Crimea Embraces Independence, Blaming Erdogan, 21st Century Smuggling

Deposed Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych vowed to return to Kiev soon
Deposed Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych vowed to return to Kiev soon

The Crimean Parliament overwhelmingly approved a declaration on independence, a technical step necessary to hold next Sunday’s referendum, Itar-Tass reports. According to the news agency, the document says that if Crimeans vote to integrate the Russian Federation, they will first become an independent Republic.

  • Meanwhile, Western leaders are gathering in London to discuss further sanctions on Russia if it doesn’t accept their proposals, The Guardian reports. AP, however, explains that Russia will propose its own measures to Washington, adding that John Kerry’s proposals were “not suitable.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told radio station France Inter that the new sanctions could be implemented as early as this week. These are believed to include asset freezes and travel bans, though it’s not clear yet who would be targeted.

  • This comes amid reports that the British Defense Ministry will send a surveillance drone to Poland and Romania to monitor the situation at the Ukraine borders, following in the footsteps of the NATO’s reconnaissance flights in the region.

  • Speaking at a press conference in the Russian town of Rostov-on-Don, deposed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych vowed, “I will return to Kiev.” He accused the U.S. of financing “bandits” and asked if the West had forgotten what fascism is. Read more from Kyiv Post.

The Malaysian police have identified one of the two passengers who boarded flight MH370 with a stolen passport. The man is believed to be a 19-year-old Iranian seeking to emigrate to Germany, leading the national police chief to dismiss possible terrorism, Channel News Asia reports. Interpol later confirmed this and revealed the second passenger was also Iranian, according to The Guardian. Meanwhile, the search for the missing aircraft continues, with officials believing the plane might have turned back towards a different airport.

  • The New Straits Times interviewed a businessman who claims he saw a bright white light descending towards the South China Sea in the early hours of Saturday.

  • British tabloid Daily Mirror reports that 19 families were still able to make calls to the cellphones of missing passengers, although they got no answer.

A senior general in Iran's Revolutionary Guards issued a blunt warning to Israel today, saying Iranian forces and weaponry "can destroy all points controlled by" Israel, with ”any volume of firepower.” Read more from Worldcrunch’s Iran Files.

Gülsüm Elvan, the mother of Turkish teenager Berkin Elvan who became a poster child for anti-government protesters, announced the death of her 15-year-old son today. He had been in a coma since being hit in the head by a gas canister on his way to buy bread amid a police crackdown on protesters at Istanbul’s Gezi Park in June. She blames the Turkish prime minister for his tragic death.

At least 20 police officers were killed in central Indian state of Chhattisgarh after an ambush by Maoist rebels, The Indian Express reports. This is the biggest Maoist attack in recent years and comes just one month before the country’s general election.

For more on the conflict, we offer this Le Temps/Worldcrunch piece: In The Indian Jungle, Fighting Maoist Rebels With Their Own Guerrilla Tactics.

Three Palestinian fighters with the Al-Quds Brigades were killed in an Israeli air raid on the southern Gaza Strip this morning after a mortar shell was fired at the Israeli army, Ma’an news agency reports. Earlier today, another Palestinian was killed in a car chase with Israeli police. This comes after two more killings yesterday, at the border with Jordan and near Ramallah.

North Korea is using “sophisticated techniques” to avoid sanctions imposed by the United Nations, a new report from the organization shows. According to the study, Pyongyang has set up “complicated financial countermeasures” making it difficult to track the purchase of banned products, including weapons. Read more fromReuters.


A Kommersant/Worldcrunch piece makes the case for more autonomy in Russia’s far east of Siberia: “Just as it was 400 years ago, modern Russia is divided in two: On one side is Moscow and its surrounds, home of the globalized elite who feed like parasites on the nation’s riches. And on the other side is the rest of the country. It’s exactly the kind of situation that should mobilize regional Russian politicians, who understand better than anyone the imbalances in the country’s politics and economics.”

Nils Horner, a Swedish correspondent in the Afghan capital of Kabul, was killed this week near the restaurant where 21 people were killed by the Taliban in January, Swedish website The Local reports. According to AP, the Afghan police announced the arrest of two suspects.

Colorado generated $2 million in tax revenue from recreational marijuana sales during the first month it made non-medicinal use and sales of the drug legal, state officials said. Read more on CNNMoney.

Cocaine addicts in a Brazilian prison have taken smuggling to a new high by having it delivered via a small drone. Read more via The Huffington Post.

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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.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


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.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

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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