history. Who is the occupier?
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➡️ Watch the video: THIS HAPPENED
“It is an issue that simply cannot wait any longer.”
— Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, said Japan must take urgent steps in addressing the country’s declining birth rate. “It is now or never when it comes to policies regarding births and child-rearing,” Kishida said during a policy speech on Monday at the opening of this year’s parliamentary session. He added that a new government agency to tackle the issue would be set up in April and that he would submit plans to double the budget on child-related policies by June.
📸 PHOTO DU JOUR
Protesters in Krakow, Poland, asking Germany to “free the leopards” — a reference to the Leopard tanks, whose sale Berlin is being pressured to authorize by European neighbors. — Photo: Beata Zawrzel/ZUMA
✍️ Ginevra Falciani, Emma Albright, Inès Mermat and Anne-Sophie Goninet
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