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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Without Immigrants, Swiss Soccer Stars Would Have a Lot of Ground to Cover

Writing in the German newspaper Die Welt on Tuesday, the journalist Sebastian Jost suggested that the anti-immigrant mood in Switzerland was perverse, given that immigration appeared to account for much of the country’s recent economic growth.

As the blogger Alberto Nardelli noted, the newspaper found a novel way to illustrate this point â€" with a photomontage that deleted seven of the 11 players who represent Switzerland in soccer but might never have become Swiss citizens at all had this week’s referendum restricting immigration taken place a few years earlier.

The missing players are the children of immigrants from Turkey, Bosnia, Italy, Kosovo and Macedonia. The Swiss squad that will represent the nation at the World Cup in Brazil this summer also includes players of Croatian and Cape Verdean descent.

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.

Putin Ally Still Not Clear Why Photoshopped Image of Obama Craving Banana on Her Twitter Feed Was Racist

A screenshot of a Photoshopped image posted on the Twitter account of Irina Rodnina, a Russian official. A screenshot of a Photoshopped image posted on the Twitter account of Irina Rodnina, a Russian official.

One day after she apologized for a crudely Photoshopped image of President Obama posted on her Twitter feed, the Russian official who helped light the Olympic caldron to open the Sochi Games told the BBC that she had no idea why the photomontage was racist.

The official, Irina Rodnina, is a former Olympic skater who now represents President Vladimir Putin’s party in the Russian Parliament. Although she had vigorously defended her right to post the image of Mr. Obama on her personal Twitter account as a matter of free speech in September, she suddenly claimed on Monday that she had been hacked.

A wire photograph of President Barack Obama watching a basketball game with his wife Michelle in 2011.Agence France-Presse â€" Getty Images A wire photograph of President Barack Obama watching a basketball game with his wife Michelle in 2011.

The doctored image, altered to make it look like the first African-American president of the United States was gazing longingly at a banana, was made by adding the fruit to a wire photograph of Mr. Obama eating a hot dog while watching a college basketball game in Maryland on November 26, 2011. Ms. Rodnina said that it was sent to her by someone in America, where she has lived and her daughter now works, and the image was being shared on right-wing blogs early last year.

Speaking to the BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg on Tuesday, Ms. Rodnina described the image she deleted from her Twitter feed following criticism as nothing more than a “rather unflattering,” but routine “photograph of the president and the first lady.”

“People react to things in different ways. To me, and I’m just a normal person, a banana doesn’t arouse any political or any other kind of emotions,” Ms. Rodnina said. “If someone reacts negatively to pictures of bananas, then perhaps we should stop eating lots of other kinds of food,” she added.

The reporter observed that the retired figure skater “clearly struggles to understand why the original image was offensive.” Mr. Rosenberg then mentioned that Russian soccer fans have repeatedly made loud monkey noises and tossed bananas at African and Brazilian players during games, but Ms. Rodnina insisted that the degradation of dark-skinned foreigners by comparing them to apes was completely alien to Russia.

“In Russia we never encountered such concerns in the past. Because, historically, here there were virtually no native representatives of the Negro race,” she said. “The only black people were those who came to study in our country. But bananas were imported from other countries. So we never made a connection. If a player reacts like that, that is their perception of things. It means you have this problem inside you, that makes you feel humiliated.”

The most charitable explanation of Ms. Rodnina’s comments would appear to be that she mistook the image for an unaltered photograph of Mr. Obama and that the racist connotations intended by the person who added the banana were so foreign to her that she had no idea why it would be offensive.

That leaves several questions unanswered, however. To start with, if there was nothing offensive about the image in her eyes, why does Ms. Rodnina believe someone would go to the trouble of hacking into her Twitter account to post it? And, if that was the case, why did she reply to a wave of criticism from fellow Russians by deleting the image but also writing: “Freedom of speech is freedom of speech! Answer for your own hang-ups yourselves!”

It is also the case that the problem of racism among Russian soccer fans has been the subject of national discussion in recent years, as the country prepares to host the 2018 World Cup. Last year, after the visiting Ivorian star Yaya Toure was taunted with ape noises during a match in Moscow, he suggested that African players should perhaps consider boycotting the Russian World Cup.

Two years earlier, after a fan threw a banana at the Brazilian defender Roberto Carlos during a match, but claimed there was no racist meaning to his act, a reporter for the Kremlin-owned network Russia Today patiently explained to her colleagues that taunting a person with dark skin with a banana “is known the world over as a very overt racist gesture.”

A 2011 Russia Today video report on racist taunting of a Brazilian soccer star.

Robert Mackey also remixes the news on Twitter @robertmackey.

Social Media Dispatches: Death and Destruction in Central African Republic

Raw footage from The Associated Press showing Muslims fleeing violence in the Central African Republic on Friday.

Witnesses have been documenting the violence in the Central African Republic over the past few days, with relentless slaughter and traces of entire communities wiped out as thousands of Muslims fled their homes to escape retaliatory attacks.

The killings gained pace against Muslims seen as supporting a Muslim rebel group that seized power last year and ruled through January and was widely blamed for atrocities on Christians.

The emergency director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, has been tracking the violence on the ground, sending out a constant stream of updates on his Twitter account, @bouckap, which reads like a narrative of a dying nation. On Tuesday, he made a reference to international forces’ intervening in a lynching.

Over the weekend, Rwandan peacekeepers intervened to halt an attack on Muslims, shooting and killing a member of a crowd that had killed two people in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic, a Rwandan military spokesman said, according to Reuters. In that weekend alone, nine people were killed in interreligious violence, according to residents quoted by the news agency.

The presence of several thousand French and African Union troops has largely failed to stem the bloodshed. The United Nations High Commissioner for refugees expressed concern in a statement on Tuesday that there was the feeling that the killing could go on without fear of punishment, especially as seen in recent actions of the anti-Balaka Christian militia.

“Particularly worrying is the climate of complete impunity in the country, illustrated most glaringly by public statements from anti-Balaka elements claiming responsibility for the crimes and murders they have committed,” said Rupert Colville, a spokesman. “Such brazen admissions are furthering the culture of impunity and encouraging more people to resort to violence.”

Witnesses have been chronicling the exodus of large numbers of the Muslim community in the Central African Republic, including Thomas Fessy of the BBC, as they fled retaliation and destruction of their neighborhoods.

The photographer Marcus Bleasdale has chronicled the exodus, as has Joanne Mariner, a crisis response official for Amnesty International, which will release a report on Wednesday on its evidence of ethnic cleansing in the Central African Republic. Both posted updates on the expanding retaliations and anti-Muslim sentiment.

Mr. Bouckaert also followed the remaining traces of Muslim neighborhoods as their community fled.

Follow Christine Hauser on Twitter @christineNYT.