Anti-Semitic Attacks on the Rise in Germany

Germany’s anti-Semitism commissioner has advised Jews that it may be dangerous in certain parts of the country to wear the kippahs, also known as skullcaps, traditionally worn by Jewish men. He did not specify which areas of the country he was referring to.

“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” Felix Klein told the Funke press group in an interview published Saturday.

Klein’s warning comes amid a rising number of anti-Semitic attacks in Germany.

The commissioner said “the lifting of inhibitions and the uncouthness which is on the rise in society” has contributed to the growing number of attacks. “The internet and social media have largely contributed to this, but so have constant attacks against our culture of remembrance.”

Anti-Semitism is “deeply rooted” in German society and “has always been here,” Claudia Vanoni, Germany’s top legal expert on anti-Semitism told AFP, the French news agency. “But I think that recently, it has again become louder, more aggressive and flagrant.”

In an interview with Handelsblatt newspaper, Justice Minister Katarina Barley said the attacks are “shameful for our country.”

Commissioner Klein has blamed the far right for the majority of anti-Semitic attacks. Another contributing factor, he said, is the arrival of a number of Muslim asylum seekers in Germany who may also be influenced by some television stations “which transmit a dreadful image of Israel and Jews.”


Ірландці на референдумі підтримали пом’якшення законодавства про розлучення

Жителі Ірландії на референдумі 24 травня підтримали пом’якшення законодавства про розлучення. Результати голосування оголосили вранці 26 травня, повідомляє ірландський мовник RTE.

Відповідно до проголошеної декларації, пом’якшення закону підтримали 82,1% громадян, проти проголосували – 17,9%. Явка склала 50,83%.

Тепер з законодавства країни приберуть пункт, що дозволяє парам розлучатися лише після 4-х років прожитих окремо. Парламент встановить менший термін.

Ірландія легалізувала розлучення лише в 1995 році. Тоді попередньо також провели референдум, і за узаконення розірвання шлюбу проголосували 50,3% громадян.


Experts: Combine US, S. Korean Missile Systems to Boost Defense vs. North

Kim Dong-hyun of the VOA Korean Service contributed to this report.

WASHINGTON — South Korea should integrate its missile defense system with that of the U.S. to maximize the combined capabilities to counter a potential incoming flight of North Korea’s missiles across the border, experts said in the wake of Pyongyang’s two missile launches in early May.

South Korea’s missile defense system and the U.S. antimissile defense system deployed in South Korea are coordinated but operate independently.

“The whole system would work better if it was fully integrated, if it was a completely combined operation,” said Bruce Bechtol, a former intelligence officer at the Defense Intelligence Agency who is now a professor at Angelo State University in Texas.

​Why not integrate systems?

The lack of integration is rooted in regional history. The South Korean government, whether it was conservative or liberal, never merged its system with the U.S. system for political reasons, in part, because integrating it would mean joining the U.S. missile defense alliance in the region that includes Japan, South Korea’s colonial adversary toward which South Korea’s public sentiment has been historically antagonistic, according to Bruce Bennett, a senior defense analyst at the Rand Corp. research center.

Streamlining the command and control of the two missile defense systems with autonomous command and control would cut the time needed to analyze data, share information, and cue the proper system for targeting and intercepting an incoming missile, according to David Maxwell, a former U.S. Special Forces colonel and current fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

On May 17, the Pentagon announced the U.S. had approved a $314 million sale of air defense missiles to South Korea.

South Korea’s missile defense system, termed the Korean Air and Missile Defense (KAMD), includes Aegis and Patriot systems, and is designed to protect South Korea from missiles that fly at different altitudes and distance by detecting, tracking and intercepting incoming missiles in the air. Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), which currently falls under the U.S. missile defense system, is also deployed in South Korea.

Aegis, a sea-based missile defense system, and THAAD are area defense weapons that have the capabilities to defend wide areas against missiles that fly high altitudes. And, the Patriot system, known as pointed defense weapons, can intercept missiles directed against smaller areas such as air base, according to Maxwell.

​No perfect defense

But they don’t provide a perfect defense that prevents missiles from getting through, he added.

“There’s no impenetrable shield,” Maxwell said. “There [is] always going to be a gap, a seam, a weakness, that the enemy is always trying to exploit and defenders are always trying to fix and find a better way. This is constantly a game of where capabilities continue to evolve.”

This was part of what was happening when North Korea tested a new missile on May 4 that is considered to be similar to the Russian Iskander, a nuclear-capable missile that flies lower than the short-range ballistic missiles North Korea tested before.

“A ballistic missile leaves the earth’s atmosphere and glides back down,” Bechtol said. “This [test] missile does not, as far as I can tell, leave the Earth’s atmosphere. It operates more like a cruise missile than a ballistic missile.”

A cruise missile flies on a relatively straight line and at a lower altitude than a ballistic missile, which arcs up before curving down toward a target.

​Russian-like missile poses challenges

Experts said if the new missile is modeled after the Iskander, it could pose multiple challenges and could exploit gaps in the existing missile-defense coverage in South Korea. 

The new missile’s “flattened flight path” toward a target “makes it difficult to intercept” with current defense systems, said Michael Elleman, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

The North Korean version of the Iskander does not fly higher than 50 kilometers and can travel a ground distance as far as 280 kilometers, according to Elleman.

But THAAD and the Aegis SM-3 interceptor operate at an altitude above 50 kilometers, and the Patriot system’s effective intercepting range is at an altitude of about 25 to 30 kilometers with the Patriot variant PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) interceptor extending its flight to an altitude of about 40 kilometers.

That leaves “a gap in interceptor coverage” of at least 10 kilometers between the missile defense systems that operate at roughly 40 to 50 kilometers, said Ellemen. “The Iskander spends most of its flight path in this gap, making it difficult to intercept.”

The Iskander can fly at a high speed, presenting another challenge for the current missile defense system.

Bennett said, “The Iskander flies perhaps 20-25 percent faster than the Scud,” a series of tactical ballistic missiles that could travel five times the speed of sound, potentially capable of reaching South Korea in about five minutes, Bennett said.

“THAAD and the SM-3 on the Aegis [equipped] ships should be able to handle this speed. [But] the Iskander flies low, [a] potential challenge for THAAD and the SM-3,” he added.

Most accurate North Korean missile

The Iskander can be mounted on mobile launch platforms, meaning it can be moved and fired quickly.

“It’s a solid fuel missile,” Bechtol said, explaining that the fuel can be loaded ahead of launch “and moved much more quickly than liquid-fuel missiles.” The latter need fueling just before launch.

The Iskander’s maneuverability also makes it difficult for THAAD, Aegis SM-3, and the Patriot system to intercept.

“The Iskander has fins mounted at the back of the missile, which allow it to maneuver during the entire flight,” Ellemen explained. “This makes it much more difficult to predict an intercept location and launches the interceptor on the optimal path for an engagement resulting in destruction of the threat.”

Bechtol said, “It would be the most accurate missile the North Koreans have ever had, so accurate that they could actually fire out … [and] target barracks, flight lines for aircraft, headquarter buildings.”

With the missile test, “the North Koreans are showing us that they have a missile [with which] they can accurately target Osan Air Base or Camp Humphreys in a very real, in a very dangerous way,” Bechtol said, citing American installations in South Korea.

“They were able to keep in accordance with the agreement they made with [President Donald] Trump, and at the same time, threaten the United States and South Korea in a very compelling way,” he added.

When the Pyongyang government began talks with Washington last year, it pledged to suspend nuclear and long-range missile tests.

​Complicated political situation

Merging South Korean and U.S. missile defense systems could be hampered by the political situation in South Korea, according to Maxwell. Public attitudes have changed little since 2017, when hundreds of South Korean citizens protested the installation of THAAD at a U.S. military south of Seoul.

“I just don’t see the political will for that in South Korea among majority of the people or the current rule and government,” Maxwell said.

Bennett said a North Korean missile that slipped under defense systems could devastate the peninsula, depending on the type of warhead it carried, “… which in theory could be conventional, nuclear or chemical,” he said. “So the defense would turn to passive defense: protecting people in shelters with masks and protective clothing.”

According to Maxwell, a variant of the Patriot interceptor, the PACT 3 Guidance Enhanced Missile (GEM-T) under the U.S. missile defense system in South Korea is better able “to defeat tactical ballistic missiles and aircraft and cruise missiles” and could potentially intercept the new kind of missile North Korea tested.


Big Toys and a Sandbox for Grown-Ups at Las Vegas Attraction

Most kids love digging in the sand … and many never outgrow that. A new and unusual attraction nicknamed “sand box for grown-ups” is a big hit among teenagers and adults in Las Vegas, Nevada. It’s a heavy equipment playground that gives customers a change to operate gigantic, earth-moving bulldozers and hydraulic excavators, get tested on their skills and just have fun. Roman Mamonov tried his hand at operating some of the biggest construction vehicles there. Anna Rice narrates his story.


US Transcontinental Railroad Celebrates 150th Anniversary

It’s been 150 years since the U.S. transcontinental railroad connected America’s East and West. To celebrate the anniversary, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History is highlighting an event that quite literally united the nation. VOA’s Maxim Moskalkov visited the exhibition and talked to the ancestors of those who helped build it.


Завершився кінофестиваль у Каннах, найкращим фільмом стали «Паразити»

У французьких Каннах 25 травня врученням нагород завершився 72-й міжнародний кінофестиваль. «Золоту пальмову гілку» отримав режисер з Південної Кореї Пон Джун Хо за фільм «Паразити», стрічку про родинні та класові проблеми.

Гран-прі фестивалю дісталася копродукційному франко-бельгійсько-сенегальському фільму-драмі «Атлантика» Маті Діоп.

Найкращою чоловічою роллю визнали гру Антоніо Бандераса у фільмі «Біль і Слава» Педро Альмодовара. Найкраща жіноча роль у Емілі Бічем за фільм «Малюк Джо» Джесіки Гауснер.

Бельгійські режисери Жан-П’єр і Люк Дарденн були відзначені завдяки фільму «Молодий Ахмед» у номінації «Найкраща режисура». А найкращим сценарієм назвали «Портрет леді у вогні» Селін Скіамма. Приз журі розділили «Знедолені» Ладж Лі та «Бакурау» Клебера Мендоса.

Журі Канннського кінофестивалю цьогоріч очолював мексиканський кінорежисер Алехандро Гонсалес Іньярріту. Тривав фестиваль з 14 до 25 травня.


Russia Launches Nuclear Icebreaker 

Russia launched a nuclear-powered icebreaker on Saturday, part of an ambitious program to renew and expand its fleet of the vessels in order to improve its ability to tap the Arctic’s commercial potential.

The ship, dubbed the Ural, was floated out from a dockyard in St Petersburg. It’s one of a trio that when completed will be the largest and most powerful icebreakers in the world. 


Russia is building new infrastructure and overhauling its ports as, amid warmer climate cycles, it readies for more traffic via what it calls the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which it envisages being navigable year-round. 


The Ural is due to be handed over to Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom in 2022 after the two other icebreakers in the same series, Arktika (Arctic) and Sibir (Siberia), enter service. 


“The Ural together with its sisters are central to our strategic project of opening the NSR to all-year activity,” Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom’s chief executive, was quoted saying.

President Vladimir Putin said in April that Russia was stepping up construction of icebreakers with the aim of significantly boosting freight traffic along its Arctic coast. 

Vying for dominance


The drive is part of a push to strengthen Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States and Norway, as well as newcomer China. 

By 2035, Putin said Russia’s Arctic fleet would operate at least 13 heavy-duty icebreakers, nine of which would be powered by nuclear reactors. 


The Arctic holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates.

Moscow hopes the route that runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska could take off as it cuts sea transport times from Asia to Europe. 


Designed to be crewed by 75 people, the Ural will be able to slice through ice up to around 3 meters thick.


Трамп зустрівся з японськими бізнесменами у Токіо

Президент США Дональд Трамп 25 травня зустрівся з японськими бізнесменами в Токіо під час свого офіційного візиту до Японії.

«Відносини між Японією та США, я це точно знаю, ніколи не були міцнішими, потужнішими, ніколи не були ближчими. Це чудовий час для торгівлі між двома країнами, які ми любимо», – сказав Трамп бізнесменам, що представляють такі компанії як «Тойота», «Ніссан», «Хонда» та інші.

За словами Трампа, наразі умови для інвестицій в економіку США кращі, ніж будь-коли раніше. Однак, президент поскаржився, що політика Федерального резерву США не дозволяє повною мірою реалізувати потенціал зростання.

Повідомляється, що прийом із Трампом для керівників японського бізнесу організували в резиденції посольства США в Токіо.

У неділю Трамп зустрінеться з прем’єр-міністром Японії Абе Сіндзо, з яким зіграє у гольф, а потім відвідає турнір з боротьби сумо.

Візит Дональда Трампа до Японії триватиме до 28 травня.


Abortion Not the Answer, Even After Prenatal Diagnoses, Pope Says

Pope Francis on Saturday reiterated his unswerving opposition to abortion, saying he is against it even when an unborn child has been diagnosed with a serious illness.

At a Vatican-sponsored conference titled Yes to Life: Caring for the Precious Gift of Life in its Frailness, the pope said the use of abortion was equivalent to hiring a hitman to take another person’s life. 


It is not the first time Francis has used such language. At a general audience last year, he said, “Is it right to take someone’s life to solve a problem?” 


He added, “Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? You cannot. It is not right.” 


Addressing medical professionals, ministry providers and families from 70 nations participating in the three-day conference, the pontiff said the Catholic Church’s teaching on terminating a pregnancy is clear. He said an abortion cannot happen, even in cases when the fetus is very sick and likely to die.

“No human being,” he said, “is ever incompatible with life.”

The pope also said, “Fear and hostility toward disability often lead to the choice of abortion, configuring it as a practice of prevention.” He urged doctors and priests to support parents in cases of difficult prenatal diagnoses so they do not feel abandoned or afraid in carrying difficult pregnancies to term. 


Francis concluded by saying, “Taking care of these children helps parents to grieve and not only think of it as a loss, but as a step on a path taken together.” 


Italy’s EU Parliament Vote Could Change Country’s Balance of Power

Italians cast ballots Sunday for European Parliament in what is seen as a test for Italy’s two parties and the leaders of the country’s ruling coalition government. The vote’s outcome is expected to have an impact on domestic politics and on Italy’s future role in the European Union.

The European Parliament election will be a test for Italy’s ruling coalition government, and in recent weeks the two campaigning deputy prime ministers, Matteo Salvini, leader of the League Party and Luigi Di Maio, leader of the 5-Star Movement, have been voicing differing positions to woo voters to their respective camps.

Political tension between the two leaders has increased and the outcome of Italy’s vote is expected to affect the dynamics within the government. Today’s Italian government is much different from 2014, when the last election for the European Parliament was held. At that time, the Italian government was led by Matteo Renzi, head of the Left Democrats party, a strong believer in Europe.

The scenario completely changed in Italy after the current government was formed following the March 2018 general elections with both deputy prime ministers calling for serious changes in EU policies and more independence for choices made by individual countries. League leader Salvini has said, “we are working for a new European dream.”

Salvini recently said, “Today for many citizens, for many people, the European Union represents a nightmare, not a dream. We are working to return employment, family, security, environment, the future of youth to the centerfold.”

Salvini added that his objective is to win and change the rules of Europe.

Observers will be watching carefully to see what changes will emerge from the vote, with the main question being how will it affect the balance of power between the two ruling parties in the coalition. The election’s outcome likely will determine whether or not stability in the current political landscape can be maintained.

While criticism of the EU has been voiced by the League, and the 5-Star Movement, Italy — one of the founding nations of the bloc — still supports membership and the single currency — a possible exit by Italy is not anticipated, despite strong calls for national sovereignty to come first.