Taliban Massacres Schoolchildren, Ruble Free Fall, Fry Shortage

Sydney remembers siege victims with "sea of flowers"
Sydney remembers siege victims with "sea of flowers"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

At least 126 people, including at least 84 children, were killed and another 122 wounded when Taliban gunmen attacked an army-run school in Peshawar, in northern Pakistan, this morning, Dawn reports on its live blog. A rescue operation is still ongoing with more children believed to be held hostage inside the building. A Taliban spokesman said the attack was in response to recent army operations that have killed hundreds of their fighters, the BBC reports. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif described the massacre as a “national tragedy” and immediately left for Peshawar to oversee the operation personally. “These are my children, and it is my loss,” he said. Three days of mourning have been announced in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Thousands of people from all origins have laid flowers at a makeshift memorial in Sydney, Australia, near the café where a gunman and two hostages were killed yesterday. The Sydney Morning Herald describes the scene an “unwritten message” that “we as a community will not be cowed by a lone madman with mental problems on a vengeful mission against society.” The captor, who brandished an Islamic flag, had a history of mental health and violence. He grew angrier as the hours passed and forced the hostages to shoot videos to make his message public. His motive is still unclear.

Almost 200 fighters have been killed in the last 24 hours as the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front and other Islamist groups captured two Syrian army bases in the northeast Syrian province of Idlib, AFP reports. It’s a significant victory for the terror groups over the Syrian army, giving them control of most of the province.

As Syria Deeply’s Jalal Zein Eddine writes, the magazine Zaytoun and Zaytouna — with games, stories and illustrations — has been a cheerful diversion for Syrian children living day in and day out with war. “The magazine covers subjects such as entertainment, culture, poetry, illustrated stories and English-language learning,” the journalist writes. “It also includes games, drawings and stories created by children. The only restriction on content is one that was set out from the start: no politics and no religion.”
Read the full article, An Unlikely Success Story For A Kid's Magazine, In Syria.

The Russian ruble fell to new record lows this morning despite a surprise decision from the country’s central bank to raise interest rates for the second time in less than a week, from 10.5% to a whopping 17%, the BBC reports. Meanwhile, the price of oil a reached five-year low with trading below $60 per barrel, Bloomberg reports, forecasting it may fall below $50 a barrel in the new year. Falling oil prices are bad news for the Russian and many Mideast economies, which rely on these revenues for their budgets and need an average price of $100 per barrel to balance the books, according to The Guardian.
For more on this topic, here’s a Die Welt/Worldcrunch piece, The “Dubai Omen” And The Global Risk Of Falling Oil Prices.


We all share the same sky, but each of us gazes up from a unique place on earth. Check out this week’s "O Luna Mia, the weekly horoscope of Simon, Italy's most trusted astrologer, translated by Worldcrunch into English.

Greek lawmakers will vote tomorrow to elect a new president, but the government is far from certain it can get the backing of the required 180 parliament members. Failure to appoint a new head of state by Dec. 29 would trigger a general election that the far-left party Syriza, which is currently leading the polls, is likely to win, Reuters reports. According to the BBC, the leftist party has abandoned much of its radical rhetoric as it draws closer to power, now vowing to keep the country in the eurozone and to repay its debts.

Japan’s fast food lovers will have to be content with smaller portions of French fries at McDonald’s after the company decided to ration them amid shortages.

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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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