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Germany Education

The new university year is about to begin in Germany, and with it, university towns are flooded with anxious students hunting for affordable housing. In some cities, that can be a veritable nightmare.
www.dw.com | 9/26/16

Films from the American Film Institute, USC, the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University were the gold-medal winners at the Student Academy Awards, which were handed out on Thursday night at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The 17 winning films were revealed in August, but the Academy does not announce whether each film has won the gold, silver or bronze medal until the awards ceremony, which caps a week-long series of industry events for the student filmmakers.

David Henry Gerson won the gold medal in the alternative category for “All These Voices,” a short about an SS officer encountering an acting troupe, which he made at AFI. Silver and bronze awards went to Yvonne Ng for “Cloud Kumo” and Johnny Coffeen for “The Swan Girl,” respectively.

Also Read: Academy Targets 12 Different Areas for Sci-Tech Oscars

Alicja Jacina from USC won the animation gold for “Once Upon a Line” — which, as the title suggests, consists of simple line drawings. Echo Wu won the animation silver for “The Wishgranter,” while Carter Boyce took bronze for “Die Flucht.”

The narrative gold medal went to “Nocturne in Black,” a film about a musician in a Middle Eastern conflict zone by Jimmy Keyrouz from Columbia University. “Art is a mighty tool that helps us fight extremism and terrorism,” said Keyroux in his acceptance speech. Silver and bronze in the category went to two films from Chapman University, Brian Robau’s “It’s Just a Gun” and Brenna Malloy’s “Rocket.”

In the documentary category, the top prize was won by Berkeley student Daphne Matziaraki for a film about refugees in the Mediterranean, “4.1 Miles.” Rongfei Guo won silver for “Fairy Tales” and Elise Conklin won bronze for “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City.”

Also Read: The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure - TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner

Gold medals in the foreign-film categories went to the University of Television and Film Munich (Alex Schaad’s “Invention of Trust”), the Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Ahmad Saleh’s “Ayny”) and Tel Aviv University (Maya Sarfaty’s “The Most Beautiful Woman”).

The 17 winners consisted of nine women and eight men and made up a distinctly international group: Many of the students from U.S. film schools came from other countries.

Joel Edgerton, Lucy Liu, Daisy Ridley and Parker Sawyers served as presenters at the ceremony. Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs began the program by pointing out that a record 385 Academy members served as judges for the competition, while Student Academy Awards Chairman Gregg Helvey, a past winner himself, said that the Academy received a record 1,749 entries from 381 different film schools.

Winners received cash awards of $5,000 for gold, $3,000 for silver and $2,000 for bronze. In addition, all winners qualified for the 2016 Academy Award in either the live-action short, animated short or documentary short category.

In recent years, a number of Student Oscar winners have gone on to receive Oscar nominations, including Luke Matheny’s “God of Love” and Tanel Toom’s “The Confession” in 2010, Max Zahle’s “Raju” in 2011, Talkhon Hamzavi’s “Parvaneh” in 2013 and Patrick Vollrath’s “Everything Will Be Okay” last year.

Also Read: 'Slingshot,' 'Maman(s)' and 'Thunder Road' Take Prizes at TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Film Festival

Past Student Academy Award winners include Spike Lee, John Lasseter, Pete Docter, Robert Zemeckis, Trey Parker and Bob Saget.

For the first time, the foreign area also included separate awards for foreign animated and documentary films, with only gold medals handed out in those two categories.

The winners and medal placement:

Alternative
Gold: “All These Voices,” David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
Silver: “Cloud Kumo,” Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
Bronze: “The Swan Girl,” Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

Animation
Gold: “Once Upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC
Silver: “The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design
Bronze: “Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University

Documentary
Gold: “4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
Silver: “Fairy Tales,” Rongfei Guo, New York University
Bronze: “From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

Narrative
Gold: “Nocturne in Black,” Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
Silver: “It’s Just a Gun,” Brian Robau, Chapman University
Bronze: “Rocket,” Brenna Malloy, Chapman University

Foreign Narrative
Gold: “Invention of Trust,” Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
Silver: “Where the Woods End,” Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)
Bronze: “Tenants,” Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)

Foreign Animation
Gold: “Ayny,” Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

Foreign Documentary
Gold: “The Most Beautiful Woman,” Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Related stories from TheWrap:

The Inspiring Story of Maimouna Doucoure – TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Jury Winner

'Slingshot,' 'Maman(s)' and 'Thunder Road' Take Prizes at TheWrap's ShortList 2016 Film Festival

ShortList 2016: Film Insiders See 'Appetite for Experimentation' in Shorts (Video)

www.thewrap.com | 9/23/16
A sexual abuse scandal in the central state of Hesse has rocked Germany. Recent details emerging suggest there may be many more victims involved.
www.dw.com | 9/22/16

Harvard Professor Karl Deutsch, the late nestor of political science, described world history as the "history of side effects". Political actions, according to his theory, always have side effects which go out of control and constitute new history.

The history of the Internet is full of side effects. But this time, we could have special unproductive side effects. A failure of the IANA transition could trigger a process towards a re-nationalization of the borderless cyberspace and Ted Cruz would go into the Internet history books as the "Father of the Internet Fragmentation".

The IANA History

The battle around the IANA transition meanwhile has a history of its own going back more than 30 years. IANA emerged as a one-man-institution of Jon Postel in the 1980s. IANA was never the "controller" of the Internet. It was an "enabler". The IANA database is just like a "phone book" which enables users to find addresses. Postel operated IANA with the help of one assistant under a contract of his Information Science Institute (ISI) at the University of Southern California (USC) with DARPA, the advanced research agency of the US Department of Defense. Under this contract the US government authorized the publication of zone files for top level domains in the Internet root server system. This contract expired in 1997 and was extended until 2000.

In the early 1990s, after the invention of the world wide web, it became clear that the six gTLDs (.com, .net, .org, .gov, .edu and .mil), which were established in the 1980s, would not be enough. In the middle of the 1990s Postel had its own ideas how to extend the gTLD namespace. He flirted with the ITU and WIPO, two intergovernmental organizations of the UN system, to launch additional seven new gTLDs via an Interim Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC).

The Clinton administration was not amused; saw the risk of a fragmentation of the Internet and proposed an alternative route. A private non-for profit corporation with an international board, incorporated under Californian law was seen as the better alternative. In this model the decision making power would remain in the hands of the non-governmental provider and users of Internet servicers from the private sector, the technical community and the civil society. Governments were put into a "Governmental Advisory Committee" (GAC). ICANN was established in 1998.

This model — today known as the multistakeholder model — was a political innovation. The plan to give the management of a critical global virtual resource in the hands of qualified non-governmental stakeholders, rocked the traditional mechanisms of international relations. But not everybody was excited. Skeptical voices raised issues of legitimacy and accountability for the new ICANN. And many governments were not happy with the "advisory role" in the GAC.

Indeed, when ICANN was established, it was unclear whether this innovation would work. To reduce the risk of a failure, the US government entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the new ICANN which included the duty for ICANN to report on a regular basis to the National Telecommunication and Information Administration (NTIA) of the US Department of Commerce. Furthermore, the US government transferred the contract with the USC, into a contract with ICANN to continue its stewardship role with regard to the IANA service.

ICANN was still untested. The original plan was to give ICANN full independence after two years. But even in the high speed Internet world, this was an unrealistic plan. To establish a multistakeholder mechanism is an extreme complex challenge. ICANN made progress from its very first day. But it was progress based on trial and error. And it took much more time than expected. Bill Clinton did describe the whole process in a speech in San Francisco in 2010 as "stumbling forward".

Insofar it was not a surprise that the contractual relationship between ICANN and the US government was extended with a view that this relationship can terminate as soon as ICANN is mature enough to produce the expected sustainable outcomes, to guarantee stability of the Internet and enhance competition in the domain name market without governmental oversight.

The WSIS Battle

But as mentioned above, a substantial number of governments would have preferred an intergovernmental oversight for ICANN. In January 1999, during the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, ITU Secretary General Pekka Tarjane from Finland attacked Bill Clinton's Internet Adviser Ira Magaziner by arguing that the US approach is insincere. While the US government rejects a role for governments, it keeps its own role via special contracts. Magaziner replied that the role of the US government is not really oversight, it is more stewardship. And he added that the mid-term plan is to terminate this role as soon as ICANN is a stable organization which can stand on its own feet.

However, in 2002, when the United Nations started its World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), more and more governments were pushing for an intergovernmental Internet Council. The WSIS became the space where the pro and con of ICANN oversight and the IANA contract was discussed in bitter battles.

One group wanted to have intergovernmental oversight for ICANN issues, at least "on the level of principle". They argued, based on the principle of sovereign equality of states, laid down in the UN Charter, that each government should have the same rights. If the US government has the right (from the IANA contract) to authorize the publication of zone files of TLDs in the root, then all governments should be equally involved.

The other group used Vint Cerf's argument: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it". They warned that if the management of technical resources becomes the subject of political battles, Internet development will lose its dynamism. The Internet development is based on open, transparent and bottom up processes and the principle of innovation without permission. Imagine what would happen if the re-delegation of a ccTLD zone file in the Internet root would need the consensus by a UN Internet Security Council.

However, WSIS saw three years of wrestling about a reasonable way forward. And the continuation of the IANA contract, which has little substance but is full of symbolism, played a crucial role.

The WSIS outcome (Tunis 2005) was what one could call a "dynamic compromise". On a general level, the 193 UN member states agreed on the principle of equality. Paragraph 68 of the Tunis Agenda states: "We recognize that all governments should have an equal role and responsibility for international Internet governance and for ensuring the stability, security and continuity of the Internet". Based on this, the Tunis Agenda accepted — for an interim period - the status quo but launched a process of an unspecified "enhanced cooperation," where different parties had different expectation of what the end result of this process could and should be. One group expected that the process will lead to a "status quo minus" the termination of the IANA contract. The other group expected that enhanced cooperation will lead to a "status quo plus" the launch of an intergovernmental Internet council.

Status Quo Minus vs. Status Quo Plus

After 2005 the Internet continued to grow and ICANN matured. In 2009, the Obama Administration terminated ICANNs reporting duties and gave ICANN basic independence by entering into an "Affirmation of Commitment" (AoC). The AoC introduced an interesting and innovation oversight mechanism via a decentralized review process by multistakeholder groups which was a good step towards enhanced accountability. However, the IANA contract was renewed until 2015 with an option for extension until 2019.

For many governments, which welcomed the AoC, the continuation of the IANA contract remained a problem. They wanted to see progress in the implementation of paragraph 68 of the Tunis Agenda. In 2010, India proposed a "Council for Internet Related Policies" (CIRP) in the UN General Assembly. In 2012, Russia and China wanted to use the World Conference on International Telecommunication (WCIT) in Dubai, to extend the mandate of the International Telecommunication Regulations (ITR) to the management of Internet names and numbers. In 2013, UN member states pushed for the establishment of an UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation (WGEC) where Saud Arabia was calling for governmental control of ICANN.

All those efforts to move towards a status quo plus, did not succeed. One reason was that ICANN made tremendous progress and signaled that a status quo minus is possible. It introduced internationalized domain names (IDN), the security protocol DNSSEC and the new gTLD program. None of the results were perfect. But ICANN demonstrated that it can learn lessons. The ICANN policy development processes (PDP) with its bottom up, open and transparent procedures which included all stakeholders in their respective roles on equal footing, demonstrated that the multistakeholder mechanism works and produces sustainable result.

This was more and more recognized also in the higher political level. The world leaders of the G8 nations recognized at the meeting in 2011 in Deauville, that the multistakeholder model is the best approach to Internet Governance. At the eve of the WCIT in Dubai, both houses and both parties of the US Congress put their authority behind ICANN and the multistakeholder model which was echoed by many governments around the globe, including the European Commission.

When the US government announced in March 2014 to let the IANA contract expire, it was seen by the overwhelming majority of the Internet community as the long awaited last step on this long march towards the privatization and internationalization of the management of Internet core resources.

It was remarkable to see the side effects of this announcement. The "Dubai Desaster" in December 2012, where ITU member states wanted to extend governmental control over the Internet, was turned into the "Busan Peace" in November 2014 and the ITU recognized that ICANN is the better place for the management of names and numbers.

When the US government announced its intention for the IANA stewardship transition, it defined a number of conditions: security and stability, enhancement of the multistakeholder model, no intergovernmental oversight and stronger accountability mechanisms.

ICANN's multistakeholder community accepted the challenge. It was not an easy one and it became also clear that a multi-stakeholder process is more complex than a one-stakeholder process. It took more time than expected. However, quality of the outcome was seen as more important than meeting datelines.

After an endless chain of emails, telcos, face to face meetings, public comment periods, consultations and hearings, the 55th ICANN meeting in March 2016 could agree on the whole package. The "Marrakesh Consensus" is a triumph of the multistakeholder model. The door for the anticipated status quo minus is now open. Paragraph 68 of the Tunis Commitment is implemented. Every government has the same equal rights and responsibilities as member of ICANN's GAC. In the GAC, each government has a veto. But if governments can't agree, this does not block the ICANN community and its board to move forward with the delegation and re-delegation of Top-Level Domains.

The NTIA confirmed in August 2016 that the package with the "Marrakesh Consensus" meets its criteria. The IANA contract expires in September 30, 2016. But it is not yet a done deal. Ted Cruz and his friends still want to stop the transition before the expiration of the contract.

What happen if the IANA transition fails?

When Jörg Schweiger, DENIC's CEO, was asked during the Internet Governance Forum Germany (September 2016) what will happen if the IANA transition fails, he gave a short answer: Only little. DENIC manages the .de domain with more than 16 million registered domain names but, Schweiger added, he fears that a failure of the transition could trigger uncontrollable processes towards a fragmentation of the Internet.

As we know, the IANA contract has only little substance but a lot of symbolism. A failed IANA transition would become another symbol. The irony of life is that a failed IANA transition would exactly produce what Ted Cruz want to avoid: More governmental control over the Internet by authoritarian regimes. A failed IANA transition would be an invitation for governments to come back with calls for governmental oversight. The 2nd UNCSTD Working Group on Enhanced Cooperation starts its series of meetings on September 30, 2016 and has to report to the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 72) in 2017. The ITU has its next Plenipotentiary Conference in Dubai in 2018.

It would not be a surprise if the old proposals for a status quo plus will reappear on the negotiation table in the UN and the ITU. And even if there will be only little chance in the years ahead to reach a global intergovernmental consensus for an intergovernmental Internet body, the damage for the multistakeholder model and the trust into the strength and ability of the community to manage the underlying technical resources to the benefit of all would be substantial. Göran Marby, ICANN's new CEO, was right when he argued in the recent hearing in the US Senate that he fears more negative impacts on the voluntary collaboration upon which the whole Internet is based.

And one should not forget that in the 2005 Tunis Agenda, the US government under a republican president, accepted also paragraph 63, which says that "countries should not be involved in decisions regarding another country's country-code Top-Level Domain (ccTLD)". This paragraph makes very clear that governments can do with its own ccTLD whatever they want, with or without the transition of the IANA stewardship. However, while a successful IANA transition would strengthen the global approaches and the multistakeholder model, a failed IANA transition would strengthen national approaches and the concept of cyber-sovereignty.

In other words, the unintended side effects of a failed IANA transition, could be the emergence of new borders in the global cyberspace with national Internet segments, and alternative Internet roots. If the Senator from Texas succeeds, he has a good chance to go into the Internet history books as the "Father of the Internet Fragmentation".

Written by Wolfgang Kleinwächter, Professor Emeritus at the University of Aarhus

www.circleid.com | 9/21/16

In the latest high-profile blow to the Olympics, Rome is set to withdraw its bid to host the 2024 Summer Games.


Mayor Virginia Raggi’s said on Wednesday that the capital of debt-crippled Italy could not afford the huge costs of staging the event.


“It is irresponsible to say yes to these Olympics,” Raggi said at a press conference that followed meetings with Italian Olympic officials.


Rome’s city council was due to vote on whether to continue the bid on Wednesday afternoon, but this was expected to be a formality.


Raggi highlighted problems that have plagued past Olympics in announcing her rejection in an online blog post Wednesday, including abandoned infrastructure in Athens, Greece, after the 2004 Summer Games. She also cited cost increases in previous hosts London, Sydney and Atlanta. And she pointed to anti-Olympic protests in Rio de Janeiro, the host of the 2016 Games, which questioned why a city facing deep economic problems spent billions of dollars on the games. 


Rome’s initial bid proposed spending roughly $6 billion to host the games, but Raggi cited a 2012 University of Oxford study that found the Olympics have exceeded their projected costs “with 100 percent consistency.” 


The International Olympic Committee has attempted to reform its bidding process in to promote more cost-effective and sustainable events. But Rome, which also pulled out of the bidding process for the 2020 Olympics, is the latest city to turn its back on the event amid concerns about bloated and potentially crippling costs. Italy has a public debt of more than 131 percent of gross domestic product.


Hamburg, Germany, canceled its bid for the 2024 Olympics after a public referendum found widespread opposition to the Games. Boston, the United States Olympic Committee’s initial choice to bid for the Olympics, backed out last summer amid low public polling numbers and opposition to the use of public money to stage the games.


Five European cities ― Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Krakow, Poland; St. Moritz, Switzerland; and Munich, Germany ― previously dropped formal or preliminary bids to host the 2022 Winter Olympics, amid similar opposition from voters and governing parties. The IOC eventually awarded those games to Beijing. 


Without Rome, the IOC would have three candidates to host the 2024 Olympics: Los Angeles, Paris, France, and Budapest, Hungary. It will choose the winner in September 2017.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


At last, some good news about the environment.


A recent analysis of core samples taken from Greenland’s ice sheet shows that levels of a common form of air pollution have dropped almost to preindustrial levels. Just take a look at the graph below:



“We can see that the acid pollution in the atmosphere from industry has fallen dramatically since manmade acid pollution took off in the 1930s and peaked in the 1960s and 70s,” Dr. Helle Astrid Kjaer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Ice and Climate at the University of Copenhagen’s Niels Bohr Institute, said in a written statement.


But some say it’s a bit early to break out the champagne.


“The conclusion that acid deposition to the Greenland ice sheet has returned to preindustrial levels is surprising,” Dr. William R. Stockwell, a professor of chemistry at Howard University in Washington, D.C., told The Huffington Post in an email. “However, I would not conclude that atmospheric acid production has returned to preindustrial levels everywhere.”


Stockwell said it would be “a stretch” to conclude that acid deposition over the United Staes has returned to preindustrial levels. 



Of course, a decline in any form of air pollution is good news. As Kjaer told The Huffington Post in an email, “It is great to see that international agreements actually do work in limiting harmful substances in the environment.”


Kjaer attributed the welcome decline in atmospheric acid to the pollution-control measures mandated in the U.S. by the 1970 Clean Air Act and by similar legislation enacted in Europe.


The measures limited emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides from power plants, automobile tailpipes and other industrial sources. These pollutants are known to combine with water and other substances in the atmosphere to form sulfuric and nitric acids, which can fall to Earth as acid rain.


Acid rain causes a range of environmental ills, including soil depletion, lower crop yields and fish kills. It can also make trees more vulnerable to disease and hasten the deterioration of buildings and vehicles.


The finding reveals little about other air pollutants, such as the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, a byproduct of the burning of fossil fuels. Atmospheric levels of CO2 have risen relentlessly in recent years (see graph below).



Given the carbon dioxide problem, Kjaer said it was “even more important to start limiting the CO2 in the atmosphere if we want to limit global climate change.”


For the new research, published Sept. 1 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, Kjaer and her collaborators at the institute and the Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany, used a new technique to measure the pH (level of acidity) of melted ice from core samples drilled in 2012 in the upper layers of the ice sheet.


The samples, which contained ice that was laid down in the form of snow from the years 1900 to 2004, showed the acid levels rising at first and then falling sharply.


“We can directly see the fluctuations from year to year,” Kjaer said in the release.


How about a toast to no more fluctuations?

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


UNITED NATIONS ― President Barack Obama had more than words for desperate refugees during a Leaders’ Summit that he hosted at the United Nations on Tuesday.


He announced that more than 50 nations and organizations have agreed to provide a combined $4.5 billion in financial assistance to groups helping refugees find work and education. That includes $1 billion from the U.S.


“I called this summit because this crisis is one of the more urgent tests of our time, a test of collective action,” said Obama, speaking just hours after he delivered his final General Assembly speech as president.


The Leaders’ Summit followed the first U.N.-wide summit on refugees and migrants, held Monday.


Around the world, some 65 million people are displaced from their homes due to violence and persecution, more than at any time since World War II. Over 20 million of them are refugees, the vast majority of whom are now living in just 10 countries.


“It’s a test of our international system where all nations ought to share in the responsibility,” Obama said. “It’s a crisis of our shared security, not because refugees are our threat but because refugees are often fleeing war and terrorism. They are victims.”


Obama emphasized the need not to demonize refugees, implicitly hitting back against Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposals to ban Muslim immigrants (including refugees) from entering the U.S. and to build a wall along the border with Mexico.


“If we were to turn refugees back, we would be reinforcing terrorist propaganda that nations like my own are somehow opposed to Islam. It’s an ugly lie that must be rejected,” the president said. “It’s a test of our common humanity, whether we give into suspicion and fear and build walls.”



.@RT_Erdogan: we need to allow refugees to live in our cities and to work. This involves permits and eventual citizenship. pic.twitter.com/WRysGDz2Hb

— Melissa Fleming (@melissarfleming) September 20, 2016



The co-hosts for the Leaders’ Summit included the U.N. General Secretary, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Jordan, Mexico and Sweden. Several of those countries have been struggling under the burden of hosting refugees. Germany, for instance, took in 1 million in 2015 alone.


Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose country has seen 2.5 million Syrian refugees pass through since 2011 and is currently hosting 1.5 million, stressed the need to work on a macro level in order to make progress on a micro level.


“We need to work as a team,” Abdullah said at the summit. “Jordan’s burden is skyrocketing.”


Jordan has already handed out 28,000 work permits to Syrians this year and expects to offer more.


Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven pledged to donate more funds and to increase refugee resettlement in his country. Sweden has already offered $625 million in humanitarian aid this year, he said.


“I promise you, we will all be better for it,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said of welcoming refugees.


In his remarks, Obama also referred to the White House call for the private sector to step up. In total, 51 companies ― including Accenture, Airbnb, Citigroup, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, Google and IKEA ― have pledged to invest, donate or raise $650 million to go toward refugee education and employment.


Although the United States has long considered itself a humanitarian leader, it has been slow to welcome the latest flood of displaced people. 


In September 2015, Obama pledged to increase the total number of refugees allowed to resettle in the U.S. to 85,000 ― up from 70,000 in the last three fiscal years ― and to reserve 10,000 of these spots for Syrians. Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that the administration plans to set a goal of welcoming up to 110,000 refugees in fiscal 2017.


These increases are welcomed by refugee advocates, but the numbers represent only a drop in the bucket compared to what many other smaller countries are grappling with.


And there are some who feel that the back-to-back U.N. summits are just plain late.


Amnesty International “called for a meeting of world leaders two years ago,” Sahil Shetty, secretary general of the human rights group, told The Huffington Post. “There are some credibility issues. We’ve got to be a bit more serious than this.” 

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Unlike most other European countries, Germany still has a large number of part-time primary and secondary schools. But a study finds that German parents are actually happier with all-day schools.
www.dw.com | 9/19/16
The OECD report shows that Germany's education system is in on an upswing, but there's still room for improvement. Also, the much maligned teaching profession in Germany should be treated better, writes DW's Jens Thurau.
www.dw.com | 9/16/16
A new report from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development shows Germany goes further while less spending. More and more students in Germany are attending university, the group added.
www.dw.com | 9/15/16
Chemists at the University of Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) in Germany and the University of Vienna have succeeded in producing “perfect” defect-free, high-quality graphene directly from graphite (“pencil lead”) for the first time. This new low-cost method may make it possible for the semiconductor industry to scale up use of graphene in pioneering technologies such as transparent [...]
www.kurzweilai.net | 9/15/16
Scientists at the University of Bonn, Germany, have developed a technique that can restart a heart using gentle pulses of light inside the body instead of painful electric shocks.

MUNICH ― An election night celebration in Munich for the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany party turned violent last week as right-wing extremists attacked protesters and journalists outside the event.


The attacks were the latest example of a surge in extremist violence in Germany that has coincided with a nationalist backlash to the country’s admission of more than a million refugees since 2015 — and an electoral boost for the AfD. There were 1,408 acts of far-right violence and 1,608 far-left attacks in Germany in 2015, up from around 990 and 995 respectively the previous year, according to a government report released in late June. There were also 75 recorded far-right arson attacks on asylum centers in 2015, and 918 politically motivated attacks on foreigners ― the highest number since the government started tracking them under their current definition in 2001.


Left-wing activists ― who have a larger presence in metropolitan areas ― have caused chaotic scenes in some of Germany’s major cities in the past year. Last March, an anti-capitalist “Blockupy” protest at the new European Central Bank headquarters in Frankfurt turned violent, leading to flaming police cars and hundreds of arrests.


But as political violence has increased, it’s the anti-immigrant, anti-Islam AfD, not anti-capitalist parties, that has benefited at the polls. Although AfD officials deny any connection to Sunday’s attack or promoting incident, the party has capitalized on the nationalist sentiment that’s fueling much of the violence.



AfD-Wahlparty München: Angriff auf Pressefotografen durch Chris A. (Rapper "Deutscher Patriot") #AfD #NoAfD @BJVde pic.twitter.com/Wr2FurfBBg

— Anne Wild (@annewild_muc) September 4, 2016



Well-known right-wing figure Chris Ares, in the blue shirt, is pictured here kicking at photographers. 


Violence Erupts Outside AfD Celebration This Week

The most recent example of right-wing violence occurred shortly before 6 p.m. on Sunday, when a small group of leftist protesters gathered along with journalists and photographers near a Munich restaurant where AfD members were celebrating wins they achieved in state elections in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania. The AfD had made huge gains, dealing Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party a humiliating defeat and placing second behind the center-left Social Democrats in polls.


Three men attacked demonstrators and press outside the restaurant where AfD supporters celebrated, witnesses told HuffPost Germany. One, a rapper in Munich’s right-wing scene who goes by the pseudonym “Chris Ares,” can be seen kicking at photographers and protesters in images shared on social media Sunday night.



Violence Erupts at AfD Election Party after Spontanous Antifa Demonstraion https://t.co/KWJS2DmuqA pic.twitter.com/se6GW73LFW

— 24mmjournalism (@24mmjournalism) September 4, 2016



Chris Ares pictured ripping at a protest poster while Rick Wegner, far right, looks on. 


Ares charged the group of protesters and journalists, shouting insults including “I fuck your mother!” and “Piss off, you faggots!” according to one witness who spoke with HuffPost Germany.


Photojournalist Michael T., whose last name we are withholding at his request, told HuffPost Germany that Ares kicked and spat at photographers and struck one in the face.


The photojournalist says he suffered a blow to the head during the incident. Another journalist, who spoke to HuffPost Germany on the condition of anonymity, also sustained injuries, including bruised ribs. Bavarian state police are investigating the incident.


Ares has been a prominent figure in Munich’s growing right-wing scene. The rapper’s lyrics are regularly infused with nationalist sentiment, and his hoodies are typically printed with Germany’s eagle. The rapper also has connections with multiple nationalist organizations, among them the Bündnis Deutscher Patrioten, or Union of German Patriots, which regularly shares nationalist, anti-immigrant posts on Facebook. In January, Ares’s music video “Deutscher Patriot” (”German Patriot”) was screened at a rally hosted by Pegida, a far-right group.



Teilnehmer der AFD-Wahlparty in München tritt Pressefotografen #afd #noafd @bjv.de pic.twitter.com/TjArPgel4s

— Anne Wild (@annewild_muc) September 4, 2016



Despite the initial attacks from the right-wing extremists, Antifa (Anti-Fascist Movement of Munich) protesters marched on, distributing fliers with such slogans as “Racism kills” and “Sexism is not an alternative.” This seemingly only encouraged Ares, who, appearing with his shirt off in pictures later shared on social media, continued his alleged assault together with Rick Wegner and Lukas Bals, two other prominent activists.


Like Ares, Wegner is affiliated with the anti-immigrant BDP.


Bals has ties to Die Rechte, a neo-Nazi party. In May 2014, he was one of 20 neo-Nazis to storm Dortmund’s city hall with banners that read “Germany for the Germans ― foreigners out,” German website Zeit Online reported. During the protest, Bals allegedly struck a member of Germany’s Pirate Party in the face with his fist. He was later charged with assault and battery


Bals has since relocated to Munich, where Bavaria’s Office for the Protection of the Constitution is closely monitoring the far right.


Petr Bystron, the head of AfD’s Bavarian chapter and who was not in attendance at the election party on Sunday night, denies that the party had any contact with the alleged attackers. But stills collected by German website 24mmjournalism from a video taken inside the restaurant and posted to the party’s YouTube channel tell a different story: Ares and Bals can be seen at different times throughout the AfD election celebration in Munich.


Despite repeated statements to the contrary, this is not the first time Bystron has been associated with Bals and Wegner. In June, they appeared together in front of the Eine-Welt-Haus building in Munich, where Robert Andreasch, an expert on right-wing extremism, was delivering a lecture on the AfD. Bystron, Bals, and Wegner were not allowed into the event: They were later pictured seated together at a nearby beer garden.


In a now-deleted Facebook post, Ares stated that he was attacked by the Antifa protesters first, he was defending himself, and reporters on the scene lied about what happened. “You know where to find us,” he boasted to his left-wing opponents on Facebook before deactivating his account on Monday. Ares, Bals and Wegner did not respond to HuffPost Germany’s multiple requests for comment. On Wednesday, Ares uploaded a video to YouTube in which he criticized German media’s coverage of the incident.


The AfD “had nothing to do” with the violence on Sunday, Kreisverband München Ost, the party’s chairman, maintained in a press release issued Tuesday night, after a version of this story first appeared in HuffPost Germany. Ares, Wegner and Bals were not invited to the party’s victory celebration, and will be banned from future events in Munich, the party said.



Merkel’s Troubles and AfD’s Continued Success

Sunday’s election results in the northeastern German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania were widely viewed as a victory for the populist-upstart AfD. Merkel’s CDU earned only 19 percent of the state’s vote, behind both the center-left Social Democrats, which came out ahead with roughly 30 percent of the vote, and the AfD, which earned a surprising 21 percent.  


Founded in 2013 as a eurosceptic party, the AfD has quickly transformed itself into a nationalist platform positioned against further immigration and the growth of Islam specifically. Its rapid transformation from a platform of economists challenging the efficacy of the euro to one focused almost solely on nationalism and identity politics, resulted in its first leader, Bernd Lucke, to leave the group. Many original members soon followed Lucke, clearing the way for new, more extreme members, most notably the party’s current leader, Frauke Petry.


The party owes much of its rapid growth and success in recent elections to Merkel’s unpopular decision to take in more than a million refugees and migrants in the past two years.


Borrowing a page from extreme right-wing group Pegida’s playbook, AfD leaders have used increasingly violent language when discussing the country’s migrant and refugee crisis and have repeatedly challenged the presence of Islam in Germany.


Professor Werner J. Patzelt, an expert in right-wing extremism at Dresden University of Technology, says the AfD and extreme anti-Islam platforms like Pegida are two sides of the same coin. “They’re flesh from the same flesh, blood from the same blood,” Patzelt told The Huffington Post. “Pegida is the AfD on the street in the form of demonstrations, and the AfD is Pegida as a political party and in the voting booths. …. The run of the AfD towards electoral success is unbroken and will go on.”


On Tuesday, still reeling from her party’s defeat in her home state, Merkel addressed the German parliament and spoke sharply about the AfD and its right-wing counterparts. The party’s rise, she said, is “a challenge for us all in this building.”  


This post was adapted from a piece published on HuffPost Germany earlier this week. To read HuffPost Germany’s story, click here.


Related Content:


This Is The Anti-Refugee Party That Won A Big Victory In Germany


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For me, caller ID is one of the best inventions of all time. Before it became mainstream, I dreaded picking up the phone. A lot of times, I couldn’t recognize the person on the other side by just hearing his or her voice, and so I was often subjected to a slew of jokes and mockery and puzzle-solving.


It turns out I was hardly alone in my misery. An inability to identify people by their voices is a poorly understood deficit called phonagnosia ― a term coming from “phone,” meaning “voice” in Ancient Greek, and “agnosia,” meaning a “loss of knowledge.”


And the condition might be much more prevalent than we thought, according to a new study published in the August issue of Brain and Language.


“There are some people, our survey showed about 3.2 percent, who have great difficulty in recognizing others by their voices,” said Irving Biederman, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Southern California.


Biederman and his colleague Bryan Shilowich tested 730 people’s ability to correctly identify voices of celebrities who they were familiar with. Assuming that people are on a spectrum in their ability to recognize voices, researchers expected the scores to have a normal distribution and fall on a bell-shape curve. But the results showed an unusual bump at the very low end of the spectrum. 


In other words, more people than researchers expected were really bad at recognizing voices.


“We would have expected eight people to score that low. But there were 23,” Biederman said. This suggests that there’s a group of people whose low performance in voice-recognition falls outside of what is considered normal.


Realizing Everyone Recognizes Voices ... And You Don’t

A few years ago, one of Biederman’s students approached him to talk about her problem with voice recognition. The woman, identified as AN, had discovered only at age 18 that other people could recognize their friends or familiar actors and singers by just hearing them. To AN, this was news.


“I never really noticed a deficit when I was younger because I never really thought about people being ABLE to easily recognize voices without seeing the person with which they were conversing. When I could tell who was on the phone, it would be from inference,” she told the researchers. 


Biederman and his colleagues ran a couple of tests on AN. Her case, a well-documented report of phonagnosia in an otherwise healthy person, was published last year.


The study suggested that AN didn’t have a perceptual problem with voices. She could hear them just fine and grasp the differences, but she couldn’t put a face on them. In one of the experiments, for example, the researchers asked AN and 21 control participants to identify the voices of celebrities, including actors and politicians that AN had heard speaking. She did much worse at identifying the voices than the controls.


The Mind’s Ear

People with phonagnosia also can’t imagine familiar voices. When they are asked to think of someone’s voice, their mind’s ear remains essentially silent.


In the new survey, 18 of the 23 people who scored the lowest on the voice recognition test said they couldn’t imagine the voices of celebrities they knew.


Biederman did a little demo test on me:


“Are you familiar with Morgan Freeman?” he asked me.


“Yes.”


“Can you imagine his voice?”


“No. But I can think of facts about his voice. I know he has a deep voice.”


I was clearly seeing a Morgan Freeman in my mind’s eye, with silver curly hair and short beard, earrings and freckles. But his voice wasn’t coming to me.


“Can you imagine the sound of breaking glass?”


“Yes.”


“The sounds of rushing water?”


“Yes.”


“What we found was that people with phonagnosia have no difficulty in imagining the sounds made by objects or animal sounds like a bird singing. But they can’t imagine the voice of people they know.”


I was still able to imagine the sound of people extremely close to me, like my parents and some of my friends. Many of those with phonagnosia that Biederman has seen can’t even do that.


When examining AN, the researchers looked at brain activity (with fMRI brain scans) as AN and people without the condition tried to imagine voices of celebrities.


“People without the condition showed high activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex when they were imagining voices, but she showed nothing,” Biederman said.


Blank Faces

Phonagnosia is similar to another odd condition known as prosopagnosia, or face blindness. People with that condition have no difficulty in seeing a face, perceiving its differences from other faces, noticing peculiar features or judging the attractiveness of a face. But they are unable to recognize or imagine the faces of familiar people.


Face blindness can occur if the part of the brain in charge of processing faces, known as the Fusiform Face Area, is damaged due to injury or stroke. But people can also be born face blind. It’s estimated that 2 percent of people have the condition.


Similarly, phonagnosia has been reported in both people with a history of neurological brain injury and people without it, such as the case of AN.


Interestingly, the two conditions don’t seem to overlap. People with phonagnosia show no problem in face recognition and vice-versa. AN, for example, tested even better than average when she had to identify familiar faces, Biederman said.


Scientists have studied other people with phonagnosia. In one case report published in 2014, researchers in Germany described two healthy academics, a man and a woman, both 32, who performed significantly worse than their peers in learning new voices, judging the familiarity of famous voices and discriminating pitch differences between voices. Both had normal hearing and showed no brain abnormalities. They were normal in any other test, from face recognition to musical abilities. 


As cases like these show up more often scientific literature, it becomes more and more likely that developmental phonagnosia (as opposed to phonagnosia caused by brain injury) does indeed exist.


The next step is for researchers to find out where in the brain a voice connects to an identity. Biederman hopes future studies with a mix of brain imaging and direct recording of neurons may be able to answer that question. In the meantime, you can test your own voice recognition performance using this test

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Cooperation with the Turkish-German Islamic association DITIB is on the brink of collapse. Germany's most populous state is considering not signing the planned contract with DITIB over religious education.
www.dw.com | 9/6/16

By Paul Carrel and Andrea Shalal BERLIN/COLOGNE, Germany (Reuters) - Ercan Karakoyun has long played a prominent role in Berlin's Turkish community, promoting education and dialogue among Muslims and Germans of other faiths. Now, however, whenever he can, Karakoyun avoids the bustling streets where many Turks live in the German capital. Karakoyun heads the Foundation for Dialogue and Education in Germany, a movement that supports Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Turkey blames for July's attempted coup.


news.yahoo.com | 9/2/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - Side effects from taking tamoxifen for breast cancer may be worse if a patient expects they will be bad before therapy even begins, according to a study from Germany. Over a two-year period, women who expected more serious side effects before treatment started experienced almost twice as many symptoms as women who thought the therapy wouldn’t be too terrible. Since side effects can lead some women to stop taking their medication, patient expectations are an important factor for doctors to consider and possibly modify to improve treatment success, Yvonne Nestoriuc of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf and her coauthors write in Annals of Oncology, August 22.
news.yahoo.com | 9/1/16

The Academy revealed the 17 winners of its 43rd Student Academy Awards Tuesday, and unlike last year, when California schools accounted for eight of the 11 U.S. winners, this year’s crop is much more geographically diverse.

California still led with five winners — two from Chapman University and one each from USC, UC Berkeley and the American Film Institute — but Illinois’ DePaul University, Michigan State University and Iowa’s Maharishi University of Management were also represented for the first time.

Germany dominated the foreign film categories, taking three of the five honoree slots, with the Polish National Film, Television and Theater School also making its debut. Israel’s Tel Aviv University was home to the remaining winner.

Also Read: Top Student Academy Awards Go to USC, AFI, Chapman and Academy of Art University

Monday’s announcement named the winners but did not indicate which award — gold, silver or bronze — each filmmaker received. That will be revealed at the awards ceremony on Sept. 22, at 7:30 p.m., at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, which comes at the end of an activity-filled week for the filmmakers.

The Academy received a record number of entries for this year’s awards, which included 1,749 films from 286 domestic and 95 international colleges and universities.

All 17 winners are now eligible for the short-film categories at next year’s Academy Awards. Past winners have gone on to receive 49 Oscar nominations.

See the full list below.

Alternative
“All These Voices,” David Henry Gerson, American Film Institute
“Cloud Kumo,” Yvonne Ng, City College of New York
“The Swan Girl,” Johnny Coffeen, Maharishi University of Management

Animation
“Die Flucht,” Carter Boyce, DePaul University
“Once upon a Line,” Alicja Jasina, USC
“The Wishgranter,” Echo Wu, Ringling College of Art and Design

Documentary
“Fairy Tales,” Rongfei Guo, New York University
“4.1 Miles,” Daphne Matziaraki, University of California, Berkeley
“From Flint: Voices of a Poisoned City,” Elise Conklin, Michigan State University

Narrative
“It’s Just a Gun,” Brian Robau, Chapman University
“Nocturne in Black,” Jimmy Keyrouz, Columbia University
“Rocket,” Brenna Malloy, Chapman University

Foreign Narrative
“Invention of Trust,” Alex Schaad, University of Television and Film Munich (Germany)
“Tenants,” Klara Kochanska, The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School (Poland)
“Where the Woods End,” Felix Ahrens, Film University Babelsberg KONRAD WOLF (Germany)

Foreign Animation
“Ayny,” Ahmad Saleh, Academy of Media Arts Cologne (Germany)

Foreign Documentary
“The Most Beautiful Woman,” Maya Sarfaty, Tel Aviv University (Israel)

Related stories from TheWrap:

Top Student Academy Awards Go to USC, AFI, Chapman and Academy of Art University

Student Academy Award Winners Dominated by California Schools

New York University, Stanford Lead Student Academy Award Winners

www.thewrap.com | 8/30/16

BERLIN — Saudi Arabia is closing a government-sponsored school in Germany that has been the subject of tension in the past.

The kingdom's embassy says the King Fahd Academy in Bonn, Germany's former capital, will be closed in early 2017.

It said in a statement Monday that the decision was taken as part of Saudi Arabia's effort to provide the best education for its citizens.

The embassy says "Germany is known to have one of the best educational systems in the world ... therefore our country sees no need to have its academy in Germany."


Images of police officers appearing to force a Muslim woman to remove her clothing on a beach in Nice have brought renewed scrutiny to France’s so-called burkini ban this week. At least 26 towns across the country have passed bylaws to restrict women from wearing the full-body swimsuits, prompting legal challenges as well as accusations of Islamophobia and sexism.


While judges in France have so far upheld the bans, the case reached the nation’s highest administrative court for review on Thursday. The body will have 48 hours to deliver a ruling on the bans, as the rights groups that brought the challenge hope it will overturn lower court rulings.


French bylaws setting parameters on what women can wear on the beach don’t specifically use the word “burkini” in their language. The prohibitions instead often outlaw clothing not “respectful of good morals and of secularism” and outline restrictions on clothing that covers certain areas of the body. The result is a loosely defined set of laws that critics allege authorities are using solely to target Muslim women. 


One woman on a beach in Cannes, a 34-year-old who gave her name as Siam to local media, said she was not wearing a burkini but clothes and a headscarf when authorities confronted her. Her case suggests that what’s being worn is less important to authorities than the person wearing it.



Many opponents have also asked whether these bans, which are ostensibly about enforcing France’s strict form of secularism, would be extended to groups like Catholic nuns who wear similarly concealing clothing. Others have compared it to the religious policing of women’s bodies that occurs in theocratic societies such as Saudi Arabia. These questions highlight that the broad bans have thus far seemingly only targeted Muslim women.


“The broader ban is problematic from a religious freedom perspective, but to say there’s a further and very discriminatory intent targeting only one type of religious believer is far worse,” Asma T. Uddin, director of strategy at the Center for Islam and Religious Freedom in Washington, told The WorldPost.


But despite the numerous inconsistencies, vague wording and broad mandate that these bylaws give authorities, prominent politicians and much of the French public support the bans. France’s Prime Minister Manuel Valls called the burkini a “symbol of enslavement” and said the country was locked in a “battle of cultures,” while an Ifop poll conducted this week found 64 percent of French in favor of the ban.


Supporters of the bans have put forth a wide range of dubious rationales to justify the bans. Former President Nicolas Sarkozy argued that the full-body swimwear was a “provocation” in support of radical Islam, while one town’s ban cited “hygiene” as a reason. 


The argument that carries the most weight in courts, according to Uddin, is that the swimsuit is a threat to public order. In an excellent editorial on the bans for The New York Times, Uddin outlines how European courts have often affirmed lower courts’ use of this rationale.


“The way that it’s argued tends to rest less on actual evidence and more on fears and stereotypes,” Uddin says.


This is also despite the fact that these bans have led to protests, legal challenges and discrimination that is a far greater threat to public order than the one they seek to prevent.


“You see this in a number of diverse legal contexts, where courts are trying to clamp down on rights in the name of public order and what ends up happening is that it leads to greater public disorder,” Uddin says.


What may end up killing the bans, according to Uddin, is that such a broad prohibition on swimwear would be hard to enforce. Authorities would have to address questions of whether someone is allowed to wear full-body swimsuits if they are doing so for secular reasons, or if they are doing so for religious reasons that aren’t specifically Islamic.



The swimsuit bans are part of a recent resurgence in the debate over clothing bans in a number of western countries. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling conservative coalition is proposing making face veils illegal in schools, universities and while driving. In Canada, a major campaign issue last year was whether to stop women from wearing niqabs during citizenship ceremonies. The Conservative Party proposal was dropped after the Liberal party won elections. Since taking power, the government has shifted tack and now permits hijabs as part of the country’s iconic “Mountie” uniform. Many European nations, however, have growing far-right, anti-Islam sentiments that politicians have sought to appease.


The latest round of bans follow a spate of ISIS-inspired or directed terror attacks across western Europe in the last year, but also come as countries including France and Germany prepare for national elections in 2017. In both countries, far-right parties such as France’s National Front have capitalized on ethno-nationalist sentiments and fear of Islam.


While France will have a judgment in the next 48 hours on whether its so-called burkini bans are legal, the prominence of the sentiment that led to the laws being passed in the first place means this issue is far from being settled for good. 

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A heated debate over the public dress of Muslim women has engulfed much of Europe’s consciousness after Cannes, the famous French Riviera beach town, first announced its ban on the “burkini” on July 28.


Twenty-five towns in France have followed the resort city’s lead, and public officials from Prime Minister Manuel Valls to National Front leader Marine Le Pen have further stoked the flames by lending their support to the controversial ban. A majority of the French public agrees, according to a recent survey conducted by Ifop that found 64 percent of respondents opposed the use of the swimwear. 


While France may be the center of this debate, it is far from the only country in Europe that has taken a hostile position toward traditional Islamic covering, such as the hijab, which politicians often cite as an obstacle to assimilation and social cohesion. In Germany, where there has been rising public disquiet over the integration of the more than 1 million migrants that arrived in the country last year, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservative bloc is now eyeing a ban on full veils.


Members of Merkel’s coalition view full veils as incompatible with German society, but other politicians maintain that a sweeping ban would in fact inhibit integration.


At an August conference on combatting terrorism and bolstering security measures in Germany following a wave of attacks over the past year, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière proposed a partial ban on veils covering women’s faces.


“It doesn’t fit in with our open society. To show one’s face is crucial for communicating, for living together in our society and keeping it together,” de Maizière said at the conference.


The ban would be applied in courtrooms, administrative buildings, schools and universities, as well as behind the wheel of a car or at protests.


“In the areas where it serves a function to show one’s face, we want to make it a rule … and this means whoever breaks it must feel the consequences,” de Maizière added.


Days after the interior minister’s comments, an administrative court in the town of Osnabrück told an 18-year-old student that she could not wear an Islamic covering that leaves only her eyes exposed.


“The ruling’s outcome is right and welcome,” Christian Social Union member Stephan Mayer told HuffPost Germany.


Mayer said that legal processes would be necessary to regulate certain areas of public life. 


“The idea that in the future girls will walk around German schools covered head-to-toe is absurd,” he said.


Burkhard Lischka, a member of the Social Democrats, disagrees. He tells HuffPost Germany that while he regards full veils as “a marker of exclusion,” he rejects the idea of a general ban on the garment.


“It’s in the interest of our children’s cosmopolitan, tolerant education for schools to be able to decide for themselves whether they’ll tolerate students wearing a full covering or not,” he said.


Germany’s Left Party is also speaking out in favor of letting schools make their own decisions about banning the burqa or niqab.


“Just as Christian schools get to decide if they’ll prohibit young ladies from wearing clothes that show their belly button, it’s within the realm of reason to let the leadership of private schools decide to reject the wearing of full-body covering,” Ulla Jelpke, the Left Party’s speaker for internal affairs, told HuffPost Germany.


“In the case of public schools, education and integration must remain the primary imperatives. I reject the idea of a unilateral legislative ban,” Jelpke said.


Green Party deputy Konstantin von Notz says that a burqa ban at schools will hinder, not help, integration.


“The way to integration beyond the burqa lies through education and emancipation, and sweeping bans inhibit that process,” von Notz stated.


“It doesn’t matter how big the veil is; people need access to education and success,” he said.


This piece originally appeared on HuffPost Germany and has been translated into English and edited for clarity. 

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Restrictions on face and full-body veils are back in the spotlight in parts of Europe after some French cities banned the burkini swimsuit, saying the garment, which leaves only the face, hands and feet exposed, defies laws on secularism.


A spate of attacks against civilians claimed by militant group Islamic State, notably in Belgium, France and Germany, has sharpened the debate, with a large influx of mainly Muslim migrants to the continent also giving rise to resentment among some Europeans.


Here are details on where the full-body burqa and burkini, and the niqab face veil, are banned and where bans are under discussion.


 


AUSTRIA


Austrian conservative politicians have called for a ban on full body veils, saying they prevent women who wear them from integrating given it is a mainly Catholic country. Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka has said he would expect a full ban to be problematic in terms of constitutional law.


A spokesman for Austria’s Supreme Court of Justice said there was no law banning face-coverings.


But that court recently heard a case in which an employer in a notary office fired his Muslim employee for wearing a face veil, saying it inhibited her interaction with clients. She sued on equality grounds but the court agreed with the employer, saying a face veil impacted her ability to do her job.


A Sports Ministry spokesman said he was not aware of any countrywide rule regarding burkinis in public swimming pools and pools had the right to make their own decisions.


 


BELGIUM


Belgium banned the niqab - which covers the hair and face except for the eyes - and the burqa in 2011 and 60 women have since been prosecuted for wearing them.


It is forbidden to wear the burkini in many municipal swimming pools, but not at the beach.


The N-VA, the Flemish center-right party, is calling for a general ban on the burkini. The MR, the French-speaking Liberal Party, says it is ready to start debating that too.


“If you allow (the wearing of burkinis), you’ll put these women on the sidelines of society,” N-VA deputy Nadia Sminate told newspaper De Standaard.

 


CZECH REPUBLIC


There is no general ban on burqas or the burkini in the Czech Republic.


In 2013 a school in Prague banned two girls from wearing the hijab. This year one of the two students filed a court complaint against the school, demanding an apology. There has been no verdict yet.


Also in 2013, some parents protested against a teacher wearing the hijab in a kindergarten in a town in the south of the country. She was not forced to step down because other parents and local authorities supported her. 


 


FRANCE 


In 2010 France became the first European country to ban the burqa and niqab in public. In 2014 the European Court of Human Rights upheld the ban but said the law could appear excessive and encourage stereotyping.


The burkini has been banned by more than a dozen municipal authorities, primarily in the south east between Nice and Marseille where there is a strong Muslim population.


Prime Minister Manuel Valls told the Marseille-based La Provence newspaper on Aug. 17 that beaches and other public spaces needed to be protected from religious expression, saying the burkini was a sign of the subjugation of woman.


“There is an idea that women, by nature ... are impure and should be covered up. That is not compatible with the values of France and the Republic. Confronted by such provocations, the Republic must defend itself,” he was quoted as saying.


On Aug 25 the country’s highest administrative court will begin hearing a request by the French campaign group League of Human Rights for the burkini ban in the Mediterranean town of Villeneuve-Loubet to be overturned.


The campaign group’s appeal had previously been dismissed at a lower court. In its ruling, that court said that the burkini ban was “necessary and measured” in the context of the Nice Bastille Day attack and the murder of a Catholic priest by Islamist militants.



Germany


German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives want a partial ban on the face veil but their junior coalition partner, the Social Democrats (SPD), opposes that idea.


Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has said that the face veil has no place in Germany but suggested it would be hard to ban it nationally.


Conservative regional interior ministers want women to be forced to show their face while driving, when registering with authorities, at passport controls and at demonstrations. They also want the full veil banned at schools, universities, in the civil service and at court for judges and witnesses.


Merkel has said that women wearing a complete veil have “hardly any chance of integrating”.


A German court ruled on Aug. 22 that a Muslim woman could not wear a niqab to evening school.


 


ITALY


The region of Lombardy in northern Italy banned the burqa at hospitals and public offices belonging to the regional government as of Jan 1, 2016.


Interior Minister Angelino Alfano has that Italy will not follow the example of some French towns in banning burkinis, saying such a curb could be counter-productive.


 


NETHERLANDS


A ban on burqas has been debated in the Netherlands for a decade but always foundered on practical or constitutional objections.


In 2015 a ban eschewing religious language was imposed on “face-covering clothing” in certain situations. These include at school and in places where it is deemed necessary to see somebody’s face or identify them for safety reasons: at airports, in courtrooms, on public transport and at entrances to public buildings.


Those situations do not include the street or beach. The ban also applies to other face-covering clothing, such as motorcycle helmets.



SPAIN


In 2010 the council of the northeastern city of Lleida banned the use of the burqa and other face-coverings that “make identification and communication difficult” in municipal buildings.


Other Spanish cities, mostly in the northeastern region of Catalonia, imposed similar bans.


The bans were overturned in 2013 by Spain’s Supreme Court, which said town halls did not have the authority to impose them.


There has been little public discussion about a possible nationwide ban in Spain, where very few women wear the full veil.


 


SWITZERLAND


In Switzerland, a group that spearheaded a successful initiative to block construction of new minarets in Switzerland 2009 is pressing ahead on a measure to put a burqa ban before national voters.


One canton, Italian-speaking Tessin in the south, passed a burqa ban in 2013 that went into effect earlier this summer. Those who violate the ban could face fines.


A politician from the left-leaning Social Democrats in Zurich, Mario Fehr, said this month he also favored a law banning the burqa as people in a liberal society should be required to show their faces.


Fehr has been criticized by members of his own party for his comments, according to Swiss media.


 


(Reporting by Michelle Martin in Berlin, Richard Lough in France, Maria Haase Coelho in Brussels, Shadia Nasralla in Vienna, Sonya Dowsett in Madrid, Philip Pullella in Rome, Stephen Jewkes in Milan, John Miller in Zurich, Toby Sterling in Amsterdam and Robert Muller in Prague)

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing conservative bloc has raised the possibility of a ban on face veils in schools and universities and while driving.
www.nytimes.com | 8/19/16
Researchers at the University Hospital of Bonn in Germany had been looking into the origins of MERS when they made the discovery.
The Technical University of Dortmund, Germany, says the answer may lie in gender conditioning. Females are expected to be emotional and males are taught to be competitive.



Rumor has it, a Nazi train loaded with looted gems and treasure vanished en-route to Berlin in southwestern Poland at the end of the Second World War, though many experts dispute its existence. In the midst of international speculation and intrigue, two explorers are literally digging their way to the truth.


Piotr Koper of Poland and Andreas Richter of Germany believe the mysterious train was hidden from the Soviet Red Army in a secret tunnel constructed by Nazis near the Polish city of Walbrzych. Soil anomalies detected in the area with radar equipment last year indicate its presence, they claim.


Geological experts from Krakow’s AGH University of Science and Technology found no evidence of the train when searching with magnetic equipment, the Associated Press reports, but their findings did conclude that there may in fact be a tunnel located at the site of Koper and Richter’s privately-funded excavation.



The pair began the treasure hunt on Tuesday with a team of researchers and volunteers, despite warnings that it could be a pointless mission. 


“There may be a tunnel. There is no train,” said Prof. Janusz Madej of the university in Krakow, who was involved in the study.


In contrast to Madej’s assertion, search committee spokesperson Andrzej Gaik said Tuesday that if the tunnel exists, “there should be a train there.”


“The train is not a needle in the haystack; if there is one, we will find it,” he added. “It’s so exciting and we count on success.”


While skeptics believe the latest search efforts are a waste of time, Polish media have reported that up to 300 tons of gold could be aboard the train, the Washington Post notes.


Koper and Richter believe the dig will take less than two weeks, meaning an end to the decades-long mystery could be in sight.

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Egyptian judo athlete Islam El Shehaby was sent packing from the Rio Olympics after refusing to shake hands with his Israeli opponent, Ori Sasson, following their match on Friday, the International Olympic Committee said.

The IOC told the Associated Press Monday that El Shehaby received a “severe reprimand.”

Sasson defeated El Shehaby with two throws for an automatic victory. But instead of standing up and bowing per the sport’s custom, El Shehaby seemed to linger. When he finally did get up, he refused Sasson’s offer to shake hands — a big no-no in judo.

Also Read: Olympics: Egyptian Judoka Under Investigation After Snubbing Israeli Opponent (Video)

The crowd was clearly not pleased with El Shehaby’s apparent lack of sportsmanship, loudly jeering the Egyptian athlete.

El Shehaby’s refusal to abide by the rules of the sport made headlines around the world, underscoring the fragile peace treaty between the two countries, which was signed in 1979.

According to the International Judo Federation’s website, “Of the many rituals that are a part of judo, perhaps none is clearer and poignant than the bow.” The IJF site goes on to explain that bowing is “a signal of respect. Judo students bow when entering and leaving the dojo.”

Also Read: Daily Beast Pulls Grindr-Baiting Reporter From Rio, Olympic Committee Says

The incident inevitably made headlines in Israel. Mako, one the country’s leading news sites, reported that El Shehaby has decided to retire from judo following his loss.

El Shehaby had been under intense pressure from Islamists in Egypt to drop out of the Rio Summer Olympics altogether. The day before the fight, a TV host in the country’s Islamist network, Al-Sharq, called on El Shehaby to withdraw from the Rio Games or be branded a traitor.

“My son watch out, don’t be fooled, or fool yourself thinking you will play with the Israeli athlete to defeat him and make Egypt happy,” he said. “Egypt will cry; Egypt will be sad and you will be seen as a traitor and a normalizer in the eyes of your people.”

Also Read: Ryan Lochte, 3 Other US Swimmers Robbed at Gunpoint in Rio

This isn’t the first time that an incident like this has happened.

In 2012, Egyptian judoka Ramadan Darwish refused to shake hands with Arik Zeevi, his Israeli rival, after the Judo Grand Prix in Dusseldorf quarterfinals in Germany. An Egyptian website called him a “national hero.”

Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace accord with Israel after five wars in three decades.

You can watch El Shehaby’s actions in the video below.

Olympics 2016: Team USA Gold Medal Tracker (Videos)
  • Team USA is once again expected to contend for the top spot in the medal count at this year's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Here are the athletes that have claimed the gold medal so far.
  • Virginia Thrasher, Women's 10m Air Rifle -- The 19-year-old engineering major at West Virginia University dreamed of being a figure skater, but found her path to Olympic gold through a rifle instead. She surprised everyone by beating out Chinese shooters Du Li and Yi Siling, who have won the gold in this event in past Olympics.
  • Katie Ledecky, Women's 400m Freestyle -- Ledecky's quest to go four-for-four in her swimming events got off to a flying start on Sunday, when she smashed her own world record time and beat the rest of the field by five seconds.
  • Caeleb Dressel, Michael Phelps, Ryan Held and Nathan Adrian, Men's 4x100 Freestyle Relay -- For all his success, Michael Phelps regretted coming second in the freestyle relay to France at the London Olympics in 2012. This time was different, as Phelps used his powerful kick to give Team USA a lead that they would never give up.
  • Ryan Murphy, Men's 100m Backstroke -- With Murphy's record-setting victory at 51.97 seconds, Team USA has won the gold in this event in six consecutive Olympics. Murphy was joined on the podium by teammate David Plummer, who took bronze.
  • Lilly King, Women's 100m Breaststroke -- King made headlines when she called out Russian rival Yulia Efimova, who was initially among those banned from competing during the Russian doping scandal but was later cleared to compete by the International Olympic Committee. King backed up her words by setting a new Olympic record in the event with a time of 1:04.93. Efimova took silver and American Katie Meili took bronze.
  • Katie Ledecky, Women's 200m Freestyle -- Swedish sprint swimmer Sarah Sjostrom was neck and neck with Ledecky through the entire race, but Ledecky managed to stave her off and win gold #2 by 0.35 seconds.
  • Michael Phelps, Men's 200m Butterfly -- Much was made by the media about the rivalry between Phelps and South Africa's Chad Le Clos, who beat Phelps in London. But the biggest threat was Japan's Masato Sakai, whom Phelps edged out by just four hundredths of a second to win his 20th Olympic gold.
  • Conor Dwyer, Townley Haas, Ryan Lochte, and Michael Phelps, Men's 4x200 Freestyle Relay -- Team USA has now won the gold in this event in the last four Olympics, with Lochte and Phelps as members of every winning team.
  • Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, Gabby Douglas, Laurie Hernandez, and Madison Kocian; Women's Team Gymnastics -- In London, there was the Fierce Five. In Rio, there was the Final Five, named in honor of being the last team coached by legendary gymnastics guru Marta Karolyi. Indeed, the U.S. women gave their coach a sendoff for the ages, winning the gold by a whopping 8.2 points.
  • Kristin Armstrong -- Women's Cycling Time Trial -- Though the roads of Rio were slick with rainwater, Armstrong prevailed in the "Race of Truth" to become the oldest American woman to win an individual gold medal with a victory a day prior to her 43rd birthday.
  • Allison Schmidt, Leah Smith, Maya DiRado, and Katie Ledecky; Women's 4x200 Freestyle Relay -- Team USA was just under a second out of the lead when Ledecky entered the pool as the team's anchor, but once she was in, Ledecky pulled out to a firm lead to win USA Swimming's eighth gold of these Olympics.
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Here’s every American victory at the Rio Olympics

Team USA is once again expected to contend for the top spot in the medal count at this year's Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Here are the athletes that have claimed the gold medal so far.
Related stories from TheWrap:

Leslie Jones Makes Her On-Air Rio Olympics Debut Tonight

Rio Olympics: Synchronized Swimmers Won't Compete in Green Pools

Russia's Only Track and Field Athlete Suspended From Rio Olympics

www.thewrap.com | 8/16/16

Curious George is one of the most recognizable characters in literary history. Children far and wide grew up getting to know the playful monkey, perpetually embroiled in mischief. But those same kids who enjoyed the never-ending antics of a banana-loving protagonist were probably less familiar with the other name emblazoned on the Curious George books: H. A. Rey.


The initials stand for Hans Augusto. But they represent only one half of the duo that actually brought George to life. Margret Rey, Hans’ wife, was equally responsible for the seven books that make up the original Curious George series. Hans was in charge of illustrations, Margret the writing; both helped generate the many ideas and plot points that amounted to stories like Curious George Takes a Job and Curious George Flies a Kite.



A new documentary raising funds on Kickstarter aims to bring the details of Hans and Margret’s relationship to light. “Monkey Business: The Curious Adventures of George’s Creators” hopes fans of George will be fans of the late Hans and Margret, too. And a brief dive into their lives proves the wife-husband team has a history well worth learning about. 


According to Louise Borden, author of The Journey That Saved Curious George, the Reys were both born in Germany to Jewish families. They began dating while Hans was traveling through Brazil. They married in 1935 and moved to France shortly after. However, they were forced to leave their then-home of Paris in June of 1940, along with five million others fleeing encroaching Nazi forces. So the story goes, Hans and Margret left the city on bicycles they built from spare parts, eventually making their way to a ship that brought them to the United States. Once there, they settled in New York City ― a curious manuscript in tow.



At that point, George was not exactly new. Though his books were first published in the U.S. in 1941 under the enduring title Curious George, the monkey himself is technically French. And originally named Fifi (Zozo in England). Fifi began as a simple cartoon Hans sketched, but ballooned into a full-fledged character when a French publisher suggested he turn it into a children’s book. Margret and Hans based most of George’s adventures on their own lives as children and adults.


Over the next 25 years, the monkey’s ascent to children’s literary fame as “George” would come to represent one of the most inspiring stories of immigrant success. Over 30 million copies of the Curious George books have been sold worldwide since, published in 16 different languages. What many consider to be a staple of American children’s literature is actually an international phenomenon born of migration and survival.





“Monkey Business” filmmaker Ema Ryan Yamazaki ― who grew up reading the Reys’ books in Japan ― is “obsessed” with Curious George. During research for her documentary, she visited the University of Southern Mississippi, making her way through the 300 boxes of archival materials that make up the Rey collection there. From wartime journals, personal photos, unpublished George artwork, and correspondence, she sifted through the preserved items, searching for the real story behind the H.A. Rey name. The real story behind George.


“As someone that was impacted by Curious George during my childhood, I’ve seen that it’s not just me who feels this connection to him, but the world,” Yamazaki explained in an interview with The Creator’s Project. “And not just children ― George has had an impact on multiple generations. He’s been around for 75 years, something about this monkey has transcended cultures and time to mold our childhood.”



Lay Lee Ong, literary executor of the Rey estate, has professed support for Yamazaki’s film, as have a number of other Curious George–related experts. (For the record, so has famed documentarian Alex Gibney.) Yamazaki hopes her Kickstarter campaign will help pay for the intensive animation featured in the film and the work of lead animator Jacob Kafka, among other things.


Check out more of the Reys’ story on Kickstarter. If Yamazaki raises her intended $175,000, fans of Curious George will have a lot to look forward to.



Hit Backspace for a regular dose of pop culture nostalgia.

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While the US, Australia, Canada are the man destinations for Indians, newer ones like Germany, NZ, Ireland, France and China stand to gain.

Despite a recent tourism-motivated decline in joblessness, millions of Spaniards have struggled to find employment in the past few years, with only Greece having more people out of work in the EU. Though the country’s economy is slowly recovering, officials maintain that the unemployment rate will likely stay in the 15 percent range until 2019.


Tens of thousands of Spanish citizens are now heading to countries such as Britain, France, Germany, the United States and Ecuador looking for better work opportunities.


In 2015 alone, close to 100,000 Spaniards left Spain, the highest figure since the crisis started in 2008. According to the National Statistics Institute, the number shows a 23 percent rise from the year before.


The statistics released by the institute also show that there’s an increase in the number of Spaniards returning to the country after stints abroad; 52, 227 people returned to Spain in 2015, which is a 27.5 percent rise from 2014.


HuffPost Spain spoke with five Spaniards who have struggled to find stable jobs over the past few years and who have been forced to tread the tricky and often painful road of emigration.


Ivan Escalante, 30. Works in Slovakia. 



Ivan Escalante, who is from the northwestern city of Valladolid, published a blog post on HuffPost Spain in March 2013 titled “Me Against Six Million Unemployed,” in which he shared the details of his frustrating job search.


He had studied engineering, learnt two languages and completed a few internships ― but his efforts didn’t land him a job.


“Some day it will all come in handy,” he had said hopefully. He mentioned that many of his friends had found work abroad. “I would prefer not knowing which continent I will be living in a month or a week from today, and that a year from now, my life may have completely changed,” he wrote in 2013.


Three years later, Escalante has not changed continents, but he has changed countries. After a series of temporary contracts, he recently landed a full-time position in his field in Kosice, the second most prominent city in Slovakia.


He doesn’t see himself returning to Spain except in the event of “a miracle.” Still, he misses “those little things that you only value when you don’t have them,” he says, such as the conversations he would have with his family after dinner.


“I would like for Spain to be a country in which it would be possible to carve out a future, make plans. ... In short, a place where you could live and not just survive. And I don’t see that happening in the short term,” he says.


For him, the main difference between the labor markets in both countries is that in Slovakia, “it’s normal to have an indefinite contract,” he says. “My colleagues can make long-term plans, buy a house, have children. ...In Spain, that’s impossible.”


Irene Ruperez, 28. Job-searching in Spain.



In October 2012, Irene Ruperez bought a ticket to Berlin. She had graduated with an undergraduate degree in labor relations and journalism and a Master’s in sports journalism and communication, but was finding it really difficult to secure a job in her home country.


“I’m kind of running away from the Spanish reality, from the government, and from the disastrous situation that Spain is going through,” she told HuffPost Spain in 2012.


Her adventure in Germany, which she describes as “marvelous,” lasted seven short months. But “even though the country is a disaster,” Ruperez says, she felt that it was “impossible” not to miss Spain.


In Berlin, she took German language classes, and made some money babysitting for Spanish families. “I also had an interview with eDarling, the dating website, for a position on their office communications team,” she tells HuffPost Spain.  


But Ruperez ended up moving back home for a journalism job in Madrid. After three years with the Asturias TV channel, she briefly joined public television station Telemadrid, but she lost that job.


Despite being unemployed once again, she says she would not resort to emigrating for a second time.


“To people who are thinking about leaving, I would say that it’s not marvelous, that you don’t arrive and live in an apartment like the one in [the TV show] ‘Friends,’ go out every day and pick up the language right away,” she says.


“To go is to have a difficult time, miss your family, your friends, your way of life. It’s a battle to find a house, do hundreds of interviews just to be able to have a room to sleep in.”


Guiomar Duarte, 32. Works in Paris.



In a viral blog post published in 2012, titled “’My Daughter Emigrated Yesterday,” Carlos M. Duarte explained that his daughter, Guiomar, had “emigrated in search of a future that she hasn’t been able to find in her country, and that society, or her parents, have not known how to give her.”


He expressed that it was “extraordinarily frustrating for a father to see his children leave,” but that it was also difficult to support them.


Guiomar Duarte, who studied advertising and public relations, currently works in Paris, where she organizes scientific events and manages web content for the French National Center for Scientific Research.


She says that she originally left Spain for Australia, with a vision to escape the crisis. “I went there because I knew that it would have more, and better, job opportunities. And after a few months, I found work in my area,” she explains.


In 2014, she returned to Spain where, thanks to her experience abroad, she found a job within a few months. A romantic relationship eventually led her to France, and she says that’s where she wants to be for the time being.


“At some point, I would like to return to Spain, but not yet. My impression is that there is starting to be more work and that things are a little better than they were when I left in 2012,” she notes.


Blanca Espigares, 39. Preparing to emigrate from Spain.



Despite declaring in a 2012 blog post that she was ready to emigrate, architecture researcher Blanca Espigares has been living in Spain for the past few years, and like many others, has been struggling to find work.  


“I have tried to survive with shit contracts, few jobs and projects that end up falling through ... until I realized that I’m being foolish,” Espigares tells HuffPost Spain.


She’s been actively looking for job opportunities abroad over the past couple of months, and she expects to take a teaching or research job in the fall.  


“I’m leaving because of my dignity. When another university contacts you, you can tell that they look at your resume with different eyes. Suddenly you feel that you have value,” Espigares says. “There is a radical difference between the way you are treated abroad and the way you’re treated here.”


To her, emigration does not feel that tragic. “I’m living through a lot of drama here, trying to pay rent, asking my parents for 200 euros at the end of each month just to be able to buy food,” she says.


Alberto Perez, 56. Unemployed and living in Spain.


Alberto Perez (who didn’t want his identity to be known and whose name has been changed upon his request), left for London with his wife a few years ago after feeling that he did not have a “present or a future” in Spain.


In the British capital, he worked for a cleaning company as a deliveryman and as a programmer. But when he lost his job, he could not afford to pay rent and stay in London.


Right now, he feels that returning to Spain was a mistake; in one week, he receives as many calls from employers in the U.K. as he has over the past seven months in Spain, he says.


Perez believes that while emigration should be made a “mandatory” experience, it wasn’t easy. His biggest problem, he says, was with the language: “I’m too hopeless or too old to learn English fluently.”


This post originally appeared on HuffPost Spain, and has been translated into English. 

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By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) - The brain makes less dopamine, a chemical involved in both pleasure and addiction, when people smoke but this temporary deficit may be reversed when smokers kick the habit, a small experiment suggests. “It is assumed that the brain adapts to the repeated nicotine-induced release of dopamine by producing less dopamine,” said lead study author Dr. Lena Rademacher of Lubeck University in Germany. It’s still not clear if dopamine production reduced by long-term smoking bounces back in ex-smokers, so the researchers did brain scans of 15 never-smokers and 30 smokers.
news.yahoo.com | 8/10/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - People with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, insomnia or restless leg syndrome may have a poorer recovery after a stroke and higher risk of a second stroke, according to a review of existing research. The authors recommend screening for these sleep disorders among people who have had a stroke or mini-stroke. “We have been aware in neurology for a couple of years already that breathing disturbances are a risk factor for stroke,” said coauthor Dr. Dirk M. Hermann of University Hospital Essen in Essen, Germany.
news.yahoo.com | 8/10/16

The scientist, psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker recently spoke with the Berggruen Institute’s Alex Gorlach at Harvard University, where Pinker teaches in the department of psychology. He is most well-known for his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined. His forthcoming book is on “the new enlightenment.” In the following interview, Pinker discusses how global violence continues to fall despite the recent wave of terror attacks and mass shootings.  


You have argued that overall violence is on a downward trend, despite recent high-profile terrorist events and mass shootings. What, or who, is responsible for the decrease?


To start with, there are factors such as globalization –- countries are more enmeshed, so their welfare is directly impacted by the welfare of another state. The incentives for conquest and invasion have been outnumbered by the incentives to make business -– what that means is that a person alive is worth more to me than a dead one, or buying a good is easier than stealing one. 



'A shift in the summum bonum, or the highest good, towards loose humanism, where life is better than death, education better than ignorance, health better than sickness, is what I believe we are seeing currently.'



Another factor is the change in value systems. Wars were fought over religion, over nationalism, over what script systems to use. Now, each country has their own land and their own language. Also, there has been a global trend toward humanism, where the ultimate goal is achieving health for women and children.


When I say global though, it does not mean that it has taken over the entire planet. Since we are tribal creatures, there is always a temptation to backslide. Comparing the two halves of the 20th century, though, shows you that there is a clear trend toward humanism –- why else would we have strived so energetically towards signing a Universal Declaration of Human Rights? And the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals or all those state programs that seek to protect and support human life as the ultimate good? 


Another contributor to the decline of international violence has been a changing set of norms in institutions. The United Nations and NATO, the African Union and European Union emit soft power, they communicate a certain level of expectation. These norms are toothless -– whether that’s good or bad is a different question -– but they serve as a restraining force. These norms include that you don’t change borders by force anymore and you don’t conquer other countries. This, of course, isn’t always followed, as we have seen with the annexation of Crimea by Russia. But by and large this has been a great contributor to a more peaceful coexistence amongst nations.





Even Russian President Vladimir Putin will not admit that he violated these norms because it is one of the core principals of the post-World War II world. He insists residents of Crimea voted to join Russia voluntarily.


Yes -– there is the fiction of Putin satisfying the will of the Crimean people. That the rest of the industrialized world teamed up to condemn Russia’s actions and impose sanctions shows you that the norm is still in existence, even though it may not always be observed. But we need to remember that when we talk about the decline of international violence, the extent is threefold. We have wars, but there is also ordinary crime and institutional violence. If you don’t live in a war zone, it is far more likely that you will be killed by homicide than through any other way. So, all discussion about violence must keep ordinary crime in mind. Here, there has also been a crass decline -– the rate of crimes committed has dropped significantly ever since the Middle Ages, saw a spark again around the 1960s, but since 1990 has been dropping and dropping. The third area is institutionalized violence –- corporal punishment, capital punishment, the criminalization of homosexuality, just to name a few examples. In the West, this has declined significantly.


Let me go back to the point of trading and the related drop in incentives to commit crime against others – a very utilitarian point. Can we only have peace if we maintain trade? In other words, would it be possible to have peace for peace’s sake, simply because it is the moral thing to do? This was Immanuel Kant’s in his famous book, Perpetual Peace.



'In terms of everyday terrorism, the harm is the reaction.'



Ironically, Kant’s writing was very utilitarian. He said that if trade exists between two countries, it is less likely that they will attack each other. His embrace on republicanism -– or arguably democracy nowadays -– was also utilitarian. It would keep the peace.


There is a difference, though, between the historical and the actual question. I look into why the rate of violence has dropped, and the moral question -– what values ought we teach people to live by? Certainly, I agree with the principles, but it may be a bit unrealistic to think that every person on this Earth abides by a value such as that every life is equally sacrosanct. Looking back to explain to what we can attribute our increasingly humane development, part of it is the utilitarian calculation –- if there is incentive, regardless of morals, to stop fighting, then so be it.


But what we are witnessing is more than that. A shift in the summum bonum, or the highest good, towards loose humanism, where life is better than death, education better than ignorance, health better than sickness, is what I believe we are seeing currently. 



Do you think this process is reversible, though? Are we experiencing a golden age and have dark years ahead, or are these standards and values here for good?


The honest answer is: I don’t know. Threats [from groups] such as Boko Haram and the [self-proclaimed] Islamic State can [be], and they are, exaggerated. The human toll of civil war has increased over the past year, but it is merely taking us back to the casualty count of the year 2000. The progress we made in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s has not been wiped out, and although there have [b]een threats to democracy, democratization has not been wiped out as such.


The civil wars we see are mainly in an area that spans from western Sub-Saharan Africa to Pakistan. Of course the standards we have set are reversible – diseases can come back, religion can, and has already, led back to war. What we need to do is figure out how to best deal with them, and have confidence that given the progress we have made, further progress is possible.



'If people think that the only way to say the truth is to be Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen, that is a dangerous temptation.'



If you are in Syria right now, it does you no good to know that the overall number of civil wars has gone down. And, could one single act – for example 9/11 – unravel and maybe even topple this model?


Firstly, the experience of violence to an individual is irrelevant to policymaking. If we were to go down that path, we could deny global warming just because it is cold out today. But what effect does this have on third party observers?


It has been proven that we are asymmetrically influenced by singular events. This has been exploited by terrorists ― terrorism being the cause of death is very unlikely in anyone’s life. However, due to the publicity that terrorist attacks generate, it seems completely rational to be afraid of a terrorist attack when in reality we should not be. It is a mistake to allow terrorism to dominate foreign policy on a global agenda. In terms of everyday terrorism, the harm is the reaction. Keep in mind that 97 percent of all terrorist agendas end in failure, so it isn’t even a successful mode of achievement.



How do you see conflicts arising in Europe as a result of the increasing Muslim population?


We have seen that if centrist parties pretend like there is no problem -– as the coalition government in Germany has done to some extent -– they are implicitly creating a space that gives right-wing parties the opportunity to increase their votes. There are risks of lack of assimilation, misogyny, potentially a higher risk of terrorism. If centrist parties don’t openly state that, someone else will and thus will attract voters. The hegemony of politically correct views in major political fora has come back to bite us all. If people think that the only way to say the truth is to be Donald Trump or Marine Le Pen, that is a dangerous temptation.


Isn’t there a difference between Europe and the U.S.? Europe today is still shaped by the “tribal” influence of religion and nation, divided by borders drawn centuries ago. America is one nation with a history of religious tolerance.


Yes, it is one of the differences. Partially, that’s why I believe there is so much less radical Islamization in the United States -– it’s easier to become an American than it is to become a Spaniard, a Frenchman or a German.



'We need to keep in mind that generalization, especially in the context of Islam, is very dangerous.'



One of the arguments of the right in Europe is that Islam is not peaceful and not compatible with the Western way of life. At the same time, you mentioned that the majority of conflicts still happen between West Africa and Pakistan, an area that has almost exclusively Muslim countries. Are you saying that Muslim countries are more prone to violence than in the world of Christian heritage.


It is estimated that most wars today have radical Islamist forces on one side. It is not so much that the rate of war in the Islamic world has gone up, but the rate of war in every corner of the world has gone down apart from in the Islamic world.


Historically, there has been an awful conquest of Christian nations –- the British, Spanish, French, Germans and so on, so making an argument of that is difficult keeping in mind the atrocities committed by, say, [those in] the Crusades. Though one can argue that many of the beneficial trends over the past century have not yet penetrated the Islamic world.



We need to keep in mind that generalization, especially in the context of Islam, is very dangerous. Look at countries such as Malaysia or Indonesia. They are democracies to some extent, are peaceful and do not have any kinds of problems that Syria or Mali are dealing with currently.


Furthermore, the combination of dogma and identity claims intensify any conflict because they foster an unwillingness to compromise. Also, jihad in the way radical Islamists cast it sees death merely as a transition to an even better life. So, during conflicts, fighters act in a completely different way than in any other conflict where earthly interests matter. I agree that wars aren’t purely religious, but religious views within a conflict don’t help contain a conflict, and never have.


This interview has been edited for clarity and appeared in a slightly different form in The European.

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By Lisa Rapaport (Reuters Health) - Many websites marketing unproven stem cell therapies directly to consumers are popping up even in developed nations where laws have been passed to protect patients from false medical advertising, a new study suggests. Ireland, Singapore, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. have the highest per capita number of clinics engaging in direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cell therapies, according to the study published in Cell Stem Cell. “The direct-to-consumer marketing of stem cells especially for aging and skin rejuvenation is a multi-billion dollar industry so it’s attracting many dubious claims,” said senior study author Dr. John Rasko of the University of Sydney.
news.yahoo.com | 8/8/16

Afghan authorities are searching for an Australian and an American who were kidnapped by gunmen in the capital, Kabul, officials said on Monday.


The pair, believed to be affiliated with a Kabul university, was taken by four or five gunmen from a nearby road late on Sunday, said an official with the Ministry of Interior who spoke on condition of anonymity.


It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the abduction.


The Australian Embassy in Kabul confirmed one of its citizens had apparently been abducted but said it would not comment further due to privacy and safety considerations.


“We continue to advise Australians not to travel to Afghanistan because of the extremely dangerous security situation, including the serious threat of kidnapping,” Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said in a statement.


The U.S. State Department said in a statement it was aware of reports an American had been kidnapped but had no other information to offer.


Kidnapping is a major problem in Afghanistan with Afghans the most affected, although a number of foreigners have also been abducted in recent years.


An Indian aid worker was abducted in Kabul in June and released the following month.


At least two other foreigners, from Germany and the Netherlands, were taken from the same neighborhood in separate incidents last year.


Those two foreigners, both of them women, were eventually released unharmed, with police saying the kidnappings were most likely motivated by money.


In June, police began advising foreigners living in the capital that they should travel with guards or avoid leaving their homes.

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Muslim women in France are getting their own burkini pride day.


A community group near Marseille has booked out a water park exclusively for Muslim women wearing the all-over swimming garment. The organizers, called Smile13, are hosting the event to “encourage women to join in with the community.”


Women interested in attending the so-called burkini day at Speedwater Park on the Sept. 17 are not allowed to turn up in a two-piece swimsuit and “must be covered from the chest to the knees.” While no men are allowed to attend the event, participants can bring boys under the age of 10 to take part. There will be male lifeguards at Speedwater Park.


The burkini day at Speedwater Park has already annoyed some people. Valerie Boyer, mayor of two Marseille districts who has championed persecuted Christians in Iraq (a cause marked by the arabic letter ن), took to Twitter to condemn the event, tweeting: “Sectarian claims in a water park: To say nothing and do nothing, is to become an accomplice!”



Revendications communautaires dans un parc aquatique : ne rien dire et ne rien faire, c'est devenir complice ! pic.twitter.com/dl9f41B38y

— Valérie Boyer ن (@valerieboyer13) August 3, 2016



The far-right Front National also slammed the event. Echoing Boyer, Stephane Ravier, a mayor of two other Marseille districts, told BBC News:



This Islamist day demonstrates that, outside of the comforting words of Muslim authorities, a certain number of Muslims are deciding among themselves to break away from our Republican model and put themselves outside our society.



France has one the largest Muslim populations among European Union member states (second now only to Germany). In 2004, the government sparked controversy after passing a law that prevented students in state-run schools from displaying any form of religious symbols, including veils, Jewish skullcaps, and crosses. In 2011, France went a step further, banning people from concealing their face, which includes not only the burqa and niqab, but also masks or balaclava.


Boyer, from the center-right group Les Republicains group, described the “veil fight” as the “most visible expression” of fundamentalists marking their territory. “Burqa, chador, abaja, nijab, hijab, doesn’t matter the name, they represent a confinement for a gender, a negation of the person, a prohibition of freedom a prohibition of equality and a prohibition of fraternity,” she said in a statement.


This article originally appeared on Quartz.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

Biologists on the hunt for new medicines to fight a growing epidemic of drug resistance said Wednesday they found an antibiotic in an unexpected place -- the human nose. The promising compound is produced by a nose-dwelling bacterium, and is able to kill a disease-causing, antibiotic-resistant superbug, they reported. "It was completely unexpected to find a human-associated bacterium to produce a real antibiotic," said study co-author Andreas Peschel of the University of Tubingen in Germany.


news.yahoo.com | 7/28/16
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists in Germany have discovered a bacteria hiding out in peoples' noses that produces an antibiotic compound that can kill several dangerous pathogens, including the superbug MRSA. The early-stage finding, reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, could one day lead to a whole new class of antibiotic medicines being developed to fight drug-resistant bacterial infections, the researchers said. As well as being a focal point for many viral infections, the nasal cavity is also a rich ecosystem of 50 or so different species of bacteria, lead researcher Andreas Peschel of the University of Tuebingen told reporters in a telephone briefing.
news.yahoo.com | 7/27/16
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists in Germany have discovered a bacteria hiding out in peoples' noses that produces an antibiotic compound that can kill several dangerous pathogens, including the superbug MRSA. The early-stage finding, reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, could one day lead to a whole new class of antibiotic medicines being developed to fight drug-resistant bacterial infections, the researchers said. As well as being a focal point for many viral infections, the nasal cavity is also a rich ecosystem of 50 or so different species of bacteria, lead researcher Andreas Peschel of the University of Tuebingen told reporters in a telephone briefing.
news.yahoo.com | 7/27/16

Biologists on the hunt for new medicines to fight a growing epidemic of drug resistance said Wednesday they found an antibiotic in an unexpected place -- the human nose. The promising compound is produced by a nose-dwelling bacterium, and is able to kill a disease-causing, antibiotic-resistant superbug, they reported. "It was completely unexpected to find a human-associated bacterium to produce a real antibiotic," said study co-author Andreas Peschel of the University of Tubingen in Germany.


news.yahoo.com | 7/27/16
By Kate Kelland LONDON (Reuters) - Scientists in Germany have discovered a bacteria hiding out in peoples' noses that produces an antibiotic compound that can kill several dangerous pathogens, including the superbug MRSA. The early-stage finding, reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday, could one day lead to a whole new class of antibiotic medicines being developed to fight drug-resistant bacterial infections, the researchers said. As well as being a focal point for many viral infections, the nasal cavity is also a rich ecosystem of 50 or so different species of bacteria, lead researcher Andreas Peschel of the University of Tuebingen told reporters in a telephone briefing.
news.yahoo.com | 7/27/16
The bacteria, called Staphylococcus lugdunensis, could be used as part of a nasal probiotic say researchers from the University of Tubingen in Germany.

In eight of ten countries surveyed by Pew research at least half think incoming refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country.

This figure, from the spring 2016 global attitudes survey, highlights a connection that exists in many European minds between the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks, such as the ones in Paris, Brussels and Nice, where 84 people died as a single attacker drove his lorry into a crowd after the Bastille day firework display on the Promenade des Anglais.

This causal link is most thought of in Hungary (76 percent), Poland (71 percent), the Netherlands and Germany (both 61 percent). In France, 46 percent think the arrival of refugees increases the risk of terrorism. In the UK this figure is at 52 percent.

“Amongst Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe,” Pew Research says. “In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six-in-ten say they have an unfavourable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled.”

But according to the study, “there is less alarm that Muslims already living on the Continent might sympathise with extremists.”

Most attackers in Paris and Brussels where French or Belgian nationals.

Pew Research also highlights sharp ideological divides on the refugee question: “In Greece, 81% of those on the right express an unfavourable view of Muslims, compared with 50% of those on the left,” the study shows.

“Significant right-left gaps in attitudes toward Muslims are also found in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France and the United Kingdom,” Pew Research adds.

Even if ideology is a driving factor, so is the level of education: “older people and less-educated individuals expressing more negative opinions about refugees and minorities,” the study shows.

Resentment also shows on diversity: over half of Greeks and Italians and about 40 percent of Hungarians and Poles say growing diversity makes things worse. Sweden had the highest percentage (36 percent) of people believing diversity makes their country a better place to live.

The survey was conducted in 10 EU nations and the United States among 11,494 respondents from April 4 to May 12, 2016.

www.voxeurop.eu | 7/27/16

In eight of ten countries surveyed by Pew research at least half think incoming refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country.

This figure, from the spring 2016 global attitudes survey, highlights a connection that exists in many European minds between the refugee crisis and terrorist attacks, such as the ones in Paris, Brussels and Nice, where 84 people died as a single attacker drove his lorry into a crowd after the Bastille day firework display on the Promenade des Anglais.

This causal link is most perceived in Hungary (76 percent), Poland (71 percent), the Netherlands and Germany (both 61 percent). In France, 46 percent think the arrival of refugees increases the risk of terrorism. In the UK this figure is at 52 percent.

“Amongst Europeans, perceptions of refugees are influenced in part by negative attitudes toward Muslims already living in Europe,” Pew Research says. “In Hungary, Italy, Poland and Greece, more than six-in-ten say they have an unfavourable opinion of the Muslims in their country – an opinion shared by at least one-in-four in each nation polled.”

But the study says “there is less alarm that Muslims already living on the Continent might sympathise with extremists.”

Most attackers in Paris and Brussels were French or Belgian nationals.

Pew Research also highlights sharp ideological divides on the refugee question: “In Greece, 81% of those on the right express an unfavourable view of Muslims, compared with 50% of those on the left,” the study shows.

“Significant right-left gaps in attitudes toward Muslims are also found in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain, France and the United Kingdom,” Pew Research adds.

Even if ideology is a driving factor, so is the level of education: “older people and less-educated individuals expressing more negative opinions about refugees and minorities,” the study shows.

Resentment also shows on diversity: over half of Greeks and Italians and about 40 percent of Hungarians and Poles say growing diversity makes things worse. Sweden had the highest percentage (36 percent) of people believing diversity makes their country a better place to live.

The survey was conducted in 10 EU nations and the United States among 11,494 respondents from April 4 to May 12, 2016.

www.voxeurop.eu | 7/27/16

WASHINGTON ― Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump set off panic Wednesday night by suggesting he would torpedo America’s commitment to its partners in the strongest mutual defense alliance in the world, NATO.


Trump’s comment that he would judge NATO members’ spending on security before helping them face down a potential invasion ―  a remark initially made to The New York Times ― took over the news cycle for hours. It played perfectly into widespread doubts about the self-described billionaire’s volatility and seemingly reckless views on foreign policy. For his opponents, it was an ideal opportunity to try to turn voters against him.


Have they taken that opportunity?


Nope. 


Instead, key anti-Trump forces are offering evidence for the Republican standard-bearer’s argument ― that U.S. elites are so hung up on past commitments that they can’t embrace fresh thinking.


The Clinton campaign, the Obama administration and top Democratic national security figures like Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) have chosen to attack Trump by describing his remarks as out of line with the history of Republican presidents, notably GOP hero Ronald Reagan. They’re trotting out classic boilerplate about upholding American promises to NATO.


While this might satisfy worried foreign leaders, it means very little to many U.S. voters on the right and left, who are signaling that they couldn’t care less about the traditions of the past. Republican primary voters have already demonstrated their anger with America’s historic foreign policy, including that of the previous GOP president. Now, widely followed activists on the left are describing the Trump critics’ line as further proof that Hillary Clinton is essentially a war hawk who has abandoned progressive principles.


This could easily become the narrative that sticks ― that there’s really no reason for the U.S. to give money to an “imperial” alliance that supposedly provokes needless tension and and that Trump has it right. Bashing other NATO members for failing to meet their defense spending target (2 percent of their annual budget) has appeal across the political spectrum because it reinforces the sense that America is unfairly over-extended in the world. And talk about NATO’s recent track record ― notably the unpopular 2011 intervention in Libya, with which Clinton is widely associated ― only prompts more vitriol.


But there are a lot of good reasons why the vitality of the Western alliance should matter to regular voters. We’re simply not talking about them. Rather than just calling his remark reckless, Trump’s opponents need to set forth those reasons.


They could, for instance, make a case for NATO that dovetails with the growing war-weariness across America. Clinton and her advocates could explain why a strong NATO makes war with Russia less likely, by giving the country’s autocratic president an incentive to recognize his limits and stop short of prompting global conflict for his local gain.


For Vladimir Putin, adventures into the former Soviet world are an easy way to ignite nationalist sentiment by evoking memories of lost Russian stature. That’s a big reason why he invaded Ukraine in 2014, after that country’s people made clear they wanted to move closer to the West. The resulting crisis has claimed thousands of casualties and dealt deep economic damage to the rest of Europe and to Russia itself. But it’s also helped Putin win even more domestic support.


Mark Galeotti, a former New York University professor and an incoming senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations Prague, argued Thursday that this shows why conflict will not be prevented by NATO backing off from regions Putin is interested in. Galeotti’s conversations with Russian insiders have him convinced Putin does not truly want to grab territory. Instead, the Russian president wants to project fear abroad for the sake of his power at home. By undermining his capacity to do that ― by proving that his threats against neighbors are necessarily empty because of NATO’s commitment to those countries ― the defense alliance helps keep Russian belligerence in check and encourages peaceful engagement.


Laying out the current nature of Russia’s threat to peace is key because the classic “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!” argument no longer works. With the rise of isolationist thinking across the political spectrum and the spread of Russia-sponsored “news” that encourages the world to see all international crises as Washington’s fault, many voters are willing to back off and let Moscow do what it pleases. Democrats mocked Mitt Romney for talking of Russia as a top geopolitical threat in 2012 ― and many still think that’s an overstatement. Can Trump critics hoping to woo voters convince them that this thinking is off?


Equally important, Trump critics need to argue that there’s more to NATO than opposing Russia. The alliance was there for the U.S. after it was attacked on 9/11 and continues to provide essential support in Afghanistan as the U.S. tries to slowly exit that war.


Helping voters understand the need for friends abroad means countering the pernicious argument that the greatest threats to American national security today are simply the results of Washington’s war-mongering abroad. The forces determined to target the U.S. arose for a complex mix of reasons, including, but not limited to, the sometimes brutal mistakes of America and NATO. They won’t spare groups of people in NATO countries just because those folks criticize the alliance or other “imperialism.” The alliance’s defenders need to remind Americans that NATO partners work with Washington to face many of these foes, including the self-described Islamic State and other militant groups. 


None of this is to say that Trump’s critics should not acknowledge legitimate complaints about what’s not working in that partnership. Surely it’s not impossible for Clinton and her allies to point out that NATO nations are well aware they could share the burden of collective defense more fairly. Bolstering defense spending is simply politically harder for their governments than it is in the U.S., where even pseudo-isolationist Trump talks about more military money. But they’re trying, as Germany recently proved.


To anyone listening to voters’ thoughts about how America should engage the world, it’s clear that the best case against Trumpian pseudo-isolation consists not of invoking long-dead leaders but of talking plainly about U.S. needs today. Now it all depends on whether Trump’s rivals can make that case ― and, ahem, not blow this.

-- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

The responsibility for the German education system lies primarily with the states (Bundesländer) while the federal government plays only a minor role. Optional Kindergarten education is provided for all children between three and six years of age, after which school attendance is compulsory, in most cases for 11 to 12 years. The system varies throughout Germany because each state (Land) decides its own educational policies. Most children, however, first attend Grundschule from the age of six to ten or 12. German secondary education includes five types of school. The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13. The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 or 10 and the Realschulabschluss after grade 10. There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b. This new path of achieving the Realschulabschluss at a vocationally-oriented secondary school was changed by the statutory school regulations in 1981 - with a one-year qualifying period. During the one-year qualifying period of the change to the new regulations, pupils could continue with class 10 to fulfil the statutory period of education. After 1982, the new path was compulsory, as explained above. Other than this, there is the Gesamtschule, which combines the approaches. There are also Förderschulen/Sonderschulen. One in 21 pupils attends a Förderschule. Nevertheless the Förderschulen/Sonderschulen can also lead, in special circumstances, to a Hauptschulabschluss of both type 10a or type 10b, the latter of which is the Realschulabschluss. German children only attend school in the morning. There is no provision for serving lunch. There is a lot more homework, heavy emphasis on the "three R's" and very few extracurricular activities. A very low-cost or free higher education could lie beyond a German Abitur. Many of Germany's hundred or so institutions charge little or no tuition. But, students must prove through examinations that they are qualified. In order to enter university, students are, as a rule, required to have passed the Abitur examination; since 2009, however, those with a Meisterbrief (master craftman's diploma) have also been able to apply. Those wishing to attend a "university of applied sciences" must, as a rule, have Abitur, Fachhochschulreife or a Meisterbrief. Lacking those qualifications, pupils are eligible to enter a university or university of applied sciences if they can present additional proof that they will be able to keep up with their fellow students A special system of apprenticeship called Duale Ausbildung allows pupils on vocational courses to do in-service training in a company as well as at a state school. Recent PISA student assessments demonstrated serious weaknesses in German pupils' performance. In the test of 43 countries in the year 2000, Germany ranked 21st in reading and 20th in both mathematics and the natural sciences, prompting calls for reform. In 2006, German schoolchildren improved their position compared to previous years, being ranked (statistically) significantly above average (rank 13) in science skills and statistically not significantly above or below average in mathematical skills (rank 20) and reading skills (rank 18). The PISA Examination also found big differences in achievement between students attending different types of German schools. According to Jan-Martin-Wiadra: Conservatives prized the success of the Gymnasium, for them the finest school form in the world – indeed, it is by far the number one in the PISA league table. But what they prefer to forget is that this success came at the cost of a catastrophe in the Hauptschulen. Some German teachers' representatives and a number of scientists disputed the PISA findings. Claiming among other things that the questions have been ill-translated, that the samples drawn in some countries were not representative, that Germans (most of whom had never done a multiple choice tests in their lives before) were discriminated against by the multiple choice questions, that the PISA-questions had no curricular validity and that the PISA was "in fact an IQ-test", which according to them showed that dysgenic fertility was taking place in Germany. A 2008 statistic from Nordrhein-Westfalen shows that 6.4 percent of all students did not earn even the Hauptschulabschluss, however not all of them were high school dropouts, as many of them were children with special needs, who received special school leaving certificates. Only 3.3 percent dropped out of school without earning any kind of diploma.


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