The United States of Africa: How the Greatest Nation has become the Greatest Failure

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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

 

This was the preamble of the US Constitution, which was signed by George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin and representatives of the original 13 colonies and ratified in 1787. It called for the end of occupation by the British Monarchy and the right for people to live prosper lives fostering their own growth and successes but also defending the country through their freedom of speech and the right to bear arms.

The right to bear arms has become a topic of discussion lately because of the carnage that has devastated the United States of America. America has a right to protect itself from invaders. Families have rights to protect themselves. And even sometimes people have a right to protect themselves if they feel threatened. Yet the right to bear arms, as mentioned in the second Amendment has turned the country into a failed state, as mentioned by scholars, such as Noam Chomsky. Chomsky has followed on the politics in the States and found that the country created by our forefathers has been in decline- most rapidly since 11 September though it had originally started after the Americans and their allies won World War II. While Washington found ways to mask itself as the knight in shiny armor in protecting its interest from encroaching Communists, and the baby-boomer generations had taken full steam, issues of purging into the lives of others, environmental destruction because of development and select support of nationalist governments were widely ignored. The President and all members of Congress turned a blind eye.  While we have seen many lumps in increases in between, like in the Eisenhower, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton years, democracy and its values have been gunned down bit by bit because of the government representing only the privileged and the rich, disregarding the values that protect the society of the people regardless of background. In the case of guns, it’s like in the picture above: a shooting happens, grieving happens, discussions on how to make society safe from guns comes, Congress tries to act but cannot because of support from the likes of the National Rifle Association (NRA) who favor guns and stand-by to the principles of the 2nd Amendment. The issue gets swept under the rug and is not brought up until the next blood bath.

2018 has in no doubt been the bloodiest year in American history with 18 mass shootings so far this year. Since the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting on 14 December 2012, we’ve had 290 shootings; six of which have been in the top ten deadliest in US history. This includes the Las Vegas Massacre on October 1, 2017, the deadliest mass shooting on record,  where 58 people were killed and 815 hurt.  The latest shooting at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which happened on Valentine’s Day is the ninth worst. Yet our only responses we get from our leaders is “My condolences to the families involved, ” and no real action to stop this? Is this what America has come down to?

As an American expat writing this, I’m really disgusted at the inactivity and indifference politicians and society has towards the country’s people. It angers me even more that instead of addressing it straight up, like we’ve seen in other countries, we defer our responsibilities and blame other aspects. In this case, it is mental illness. However with the next shooting, it will be something else. And more lives will be lost in what was supposed to be a democracy made to protect the people and allow them to live prosperous and make a difference.

This latest shooting brings the United States of America down to the level of 3rd world African and Central American countries because we do not have the balls and testosterome to say “STOP! NO MORE OF THIS!” This leads me to a lot of questions I have to the people in the country who either have turned a blind eye, become helpless or indifferent or even are staunch supporters of guns and violence as a way of protecting oneself and the 2nd Amendment:

Is it really OK to carry hand guns around whenever it is deemed necessary?

Is it really OK to have police arbitrarily invade homes and lives of other people just because they don’t like them for no reason?

Is it really OK to teach children how to take cover in an event of a crazed maniac who could possibly shoot down children and teachers, employers and co-workers, or even the common person, like it’s a Terminator video game?

Is it really OK to scare American society over a tiny virus which only kills one person but ignore the problems that kill thousands?

Is it really OK to say “I’m not OK with domestic violence,” but not do a goddamn thing about it?

Is it really OK to defer responsibility to others for your own wrong-doing, which can lead to lives lost unnecessarily- such as providing money to strippers and porn artists instead of taking that and using it to fix our infrastructure, health care, social security and the like?

Is it really OK to make America safe with guns instead of sitting down together and talking about the issues at hand, hoping to find common ground?

And lastly, is it really OK to watch all this carnage and do absolutely nothing about it?

I really hope America wakes up and finally does something about this mess. Because if guns are really OK, as with violence, death and destruction, then I don’t want to be part of this anymore. We have seen African nations struggle since the end of British rule because of gun violence tied together with corruption,  poverty and war. Yet we have become one of them instead of being a country setting an example for others through our policies, democracy and innovations working for the good of the environment and society.  We have become a live example of  George Orwell’s Animal Farm because of our unwillingness to change to helpo others- to put a stop to this gun violence, to put a stop to bullying, to put a stop to hatred and paranoia, and to put a stop at focusing on our own needs and the needs of the select few. With trillions already wasted to the weapons industry, we have become the African countries that pride ourselves in the brass, but will eventually cave in from underneath due to the social issues we have piling up.

And so, as of today, 15 February 2018, the United States of America, once deemed as the “greatest nation on the face of this Earth,” a catalyst for inventors, innovators and ingenuous people who made a difference for the rest of humanity, my place of origin, has lost all credibility in the eyes of the world and beyond. This country has become the new Africa. All armed and ready to kill again before they kill us.

And if we beg to differ, then my words to you are this: Prove it. Prove it now before we become part of a bloody revolution. Prove it now before we become a memory in our global society. Prove it now in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, in the name of Siddartha the Buddha, in the name of Mohammad, in the name of our fathers and brothers, and in the name of God, who created this place for us to live.

Amen.

OWT14

Fl Fi USA

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Hurricane Frederike Blows the House Down: Surpasses Kyrill

Record-breaking Wind Speed Surpasses Kyrill Storm of 2007, Six Dead, Train Services Shut Down Together with All Aspects of Life

A day ago, the German Republic as well as other European Countries commemorated the 11th anniversary of the Hurricane Kyrill, which slammed Europe, providing the country with destructive winds of up to 250 km/h (155 mph). 47 people were killed by this storm, mostly by falling trees. Thirteen of which happened in Germany, where average winds of up to 120 mph caused widespread damage, including destruction of buildings, cars and even forests. Power outage was widespread including in Magdeburg, where the entire city of 230,000 inhabitants were without power for almost a week. And lastly, the German Railways (The Bahn) shut down all regional, interurban (S-bahn) and long-distance (Fernverkehr) train services, forcing trains to stop at the next station and be converted into hotels.

Fast forward to today, and we are cleaning up from another hurricane, Frederike. With wind speeds of up to 204 kph (130 mph), the big bad wolf did more than huffing and puffing and blowing the house down as seen in the following videos:

The average speeds surpassed that of Kyrill’s but like the 2007 hurricane, the hardest hit areas were the same:  in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and Mitteldeutschland (Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and parts of Lower Saxony), where the wind speeds were the highest and much of the destruction took place. Unlike Kyrill, though, the storm started with massive amounts of precipitation, mostly in the form of snow, combined with high winds and extreme cold which reduced visibility to less than 100 meters. All of which happened yesterday.  Add icy conditions and the whole storm started with an appetizer. With Kyrill in 2007, there was high wind and extremely mild temperatures but no precipitation until the storm arrived with full force.  The sudden increase in temperatures by approximately 15°F (6°C) today melted much of the snow away but resulted in the increase in wind speed as Frederike rolled through the region. The end result is devastation which will take days to clean up.  Damage amounts are expected to be in the tens of billions of Euros for Germany, Benelux and parts of Scandanavia and eastern Europe.

While all of Germany was hit hard by Frederike, the worst areas were in the mountains of central and eastern Germany but also in large cities. Many villages and resorts  in the mountain regions were cut off due to fallen trees, snow and zero visibility caused by high winds. Several motorways and main highways were closed down due to trucks being blown over and several trees and overhead signs being blown over.  The Bahn shut down all long-distance trains nationwide but also regional trains and S-bahn in all of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Thuringia, NRW, Hesse and parts of Bavaria. This included private train services. Hundreds of thousands of train commuters were forced to either use the bus, taxi or find lodging even in stranded trains at the stations. Airports canceled flights, schools dismissed students early, while some have canceled classes for tomorrow. It will take the weekend to clean up and somewhat return to normal……

….and in time too, for another system, bringing colder temperatures and pecipitation in a form of freezing rain and/or snow will follow for the weekend, thus giving residents an incentive to bundle up while cleaning up…..

 

but at the same time, have some mulled wine ready. After all, it’s not just for Christmas.

More information about Hurricane Frederike can be found here.

Find Out the Differences between American vs German Homes: it’s where the heart is.

Find Out the Differences between American vs German Homes: it’s where the heart is.

I happen to come across this page by accident the other day as I was doing research for an article on the Files on German architecture. This one looks at the differences in housing between the US and Germany in terms of architecture and interior design, written from the experiences of two columnists who lived in these two different dwellings. Have a look at their work and the examples and feel free to comment. The link is provided. Enjoy! 🙂

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For anyone who has traveled around the US, you have seen many styles and sizes of homes, primarily built from wood or brick materials. And, unless it was a custom-built home, most homes in American subdivisions tend to be very “cookie cutter” homes with only slight differences in appearance. Visiting and living in Germany, sprawling subdivisions do not exist, homes are not built from wood or brick, and homes do not appear to be the same. Germany has some very unique differences in their homes vs. homes in the States, which the following helps explain…

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2017 Ammann Awards Voting Underway

The Wave near Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- One of the Candidates of this year’s Ammann Awards but in the category of Bridge of the Year

AS THERE ARE MANY GERMAN BRIDGES IN THE RUNNING, IT IS NECESSARY TO MAKE NOTE OF THE UPCOMING AMMANN AWARD VOTING PROCESS, PRESENTED BY SISTER COLUMN THE BRIDGEHUNTER’S CHRONICLES: 

 

 

After a long delay due to illness and other non-column related items, voting has now commenced for this year’s Othmar H. Ammann Awards, presented by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles. This year’s entries feature a vast array of bridges- old and new from almost every single aspect. We even have a new entry from Africa and that bridge is unique because of its historic and aethetic features that warranted its candidacy endorsement by one of our followers. For the first time, we have a re-entry of one candidate because of missing bridges and/or information provided by the locals which had not existed from last year’s entry.  And for the third time, a lifetime legacy candidate entered the category and it appears he might finally win this one, assuming he can beat out a massive amount of compatition.

So who will win the Ammann Awards this year? This is where you as the reader can decide. Just simply click onto the link here. This will take you to the wordpress version of the Chronicles, where the ballot is posted. Follow the instructions there and you are free to choose which bridges and persons deserve to win the Awards.

Voting will close on January 7th with the winners of the Ammann Awards to be announced afterwards. As usual, it will be done after the author presents his Author’s Choice Awards.

While the category of Best Photo features the finest photos on the ballot, the candidates in the other categories each have a link and/or short summaries so that you can easily decide which ones deserve the awards.  For instance:

Mystery Bridge:

Shoe Bridge in Chemnitz, Germany

Turner Truss Bridge in Chemnitz, Germany

The Whitesboro Bridge in Oklahoma

Elevator Bridge at Kappelbach (in Chemnitz), Germany

Bienertstrasse Bridge in Dresden, Germany

The Twin Bridges of Salisbury, Connecticut

Ancient Bridge over a Waterfall in Erfurt, Germany

Thatched Roofed Covered Bridge in St. Peter-Ording, Germany

Brick Culverts at Westerhever, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany

Small Bridge with Unique Railing and Plaque at Eibenstock, Germany

The Stone Arch Bridges of Zschorlau (Saxony), Germany

The Bedstead Truss Bridge at Muscatine, Iowa

 

Lifetime Achievement:

Nels Raynor of BACH Steel- For over two decades, Nels has successfully restored dozens of historic truss bridges made of metal thanks to his expertise in welding and his steadfast assistance with other bridge preservationists in identifying and restoring relict crossings of the path. This includes the most recent completion of the restoration of Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Arkansas. More details on him and BACH Steel you will find here.

James Baughn of Bridgehunter.com- In 2002, James created a database devoted to historic bridges in the Midwestern part of the United States. Fast-forward to the present, and you will find one of the most comprehensive bridge database websites in the country with information and photos of almost every bridge available, both present and past and regardless of its listing on the National Register of Historic Places. His website you will find here.

Nathan Holth of HistoricBridges.org- A product of a high school genius who later became a history teacher and advocate of preserving historic bridges, Nathan Holth’s website focuses on historic bridges and its documentation that is more detailed than with the nationally-known documentation of historic artefacts, such as HABS/HAER and the National Register in which he recommends alternatives to demolishing historic bridges. In its 15th year, Nathan has covered two-thirds of the US plus half of Canada. The website with all his work can be found here.

Todd Wilson and Lauren Winkler of Bridgemapper.com- Like Nathan Holth and James Baughn, this duo from Pittsburgh has a website that is focused on the historic bridges in western Pennsylvania with a focus on the greater Pittsburgh area. An interactive map with information on the existence and evolution of these geniune structures can be found here.

Nic Janberg of Structurae.net- While James Baughn plans to expand Bridgrhunter.com to include the international bridges, he may want to take some lessons from this man from Dusseldorf, Germany, home of the International Structural Database, Structurae.net. Created and maintained by Janberg and running since 2001, this database features information and photos of not only bridges- past and present, but other unique architectural works as well as their engineers and architects. To look at the website and information, click here.

Mary Charlotte Aubry Costello- In the mid-1980s, the social studies teacher from Waterloo, Iowa started travelling and sketching historic bridges along the Mississippi River as part of a book project presenting some interesting facts and images of these unique structures from her eyes. In the end, there were two volumes of work (produced in 1998 and 2002, respectively) that are still being read to this day. More on the book here.

Dave King- A bridge photographer who has contributed to Bridgehunter.com, Dave has presented some unique bridges for the state of Iowa, many of which are still standing albeit closed to traffic.

Royce and Bobette Haley- A husband-wife photo-duo, this couple has lit up the Bridgehunter.com website with their bridges as part of their cross-country bridgehunting tour. They have been doing this since 2013 and are still going strong.

 

Best Example of a Restored Historic Bridge:

Green Bridge in Des Moines, Iowa- This three-span through truss bridge received a massive make-over last year and part of this year, which included new decking, new paint, new pin-connected joints and new LED lighting. Some information on this bridge can be found here.

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Conway County, Arkansas- This 1870s iron bridge literally was brought back from the brink. Found leaning to one side, Raynor, Julie Bowers and crew worked together to relocate it and restore it to its former glory. Details here.

Marine’s Bridge in Wisconsin

Gospel Street Bridge in Paoli County, Indiana- Destroyed by a semi-truck on Christmas Day, workers put the old truss bridge together, piece-by-piece to make it look like new again. A Christmas gift for the people of Paoli.

Allan’s Mill Covered Bridge in Miami County, Ohio

Bowstring Arch Bridge at Merrimack College in Boston

Bowstring Arch Bridge at Columbiana County Fairgrounds in Ohio

Ponte Pince Sao Vincente in Santos, Brazil- This suspension bridge, built in the 1910s, received a massive make-over which included new decking and cables as well as some work on the towers. More on this project here.

War Eagle Bridge in Benton County, Arkansas

 

Tour Guide International (Click onto the name to access the websites):

Cambridge, England

Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- This was reentered due to additional bridges and information contributed by locals and historians. It had finished fifth in last year’s standings.

Aue/Schneeberg (Saxony), Germany- This is a combination of tour guides for Aue, Schlema, Schneeberg and Zschorlau. There are two parts: Part I and Part II.  As a bonus, an exclusive on the Stone Arch Bridge at Schlema is included here. Zschorlau’s Bridges are under the Category of Mystery Bridges.

St. Petersburg, Russia- There are several websites but they have been bundled into one mini-library guide here.

London (UK)

Winnepeg, Canada- There is a historic guide (here) and a present tour guide (here)

Quebec City, Canada

Rochlitz (Saxony), Germany.

 

Tour Guide USA (Click onto the names for access to the bridges):

Clinton County, New York

Lehigh County, Pennsylvania

The Bridges of the Wabash-Erie Canal/ Delphi, Indiana: Two links: Delphi and the Canal

Hennepin Canal in Bureau County, Illinois

Duluth, Minnesota

Cincinnati, Ohio

The Drawbridges of Chicago

The Bridges of Cleveland, Ohio

The Bridges of Marshall County, West Virginia

The Bridges of Wheeling, West Virginia

Bridges to the Past in Hardin County, Kentucky

 

Best Kept Secret Individual Bridge (USA):  (Click onto the names of the bridges for photos and info)

Belleville Bowstring Arch Bridge

Mill Creek Truss Bridge in Ft. Scott, Kansas

Old Highway 69 Peaceble Creek Bridge in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma

Broadway Avenue Bridge in St. Peter, MN

Niland’s Corner Bridge near Colo, Iowa

Sarto Bridge in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana

Johnson Bridge in Stillwater County, Montana

Brooklyn Army Arsenal Footbridges, New York (Brooklyn)

Sugar Island Bridge in Illinois

Lakewood Park Truss Bridge in Salina, Kansas

Bridge of the Year:

Bockau Arch Bridge near Aue (Saxony), Germany- the 400 year old bridge is slated for replacement even though there is a movement to stop the process.

Green Bridge in Waverly, Iowa- This 1910s bridge is the focus of politics where three sides (preservationists, proponents of a 2-lane bridge abd proponents of a pedestrian bridge) are vying for its future.

Frank J. Wood Memorial Bridge in Maine- Locals are going head-to-head with Maine DOT over this bridge, with the former wanting to keep the bridge in use.

Springfield Bowstring Arch Bridge in Conway County, Arkansas- A masterpiece of preservation saving it from disaster and making it a new crossing.

Pulp Mill Bridge in New Hampshire

The Wave in Glauchau (Saxony), Germany- first bridge in the world to have a suspension span whose roadway is draped over the pylons.

Mathematic Bridge in Cambridge, UK a key landmark in the University City that is now a puzzle game.

Goteik Viaduct in Myammar– a find by a pair of tourists that is unheard of at present. Really tall but over a century old steel railroad viaduct

Cobban Bridge in Chippewa County, WI the future of the two-span Pennsylvania through truss bridge is in the balance after it was closed off to all traffic. Again, progressives and preservations are fighting over its future.

Hvita Bridge in Iceland- a rare, unheard of historic landmark on a remote island.

Cedar Covered Bridge in Madison County, Iowa three juveniles tried burning this bridge down. The bridge is being rebuilt AGAIN!

The Covered Bridges of New Brunswick, Canada- These bridges are unique in their length and histories but in danger due to age, weather extremities and carelessness.

 

 

New ICE-Line and ICE City Erfurt Opens

ICE-T train stopping at Erfurt Central Station. Photo taken in March 2017

New High-Speed Line Opens after 25 Years of Planning and Construction. Erfurt and Leipzig to become ICE Cities. 80 ICE trains expected in Erfurt daily.

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BERLIN/ MUNICH/LEIPZIG/ERFURT/COBURG/JENA- It took the signing of former (now late) German Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s signature to allow for the project to begin- 25 years ago. That in itself was as historic as US President Dwight D. Eisenhowers signature in 1956 to launch the US Interstate Highway System. It took 25 years, from the time of its signature until the time of its completion, costing over 12 billion Euros, and resulting in 37 bridges- including the 8.6 kilometer long Elster-Saale Viaduct near Halle (the longest in Germany)- two dozen tunnels and the complete makeover of five different stations- the main ones of which are in Erfurt and Leipzig.

And now, Frankenstein has come to life!  🙂 The new ICE line between Berlin and Munich has opened. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Richard Lutz (CEO of the Deutsche Bahn), German Transportation Minister Christian Schmidt as well as the primeministers of the states of Bavaria, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia plus many celebrities were on hand to open the ICE-Line as a pair of ICE-3 trains passed through the new stops of Nuremberg, Erfurt, and Leipzig-Halle as they started from Munich and ended in Berlin. The ceremony happened today with the grand ceremony taking place at Berlin Central Station.

With that new line, not only will the cities of Leipzig and Halle will profit from the long-distance trains stopping there on a daily basis, but also the ICE City Erfurt in central Thuringia, where as many as 80 ICE-trains will stop to board people on a daily basis travelling on the N-S axis between Berlin and Munich via Nuremberg, as well as between Dresden and Frankfurt via Leipzig on the W-E axis.  Along the N-S axis, one can travel between the German and Bavarian capitals in just over four hours, two less than its current travel. Between Dresden and Frankfurt, it is expected that trains passing through Erfurt will need only three hours instead of the normal five.  Planned is the new ICE-Sprinter connecting Berlin with Munich with a stop only in Erfurt. That stretch will take only under four hours.  Another is planned for Halle-Munich and Nuremberg-Berlin, each of which will take less than three hours.

Prior to the opening of the new ICE line, a person needed over six hours along the line that went through Naumburg, Jena, Saalfeld, Lichtenfels and Bamberg. That line will be relegated to Regio-trains which will be a total inconvenience to people living in Jena and points to the east. With that will mark the end of long-distance service for the first time in over 115 years. The state of Thuringia is working with the Deutsche Bahn to provide better access, which includes a new long-distance InterCity station in Jena to be opened in 2024.  (More on that here).  The ICE line will mean more development for Erfurt, as the ICE-City plans to build a new convention center and series of hotels and restaurants around the station to better accommodate customers and visitors to Erfurt.

ICE-4. Photo by Martin Lechler

The new line will mark the debut of the newest ICE train, the ICE 4, which will travel alongside the ICE 3 from Munich to Berlin. The ICE-T will continue to serve between Dresden and Leipzig (for more on the train types, click here).  At the same time, the older two models will be phased out bit-by-bit after having travelled tens of thousands of kilometers for over 25 years. The newest models can travel over 300 km/h and has compartments for bikes, available upon reservation.

While the new line, scheduled to be part of the train plan come 10 December, will compete with the airlines and automobile in terms of travel time, there is a catch that many people do not like: From Berlin to Munich, one will have to pay at least 125 Euros one-way, 40 Euros more than with the present route. Despite having more Regio-trains providing access to Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle from Jena and elsewhere, it will become an inconvenience when it comes to changing trains and having to rush to the nearest ICE train with very little time left.

Still it is up to the Bahn to decide how to adjust to the situation as it plans to allow for time for people to adjust and get used to the new line. After a year or so, it will make some adjustments to better serve customers who are out of reach of the new line. By then, one will find out whether the billions spent on this project was worth its salt.

Video on the VDE8 Project- the ICE Line Berlin-Erfurt-Munich:

And a map of the new line:

Volkswagen: The Wagon of Vikings- Or Was It Vagen for Women? The Tongue Twister Guide to the V and W Words in English

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Vince and Vance went with the Volkswagen Van west to Las Vegas. Vince is from Wiesbaden and Vance is from Wernersgrün. They both have fathers named Werner and they both enjoy Weizenbier (Wheat beer).

Looking at this sentence, how would you pronounce these words? Chances are, regardless of where you are coming from, you are pronouncing at least some of the words wrong. If you are a native speaker of English, chances are you are pronouncing the German words with a W when even though they start with a W, they sound like a V. This puts Wernersgrün, Werner, Weizenbier and Wiesbaden in the line of fire. Yet if you are a non-native speaker of English, be it German, Russian, Arabic, or eastern European, chances are that you are pronouncing the V-words like they are W. This is where Vince, Vance and Vegas fall into that unfortunate trap. Furthermore, especially in Germany, some words that start with W are pronounced with V. Apart from west and wheat in this example, other words that fall into the crossfire include wake, watch and wear.

To keep it straight, as well as short and to the point, the Vs and Ws are always mixed up! 😦  Aside from the TH-words, the VW words are one of the most difficult pronunciations in the English language for that particular reason. Another reason behind it is the way they are spoken, something where Ronnie in this video has an easy way to explain the difference between V and W words:

And while she views W-words as words spoken of a true kisser from the Czech Republic and V-words like a two-eared bunny rabbit saying “FUCK!” when spotted by a vulture, here’s another easy way to explain the difference between the VW words.

With the V-sound, it has a close relationship with the F-words, meaning air is constructed from the top part of the mouth. The difference between the F and V is the length as the V-words are longer and most of the time voiced consonants. The F-words are shorter and mostly voiceless.

As for the W-words, apart from forming that short O in the mouth and then widening it in length, one can refer to the Seven-Ws in terms of question form, meaning the Who, What, When, Where, Why, Which and How. With the exception of Who and whose (since the W there are silent), the rest follow this kissing Czech concept. This is also regardless of whether the W-words stand out alone or if a consonant is added to the W.

This takes us to the Tongue-Twister exercise featuring the uses of V and W words. Homemade by the author, it was divided up into the V-category, the W-category and the mixed category. If you can master the first two, then you should be able to master the third one easily. 🙂 A video is enclosed at the end of the article to provide you with reference on how they are pronounced in case you need assistance. 🙂

So without further ado, away with you in your Volkswagen and be vicious, vivacious and victorious with these examples! 😉  Good luck! 🙂

V-category:

V/F:

Vincent went to Fargo with Fred to visit his friend Vance, who owns a Volkswagen five-some conversion van. Fred is fat from feasting on fawn while Vincent is invincible for being Vice President of the Federation for the Advancement of Unforgivable Follies. Vince and Vance are Friends for forty-four years, while Fred is friends with Faye for fourteen fortnights.

 

V:

The Virgins value the Vikings.

The Vikings value the Vegans.

The Vegans value the Vegetarians.

The Vegetarians value the Viceroys.

The Viceroys value the Vocalists,

While the Vocalists avenged the Viceroys with Viagra.

 

W-Category:

W:

Where was Wally Worthington when we wanted him? Wally Worthington was one writer who won twenty wonderful awards for his work, while his wisdom we want, for Wally wants to whistle a wonderful, unwavering work with a whippoorwill.  But Wally Worthington will walk with a wild woman to Willy Wonker’s white and wealthy, western restaurant. Why? Wally and the wild woman want to eat a whoopee cushion.

 

TW:

Twelve twiddling twins tweeted Mark Twain on Twitter with twenty tweezers and with twelve twitches. The twisted twins tweeted that Twain twined twenty tunes about twinberries and twinflowers, twisting and twittering in a Twinkie. Twain twinkles a Twinkie in the Twilight and twists and twirls with the twins.

 

SW/W:

There was a Swiss doing Swan Lake wearing her Swatch Watch on her wrist. She swaddled in the water and met Katharina Witt, who swiped the Swatch Watch swished it into a weaved swivel with White Washington underwear. Where was Washington who wore white underwear? Underwater with Winona Ryder.

 

TW/SW/W:

Twelve twisted witches were swimming with the wind, when we witnessed twenty twisted wolves, who were witty wonders of the world. The wolves were weeping with wiseguys who wore woolen sweaters weaved by sweating workers twiddling with white whisks, swearing with white wisdom teeth, while the twelve twisted witches swirled with their sweethearts, switching their swords with words.

 

Mixed Category:

V/W:

Waking in Vegas, William walked to Vincent with a victorious whistle, wondering why Warren visited Vanessa while wrestling with Vegas Wally Vanderworth, the world wrestler with wonderful vicious wild faces which wants William to wail him one.

 

V/W:

Wayne Von Western ventured with Victoria Wallace with a Volkswagen Van with four wheels to western Washington. Wayne and Victoria were whistling various vivacious songs about a white Hoover vacuum cleaner with various vinyl vibrating hoses with wax which Viviane and the Women Vikings whacked with a vulture.

 

 

V/W:

Virginia with a wonderful voice, ventured with Vivi in a Volkswagen onto Venice with Winnie to voice their vengeance with world-renowned vocalists Vincent Wallingford who videotaped with Werner and Verne their voices for Weight Watchers.

 

V/W:

Victory was wonderful. Winning was victorious. Women were invincible. Vikings were whipped, while Vince and Vance vacated the white Woolworth and went with the Volkswagen to Vegas.

 

Here’s the video where you can listen to the tongue twisters, some of which even the author stumbled during the recording……. 😉

 

 

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Wir Schaffen Das: How the Christian Democrats Have Made German History

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A couple years ago, I had a political discussion with another expatriate residing in Germany about Angela Merkel’s willingness to open the gates of Germany to refugees fleeing the regions of Syria, Iraq and North Africa- areas that were decimated by war- just so they can start a new life in a different place, where they can be peaceful and not have to worry about war. A couple days ago, after having posted my preview of the German elections, where Angela Merkel is making a quest to run for her fourth term (and break Helmut Kohl’s record in the process), that same person asked me if her policies of allowing refugees into Germany have done the country good or not, especially with the social and cultural problems that they may have, which were his reasons for opposing opening the gates. We all remember her comments in an interview with Anne Will that has carried a lot of weight around Berlin:

and this in addition to her persuasion of her counterparts to not be afraid of the refugees but to help them…..

But in order to answer that person’s questions, I’m going to take the Taylor Mali approach and give it to him with a little history- not about her or the refugees, but about her party, the Christian Democrats and their slogan “Wir schaffen es!”

Since the creation of the Bundesrepublik in 1949, the CDU has had a chancellor ruling Germany for 48 of the 68 years of its existence. Of which, if we count Merkel in the mix, three different politicians have ruled the country for 42 of the 48 years!  Before Merkel, the previous CDU chancellors had been the late Helmut Kohl, who ruled from 1982 until his defeat in the hands of Gerhardt Schroeder in 1998. The first chancellor of Germany, Konrad Adenauer, ruled what was then West Germany from 1949 until his resignation in 1963. He died four years later at the age of 91, having won the Award for eldest statesman to ever govern a country.  The secret to the successes of the CDU under these three people had been until now made their promises of “Wir schaffen das!” (translated bluntly as We Can Do This) realized through calculated risk-taking, realizing the consequences of these actions and providing a buffer zone between external factors on one hand and Berlin and the rest of the country on the other. It is like the game of chess- the situation is presented on the chessboard, and it is up to the politicians to take the risk that will produce the maximum result to their favor, while figuring in the possible consequences that could happen. Of course any foolhardy move could be fatal, as we are seeing with many far-right politicians in eastern Europe, Turkey, North Korea, the UK and even the US. But each chancellor has had their longest chess game during their time in office; each of which has its own theme. Let’s have a look at each legend’s ability of making it work and bringing Germany to fame.

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Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) Photo courtesy of the German Archives (Bundesarchiv)

“Wir schaffen das allein!”

When Adenauer took office on 15 September 1949, Germany was still in recovery mode after having been in shambles because of World War II and was all alone with the European countries and the US all hesitant in building any relations with the country. Furthermore, Germany was already split between the democratic western half that had been occupied by the Americans, British and French and the eastern half that was controlled by the Soviets. While Germany was considered a chessboard between communism and democracy, Adenauer began to redevelop the country economically, thus making it the economic miracle and later the powerhouse of western Europe with one of the lowest unemployment rates in history (averaging around 2%). The population got jobs and could spend money on new items, including the TV and modern furniture. His policies were based on liberalism and thus showed Germany’s willingness to ally with the US, Britain and other western countries, thus making the country’s integration into the United Nations, NATO and the European Economic Community easier to achieve. His mentality of “Wir schaffen das allein” (we will do it alone) had to do with the fact that Germany’s metamorphisis from a state in shambles to an economic miracle with a modernized socio-economic infrastructure and westernized institutions with policies that are based on conservatism and no experimenting with anything that is new and foreign. Even the elections of 1957, which he won his third term in office, his campaign slogan of “No Experiments!” won overwhelming support because of three factors that led Adenauer to win the hearts and minds of the German population: 1. The reestablishment of relations with neighboring France which used to be the country’s archenemy. With that came the reintegration of the Saarland and the recognition of minorities on both sides of the border. 2. Despite having zero interest in reuniting with East Germany or even having contact with the communist regimes, Adenauer made  agreements with the Soviets to release as many as 10,000 Germans who were prisoners of war, so that they could return home.  That combined with encouraging immigration from parts of the Middle East and Asia to fill in the gaps left behind by the fallen soldiers contributed to Germany’s success as a country as a norm. And thirdly, the people followed Adenauer’s policies because they enabled them to restart their lives again and not allow for external influences and military conflicts to rule and ruin their lives again. If it meant integrating people from outside willing to work in the country- making them open-minded- make it so.  Adenauer’s idea was in order to make the country a powerhouse again, it must work to restore its identity while mending ties with and reassuring other countries that it is different than the Germany under Hitler: It was not power-greedy but a democratic country willing to cooperate for similar causes. Anything that is fattening or potentially risky- anything that does not match Adenauer’s vision of Germany- was simply left behind. This was the reason why Adenauer went with his slogan West Germany first, then we’ll talk about the East. His hard-line policies against Communism combined with his willingness to grow together with other countries made him the most influential politician of modern German history.

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Helmut Kohl (1982- 1998)           Archiv für Christlich-Demokratische Politik (ACDP)

“Wir Schaffen das Miteinander:”

If there was one description that would best fit Helmut Kohl, the chancellor who came into power after the fall of Helmut Schmidt in 1982, it would be that he was the Face of Europe, not just a Unified Germany but simply a Unified Europe. While Kohl was perceived as folksy in terms of his appearance and manner, his ability to be eye-to-eye and down-to-earth with many of his international constituents made him more of an international celebrity than that of his German counterparts in Bonn, which was the federal capital during his 16 years in office. It also helped him in terms of working together with his international colleagues for two of the most important goals on his agenda: To end the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and to reunify West Germany with its eastern counterpart.  While the former was beginning to unfold from within, thanks to the revolutions in the east that toppled the Communist leaders and quickened with the Fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November, 1989, the latter Kohl proceeded to do through cooperation with Soviet leader Mikail Gorbachev, US President George Bush Sr., British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and French President Francois Mitterand. Despite the hesitation that was expressed by Mitterand and the rejection that was made clearly by Margaret Thatcher, Kohl’s actions in reuniting Germany within a year between the Fall of the Wall and the date of 3 October, 1990 (which we still celebrate this date today) received full support and cooperation from Gorbachev and Bush Sr. for several reasons:

  1. Kohl acknowledged that he had no intention of expanding his country to include the Suedetenland in western Czech Repubic and areas in Poland that  had once belonged to Germany before 1945. This Oder-Neisse Agreement confirmed the eastern border and resulted in good relations with the two eastern neighbors.
  2. Kohl agreed that Germany would be a full participant in NATO and the European Economic Community (later the European Union) just like it was when it was West Germany. Furthermore, it would maintain strong economic and political ties with ist allies and be ready to play a larger role on the international stage.
  3. Kohl provided start-up funding and financial support for the former eastern states. With much of the industries in ruins, Kohl presented a program to encourage business development, modernization of the infrastructure, educational support and further education training for the unemployed and reform the retirement system- all with the purpose of bring it up to the level of the western half.  This process has been long and painful, but it has been working to the advantage of People in the East; especially the younger generations born right before the Fall of the Wall.
  4. With a reunified Germany, Gorbachev and Bush Sr. agreed that having a Cold War no longer made sense. Gorbachev wanted the eastern countries to go their own way, and Bush provided those who were trapped behind the Iron Curtain with an opportunity to have a better life without the political connections and influence from the state security police. All they needed was someone in Germany with the same point of view and they found that in Kohl.

The German Reunification and the concessions needed to make that a reality came with criticism from within the German Population and his own Party, the CDU, claiming that the process went too fast and that many displaced Germans from the east were unable to reclaim their regions back. Furthermore, the recession of  1995 as a result of the cost for Reunification resulted in the rise of unemployment. Yet when looking back at this, Kohl looked for the people who were willing to go through with the plan of reunification, taking all the risks that are involved and cementing the Germany that we know today. With that in mind, the idea of “Wir Das Miteinander ,” became “Wir Schaffen Das Zusammen” over time, for whatever the crises, Germany was able to pull through with the support of its people, the CDU and its allies from outside.

Helmut Kohl was given a European send-off at the time of his death on 16th June, 2017 at the age of 87. The procession, which was on 1 July, took place in Strausborg and Speyer, where he was interred.

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Angela Merkel (2005-present)  Photo by Armin Linnartz

“Wir Schaffen Das:”

It is very difficult to describe this theme with Angela Merkel without having to overlap on her counterpart’s slogan, but perhaps it doesn’t need a preposition to describe how she has overcomed her challenges as Chancellor and key player in the CDU. Merkel was presented with three challenges that reshaped her party, Germany and the population during her 12 years in Office. First was keeping Europe together and the Americans happy, something that for Germany as a central power in the EU it could be done by pulling on the leash of the members- in writing. Yet in the praxis, especially in the past 3-4 years, some member countries have tried to go their own way, especially in terms of the refugee policy and the deficits of some countries. The next was satisfying the Americans and finding common ground to carry out the policies that affect both countries and the rest of the world. This depended solely on who was in the Oval Office, and while she has isolated Donald Trump because of his erratic behavior (just like the other countries who have followed suit), her relations with George Bush Jr. was lukewarm at best but with Barack Obama, it was a dream team. 🙂 From an American expatriate’s point of view, Merkel achieved a lot with the right people in Washington, which has been received as a blessing, especially when it comes to the environment and the conflicts out in the Middle East, which has been ongoing for seven years now.  And while we are on the theme with environment, there is the refugee crisis and her handling of it, which makes it the third and most important point. The logic behind her policy of “Wir schaffen das” was quite simple: regions in the north and east needed workers and experienced professions because of the younger people moving to cities in the western and southern parts. The population balance in Germany has been very unequal since 1990 with the population in the north and east getting older, despite attempts to modernize the region. With this decline came the brain drain and the best way to end it is to fill in the gap with people wishing to live and work in Germany, even if it was for a limited time until they were able to return home. Learning from Adenauer’s success in bringing in immigrants and integrating them and Kohl’s success in restructuring the eastern half of the country, Merkel sent them to the regions where work was waiting for them, along with a better life. This has been met with partial success mainly because of the lack of forthcoming to accept them among residents in regions who are older, inflexible and lack the basic knowledge needed to get to know and even help them. This is one of the reasons for the creation of the Alternative for Germany (AfD), one of the main challengers that Merkel has faced and will be dealing with for years to come. However, if asked for why immigration has been successful in Germany, I can look at personal success stories of families who have taken German classes to get by, young people getting training at companies to learn a profession and even refugee children getting along with school children. Granted one doesn’t need to be best friends, but by having a peaceful co-existence and helping out when needed is something that Merkel had in mind, which has been a success if one subtracts the likes of the far-right.

Summary:

Taking a look at the three politicians in summary, one can see how Germany has been shaped. It is a country whose population has been taught to be calculated risk-takers, while at the same time, be open to not only people from different cultures and backgrounds, but also to the changes that are taking shape and affecting the Bundesrepublik. The idea of “Wir Schaffen Das,” regardless of form and circumstances has something to do with the will to try something new but doing it with insurance. That means the risks will be taken under one’s own conditions and with the assurance of a Plan B if all else fails. Many of the policies carried out by the CDU had been tried and true, learning from the successes of the forefathers and implementing them adaptedly to the situation. Germany has learned to adapt to the situation by looking at the options carefully, calculating the risks and benefits and carrying it out with some insurance protection.  Adenauer knew the risks of forming relations with other countries and rebuilding Germany and ensured that Germany wanted to be part of the international theater, by accepting the conditions imposed, bringing home the prisoners of war and encouraging immigration to repopulate the country.  Kohl knew the risks of German reunification and came up with a comprehensive plan to satisfy its neighbors and the population, especially in the East.  Merkel knew the risks of integrating the refugees and the opposition from both within the EU and its own country. Still she found ways for immigration to work in a convincing way.  Whenever there were the risks, they were calculated and carried out in an attempt to create a balance that satisfies everyone.

And this has made it difficult for candidates, like Martin Schulz (SPD), Christian Lindner (FDP), Frauke Petry (AfD) and others to overcome the German Iron Lady and the rock which has become the CDU.

Thanks to this notion of “Wir Schaffen Das,” Germany has become what it is- a nation that loves calculated risks, just as much as the people who live there- which includes the refugees, expats and other immigrants. There is still a lot of challenges ahead, but should Merkel win term number 4, it will most likely be due to the success of her in general, her party, and the forefathers who helped shape Germany to what it is today. If Merkel breaks Kohl’s record for longetivity as chancellor, then her theme will most likely be “Wir haben das geschafft.”

Better have that sherry and champaign ready for  Merkel’s fifth term on 26 September, 2021. 😉

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