Notre Dame by Kerrie O’brien

Photo by: Madhurantakam [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D
Our hearts bleed and our tears go out to the people in Paris and the entire country of France as one of the seven wonders of the country went up in smoke on the evening of 15th April, 2019. Fire broke out on the roof of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris during evening mass. While the congregation got out as soon as the alarm went off, fire started to spread going up the spiral before it collapsed onto the roof of the building constructed in 1163. From there, fire took out the entire roof of the church before firemen stopped it from going to the twin towers where the church bells were at. It is very incomprehensible to look at the church before and after the blazing inferno, even as renovations had been ongoing prior to the fire. Thousands had put their heart and soul into building this magnificent architectural masterpiece. In the face of trying times, with protests against President Macron and a Europe that is divided over every issue possible, the fire at Notre Dame has brought together Europe, France and its people, unifying them now with one purpose: To rebuild the church, which is basically the same as rebuilding the nation.

As a tribute to the cathedral, which I visited as a college student in 1999, there is a poem that was written about Notre Dame by Irish poet Kerrie O’brien in 2016. Part of the poem series released as a book that year, this poem looks at the church as a symbol of light, love and unity, the three elements that were inseparable as the person paid homage to this historic icon and a visit to God at its alter.  You can find more poetry on Ms. O’brien by clicking here. For now, here’s to Notre Dame- you were a beauty before, you will be again…… ❤

Certain mornings
I would be the only one
To see the first streams of it –
Light
Tumbling through stained glass
Smattering everything
Red gold rose blue.
The beauty almost frightening.
Yves Klein would daub his women
Blue
And hurl them at the canvas.
Living brushes
Haphazard and outrageous –
Same effect.
Different every day
This glittering cave
Big beautiful lit up thing.
It knew and knew
Why I had come.
Blue gold rose red
Falling like water
My river walk,
My morning prayer.
I would step into it slow
Circling the altar
Gold cross flickering
In the centre
Anchored, rooted, still.
As above, so below
Eyes closed
Filling my heart
With the warmth of it
Until my body was
Sunlight and roses
And the fear
Fell away in petals
Would you believe it
If I told you
Nothing felt separate.

 

Flensburg Files logo France 15

Advertisements

Speed Limits in Germany: Should they be enforced nationally?

IMGP9323
Entering the Autobahn in Hamburg. Photo taken in March 2017

It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.

Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9!  Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.

 

1024px-World_Speed_Limits_svg

Attempts were made in January 2019 to introduce a “blanket-style” speed limit on all German Autobahn to ensure that people obey the speed limits. The reason for the proposed enforcement is to ensure that drivers stay within the limit and not race with speeds of up to 250 km/h (in the US: 155 mph.  While this proposal was dead on arrival in the German parliament, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resurrected at a later time. There are several arguments for and against a nationwide speed limit:

Proponents for the Speed Limit Opponents of the Speed Limit
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.

 

A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.

The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“  an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017. The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990. Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.

 

A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?

This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?

 

 

Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?

Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits. 

=”text/javascript” charset=”utf-8″

 

fast fact logo 16131_tempolimit_130_km_h_zulässige_höchstgeschwindigkeit:

  1. According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.

60 kph

2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city,  on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns.  The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.

3.  Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents  most often occur.

 

flefi-deutschland-logo

 

Photo Flick 13

55845417_2359937347370234_6473550853729943552_o

This photo flick gives us a true meaning of the classroom learning exercise known as “Think, Pair and Share.”  All you need are two chairs, a table, a notebook with pen and a good environment to brainstorm and exchange ideas, like this art exhibition room in a district in Dresden’s Neustadt, taken in April 2019. 🙂

 

cropped-FF-new-logo1.jpg

The America I Grew up In- A Comedy by Jeff Allen

Here’s a fun but yet sobering reminder of our childhood that we had- the best times where we could take the chances and experiment, risk getting hurt but learning the lessons the hard way. The childhood of today has risks but in the sense of fear of taking these falls, the risks and trying new stuff.

The America I Grew Up in is a comedy gig by Jeff Allen, who compares his childhood to what is seen today. Can you list what he and his friends did for childhood examples? Then compare them to what you (as a child growing up) did. What was the same? What was different? What would you like to do what this comedian did? What would you do differently, had you had a chance to turn back the clock for one day?

Try that wherever you go, but not before watching this rather funny clip. 🙂

ff-new-logo1

Photo Flick 11- Guest Flick

28870340_1641269649265363_5905502907272265728_n

This photo was taken by Paul Equale on March 9th, 2018 with the following commentary:

Joe Biden took his granddaughter to the movies in Georgetown last night…..on his way out he stopped to speak w/ a homeless man. A bystander took this candid shot. Character is about what you do when no one is watching. 

Joe Biden is one of 18 candidates who is running for US President in 2020. The former Vice President of Barack Obama has had a lot of hardships in recent years but is one of many persons made of steel who is bound to unseat the current President and soon-to-be incumbent, Donald Trump.

This leads to the question of what makes a politician a great one. Feel free to comment. 🙂

 

Fl Fi USA

Frage für das Forum: Should Residents in Germany automatically become Donors after Death?

Photo taken by Piotr Bodzek, MD [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)%5D
frage für das forum

There is an old saying to start off the forum: If you are born to an American parent, you automtically become an American.  How about when you pass on: Should you automatically become an organ donor?

This is the question that is floating around aggressively in Berlin and is being talked about in hospitals and medical centers in Germany, thanks to German Health Minister Jens Spahn and his most recent proposal.

According to the proposal:

  • The “dual opt-out” donation system would automatically make everyone in Germany a registered organ donor.
  • People could still opt out at any time by putting themselves on a register that says they object to being a donor.
  • Family members could also revoke consent after a person dies.
  • Doctors would be required to consult with the family before removing any organs in the event a person is declared brain-dead.
  • People will be informed multiple times about the new system and the options to opt out.

The proposal comes in response to the sharp decrease in the number of organ donors between 2012 and 2017, combined with the increase in the number of patients who are on the waiting list for an organ donor.  According to a recent study, the number of organ donations carried out in Germany decreased from 1097 in 2012 to only 797 in 2017. Last year alone, some 9,400 people were on the organ transplant waiting list.  Less than 1,000 organ transplantations were carried out, while 2,000 on the waiting list died.

The current system allows for opting in to donations, where people who volunteer receive a donor card and their names are in the data bank. Critics feel that the opt-out clause is the same as forcing people to donate their organs when they die, even though they don’t want to.  Already an alternative proposal is in the works which would require repetitive questioning about donating organs when at the doctor or renewing their personal ID. The belief is that organ donations should be a conscious option that remains voluntary and not obligatory by the state.

While the debate goes to the Bundestag, the German upper parliament, which will be debated and voted upon soon, the question is whether being an automatic donor after death with the clausal to opt-out would make the best sense in the interest of the German population. Or if it makes sense to leave it the option to donate to the person him/herself. Henceforth, a poll has been created for you to vote upon. Feel free to do so and if you want, comment on this issue.

While the author does see many advantages of being an organ donor (he is one himself, plus there’s a success story on that which you can click here to read.), there are some who don’t want to based on past experiences or even religious beliefs. There are two sides to the story on this topic, just as much as two sides to the story on becoming Americans automatically when a child born to American parents is born abroad. It’s a question of listing the facts on both sides of the aisle and deciding based personal feelings towards this subject. 🙂

 

FF new logo1

TED Talk: The Disarming Case to Act Now on Climate Change by Greta Thunberg

IMGP9348

There have been some talk about the Fridays for the Future Demonstrations and all of the advantages and disadvantages of students walking out of school to demonstrate for climate change. On one side of the spectrum, skipping classes to demonstrate has had a resounding effect on politics and policies of each country, forcing governments to reconsider their laws and heed to the demands of the demonstrators. There are enough examples, big and small, that support this argument, including the top three that I have:

  1. The college demonstrations in the US against the Vietnam War- Starting in 1968, these demonstrations, albeit bloody, resulted in President Lyndon Johnson’s decision not to run for a second term in office. He was replaced by Richard Nixon, who wound down the war efforts by withdrawing troops and contributing to brokering a deal between North and South Vietnam. The war ended when the North Vietnamese troops captured Saigon and the rest of South Vietnam in 1975, hours after the last US troops left.
  2. The Monday Night Demonstrations in East Germany- Starting in September 1989, the demonstrations that started every Monday evening at St. Nicholas Church ended up becoming a nationwide demonstration demanding change to a communist system that was considered broken. The end result was the downfall of Erich Honecker on 19 October and the fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November. In the end, the peaceful protest also marked the beginning of talks for a reunified Germany, which happened on 3 October, 1990, and the domino effect that led to the end of Communism in 1991.
  3. The Parkland Massacre Demonstrations of 2019- After a shooting spree that resulted in the deaths of 17 people at a high school in Florida, a group of high schoolers started a protest to address the use of guns in the US and the lobby group NRA. The end result is a shift in tide from the right to have guns to the right to protect our children, even if it means voting out every single NRA supporter who rejects stricter gun laws.

But by the same token, many teachers and parents, as well as some politicians feel that skipping school to protest climate change is just a waste of time and that time should be spent discussing this in the classroom.

But as you can see in the TED-Talk speech by 16-year old Greta Thunberg, there has been too much talk and too little action. Many turn a blind eye for the sake of popularity and money. Too much  money has been wasted for conferences and speeches. And when the situation becomes unbearable where even the youngest generation walks out to protest the changes in our environment which are slowly becoming irreversible, then the time for talk is over and the time to act is now. The talk looks at the origins of the Friday for the Future demonstrations and how it has evolved since she started the walk-out process at her high school in Sweden.

Watch or listen to this speech and ask yourself what can be done to stop the destructive changes that are taking place to our planet. There are enough things to be done without talking about it.

 

 

FLFIApplelogo