Welcome to Thursday, where Joe Biden calls for a deeper investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, France recognizes its responsibility in the Rwandan genocide and six famous friends are reunited after 17 years. Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London also reports on how the pandemic, combined with dire economic conditions and government repression, has had a profound impact on Iranian's mental health.
• Biden orders investigation into coronavirus origin: U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered intelligence officials to "redouble" efforts to determine the origins of COVID-19, including the theory that it came from a Chinese laboratory. China has already rejected this theory, accusing the U.S. government of politicizing the pandemic.
• Macron recognizes French "responsibility" in Rwanda genocide: On a symbolic visit to Rwanda on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron recognized France's "political" responsibility in the 1994 genocide, though adding that France was not complicit in the genocide.
• Azerbaijan captures six Armenian troops: Azeri troops have captured six Armenian soldiers near the border, the latest incident in continuing tensions since war reignited last year in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh.
• Eight killed in San Jose mass shooting: At least eight people were killed when a gunman opened fire at a California rail yard before taking his own life, the latest mass shooting as Congress debates legislation to curb gun violence.
• Dozens missing after Nigeria boat sinks: Dozens of people are missing in northwest Nigeria after an overloaded boat carrying around 160 passengers sank in the Niger River.
• Manhunt in Belgium for suspect who threatened to kill COVID expert: A manhunt for career soldier Jürgen Conings, 46, has entered its second week in Belgium, after the suspect allegedly stole an arsenal of deadly weapons from a military barracks and threatened to kill one of the country's most famous virologists.
• Hello, old Friends: The long-awaited Friends reunion special will be aired today, 17 years after the final episode and featuring such acquaintances as Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga.
South African daily The Citizen features ex-leader Jacob Zuma who pleaded not guilty to all 18 counts of corruption, fraud, tax evasion and money laundering at the start of his trial.
In Iran, the pandemic has prompted an increase in suicides
The pandemic has made things feel even bleaker for a population already struggling with serious economic woes and government repression reports Persian-language magazine Kayhan-London.
The coronavirus pandemic has killed a staggering number of people worldwide. But it's also had a profound impact on people's mental health, including in Iran, where dire economic conditions and strict curbs in individual liberties caused significant psychological hardship even before the current health crisis. Now, with the COVID-19 outbreak continuing to spread, officials says that there's an even greater incidence of mental disorders, suicides and physical fighting, Kayhan London reports, citing sources within Iran.
The news outlet notes that even before the pandemic, roughly a quarter of the population suffered some type of mental disorder, and that in the year prior to March 2020, an estimated 5,000 Iranians took their own lives. But with the arrival of the virus, people are feeling more desperate still, as evidenced by a 4% rise in suicides in the period between March and November 2020, according to a source at the state coroner's office.
Kayhan London also cites an official from the State Welfare Organization, Behzad Vahidnia, to suggest that there's been a 16% increase in stress and depression since the pandemic began in early 2020. With regards to people getting into fights, there are no official figures available. But anecdotal evidence drawn from social platform postings suggests that physical violence has increased as well, especially in Iran's northern and north-western provinces.
That is the stake in Exxon Mobil owned by Engine No. 1, a tiny hedge fund, that unseated two Exxon board members in a bid to force the company's leadership to do more to combat climate change.
French Hospital Accidentally Shows Porn To Emergency Room Patients
You've heard of NSFW (Not Safe for Work), but what about NSFH (Not Safe for Hospitals)?
When entering an emergency room waiting area, you might expect the smell of ammonia, old magazines and maybe even a television set to the local news station or weather channel. But in a hospital in France's Basque country, the staff wanted to offer patients and accompanying family members some surprise programming on the waiting room TV ...
The France Bleu broadcaster reported that staff had set the TV to a paid channel in order to broadcast a soccer match, but once it ended, the next paid feature was an X-rated film. No one changed the channel, and the pornographic film played for a full 20 minutes.
One patient posted a video of the scene to Twitter with the caption "This is how patients are treated in Basque Country. Welcome to Bayonne's emergency room at night."
The director of the hospital issued a statement apologizing to the patients and staff, blaming the incident on the private television company that manages the hospital's TV channels and recently changed its programming filters.
➡️ Keep up with all the planet's police reports and plot twists on Worldcrunch.com
I'm just not going to subject myself to people that doubt me.
— Japanese tennis player and four-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka justified her decision to boycott news conferences at this year's French Open. The world No. 2 player added that expecting players to answer questions after a defeat amounted to "kicking a person while they're down." Osaka said she was ready to face the considerable fines, and hoped the money would "go towards a mental health charity."
✍️ Newsletter by Emma Flacard, Bertrand Hauger & Anne-Sophie Goninet
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.
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.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
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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