Forest Fires Forces Evacuation of the Region along the River Elbe at the Czech-German Border
DRESDEN, GERMANY/ USTI NAD LABEM, CZECHIA- “A few years ago, we followed the forest fires that were devastating California and Greece. Now they are here and right at our footsteps.” Those were the comments made by Martin Dulig, Assistant to the Prime Minister Michael Kretschmer who governs the German state of Saxony.
Less than one week after the fire at the Basteibrücke in the Saxony Switzerland National Park near Lohmen, as covered by sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, a second, more powerful set of forest fires are wreaking havoc on the Elbe River Valley, flanked with forests extending from Pirna (SE of Dresden) to Teplice in Czechia, forcing residents to flee the region, and drawing in fire crews and even the police from different regions on both sides of the border, with heavy equipment and helicopters to battle the blazes and get people out of the region. A total of more than 1300 hectares of land on both sides of the border have burned, charring much of the rock cliffs that were until now become popular attraction for rock climbers and hikers. The steep cliffs combined with a rugged landscape plus lack of trails have hindered much of the progress. Because of the lack of rain, combined with high winds, it may be a few weeks until the flames are completely extinguished.
The cause of the fire is unknown, though arson has not been ruled out. It started on the Czech side on Sunday in the Bohemian Switzerland National Park. Over the course of two days, fires spread, forcing residents in towns like Vysoka Lipa, Hrensko and Menza to evacuate. The fires then crossed the border into the German state of Saxony on Monday and has since put the Saxony Switzerland National Park as well as the region in the vicinity of Bad Schandau in a dire situation. Smoke from the fires have reached as far as Dresden and Prague causing haze and problems with visibility. Extremely dry weather in connection with an exceptional drought this year has played a role in this blaze and has already been tied together with global warming, which had triggered forest fires in much of Europe. Fires have been frequent in other German states, such as North Rhine-Westphalia, Saxony Anhalt and Brandenburg. At the same time as this blaze there has been another forest fire at the Saxony-Brandenburg border in the Elbe-Elster District.
Already the District of Saxony Switzerland/ East Ore Mountain (OSE) and the District of Usti Nad Labem, where the national parks are located have already created an ordinance banning people from entering a forested area for any reason. For OSE, violators can face fines of between 2,500 to 10,000 Euros ($2,600 to $11,000). Train routes and shipping services along the Elbe in and around the area have been suspended until further notice. People are being advised to avoid the area at any cost and allow for crews to put out the blaze. Furthermore because of the extreme drought, people are advised to refrain from using any type of fire as the dry vegetation can serve as fuel for the fire. Already, cities like Chemnitz, have banned grilling in open spaces and districts in Saxony have odered residents not to draw water from the rivers and lakes for gardening.
After the droughts of 2018-2020 which dried up much of Germany and Europe, 2022 is shaping up to be the drought of the century. And even though this drought is a dwarf compared to the ones in California dn southern Europe, with global warming taking hold, this may be an overture of what is yet to come. And while governments are working on a plan to conserve water and plant greens in areas needed, including cities, it is up to the consumers to do their part in reducing global warmng. Should it not be successful in the coming decade, fires like this will be an annual occurrance, multiplying hundred fold and ten times in intensity.
With Germany being one of the most forested countries, can a person imagine it being the next California like we have over there, right now?
In the past 10 years, we have seen an exponential increase in the number of cars and bicycles on German roads and highways. And with them, we have lawless behavior, whether it was speeding and distracted driving or it was using the rescue lane as a driving lane and hindering crews in the process. There’s also passing in a no passing zone and disregarding the handicapped and those with E-cars in parking areas. We must also not forget the profanity and lewd language from the drivers onto the police officers and/or other drivers, which has caused a lot of stress on both sides.
Since 9 November 2021, if one does one of more of the above-mentioned examples, it will cost the person dearly. The new traffic laws catalogue (Bußgeldkatalog) is now in place and if one violates the traffic laws, one has to dig much deeper to pay up. In addition to that, it will be much easier to get a point or two from the German Department of Vehicle Registration (BKA) in Flensburg for each violation and the chances of getting a ban from driving is greater. Basically, the new catalogue will cause extensive pain to the driver while at the same time, provide painful lessons for the ages with the goal of bringing driving behavior back to levels where people should drive professionally and be courteous to others.
Some examples of what the new catalogue introduces for measures for driver violations include the following:
For the most part, the fines have doubled for those who are caught speeding. For example, if you drive 10 km/h or less in town, instead of 20 Euros, the fine is 40 Euros. Between 11 and 15km/h, it’s 60 Euros and one can get a point from 16 km/h onwards. Two points are received if a person goes 26 km/h or more too fast and have to pay 235 Euros or more. In the countryside, it’s 30 Euros for up to 10, 50 Euros for 11-15 km/h and 70 Euros for speeds up to 20 km/h. One point rule remains in effect for speeds between 21 and 30 km/h too fast but a 1-month driving ban is enforced if a driver goes 26 km/h or more too fast. Fines for speeding can go as high as 800 Euros, up 120 Euros from the maximum fine in the old catalogue
The sharpest increase in fines happen to be for parking violations. Instead of 15 Euros for parking in a no parking zone, the fine for this violation is now 110 Euros. One has to remember: Red ring with one slash means a three-minute stopping period but a red ring with the X means absolutely no parking or stopping. For parking in a handicapped zone as well as a reserved spaces for E-cars and car-sharing, the fine for such violations is 55 Euros, up 20 from the last catalogue.
Regardless of how many seconds you go through the red light and which vehicle, going through the red light has become a costly factor for not only costs but also the driving bans have gone up. For the time span of up to one second the fine is 90 Euros and 1 point. When even having a close call with other drivers, one can face fines of more than 200 Euros, receive two points and be banned from driving for 1 month. If the red light was for longer than a second, the driver could face a one month ban and 200 Euros even if he/she didn’t cause an accident or force cars to stop to avoid one. For cyclists who commited the red light violation, regardless of how many seconds, the fine has nearly doubled to 100 Euros and 1 point. Previously, it had been 60 Euros and a point.
While driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs has considerably one of the stiffest penalties, which includes the loss of license and possible jail time, the use of profanity and insulting police officers and other passers-by definitely can be considered a crime and can cost a person dearly both in the pocket books as well as in court. The least expensive penalty is 150 Euros for sticking out the tongue. However, the use of certain degrading words can range from 200 Euros for calling someone a “Girl” (Du Mädchen), to 1500 Euros for calling someone an “Idiot.” Call someone an “A**hole”, it’s 1600 Euros. If you consider a police officer an “Old sow” (Altes Sow), you can face a penalty of 2500 Euros. Even hand gestures can cost a person in the thousands. The classic index finger to the forehead (der Vogel) can cost you 750 Euros. The hand-windschield-wider across the forehead (Scheibenwischer-Geste) can lead to a 1000 Euro fine. The middle finger is the costliest of penalties. You flip the bird, you can expect a fine of 4000 Euros! Furthermore, a date with the judge and possible jail time for one year can be in store. Because of the increase in insults and assaults on police officers within the past five years, such penalties are necessary and serve as notice to drivers to behave themselves in a professional manner. As one person mentioned: Money is the most painful punishment you can impose.
More on the Penalties involving Profanity, Vulgar Language and Illegal Gestures can be found here:
New, stiffer penalties also include 320 Euros fine, one month driving ban and 2 points from Flensburg for driving in and/or blocking the rescue lanes during an accident. One can get a point and a fine between 60 and 120 Euros for driving with the wrong set of tires. And for cyclists and E-scooters, using the sidewalk and pedestrian paths and getting caught means at least 55 Euros. Distracted driving, which includes texting/phoning while driving is one of a few that have remained the same. Those caught can receive 1 point and a fine of at least 100 Euros.
While the stiffer penalties are designed to rein in driver misbehavior on German roads, there has been criticism to the plan, which includes not introducing the speed limit on German motorways. Germany is the only EU-country that has no such limit, while other countries have that in force, mostly between 120 and 140 km/h. In America, speed limits on Interstate highways are between 70 mph and 85 mph. Some experts fear that the penalties are not dependent on the income of those affected and stiff penalties could ruin one’s finances for those with lower incomes, and be treated as a tip by the “super rich.” Nevertheless, the police unions have welcomed the new plan which clarifies how to penalize someone for exact violations. Especially for verbal and gestural behaviors are being stressed because of the treatment of police officers by those violating the rules. While policing is a hard job, it makes it harder when someone ignores the other persons and endangers them.
If there is a slogan for the new penal catalogue that is now in place, it is this: “Behave Yourself or Lose Your Car, Your Money and even Your Freedom.” After years of “me and me too,” it’s time to look after the other person and simply be nice. That is the plea from all parties involved from patrolmen to politicians, to the common people.
How can a professional soccer team go from being in the top 20 of the richest in the world to the one that is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy- all within one year’s time? This is the question that the soccer team Schalke 04 is trying to answer. Yet with each answer comes more questions, some of which include the roles of Covid-19, management, the main sponsor GasProm, the hangover after many seasons playing in the UEFA Champions League and lastly, the decline in the number of fans.
All of this came to a head on Tuesday, as the team lost to Arminia Bielefeld 1-0, thus securing their first exit out of the top tier of the German soccer Bundesliga for the first time in three decades. Thanks to FC Cologne’s 2-1 upset of RB Leipzig that same evening, Schalke, with only 13 points in the standings, will spend the remaining four games of the 2020-21 season in last place. This was enough for fans to attack the players after the game, but that was just the tip of the iceberg.
The team, located in Gelsenkirchen, accross the River Rhine from Cologne, will definitely be in the top ten of the worst teams in the history of German professional soccer. It will definitely not top Tasmania Berlin, whose disasterous 1965/66 season and the all-time records are well out of reach (see the bottom ten compiled by NDR here), but it is right in range to overtake Wuppertal SV for its poorest showing in 1974/75 on all accounts, which would make them the second worst team in a season on record! . Given their performance this season, that is almost a sure lock.
What will be interesting is the future of Schalke 04 once this season is over. They will have half the revenue for the second league, yet their finances as a whole, especially in light of Covid-19 combined with substantial debt, could make them vulnerable to bankruptcy, which could ultimatively doom them from professional play. And the trend is not on their side, when looking at the Bottom 10 teams and their records, plus the current trends. The average amount of time needed to return to the top tier has been five years if the finances and sponsors are available, and the team can recover. Others, like Dynamo Dresden, TeBe Berlin and even though it has avoided any of these records, Hamburger SV, have yet to return to premier play. There is the danger that if Schalke goes into receivership, it could end up reorganizing and starting from the very bottom of the German soccer chain or in the case of VfL Leipzig, dissolve and reincarnate as other teams. Should this happen, then the soccer team with its 117-year tradition would be the oldest to fall from grace and into Dante’s inferno, this shaking the soccer world beyond Germany’s borders.
Schalke 04’s fall from grace should force the soccer federation DFB and all its members in the top 3 leagues, plus the women’s division to take stock in their liquidity, their players and staff and lastly the fans and consider reforming the system from the bottom up to ensure that what Schalke 04 is facing will not be repeated by the other teams. How this is done should be discussed once the last second of the last game of the season is ticked. With German soccer on the decline, even when looking at the German national team under Joachim Löw, reforms are well past due to ensure that soccer remains part of the country’s culture.
Merkel and the state ministers agree to measures after a 15-hour, emotionally charged conference.
Five-day complete shutdown over Easter planned
BERLIN- Fifteen hours, highly charged emotions from multiple sides, multiple long breaks and what Bavarian minister Markus Söder calls a hard, difficult birth. Businesses, especially in the hotel and restaurant sector bank on hope for customers over Easter. Parents hope that their children will soon go to school. Families hope to travel to see relatives and friends. Sadly, the Corona Virus does not pause on the holidays and especially the British mutated version 1.1.17 is infecting the younger population at a rate that is twice as fast as the original virus on the elderly.
Therefore, the toughest measures to combat the virus yet is going into effect. Aside from the fact that Germany has extended its lockdown to April 18, guidelines at Easter will turn Germany into a ghost town, with empty highways and streets and market squares being occupied by doves and pigeons instead of people and produce stands. There will be a mandatory five-day shutdown of all elements of life in the country. From April 1 to April 5, all businesses will be forced to shut down operations. Restaurants with outdoor dining will be closed during that time. Even in the supermarkets and gas stations they will be allowed to open only on Easter Saturday. The rest of the time they will stay shut. Gatherings at public places will be banned. And family gatherings are reduced to households with a maximum of five persons, minus children aged 14 years and younger. Churches will be asked to hold virtual Easter Sunday services.
And despite pleas from the northern states (Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Pommerania and Lower Saxony) to allow for overnight stays for guests travelling inland, all hotels and restaurants will remain closed to tourists during Easter and through April 18th. Travelling will be considered unwelcomed and those traveling in foreign countries will be forced to go into quarantine for 10 days for areas not high risk and 14 days for areas that are high risks. This is in response to the sharp increase of travelers going to Mallorca in the past week.
These guidelines are the toughest ones that have been put into force since the start of the Corona pandemic in March of last year. But it sends a clear message to the population that the virus is a serious issue and one that must be paided attention to, closely. In the past month, there have been numerous protests in almost every city with more than 10,000 inhabitants throughout the country, demanding that the Corona lockdown be lifted, businesses be reopened, children be sent to schools and there is a return to normalcy. This included the latest protests in Kassel, Berlin and Dresden involving tens of thousands of demonstrators, many of them not wearing masks and disobeying Corona guidelines.
There has been pressure on the German government in Berlin and especially Chancellor Angela Merkel and the state ministers from not only within the political party of the Grand Coalition of the CDU/CSU and the Social Democrats, but also from the Greens, AfD, the Leftist Party Linke, and especially the FDP and its chairperson Christian Lindner, who recently challenged Merkel to make a pledge to have the majority of the population innoculated before the summer break, using US President Joe Biden’s campaign to have most of the Americans vaccinated before the July 4th celebrations. Yet with the delay in having tests available for use and the delay in vaccinations, frustrations are brewing and there have even been calls for Germany to deviate from the course of the European Union and go it alone, like it is being done in Hungary.
Still, with the seven-day incidence rate skyrocking on a daily basis, together with the number of new infections, and the sharp decrease in the number of intensive beds available, the measures are necessary to break the third wave, something Germany is right in the middle of. The current incidence rate is 108.7 per 100,000, up from 83 a week ago and from 60, two and a half weeks ago when the government introduced the limited openings on March 3rd which included the Click and Meet strategy, where shopping was allowed with an appointment and the emergency brake was applied if the incident rate is over 100 in a seven-day timespan. The number of new infections have increased by 35% in the past week, ranking Germany in the top five together with France, Brazil and India. Similar percentage rates can be found in the number of intensive station beds in hospitals nationwide. And with these new measures, it is hoped that the general population will come to their senses and understand the severity of the new Corona variant that is effectively wreaking havoc on the younger populations, including school children. Furthermore it should serve as an incentive to save traveling until the summer, where it is hoped that the rates will decrease to a point where restrictions are eased up, while at the same time, half the population will have received at least their first Covid-19 shot.
Still, this will not be the last total shutdown due to the Corona pandemic. Researchers have revealed that there are hundreds of new Corona variants discovered, several of which are capable of adapting to the immune system including those who are vaccinated against the virus itself. Already known are the British, South African and Brazilian variants, but there are several more that will be more dangerous than the one Germany and the rest of Europe are fighting at present. It is highly expected that Covid-19 will be part of normal life and with that, we will have to introduce long-term solutions to the pandemic. There will never be a return to the pre-Corona normalcy like many are wishing for, but there will be more of these pandemic restrictions, such as limited crowds at markets as well as sports and cultural events, click and meet concepts for shopping, daily virus testing and total shutdowns. It’s a question of how this can and will be integrated into the societal landscape.
And this will lie in the responsibility of the next governmental coalition in Berlin once Angela Merkel retires from politics after the September 22nd elections. And that in itself will feature new faces with new ideas on how to get the country running in a new corona society.
Eight o’clock Newsman leaves German Public TV Station after 35 years anchoring for Tagesschau.
BERLIN/ HAMBURG- He had many nicknames. He was the King of the 8:00pm News. The Man with many ties, one different one each Tagesschau episode. He was a professional- honest, calming and thorough. He made sure everyone got the information that was expected, which was truthful, monologue and not much emotion. Last night, the King of the Nightly News Hour made his last bow and the timing could not have been any more perfect:
Jan Hofer was known as Mr. Tagesschau, having been at the helm every evening at 8:00pm on German Public TV station ARD (and its affiliates) since 1985. And despite the changes age and appearance over the years, there was one legacy that remained the same throughout his term. That was his informative and professional character.
Hofer has been in the broadcasting business for half a century. Born in Büderich (NRW), he grew up in Wesel and studied business economics in Cologne before entering the TV and radio broadcasting business after graduation. Before being the voice of the 8:00pm news in 1985, Hofer had worked in many TV and radio stations. He became managing editor of Tagesschau in 2004, the post which will now become the care of fellow colleague Jens Riewa, in addition to the coming of two more anchors come 2021, Julia-Niharika Sen and Constantin Schreiber to support the 8:00 news team that features Riewa, Susanne Daubner, Judith Rakers, Torsten Schröder and Linda Zervakis.
Hofer had also done the news for Tagesthemen, a late night news show, and whose last night on the air was December 14 with host Caren Miosga.
The departure of Hofer from Tagesschau comes as symbolic, given the fact that it on this day 30 years ago that the last broadcast of Aktuelle Kamera took place:
It was the former TV newscast of the German Democratic Republic. from 1952 until 1990 and like Tagesschau, AK presented its news with a key figure, Angelika Unterlauf who was known as the Face of the GDR. Its broadcast was objective but had a socialist-leaning taste.
Jan Hofer for ARD is for the three evening news anchors that dominated the American news scene: Tom Brokaw for NBC, Dan Rather for CBS and Peter Jennings for ABC. He was the face of German broadcasting and one who got to every story and addressed it to the public in a way that they understood it and talked about it. For people who (have) learned German, its language and culture, his name has come up many times and his simplicity made watching the news for people learning German easy. Hofer had what the three anchors in America had during their broadcasting days, which was integrity, honesty and objectivity, which made watching Tagesschau a must.
And with that, the tie comes off for the last time. Machen Sie gut! (Take care!). And to Mr. Hofer, a million thanks for your years of contributing to the 8:00 news. You and your many colorful ties will be missed. Take care and happy trails to you and your family! 🙂
This Photo Flick takes us to Flensburg and to the Museumsberg. We were at the museum complex a couple weeks ago, where one of the main exhibits that took place was the topic of Borders- in connection with the German-Danish border of 1920. And while the 100th anniversary series will appear in the Files later on this fall, I couldn’t help but look at the children’s art exhibits that dealt with borders- not just between Germany and Denmark, but also borders based on race, ethnicity, religion, social and economic backgrounds and even personalities. Borders don’t have to include the destruction of crossings and the like, as what happened to Germany at the end of World War II and during the Cold War period that followed and divided Germany up for 45 years, as we saw in the article on the Dömitz Railroad Bridge over the Elbe. Yet borders have include two classes of people and how they should be treated accordingly.
This painting, found at Museumsberg shows the problem of borders when one minority is degraded to second or third class in favor of the superior white race. It shows the mistreatment of a black person as he is violently submitted by police. This was done in connection with the current protests in the US, where Black Lives Matter has been at the absolute forefront, especially in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25th. While racism has been systemic and systematic in the United States since the end of Civil War in 1865, it is only now that everything is at the forefront and the quest for equality has not been stressed as much as it is right now. The question is whether the US government will act to restore equality. That will have to wait until November 3rd, yet even if that happens, we may have another Civil War on our hands, given the sharp divisions the US has, going beyond the political and racial aspects.
This painting was one of many that were done by elementary school students of German and Danish backgrounds in Flensburg and neighboring Harrislee, as the schools came together to exhibit their paintings, most of which dealt with current events affecting Germany, Europe, the USA and the rest of the world. They included issues, such as racism, democracy, Trump and of course, the topic of borders- all done in German, English and Danish. They were an eye-opener to the tourists, especially those, like yours truly, who have worked with this topic in the classroom and in this column. It’s good that children get exposed to current events so they can understand the world and interpret the situation from their perspectives. By watching the news every day, listening to stories from their parents and other elders and even talking about critical topics, children will get an insight into the problems affecting us and can tackle them- developing them to their liking and to benefit others.
ACTIVITY: IN MY WORLD,……
One of the activities that should be taught in the classroom is to have children and students create a painting/drawing and/or write a story about how the world should look like from their perspectives. Starting with the sentence “In my world,…..” allow your children/students to create a world to their liking, to be presented in front of class. They should explain how the world should be created, what is allowed or banned and how people should treat their world.
An example of how a world should be created can be something like this:
In my world, we would have a green environment. All buildings must be operated with renewable energy (solar, wind, etc.) and have greens on roofs. There would be only e-cars and lots of forests and lakes. Only people who are environmentally conscious would live there, etc.
This can be used in not only Ethics and Social Studies, but also in foreign language class or any classes where civics is taught. By allowing the student to be created, you will be amazed to see what a world should look like from the eyes of the one who presents it and it would create an interesting conversation in the classroom and eventually at the dinner table if the child presents his/her own world. Who knows, if your school has a wide array of topics in conjunction with this, you could have a display like the one in Flensburg.
But even if not, similar activities like the activity or in this Photo Flick will enhance the child’s creativity and expose them to the environment and society that will get them to think, using the following important question: “What can I do better to help myself and others around me?
By answering that question and finding solutions that help, we will be on our way to making things happen, while at the same time, eliminate the barriers that keep us from achieving these goals.
This is something that I hope to see happen with our problems of racism and borders between two people of different backgrounds. We have seen this go on for almost two centuries and given the multitude of problems we have, this is one where we must work to eliminate as they will need us as much as we need them and their knowledge for support.
Being an American and having lived in Germany for over two decades now, I’ve been amazed at the differences that the US and Germany have had and that the gap between the two countries has widened- to the benefit of the Germans.
However, in light of the upcoming US Elections, and all the dirty laundry that has come about from both sides of the line, there is one thing that Germans love doing, which is talking politics- especially trying to understand why Trump is “loved” by so many when all he is about is being a conman.
If there’s a word of advice to give to all German journalists, I can only give you this: Don’t try to understand him. Don’t try to ask why. Don’t use the topic of Trump for your talk shows and lastly (but most importantly):
Don’t argue with a MAGA.
MAGA stands for Make America Great Again, the slogan that was used in Trump’s successful 2016 Presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton, and it’s being reused again in this campaign, as the Republicans- going without a campaign platform- are trying to keep Trump in his post at the expense of Joe Biden, despite his overall disapproval of over 65% of Americans both in the States and abroad.
The words MAGA and (the German) Macke are similar in pronunciation, yet when looking at a typical person wearing a MAGA hat and behaving like one, one can say that the definition of the two words are the same. “Eine Macke haben” means that the person is insane and has “fallen off his rocker.” He’s illogical, has a short fuse and carries out actions without thinking of the consequences.
The term MAGA is coined as a person who supports President Trump in all aspects. Aside from wearing MAGA apparel, as seen in the picture above, MAGAs are people who are less educated, less exposed to people of different color or background and less aware of the events that are affecting them, such as global warming and our current problem with CoVid-19. These people are not willing to accept change and would rather see the USA go on its own in terms of international policies and commitments. They follow alternative news sources instead of the Big Five as they provide stories that fit their thinking while the big five produces “fake news” The less exposure and education, the more ignorant. And the more ignorant, the more likely they will follow Trump despite his numerous shortcomings:
The most alarming signs that you are entangled with a MAGA is when they say the most absurd comments, including discrediting stories that are happening that harm the image of Trump. Here’s a sample of such bogus remarks:
These are people who really “have a Macke” when it comes to having Trump in power. Evangelicals even perceive Trump as the Lord Himself, even though he has yet to prove that he can walk on water.
And believe me, no one can do that except Jesus. 😉
Going back to the discussion of MAGAs:
One of the key flaws of a MAGA is when they close their eyes to reality and ignore the criticism that is being made by the outside. They counter with claims that it’s not true (and in many cases, ferociously). They can sometimes be violent. With that, they can either retaliate to a comment said by a critic of Trump or they pick a fight with someone who is either a foreigner, dark-skinned, anti-Trump or a combination of the three. When asked about what they see in Trump or the problems he has created, they try to waffle around the question and not answer it- or they answer the question but without critical thinking. Sometimes they point fingers at others just to save themselves.
And this takes us to this documentary released by German public TV station WDR on August 24th. Hart aber Fair (Hard but Fair) is a talkshow that looks at politics from all angles, both in Germany as well as outside the country, with some themes dealing with the US. Created in 2001, Frank Plasberg has been hosting the show and is known for some of his hardest questions on his toughest clientel. His most recent talkshow looks at the US at the crossroads because of the elections that take place on November 3rd. Some of the points brought up in this 75-minute show included the following:
The State of the US during Trump’s four years in the Oval Office
The Problems with Racism in the USA
How the US has handled Covid-19 to date
The Relation between the US and Germany (let alone Europe)
Talks of Manipulating the Elections in 2020
What would happen if Trump was reelected
Would Trump leave quietly if he loses the Elections
The Direction of the US after the Elections, no matter who wins
The guests of the show were diverse, from journalists and political scientists to a stand-up comedian whose new German word “Arschlochigkeit” will surely appear in the Duden Dictionary in the next edition.
Plasberg’s biggest mistake was inviting a MAGA to speak at his talkshow. George Weinberg chairs the Republicans Overseas group, based in Germany. Over nine million Republican Americans live overseas with a small fraction living in Germany. Weinberg matches the typical characteristics of a MAGA:
A white man of 60+ years
A staunch supporter of Trump- and it showed during the whole talk show
Very aggressive in terms of his body language and reactions to the criticism
Evasive to the questions and “gun-happy” regarding deferring blame onto others
And the cherry on the cake was his swipe at Plasberg by telling him not to compare Trump to Adolf Hitler when only 63 million Americans voted for him. That comment in itself had absolutely no relevance and it was a slap in Germany’s face because of its past.
The show was very intense and could best be compared to a standoff between police and rioters where one small action could result in a bloodbath- similar to the nationwide loot and burn protests in connection with George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in May. It was one where even the typical American expat voter was close to going through the TV to get at one person or another. That part I will leave as that.
George Weinberg’s reactions during the show is typical of a MAGA. A person who is closed-minded, ignorant, hostile, evasive and one who would stand behind Trump no matter what happens. Seeing the pictures of events and encountering the questions by Plasberg caused his blood pressure to skyrocket without having to think about these themes clear and thoroughly. Yet these are the behaviors that we have been seeing in social media already. Whenever a person posts something critical of Trump or contains scenes in connection with the dire states of the US, at one point or another, a MAGA in the network or a social group attacks it with rage, bashing the person who posted it to begin with. The events spiral out of control with mudslinging and insults, culminating into a person being blocked or worse, attacked in person. In some cases, a MAGA could ask the person to cease and desist on the posting.
Still, threats should not influence you from stating your opinion on such matters. You do have the right to ignore them and tell the person to lay off. I learned of one trick I did to someone who was bashing my posts: “It’s my right to post because it’s my freedom of speech. If you don’t like what you see, either ignore it or leave.” After a couple times, the word got around and those who have been critical have left me be.
And this should apply to dealing with MAGAs. While there may be some people who are tired of Trump’s tirade and would rather see Joe Biden run the country after making the mistake of voting for Trump in 2016 (and I forgive you if you learned your lesson), the majority of MAGAs, both in the USA and abroad are sticking to their poison in 2020 because they believe he is the choice for them. These people are potentially dangerous when talking politics with them and will stop at nothing to ensure they have it their way with Trump. If having MAGAs instill violence during peaceful protests in large cities in the US and having an armed militia storm a state governmental building to force lifting the Corona lockdown is not enough, obviously you haven’t followed the news coverage of CBS, CNN, NBC, ABC and Fox- the big five networks- lately.
And with that, a word of advice to Plasberg, as well as the likes of Susan Link, Anne Will, and all the talkshow hosts of the ARD and ZDF family as well as private channels, like RTL, ProSieben/Sat 1, Vox and all: If you want to talk American politics and specifically Trump, do the world a big favor and do NOT invite a MAGA to your next show. As we saw in the Hart aber Fair show, reasoning with a MAGA and stirring up anger among the guests and the audience is a waste of time and energy- something that can be used for other themes that are constructive and useful to everyone. I’ve stopped talking politics with my father (who is also a MAGA and I’m a Democrat) a long time ago because there was no middle ground on any of the themes. We’ve gotten along well ever since. By not inviting a MAGA and discussing politics with them, you will see that the person’s illogical advice is not welcomed and perhaps, just maybe that person will think about these themes carefully and alone. We can move on without a MAGA and perhaps after Biden wins, the MAGA movement will eventually die off. Who knows, maybe we can have a more constructive conversation at the dinner table someday.
As the Corona-shortened season in Germany comes to end, here are some interesting highlights you will be seeing in the coming weeks this month. We’ll start with the rebirth of one of the more traditional soccer teams in Germany, the VfB Lübeck
LÜBECK- Established in 1919, the 100 year old soccer team once had a tradition of national football, competing in the first and second tiers of the German Soccer Bundesliga through the 1970s. The last time the soccer team competed in the Second League was in 2005. It faced two bankruptcies, one of which (in 2014) sent them to the fifth-class Schleswig-Holstein League. Now, after five years of climbing, the soccer team of VfB Lübeck has returned to the national stage in men’s soccer. The team of green and white won the Regional League North title in a Corona-shortened 2019/20 season, beating out the 2nd Team of VfL Wolfsburg and State Rival Weiche Flensburg 08 to finish with a record of 20 wins, four losses and one tie, with 61 points and outscoring opponents 64-24. Because there was no relegation game between them and the winner of another division of the Regional League, it has advanced outright.
Lübeck is the second team from Schleswig-Holstein to compete on the national stage alongside Holstein Kiel in the Second League. This leaves us with Weiche Flensburg and VfL Oldenburg that are waiting in line to enter the stage. While Flensburg has established an international reputation in handball through SG Flensburg-Handewitt, the soccer team has come close to making it to the national level, having lost to Energie Cottbus in the relegation round in 2018. Still, the team has a clear shot chance to finally making it when the 20/21 season starts in August.
Many of you have probably heard about Rick Steves and his European travels at one time or another. If not, he has been doing documentaries and tour guides on European Travel for over 30 years. Like the rest of us, Rick Steves was also grounded by the Corona Virus as it has shut down air travel between the US and Europe. Henceforth he is spending his first summer vacation in 30 years- at home. I have a pair of articles for you to read about his experiences and how Covid-19 will impact the way we travel in the future. In the link above is an interview done by the New York Times. In the article below by the Washington Post is the future of travel from his perspective. Both are something we need to take into consideration once the vaccination is developed and the virus disappears.
Proposal would ban events with more than 1000 visitors through 31 October with a possibility of extension through the end of the year.
BERLIN- First the cancellation of the Oktoberfest, then the Rock am Ring and Wacken being called off, then the Geisterspiele in the German Soccer Bundesliga. Up to now, it has been the norm to ban large-scale events which bring in at least 1000 visitors and generate tens of thousands of Euros in revenue for businesses. For the norm in Germany, it has been social distancing and small-scale gatherings of up to ten people; 50 in some places. And this despite efforts to reopen businesses and reduce restrictions for people in public.
Yet with the new proposals to be presented to Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Ministers of 16 German states, it is safe to say that even the German Christmas markets are not safe from the axe, let alone the New Year’s Eve celebrations in cities like Berlin. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel and the English-speaking news agency The Local, a draft is being presented, which calls for large-scale events to be cancelled through 31 October, with the possibility of extending the ban to the end of this year. If approved on both counts, it will mark the first time since the end of World War II that Germany experienced a total wipe-out of all large-scale events with more than 1000 people. The ban is aimed at slowing the spread of CoVid 19. Exceptions for some events are possible if event organizers can come up with a hygiene concept that are in compliance with regulations and that contact tracing is guaranteed.
Currently, Germany has 188,910 confirmed cases of Corona Viruses, with the numbers stagnating with an average of 300 new cases daily. 8900 deaths have been reported. The government yesterday introduced the Corona Tracing app, designed to track the Corona hotspots while traveling through Germany. And travel restrictions have been lifted to only inner-European travel. Travelers going to and from non-European countries, such as Russia, the US or China, are facing a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival into Germany. Sadly, fears of a second wave are rising as the number of Corona cases in places, like the USA, many parts of Central and South America (especially Brazil) and China are increasing sharply with China reintroducing lockdowns in Peking and other cities. If and when the second wave is expected to hit Europe remains open. There is hope that medication to treat Corona may be available by the end of the year at the earliest, as clinical tests are being done in some places, like Great Britain and Germany.
Despite the lifting of lockdown restrictions, with the possible second wave coming and the high risks involving mass people visiting festivals, concerts and markets, the government is not taking any chances, which is having an enormous impact on businesses, organizers and planners alike. One case to look at are the event organizers, especially for rock concerts and the like. A guest article can be found here.
For now, stay healthy, stay safe and have a plan B if the event you plan to visit is called off- especially the Christmas markets.