Rousseff Leads, Cow Doping, Nobel Prize Week

Muslims pray at a China mosque Sunday during the Eid al-Adha festival.
Muslims pray at a China mosque Sunday during the Eid al-Adha festival.

ISIS fighters are gaining ground in Syria’s Kurdish town of Kobani, on Turkey’s border, forcing a wave of Kurdish civilians to try to cross into Turkey, where the police repeatedly used tear gas to disperse them and the press. Those who managed to cross the border told Guardian journalists stories of ISIS torturing, mutilating and raping civilians. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a desperate Kurdish woman blew herself up near ISIS positions, killing several jihadists, though it is unclear how many exactly.

"I am obviously pretty scared to die, but the hardest part is not knowing, wondering, hoping, and wondering if I should even hope at all," Abdul-Rahman Kassig, a U.S. hostage threatened at the end of latest ISIS beheading video, wrote in a letter to his parents.

This weekend also saw Sunni militants believed to be from the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Nusra Front attack Lebanon’s Shia group Hezbollah on the border between Lebanon and Syria. Read more from the BBC.

Investigators in Mexico uncovered at least 28 badly charred bodies in mass graves as they were searching for 43 students who have been missing since they clashed with the police more than a week ago. The identification of the bodies could take up to two weeks, but there appears to be little doubt that they are the missing students, and witnesses told CNN that the police had orchestrated and participated in their killing.

Italian Gianmario Ghirardi won this year's World Cow-Milking Championship over the weekend in Lenna, Italy, and set a new world record by extracting 8.7 liters of milk in 2 minutes from his bovine partner Mirka. But now he and the two other top finishers are facing doping allegations.

Incumbent Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff won the first round of the country’s presidential election, but her 42% share of the vote means that she will face second-place center-right candidate Aécio Neves in the second round in three weeks, newspaper Folha de S. Paulo reports. Despite her strong lead, the outcome for Rousseff is the worst registered by her Worker’s Party in 12 years. As Reuters explains, the new campaign will see two visions of development oppose each other, with Rousseff’s state-led capitalism against the market-friendly policies Neves has promised.

Euro Disney shares plunged 15% in early trading this morning, after the group running the first tourist attraction in Europe announced it had agreed to a $1.25 billion refinancing package to cut its crippling debt, Bloomberg reports This comes amid a sharp fall in the number of visitors at Disneyland Paris. Under the plan, the group’s parent company Walt Disney Co will infuse more than $520 million in cash and convert debt into equity. Read more from AFP.

Hong Kong civil servants returned to work this morning as thousands of demonstrators left protest sites, leaving only a few hundred in the streets, the South China Morning Post reports on its live blog. Protest leaders and the government have started preliminary talks, but there has been little progress. According to a BBC correspondent, there is still a large number of students in the streets, suggesting “they will not give up as easily as the authorities had hoped.”

The hunt for the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, which disappeared with 239 people on board in March, has resumed with an underwater search more than 6 kilometers deep in the southern Indian Ocean, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. Three ships, including one equipped with special sonar technology, are taking part in the operation, which could last up to a year.

It’s Nobel Prize time again and the prize in physiology or medicine was awarded to John O'Keefe, May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser for their discovery of “a positioning system, an ‘inner GPS’ in the brain that makes it possible to orient ourselves in space.” Next up, the Nobel Prize in Physics, which will be announced tomorrow morning.

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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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