Cynthia Martens

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Rue Amelot

My 17th-Century Aunt And Killing The 'Witch Hunt' Metaphor

-Essay-

NEW YORK — They said the devil had traveled in her clothing. Elsche Prösche, née Wohler, wife of Jochim, was in her forties, and lived a life of relative poverty in Kölzin, a village in northeastern Germany. She was my great-aunt, nine generations ago — and for charges of witchcraft, she was burned at the stake.

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Geopolitics

Algerian Bikini Revolt One Year After Burkini Battle In France

Some 3,000 women gathered on the beach of Annaba to protest the mandatory wearing of burkinis — a reminder that women must choose for themselves and their bodies.

ANNABA Could this summer go by without the inescapable brouhaha over burkinis and bikinis? Certainly not. Last year, it was France that was consumed by debate over the wearing of so-called burkinis by Muslim women to stay fully covered when swimming at the beach. This time, the news comes to us from Algeria, where in the seaside city of Annaba an army of 3,000 women agreed to meet on the beach all exclusively clad in bikinis. Over the course of several days small groups of women had been trying to join the demonstration here and there, but then, thanks to social media, the group grew much larger, enough so that it caught the attention of the press. What was the goal? To take on the pressure women face on Algerian beaches every time they decide to forego a burkini when taking a swim.

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Rue Amelot

Sexism, Italian-Style: Bad News For My Eight-Year-Old Daughter

Italy is, still, a deeply sexist country. A recent murder and suicide remind one mother why part of her shuddered at the thought of having a baby girl.

MILAN â€" Nine years ago, when I discovered that I was pregnant â€" as those who read my column at the time may recall â€" I was shocked. I had made a conscious decision to be child-free; I was convinced of my choice, I wrote about it, and accepted the ensuing insults (nine years ago in Italy, it wasn’t so common to openly address the topic â€" not that it’s any easier today, I observe here with some bitterness.)

An amniocentesis several months later provided not only the most important news ("it’s healthy"), but also the confirmation that "It’s a girl." The baby’s father, who secretly aspired to a harem of a home where even the cats were all female, was overjoyed. Sadness and worry were mine alone.

"What? You’re not happy to be having a little girl?" No. I was not happy. And to those who asked for clarification, I answered very simply: "I’m not happy because we live in a sexist country. Because as a woman, I have had to face discrimination and aggression. Because I have had to work harder, and still do. Because I, and not you, have heard my boss telling me, "Great job, you brought in some stellar business â€" you really unbuttoned your shirt in that meeting, huh?" Because, in the end, I don’t think and I no longer even hope that in 15 or 20 years, when my daughter is out and about in the world, this country will really be any different than it is today. And I don’t want her to be subjected to the same things. I don’t want her to struggle so hard to obtain what men take for granted."

Over-the-top. Pessimistic. Apocalyptic. Feminist (said as an insult, to be clear.) "It’s not such a big deal." These were just some of the responses I got.

Eight years have gone by. "And a half," my daughter would add. She’s in that beautiful phase of life where even half years count, but going up, not going down. For about half the time I was pregnant, I figured nothing would change. I know that some small battles have been won. I know that life tends to improve, that our conditions in life are, generally, better than they once were. I know that my great-grandmother, whom I had the good fortune to know, at age 40 already seemed like an old lady, with her head covered and those black dresses, while I on the other hand … I know that there’s a woman ("wife, mom, grandma," as the short Twitter bio explains) running president of the United States.

Asking for it

But I can’t help but notice that an entire Italian town, faced with the horrific, repeated rape of a young girl, says that she was asking for it. I can’t help but see that a man whose lover has left him can turn into a killer because, from his perspective, his partner is nothing more than an object that cannot and must not free itself from his possession.

There are countless numbers, statistics, red shoe demonstrations, another woman murdered, it goes on and on. I can’t ignore that Tiziana Cantone killed herself because someone, betraying her trust, put sex videos online, and so popular wisdom has it that if you’re a woman who likes having sex freely, you’re a slut who deserves to be pilloried, whereas if you’re a man you’re cool, we’ll have T-shirts printed with your face on them.

Nothing has changed, not one bit, from when I was in middle school. If you’re a girl who "hooks up with a lot of guys" you’re easy, or worse. If you’re a guy who "hooks up with a lot of girls," you’re a stud. There is no room here for nuance, for anything in between.

And on the subject of Tiziana, the real shame lies in repeating that she was killed "by the web," or "by Facebook." Tiziana was killed by the nastiness of other people, who were the first to share those videos. And by the stupidity, lack of empathy and superficiality with which hundreds created memes, jokes and photo montages from moments of intimacy that had been violated. Or maybe they imagined that it was all a clever marketing scheme devised to launch a new porn star’s career. (Because this would never happen to us: we conspiracy theorists know what’s what.)

Tiziana Cantone, killed by people's nastiness â€" Source: Instagram

To say that the web kills is like saying a pack or gang committed rape. That a street was a killer. That a mountain was murderous. That we’re not involved. It’s a dangerous process of denying responsibility, attributing only generic blame â€" empty, faceless and nameless. When in reality, blame can be traced to a principal point of origin: sexism, stereotypes, differences in thinking, in treatment, in the way sons and daughters are raised, all of which persist today, as strongly as ever.

Stereotypes at six

You might say, "But she’s your daughter, it’s up to you to give her the tools she needs to defend herself. The self-esteem. The strength." To which I say, "It’s like when my father was afraid of letting me drive by myself at night."

"But dad, I’m careful, I’m a good driver," I would say.

"But you’re not the one I’m afraid of. It’s the people you’ll meet on the road who worry me, because I don’t know how they were raised," he would reply.

I explain, console, share, analyze. I’m always there. I speak openly and I am willing to address any topic with my daughter; I do try. I notice with some worry the wall between "the boys" and "the girls" in her elementary school class â€" a wall that originates with the children’s families. In the stories my daughter tells me, I listen to the gender stereotypes that are endlessly perpetuated and show up unexpectedly, and therefore even more chillingly, in the voice of children of six, seven or eight years old. That’s not to mention the stereotypes expressed by the teachers, which slip in with even greater subtlety; those are more acceptable, somehow, and harder to catch.

I read with disgust (and here, Italy isn’t the only county at fault, but as my own elementary school teacher â€" a great woman â€" used to say, "A shared illness isn’t halved, it’s an epidemic") the drooling commentary on the posteriors of female Olympic athletes. What can I actually do? How can I keep the commonplace feelings of a nation at bay? What can parents do when a whole country, or at least a large part of it, is driving down the wrong side of the highway?

Who knows if my daughter will ever be free to live her life as she sees fit. To have sex with hundreds of men or women or with no one at all. To have ten children and breastfeed them till they’re three years old or to dissolve powder in water by the spoonful without anyone saying, "Hey, you’re doing it wrong." Maybe, instead, she'll have no children and live with ten cats. Or aspire to the job that she wants, or stay home to raise her children (or cats) and gaze at her navel.

I don’t think so, unfortunately. I’ve lost faith. She’ll probably get to be my age and be told that she needs to stop dressing like a young girl, and cut her magnificent curls and let them go gray. Because between rapes and media violence, it seems to me that right now, there’s a lot of pressure on women to dress soberly as they age; heaven forbid that we upset anyone when they notice we’re no longer at the pinnacle of the beauty competition. Far better to opt for shapeless dresses and short salt-and-pepper hair, as my great-grandmother did. She knew her place.

All I know is that when I felt sad nine years ago, part of me was right.

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SUDDEUTSCHE ZEITUNG

Why Special Driving Tests For Senior Citizen Are Unfair

Young people have far more accidents than the elderly, yet no one is clamoring for greater restrictions to be imposed on them. Why are we singling out senior citizen drivers?

MUNICH â€" It has been three months since Germany’s Minister for Transport and Digital Infrastructure Alexander Dobrindt made it clear in an interview with Bild am Sonntag that “mandatory driving tests for senior citizens will not be introduced.”

But now it appears that reality has caught up with Dobrindt: The other week, an 84-year-old driver confused his car's accelerator FOR the break, crashing into a café in the Baden-Wurttemberg town of Bad Säckingen. Two people were killed and 13 other café patrons were injured.

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Geopolitics

Gambia, Where Refugees Are A Cruel Dictator’s Business Opportunity

This African country produces more refugees per capita than any other. But there is method to the madness: Gambia’s dictator systematically banishes people and refuses to accept repatriation agreements. And he receives European funds for his services.

GUNJUR â€" The first steps on the path from Gambia to Europe lead to a tiny room, where Imam Kawsu Touray receives his clients while seated on the floor between a bed and wardrobe. A picture on the wall depicts the Kaaba in Mecca and Touray’s alarm clock is in the shape of a mosque. No one in the village of Gunjur dares to use the "back way" â€" a term for the dangerous journey from Gambia through Senegal, Mali, Niger and Libya to Europe â€" without the spiritual advice of this thin and very old man with the white beard.

Touray is eating a quick snack of fish curry as he awaits the impending arrival of his next client, who wants to flee from Gambia.

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Geopolitics

Even If Far Right Lost, Fear And Hatred Now Rule In Austria

The far-right candidate may have lost the Austrian presidential election in the end, but the campaign has already changed the country for the worse.

- Analysis -

VIENNA â€" Austria has just endured a fierce, unpleasant election campaign. During the final weeks, everybody expected the vote to end with a clear victory for Freedom Party (FPÖ) candidate Norbert Hofer, who would have been Europe's first far-right head of state since the end of World War II.

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ORIENTAL DAILY NEWS

Through Thick And Skin: In China, Rebellious Couples Say 'I Do' To Naked Weddings

Twenty young couples in southeastern Hangzhou recently decided to get hitched without a stitch, wearing only leaves and flowers in rejection of the materialistic concerns frequently associated with marriage in China, Hong-Kong-based Oriental Daily News reports.

This was the second year that the Songcheng Anthomaniac Festival organized such a collective wedding ceremony in Hangzhou. Couples braved chilly temperatures and rain as they marched through a corridor of artificial green leaves to pronounce their vows.

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Geopolitics

Panama Papers, A Haven For "Regular Guys" Too

While most attention has been devoted to the VIPs and politicians cited in the leaked documents of the Panama shell-company firm, most of the people turning to tax havens look much more like you and me.

PARIS â€" There are heads of state, billionaires, big names in sports and show biz scattered among the more than 11 million client files of Mossack Fonseca, the firm specialized in the creation of offshore companies that is the source of massive Panama Papers leak.

But the documents also reveal that the vast majority of the names on the lists are nobody you've ever heard of: They belong to "ordinary" people who’ve turned to tax havens. While the Panama Papers files that Le Monde was able to consult don’t always specify the sums that were transferred, thanks to offshore shell firms in places with lenient tax authorities, numerous email exchanges, official business documents and photocopies of passports flesh out a detailed portrait of the regular clientele of the Mossack Fonseca firm that is at the center of the largest leak in newspaper history. Names have been changed.

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Sources

Primo Levi, Unearthed Interview Shows Author’s Intimate Struggles

In a never-before-published interview shortly before his suicide, the Jewish-Italian author opens up about his adolescent angst and traumas beyond Auschwitz.

TURIN â€" Primo Levi was a unique figure in 20th-century literature, an Italian-born Holocaust survivor, successful industrial chemist and a singularly limpid author of such works as If This Is A Man and The Periodic Table.

The following is an extract from Io che vi parlo ("I Who Speak to You"), a new book published in Italy that presents a lengthy conversation between Levi and Giovanni Tesio, an Italian linguist and literary critic.

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Sources

Ennio Morricone, The Other Italian

When the legendary 87-year-old film composer finally won his first Oscar, he chose to speak in his native language. It was a subtly powerful message back home in Italy.

-Essay-

TURIN â€" On stage at the Oscars, Ennio Morricone spoke in Italian. If memory serves correctly, no one else had ever done that. It’s quite likely that he knows how to speak English, or at least enough to get through the ritual thank-yous of the occasion. What’s more, he was reading from a piece of paper he’d superstitiously folded and kept all evening in his tuxedo pocket. And so, even if his knowledge of the language of Shakespeare and Tarantino was limited, he would have had no trouble getting someone else to help jot down a few lines.

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blog

Report: The Discos Of Europe Are Dying

Italian daily La Repubblica charts the decline of European discoteques and nightclubs.

Across Europe, discotheques have lost their groove. Italian daily La Repubblica dedicates a four-part special series to the decline of discos and night clubs across the Old Continent over the past decade. Citing interviews with club owners and others in the entertainment business, La Repubblica attributes the floundering dance club scene to a variety of factors, including competition from locations operating without permits; high taxes levied on clubs; difficulties in landing big-name performers; and the steep costs associated with boosting security.

Some of the report’s findings:

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Geopolitics

Refugee Lives At Risk Along The Balkan Route To Europe

On foot in the cold or crammed into run-down train cars, migrants face a long journey of long waits, endless security checks, and uncertain prospects. Up close along the Serbo-Macedonian Border.

GEVGELIJA â€" "When does the next train leave?" The trip begins like any other might, from some train station in a city you know. But it is not, in fact, a trip like any other.

The Balkan route is more aptly compared to a marathon, full of hidden dangers, inconveniences and police checks seemingly designed to keep Europe at bay just a little longer.

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