Iraq Jihadists Gain, World Cup Opens, Amazon Prime Music

Brazil is set for World Cup kickoff
Brazil is set for World Cup kickoff

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Jihadist fighters with the Islamic group known as ISIS have continued their offensive in northern and central Iraq and are heading south towards the capital Baghdad, where they have said that the “battle will rage,” Sky News reports. Meanwhile, Kurdish forces claimed to have gained control of the northern oil city of Kirkuk, as government troops abandoned their posts.

In an alarming statement, Human Rights Watch said the Islamist group’s advance was a threat to civilians, recalling previous atrocities. “The possibility that ISIS will repeat the atrocities it has committed in other parts of Iraq, and impose the same intolerant and abusive rule as it has in Syria, is deeply troubling,” the organization’s Middle East director said.

U.S. officials admitted yesterday that the Iraqi Prime Minister had asked Washington to carry out air strikes against the jihadists, a request so far rebuffed by U.S. authorities, The New York Times reports. But State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said yesterday that Washington was “ready to provide any appropriate assistance.” Other countries have offered help to Iraq, including neighbors Iran and Syria.

A man stands at his balcony overlooking a Brazilian flag made with paper in Salvador as the 2014 FIFA World Cup kicks off Thursday. Brazil, the host and five-time champion, takes on Croatia today.
Check out Worldcrunch's coverage of the event here.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said he was ready to talk with rebels in eastern Ukraine, provided that those described as “terrorists” first “lay down their weapons,” Reuters reports. "We do not need negotiations for the sake of negotiations. Our peace plan must become the basis for further de-escalation of the conflict," he was quoted as saying. Meanwhile, The Washington Post quoted Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying that Moscow sent humanitarian aid to east Ukraine via separatists, demonstrating for the first time what the newspaper describes as “an official relationship” between Russian authorities and pro-Russian groups in Ukraine.

As Le Temps’ Chantal Rayes writes, the world may be celebrating the beginning of the World Cup today, but there are still many people in this year’s host country of Brazil who are disenchanted by the enormous public expenditure. “Dilma Rousseff’s government has lost the media battle,” the journalist writes. “It has tried so hard to explain the economic benefits, that the tournament will only cost a small fraction of what is invested in health or education, in short that it is not the money drain that people believe it to be. Still, a growing number of Brazilians are not convinced. ‘How many hospitals, how many schools, how much housing could have been built with the money spent on the stadiums?’ asks Hugo, a young man with long hair hiding his eyes and a facial piercing. Besides, some of these stadiums, constructed in cities with small soccer teams, such as Brasilia, Manaus and Cuiaba, are fated to become white elephants after the World Cup.”
Read the full article, Brazil's Fire Inside As World Cup Kicks Off.


Washington resumed its drone strikes in Pakistan after a months-long hiatus, killing 16 people yesterday in two attacks, The Express Tribune reports. As AFP notes, “The timing of the strikes is bound to raise suspicions of coordination” between the U.S. and Pakistan, as it comes days after a Taliban attack on Karachi’s airport, ending an ongoing peace process.

As the world commemorates World Day Against Child Labor Thursday, the International Labour Organization estimates that 218 million children are still forced into work around the world. Burmese website Karen news published a heartbreaking interview of two 12 year-olds whose families are too poor to send them to school and who are forced to collect garbage to earn a meagre living.

Amazon has finally entered the music streaming business, launching free music service Prime Music that features access to one million songs for its users. The company is also expected to launch its first smartphone next week. Read more from The Verge.

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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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