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Germany Education

German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to ban the full-face veil worn mostly by Muslim women as a way to stop “any parallel societies developing” in Germany. Merkel had just been re-elected as chairwoman of her Christian Democrat Union (CDU) party at its annual conference Tuesday when she said the burqa should be forbidden “wherever legally possible,” which would include schools, courts and other public buildings. “In communication between people, which is of course essential to our... | 12/6/16

This press review has been translated from the French by Simon Pickstone

Die Zeit’s Robert Misik is in two minds regarding the new candidacy of Angela Merkel, whom he sees as one of the main causes of the current global economic crisis. But, he thinks, it is precisely for this reason that she has a major historic challenge to overcome during her possible fourth term in office:

With Trump’s election, in the middle of the chaos from Putin, Brexit, war [...], Merkel must take on an entirely unexpected new role: the New York Times called her ‘the last person defending the liberal west’ [...]. But it is all the same paradoxical that it falls on Merkel to save the western world. Because the German Chancellor [...] is one of the key people responsible for the current situation, where we really have to defend pluralistic democracy. The austerity politics we find in Europe, initiated by Germany, consists of reducing incomes for normal people [...] and is one of the causes of the malaise we currently find ourselves inhabiting [...]. Merke well knows that she is identified with this politics. And that changing course would go hand in hand with an admission of guilt for having made a huge error. And, as we well know, this is not an easy thing for politicians. But if there is anyone who has mastered the art of slowly and steadily changing policies, adapting them pragmatically and doing the opposite of what you previously said, without any dramatic gestures, as if nothing were amiss, it is truly Angela Merkel.

Angela Merkel wants more, argues Anja Maier, columnist for Die Tageszeitung, but she reminds readers that Germany has changed over the last 11 years of her administration and it is principally Alternative für Deutschland that will stand in the way of her reelection – 

The revolution has therefore not happened. Angela Merkel wants to stand again as Chancellor [...]. This is not so surprising. Anyone who has seen her work over these last few months would notice it: not only does she love being Chancellor but she still has lots of initiatives. She is not lacking in ideas. And yet it will not be a shoe-in for her. [...] The AfD’s strategists are likely already coming up with their first slogans: ‘Renewal instead of immobility’ -- something of that sort. [...] So the establishment parties and their representatives can now show what politics can say for them. They must make proposals, say what they want to change from 2017. Employment, taxes, education, trade, ecology and development -- these are the themes that ultimately concern everyone. But many people who have lost it from sight.

“If Angela Merkel wins the 2017 election and stays the full term, she will have governed Germany for 16 years, making her, alongside Helmut Kohl, the longest-serving German leader since Bismarck.” writes *The Guardian *in its unsigned editorial the day after she announced her candidature

There are good reasons for Mrs Merkel’s decision. In uncertain times, it is reassuring that the leader of Europe’s most important nation holds to the principles of freedom, openness and democracy that have helped to rebuild and reunify postwar Germany. She got plenty wrong about the migration crisis, but her liberal approach contrasted with the anti-migrant upsurge elsewhere in Europe. Her decision to stand up to Vladimir Putin in Ukraine has checked some Russian ambitions. If Italy is forced out of the eurozone or Marine Le Pen is elected in France, Europe may be better able to ride out the challenge with her at the helm. [...] But the Germany and EU that Mrs Merkel may lead at the end of this decade are very different from the Germany and EU of 2005, when the glow of European post-cold-war stability and growth still applied. They must adapt again if they are to prosper. That means forms of European cooperation – hopefully including Britain – that provide Europeans with hope and security not fear and instability. Germany cannot carry the burden of achieving this alone. [...] If Mr Trump allows Mr Putin to have his way in eastern Europe and the Baltics, German coalition politics may mean Mrs Merkel will struggle to stand in Russia’s way. [...] It may be Mrs Merkel’s fate to stop things getting any worse, not resolve them. That is not to be sneezed at. Yet she can do better. She thinks in global terms. Since she is running again, she should make use of her practicality and trust to offer an achievable vision for Germany and Europe. This needs new thinking, not old.

Regarding Merkel’s fourth nomination as candidate for Chancellor, the conservative daily praises her leadership of the German government over the last few years, because “a certain talent is needed [...] to lead without coming across as arrogant.” For ABC, Merkel

has asserted herself at the head of Europe’s political leadership [...]. Naturally, her tenure has seen controversial decisions, like her excessive rigour in dealing with the Greek crisis, her magnanimity in welcoming refugees and so on. But at any rate, you cannot criticise her for a lack of leadership. Merkel has never shied away when most other European governments were paralysed or incapable of reaching an agreement. Germany is the cornerstone of stability and progress in Europe, and not just for its economic and demographic clout. [...] The years to come may well be very complicated for us Europeans if the tide of populist and demagogic nationalism continues rising. Merkel and her talent will be essential to us.

Tomasz Bielecki, the columnist for Gazeta Wyborcza, argues that “Chancellor Merkel is the only European leader with enough clout to stop populism, fight to maintain the unity of the EU and to stand up to the Kremlin.” He judges that, on the whole, the status quo in Germany presents more advantages than drawbacks. He writes, “her decision to run for a new mandate in 2017 is good for Poland. The series of events in Europe and the US is so troubling that we should reinforce our ties to German despite the tensions between the Law and Justice government and Berlin.” Angela Merkel is aware of the special role her country has played in Europe. Nevertheless, he argues German hegemony in Europe is not a bed of roses:

at the start of the eurozone crisis, the Germans adopted a budgetary policy that was inadequate because it was too draconian. But, more importantly, Merkel cannot stay at the head of the country forever and we don’t know what the policies will be of her successors in a decade’s time. Preserving the foundations of European integration is therefore essential for Poland and Germany today. The EU institutions, in particular the Commission, must therefore preserve their regulatory roles within the Union, partially limiting the power of the largest member states.

“Over the last two and a half years, Merkel has mobilised and maintained Europe’s cohesion regarding Moscow following its annexation of Crimea,” notes in Corriere della Sera. For the columnist,

it was unthinkable to leave at the moment when the new US President Donald Trump could seek an agreement with Vladimir Putin that would place the EU in the worst crisis in its history. Until now, she has acted according to her sense of responsibility. Now there is something more risky at work: the wish to defy those who, riding the wave of the refugee crisis, have predicted the Frau Merkel would not be the Chancellor at the end of 2016. And the fact no successor has been found in the CDU, the largest party in the country that will very likely lead the government after the elections of Autumn 2017. The choice of running as candidate again is therefore risky, but virtually inevitable. Will she win? For now, the polls say yes, but they are not clear on what alliances she will have to make to establish a government. What is certain is that it will be a new Angela Merkel. Her refugees policy has changed her political stripes; she no longer takes a wait-and-see approach. And the thought of not having to run for a fifth term in 2021 will make her bolder. Just a little. | 12/6/16
Germany's government is urging against making political capital from the rape and murder of a student in the university city of Freiburg. Police have detained a teenager from Afghanistan as a suspect. | 12/5/16
Germany's vice chancellor says the arrest of a 17-year-old Afghan migrant suspected of raping and killing a university student must not be used for "rabble-rousing and conspiracy propaganda." The teen, who entered Germany last year as an unaccompanied minor, was arrested Friday . | 12/5/16
It was billed as a rally for students to demand free tuition from public institutions of higher education and lodge a cornucopia of grievances. Instead, some giddy demonstrators devolved into a pack of rabid haters. “Death to Jews! Death to Jews!” members of the crowd shrieked. This didn’t happen in Germany in the 1930s, nor... | 12/5/16
For the first time, scientific research conducted at University of Bonn, Germany, has shown short-term sleep deprivation can increase cardiac contractility, blood pressure and heart rate. This study examines how working a 24-hour shift specifically affects the cardiac function. | 12/3/16
Bringing de-radicalization projects into schools is a major new challenge for European governments. Now the international media platform "Extreme Dialogue" is offering a new approach in Germany. | 12/2/16

As “Fawlty Tower” fans mourn the death of Andrew Sachs, who played well-meaning but disorganized Spanish waiter Manuel on the cult BBC series, John Cleese paid an emotional tribute to his former co-star.

“Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad … I knew he was having problems with his memory as his wife Melody told me a couple of years ago and I heard very recently that he had been admitted to Denham Hall, but I had no idea that his life was in danger,” the Monty Python co-founder wrote on Twitter Thursday after news of Sachs’ death at age 86 on Nov. 23 was made public.

“A very sweet gentle and kind man and a truly great farceur. I first saw him in Habeas Corpus on stage in 1973. I could not have found a better Manuel. Inspired,” he said.

Also Read: Andrew Sachs, 'Fawlty Towers' Star, Dies at 86 (Report)

Cleese added that he “wrote the foreword to his book a couple of years ago, which apparently ‘moved him to tears,'” before closing out by saying that he was “going on stage now.”

The “A Fish Called Wanda” star is currently on tour with former Monty Python sidekick and Cambridge University classmate, Eric Idle.

According to Andrew Sachs’ wife, Melody Sachs, the actor had suffered from macular dementia, which he was diagnosed with in 2012.

Also Read: Ex-NFL Player Joe McKnight Fatally Shot in New Orleans

“We were happy, we were always laughing, we never had a dull moment,” the Daily Mail reported Melody Sachs as saying. “He had dementia for four years and we didn’t really notice it at first until the memory started going.”

Despite he illness, his widow said, “I never once heard him grumble.”

Also Read: Keo Woolford, 'Hawaii 5-0' Actor, Dies at 49

“Fawlty Towers,” which starred Cleese as inept hotel owner Basil Fawlty, ran for two seasons from 1975 to 1979, but went on to become a comedy classic both in the U.K. and America.

Born in Germany, Sachs moved to England with his family in 1938. Initially working in radio and on stage, Sachs made his screen debut in 1959’s “The Night We Dropped a Clanger.”

In addition to “Fawlty Towers,” Sachs’ television credits included “The Saint” and “Randall and Hopkirk.”

See Cleese’s tweets below.

Just heard about Andy Sachs. Very sad….
I knew he was having problems with his memory as his wife Melody told me a couple of years ago…

John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 1, 2016

…and I heard very recently that he had been admitted to Denham Hall,but I had no idea that his life was in danger. A very sweet gentle…

John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 1, 2016

…and kind man and a truly great farceur.I first saw him in Habeas Corpus on stage in 1973.I could not have found a better Manuel. Inspired

John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 1, 2016

If media folk need more, I wrote the foreword to his book a couple of years ago,which apparently 'moved him to tears'
Going onstage now…

John Cleese (@JohnCleese) December 1, 2016

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John Cleese, Taylor Swift Get Into Real-Life Cat Fight (Video) | 12/2/16
Apple today began offering Apple Music Student Memberships in 25 additional countries around the world, cutting the cost of an Apple Music subscription by approximately 50 percent for students enrolled in a college or university. The discounts provided to students vary based on country.

Apple Music Student Membership plans appear to be available as of today in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Finland, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Switzerland, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Student pricing was already available in the United States, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom following the May 2016 debut of the student program . Student Memberships are now available for Apple Music subscribers in a total of 32 countries.

Apple Music student pricing in France
Student Memberships are validated using UNiDAYS, a student validation service. UNiDAYS confirms that Apple Music subscribers are enrolled in a degree-granting college or university before allowing customers to get the discounted subscription price.

Customers who subscribe to Apple Music with a student subscription will need to confirm their status on a regular basis through UNiDAYS. Subscribers who are no longer students or who have had student pricing for 48 months will be switched over to a full price individual Apple Music subscription. | 11/30/16
Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong poses for a photo with some directors and teachers of German Confucius Institutes at the Free University of Berlin, Germany, Nov. 25, 2016. | 11/27/16

Now more than 70 years later, Bletchley Park is preparing to host the UK's first national college of cyber education, with a first intake of students starting in September 2018. Work is under way to revamp several derelict buildings on the site where mathematician Alan Turing cracked Nazi Germany's "unbreakable" Enigma code. The new school for 16- to 18-year-olds, which will sit beside the historical attraction and the National Museum of Computing, will take 100 students in its first year. | 11/24/16
Germany's private schools are violating the constitution by picking students according to their parents' wealth, a new study has found. The result is increasing social segregation and elitism, the authors say. | 11/23/16

BERLIN (Reuters) - Older Germans will have to get used to taking instructions from tech-savvy youngsters if Germany is to succeed in transitioning to the digital age, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday. The government is pushing companies to make digitization a core part of their strategy under its initiative dubbed "Industrie 4.0" and wants to improve digital education and training. ... | 11/17/16
Several German states have adopted new guidelines for discussing the LGBT community as part of sexual education classes. But for some, the "acceptance of sexual diversity" is akin to brainwashing. | 11/16/16

I am hopeful and determined today. The first ever truly global agreement to fight climate change, the Paris Agreement, is having its first ever formal meeting. I have been working towards this moment for decades. This is no normal diplomatic affair. Few expected this first meeting to happen in this year. But here we are. The world has ratified the Paris Agreement at record speed. The cynics who claimed that the world would fail to unite against the threat of climate change were proven wrong. The world is coming together to address the biggest threat we face.

This gives me hope. Indeed, it is remarkable to what degree these global climate negotiations are now about good news. Over the past many years these negotiations were about raising the alarm. I remember clearly the fire alarm that Greenpeace rang at the negotiations in 2000. It was deafening!

But now, with every new step, I meet someone who is already building a better, renewable world. I hear of the host country Morocco shifting its electricity system to 52% renewable by 2030. I learn from my Greenpeace Mediterranean colleagues about the women of Tahala taking the lead in that transformation. Thanks to solar power, schools, mosques and the women's club in Tahala, a remote village, now have reliable, free electricity.

I learn that Brazil is refusing a $1 billion subsidy for coal. I hear about renewable energy in China providing jobs and opportunities even in an old coal town

These stories show that the energy revolution is delivering for people and planet alike. It is now unstoppable. We will be the generation that ends fossil fuels - and we will work hard to do so in a just manner while defending workers rights.

Of course, the election of Donald Trump, who is personally invested in fossil fuels, hangs like a dark cloud over sunny Marrakech. But country after country is making it crystal clear here that they will continue to act on climate change, no matter what the US does. Germany's environment minister said that Europe will make up for any emission reductions the US fails to make. Countries here know that climate action is in their interest. That the consequences of climate change are already happening now. They do not want to pay the price of more droughts or more ferocious hurricanes.

Greenpeace USA is preparing to fight hard for people and climate under president-elect Trump – and I know many states, cities, businesses and citizens will continue to advance climate action (also) in the US. So despite the dark cloud, there is a ray of light. The tide of history has turned. Climate action is happening. By continuing to fight for it we will ensure that it is here to stay – and we will win.

Please join in and support us!

Jennifer Morgan is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International 

A new study suggests that refugees in Germany actually have a better standard of education than previously thought. But economic institutions have expressed their doubts. | 11/14/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - Studies on the long-term effects of habitual barefoot walking or running are scarce, and there is only limited evidence for more foot problems and no evidence for higher injury rates among people who are often barefoot, according to a new review. “Having the huge ‘barefoot debate’ in mind, we expected more evidence on the long-term effects of barefoot locomotion,” said lead author Dr. Karsten Hollander of the Institute of Human Movement Science at the University of Hamburg in Germany. Some populations, for example South Africa, include many people who are habitually barefoot, Hollander told Reuters Health by email. | 11/11/16
By Kathryn Doyle (Reuters Health) - Studies on the long-term effects of habitual barefoot walking or running are scarce, and there is only limited evidence for more foot problems and no evidence for higher injury rates among people who are often barefoot, according to a new review. “Having the huge ‘barefoot debate’ in mind, we expected more evidence on the long-term effects of barefoot locomotion,” said lead author Dr. Karsten Hollander of the Institute of Human Movement Science at the University of Hamburg in Germany. Some populations, for example South Africa, include many people who are habitually barefoot, Hollander told Reuters Health by email. | 11/11/16

The Kurgalsky nature reserve, which traverses the shallow waters of the Gulf of Finland, numerous islands, and the Kurgalsky Peninsula between Russia and Finland, is home to a great diversity of flora and fauna, supporting numerous species of threatened plants, mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles.

Forested area within Kurgalsky Nature Reserve, 31 Aug, 2016

Despite it's protected status, investigations conducted by Greenpeace Russia and a local NGO, Green World, have discovered drilling rigs inside the reserve. Kurgalsky is protected by two separate international conventions; one which protects wetlands, and another which protects the fragile marine ecosystem in the Baltic region.

Workers on one of the construction rigs currently operating in the Narva Bay protected area said they are involved in the Nord Stream 2 construction project on behalf of the Saint-Petersburg Museum of Soil Science, conducting soil testing for the consortium of energy companies responsible for the project. This multi-billion dollar pipeline is intended to deliver Russian gas directly to the EU. 

Rig in the Narva Bay Protected Area, 31 Aug, 2016

Another rig was discovered in the forest, a few kilometres from the shore.

This kind of work is supposed to be prohibited by Russian and International agreements, signed by Russia. Greenpeace Russia has filed a request to the Prosecutor’s office in Leningrad regarding this violation of international environmental agreements.

The construction of Nord Stream 2 through Kurgalsky reserve will threaten the habitat destruction of many rare and endangered species of animals and plants, including the white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Greenpeace experts have confirmed that nesting sites of the white-tailed sea eagle lie within 50 metres of the proposed pipeline route. Despite the risks, Nord Stream 2 AG has announced that running the pipeline through the Kurgalsky Reserve is the optimal route

The construction of this pipeline will inevitably threaten the habitat of this and the other rare species. It is a gross violation of Russian and international environmental legislation.

White-tailed sea eagle nest near to proposed pipeline route. 31 Aug, 2016

As Valery Buzun, a researcher with the Department of Vertebrate Zoology at the Biological Faculty of St. Petersburg University, states, “It will not be just a pipe. There will be also be infrastructure for the pipe. The pipe itself will pass under part of Luga River with it's islands, reed beds and meadows, home to many birds, wolves and bears. Laying pipe there will destroy this ecosystem”.

Pipeline Location Marking, Kurgalsky Nature Reserve. 31 Aug, 2016

The Nord Stream 2 project will make Russian gas consumers like Germany, France, the U.K.  and the Netherlands, unwitting participants in an environmental crime. They will share the responsibility for the destruction of one of the most valuable natural areas under international protection, together with the Russian authorities and Gazprom, the Russian state-owned gas producer.  

Greenpeace Russia demands the compliance with Russian law and international agreements from the consortium of companies involved in the Nord Stream 2 project.

Evgeny Yusov is a spokesperson for Greenpeace Russia

The revelation came after researchers from the University Hospital Munster and Robert Koch Institute, both in Germany, asked 39 tourists to swab 400 bathroom door handles at 136 airports.
The researchers – from the University of Jena in Germany – found out that skipping uses up about 24 per cent more power than running at the same speed.

WASHINGTON ― Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ met with U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Washington on Wednesday to press for the extradition of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey blames for orchestrating an attempted coup on its country on July 15.    

While a significant number of people in Turkey reportedly believe Gülen was behind the failed coup, the U.S. so far does not accept Turkish government information as sufficient for extradition. Gülen denies having any involvement in the coup or its planning. In his meeting with his U.S. counterpart, Bozdağ said he presented fresh evidence to back up the country’s request on the self-exiled cleric.

Turkey has been battling several militant organizations domestically and internationally, including the self-proclaimed Islamic State and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or the PKK, which the U.S. deems a terrorist organization. But, none of these are as dangerous as the supporters of Gülen, according to the justice minister, who calls the group, FETO, the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization.” This, he claims, “presents a new kind of terrorism” with the degree of infiltration it has achieved in Turkish military, judiciary, police and state audit institutions.  

The Gulen movement 'presents a new kind of terrorism.'
Bekir Bozdağ, Turkey's justice minister

The Gülen movement has reportedly opened or inspired 160 or so charter schools in the U.S. using public funds, which are often the top performers in their towns, but Bozdağ said during a press conference in Washington Thursday that Gülen supporters, “disguise themselves as philanthropists promoting education and religion.” He alleged that Gülen schools and educators in the U.S. are used to transfer large sums of money from Turkey and asked U.S. officials to investigate this flow of money.           

Bozdağ labeled Gülen as “Turkey’s Osama bin Laden,” and compared the cleric’s movement to “Daesh,” an Arabic acronym for the self-proclaimed Islamic State, in blaming him for the coup attempt. He said in statements to the press that Turkey had banned 35,970 people from 124 countries from entering the country and that authorities had arrested or deported 2,800 people from 92 different nations, all of them on terrorism-related charges.

Turkey has detained thousands and fired or suspended some 100,000 people in a crackdown and state of emergency following the summer putsch. But Bozdag said that “any allegations of injustice” during the purge are “being investigated thoroughly” and would be “made public immediately.”

During the press conference, The WorldPost posed two questions to Bekir Bozdağ to learn about why the issue of Gülen’s extradition is so important to Turkey and what it means for the future of Turkish-American relations. A third question was then asked in private. Below are the questions and the justice minister’s answers.

What would be the impact on U.S.-Turkish relations if Gülen is not extradited?

When the process is still ongoing, I don’t want to talk about a perception that he will not be extradited.

Of course, if the process is prolonged, or if something happens within that process, this would mean a huge blow to the relationship between Turkey and the U.S..

We, as Turkish people, do not understand or accept the fact that Fethullah Gülen, who is the murderer of 241 civilians and caused the wounding of around 2,194 people, bombed the parliament with F-16 jets [and] attempted the assassination of our president, is acting freely in the U.S..

We want [the] U.S. to understand us, because there is a growing anti-Americanism among Turkish people, as is observed by the representatives of the U.S. in Turkey.

The possibility that no sanctions are taken against the perpetrators of such grave offenses will increase the problem.

Although this is a legal process, we still believe that the U.S. will not choose a terrorist over Turkey.

The purge of suspected Gulenists has been very broad. Do you believe public institutions have now been cleared of those who plotted, supported or were sympathetic to the coup?

A purge of civil servants from the state for being a member of [the] Fethullah Terrorist Organization, or for having ties to it, is based on a law.

Each state has the right [to seek] high loyalty to the public order when it comes to civil service.

The state also has the right not to employ someone who isn’t loyal to it, or is loyal to a terrorist or terrorist organization instead of the state.

The U.S. authorities, government and people will not allow a member of Daesh or other terrorist organization[s] to be employed by the U.S.. The same goes for Turkey.

'We cannot say that the purge is 100 percent over.'
Turkey's justice minister

We cannot say that the purge is 100 percent over. We are doing it for each and every one of the terrorist organizations; it’s not confined to FETO. After the dissolving of [the] Soviet Union, many other countries that gained independence purged or cleansed those who were still attached to the Communist regime.

The same example is true for Germany as well. Around 500,000 people in East Germany were dismissed from their duties after the unification. This is an example we’re seeing in all the countries.     

Are you satisfied now that the country is secure and ready to return to normal, or will the emergency powers remain? If so, for how long?

The extension of the state of emergency has to do with the extensive process that the government is going through. We need time to take careful steps. If there are mistakes, we need time to investigate them. There is, however, no state of emergency with the normal flow of life.    

The above interview was conducted in Turkish and has been translated and edited for clarity.

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Eva Longoria is taking Donald Trump to task for his offensive comments about Latinos.

The actress, director and activist, who is of Mexican heritage, is the head of the Eva Longoria Foundation, a charity aimed at promoting education and entrepreneurship for Latinas in the U.S.

“The fact that he uses the word ‘Latino’ to be synonymous with ‘illegal’ is a mistake,” she told Ocean Drive Magazine in an interview published Friday. “I’m ninth-generation American—I’m way more American than Donald Trump!” (Trump’s mother, Mary Anne Trump, came to the United States from Scotland at the age of 18, according to the New York Times; his paternal grandparents immigrated from Germany.)

Since the beginning of his campaign, the Republican presidential nominee has faced strong criticism from the Latino community for his unceasing barrage of hateful comments. Recently, at the final presidential debate, he portrayed undocumented immigrants as violent criminals coming across the U.S.-Mexico border, referring to them as “bad hombres.” This was incorrect for two reasons. For one thing, not all undocumented immigrants are from Mexico or Latin America. And native-born Americans are more likely than immigrants to commit crimes.

Longoria also voiced her support for Hillary Clinton, whom she has vocally endorsed (despite someone mysteriously slapping her image on a pro-Trump flyer earlier this month.) She said she doesn’t really get why people don’t find the Democratic nominee “likable.”

“I know her on a personal level, and she is one of the most likable, amazing, engaged, compassionate human beings,” she said. Even so, she added that quality leadership, not likability, should be what voters actually care about.

Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liarrampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.

-- 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.

"Help is available," adds the advertisement broadcast on German television and over the internet, urging people who feel sexually attracted to children to join a unique therapy programme called "Don't offend" (Kein Taeter werden). Launched some 11 years ago, the largely publicly funded project by Berlin's top university hospital Charite calls on paedophiles to undertake a treatment that helps them control their urges. More than 7,000 people have sought information on the programme which is offered in 11 centres across Germany. | 10/28/16
Scientists from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, say the findings could help predict whether or not a paedophile might go on to offend (pictured is a stock image). | 10/27/16
At least 11 schools in eastern Germany received threatening emails on Monday prompting police to deploy officers, but there was no indication of actual danger. "We found out from some schools in Leipzig this morning that they had received an email with threatening content. At least nine schools in Leipzig and two in the city of Magdeburg received the emails. | 10/17/16
Police say that schools in several parts of Germany have received emailed threats of violence and authorities are working to figure out who and what is behind them. | 10/17/16

At the center of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign is the proposal to build a “great, great wall” along the United States’ border with Mexico ― and to make Mexico pay for it.

And as Americans debate the legitimacy of this immigration policy, several European countries are working hard to build walls with the same purpose as the one Trump has suggested: keeping migrants and refugees out.

Border walls have been around for thousands of years ― think of the Great Wall of China, which was built to fend off invasions, or the Berlin Wall that divided East and West Germany until 1989. The irony is that much of the European Union has for years been defined by unrestricted movement between countries.

Until last year.

“In 2015, borders and walls seemed to burst onto the global agenda in the context of migration and halting spontaneous movement,” Reece Jones, associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, wrote earlier this month for the Migration Policy Institute. 

Some European countries within the free-movement Schengen zone are “reverting back to their enforcement of national borders,” Susan Fratzke, policy analyst at the MPI, told The Huffington Post.

Other countries are introducing border checks where they previously did not exist. Guards between countries like France and Belgium, for example, now check travelers’ documentation.

And some countries, like Hungary, have decided to build physical walls. 

“Those barriers have been the most dramatic,” Fratzke added.

This is happening for several reasons.

It’s important to keep track of the high number of refugees and migrants arriving to some countries, Fratzke said. This became evident in many countries last year, when so many refugees applied for asylum that systems were completely backlogged.   

On the other hand, she said, there are the countries where “border control has been a populist measure to try to respond to inflamed public reaction to people who are arriving.” Hungary, for instance, recently held a referendum in which 90 percent of voters chose to reject EU-mandated refugee resettlement quotas (that decision is moot, however, because less than half of the total population voted).

People still try to cross the border. They just do in a different place or through a different method.
Reece Jones, associate professor of geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

Experts agree that physically blocking people from entering the country is not an effective way to prevent migration.

“People still try to cross the border,” Jones told HuffPost. “They just do in a different place or through a different method.” 

Border walls might slightly deter refugees in places like Greece, Fratzke added, “but if you look at the central Mediterranean [between Libya and Italy], there’s been an increase in flows and we actually saw more deaths.”

Check out what the new, fortified Europe looks like:


British officials announced last month that they would finance the construction of a wall to keep out the migrants and refugees living in the “Jungle,” a camp in Calais, France, where about 7,000 people live.

The steel structure, already nicknamed the “Great Wall of Calais,” is expected to be 13 feet high.

Although less than a mile long, the “get out” symbolism that the wall creates is unmistakable. The U.K. border actually extends into Calais, meaning that the Brits are literally stretching across the English Channel and putting up additional fortifications to prevent migrants and refugees from reaching their shores. 

Many of the people living in Calais and Grande-Synthe, a nearby refugee camp also housing thousands, had attempted to leave France by jumping onto moving trucks bound for the English Channel. 


Turkey, too, has started building a concrete wall along its entire border with Syria ― that’s a 560-mile wall ― to try to stem the flow of refugees pouring in from the war-torn country. Officially, the Turkish government claims to welcome Syrians with open arms. 

Once completed, the wall is expected to stand 10 feet high tall and almost 7 feet wide. Construction is projected to be completed by February, Reuters reported.

Almost 3 million Syrian refugees currently live in Turkey, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency.


Norway announced in August that it would begin constructing a wall ― 660 feet long and 11 feet high ― on its Arctic border with Russia.

Once walls in the Balkans started going up, migrants and refugees were required to find new routes westward. Some traveled north all the way through Russia and into Norway, prompting a crackdown in a country once known as a haven for migrants.

A total of 31,145 people applied for asylum in Norway last year, according to the country’s Directorate of Immigration statistics ― almost 20,000 more than the year before.

The country already unsuccessfully tried sending people riding bicycles from Russia back across the border.


Hungary has been one of the fiercest anti-refugee campaigners since the crisis came to a head last year, and Prime Minister Victor Orbán has announced a second barbed-wire fence to stem the flow of people into the country. 

The first, which is 310 miles long, was built in the fall of 2015.

Some 4,992 migrants and refugees were stranded along the border with Serbia as of Oct. 5, according to the International Organization for Migration. This represents a 348 percent increase since early July, when Hungary passed a law allowing some people to be sent back to Serbia.

Orbán also eferred to migration as “poison” over the summer.

Some migrants and refugees have been severely abused along the border, Human Rights Watch reports. 


Austria finalized plans in July to erect a barrier along its entire border with Hungary. For many, Austria represented the final frontier on a journey from Greece to Germany or Sweden.

The number of migrants entering Germany from Austria had fallen more than sevenfold between November 2015 and March 2016, according to Reuters.


Slovenia constructed a 78-mile fence last year along part of its border with Croatia to try to close off a portion of the so-called Balkan migration route.


There are currently about 60,000 refugees languishing in Greece, per the latest U.N. Human Rights Council data. A few hundred have been sent back to Turkey, and, as was outlined in a March deal between the EU and Turkey, 4,140 have been resettled in other European countries, according to the IOM said.

The fate of the rest remains murky, but what is abundantly clear is that they won’t be making it further into Europe since borders are all shut.


There’s a similar situation in Bulgaria. A fence went up last year to keep people from flowing in from Turkey and was extended this past summer.

It hasn’t managed to keep everyone out. The country recorded about a 717 percent increase in illegal arrivals, from 863 to 7,070, between March and September of this year, the IOM said.

What’s Left?

Any and all routes leading out of Greece have been cut off, pushing people toward the most dangerous voyage of them all: southern Italy via Libya.

The danger doesn’t seem to be deterring people. Search and rescue crews are busier than ever. More than 10,000 people were rescued in a 36-hour period recently. 

Although arrivals across all of Europe are down compared to last year ― 316,331 migrants and refugees entered Europe by sea in 2016 through Oct. 9 compared to 520,000 in all of 2016 ― more have died, according to the IOM. And arrivals to Italy are up by 6 percent compared to last year.

“Rather than endangering migrant lives and filling the coffers of the smugglers, the EU should focus on increasing resettlement quotas and creating corridors that allow safe passage,” Jones, the geography professor, said. “If they don’t, we will continue to see more and more migrant deaths in the years to come.”

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This summer, the United Nations International Resource Panel (IRP), published “Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity,” a report that admits what ecologists have been saying for decades: Resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and the resource depletion diminishes human health, quality of life, and future development.

The report shows that consumption of Earth's primary resources (metals, fuels, timber, cereals, and so forth) has tripled in the last 40 years, driven by population growth (increasing at about 1.1% per year), economic growth (averaging about 3% per year over the same period), and consumption per person, worldwide.

Economic growth has helped lift some regions from poverty and created more middle-class consumers, while enriching the wealthiest nations the most. The UN report acknowledges, however, that advances in human well-being have been achieved through consumption patterns that are “not sustainable” and that will “ultimately deplete the resources − causing shortages [and] conflict.”

In 1970 - when ecologists in Canada founded Greenpeace and Club of Rome scholars prepared the original Limits to Growth study — a human population of 3.7 billion, used 22 billion tons of primary materials per year. Forty years later, in 2010, with a population of 6.7 billion, humans used 70 billion tons. Now, in 2016, we require about 86 billion tons, and the UN Resource Panel estimates that by 2050 we will require annually some 180 billion tons of raw materials, which Earth’s ecosystems may not be able to provide.

Furthermore, modern technology has not made our economies more efficient, as promised. As technology has advanced, material consumption accelerated. Fossil fuel consumption has grown annually by 2.9%, metal ores by 3.5%, and non-metalic minerals by 5.3%. Since 2000, even as economic growth and population growth slowed, material demand accelerated. Frivolous consumption has increased among the rich, and we now spend increasing amounts of energy to extract lower grade resources, reducing productivity.

According to Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, co-chair of the panel, “The alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted … shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable. …  We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty. This deeply complex problem … calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction.”

Economic justice 

Meanwhile, large economic gaps remain between rich and poor nations, between North America and Europe on one hand, and all other world regions. To achieve economic justice and UN development goals, low income nations will require increasing quantities of materials. 

Today, the average citizen in Africa consumes about three tonnes of material resources each year, including infrastructure. In Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, the average citizen consumes about 3-times as much, 8-10 tonnes of materials each year. In Europe and North America, average citizens consume about 20-30 tonnes of materials each year, 7-10-times the average African. The super-rich, elite, with multiple homes, airplanes, and exotic holidays, consume much more, in the range of 100-times the average African citizen, ten-times the middle-class citizen in Asia. The US, with less than five percent of world population, consumes about 30 % of global materials. 

Social justice goals and ecological goals sometimes appear in conflict, but the real conflict arises between the extravagant consumption of the wealthy and the subsistence consumption of the rest of the world. 

In 2008, the Global Footprint Network prepared the following chart that shows how nations measure up to the UN Human Development Index (vertical scale) and the Global Footprint Index (horizontal scale). Those nations above the horizontal red line meet the UN Human Development goals, those below fall short. Nations to the left of vertical red line live within the budget for a per-capita fair-share of Earth’s resources. Those to the right use more than their fair share per person. The average person in the US uses about five-times their fair share of Earth’s resources. The average person in Sierra Leone uses about half of a fair share. Several Asian and South American nations come close to achieving both — meeting UN Human Development goals with a fair per-capita share of resources — but the only nation that does achieve both goals is Cuba.  


Nations ranked by social development and material consumption: Nations that meet the UN Human Development goals, do so with unsustainable consumption. Those with sustainable levels of resource use are not meeting the UN development goals. Only Cuba achieves both. The challenge of our age is to learn to live sustainably while meeting basic human needs. To achieve this, extravagant consumption doesn’t work, and modest living is the measure of social responsibility. Graphic by Global Footprint Network. 

A vast proportion of consumption in rich nations is wasteful, products designed to be wasteful and grow obsolete. According to industrial ecologist Robert Ayres, 99% of human-produced goods are consumed or become waste within 6 months.

The UN panel warns that “rapid economic growth occurring simultaneously in many parts of the world will place much higher demands on supply infrastructure and the environment’s ability to continue supplying materials.” If Earth cannot provide the material increases expected, then total human resource consumption will have to stabilize. How is this to be achieved?

Economy and materials

The imperative of industrial economy is growth, but the ecological data tells us to slow down. The conflict may be the supreme challenge of our age, almost entirely ignored by status quo politicians. The UN Resource Panel avoids the challenge by proposing twin strategies of “efficiency” and “decoupling” to allow global economic growth to continue.

Efficiency is the long-sought holy grail of technology, the belief that machines will produce the goods we want with less demand on resources. Decoupling describes the theory that more efficient machines, and wise strategies can create economic growth without consuming resources. Let’s examine these beliefs. 

Efficiency: In 1865, William Jevons published The Coal Question, showing that technological efficiencies did not reduce coal consumption but increased consumption. Historically, when we become more efficient with a resource, we use more of it. The “Jevons paradox” applied to resource use in general. Efficiency often increases consumption. 

Energy efficient automobiles increased leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl. Refrigeration efficiency led to larger refrigerators and more electricity consumption. In North America, according research by William Rees, as modern heating systems improved efficiency by 10-30% , living and working space per person increase on the scale of 100 to 300%, ten times faster, increasing total energy consumption for heating. According to a 1994 study by Mario Giampietro, the so-called “Green Revolution,” increasing food production with hydrocarbons and fertilizers, led to increased population growth, degraded land, a trail of toxins, and more starving people.

Computer technology was going to solve this, making modern life more efficient, but in 1990, at the dawn of the personal computer revolution, global productivity stopped improving, and since 2000, productivity — economic production per unit of resource use or labour — declined. Computers sped up global economy, and we now use more fossil fuels, paper, and other materials than we did when personal computers became available.  

Decoupling: The UN panel’s other theory proposes: “to decouple economic growth and human well-being from ever-increasing consumption of natural resources.” The panel claims, “many countries have initiated policies to facilitate decoupling,” but cannot offer any evidence of success. 

The global economy now needs more materials per unit of GDP, than required twenty years ago. Meanwhile, lower net energy; higher energy costs for resources, and growing environmental destruction per unit of economic activity undermine the hypothesis of decoupling. The UN appears to realize this since they project that annual resource extraction will increase to 180-billion tons by 2050.

Similarly the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes “mitigation technologies” such as carbon capture, even though these technologies have not even slowed the growth of carbon emissions. Germany, the world leader in solar installations has seen no drop in emissions since 2009, while coal and LNG plants remain open. The UN agencies mean well, but cling to delusions. “They bombard us with adverts, cajoling us to insulate our homes, turn down our thermostats, drive a little less,” says Tim Jackson, with the UK Sustainable Development Commission, “The one piece of advice you will not see on a government list is ‘buy less stuff!’” 


For the poorer nations, economic growth remains important, but the blind spot of international politics remains the taboo against recognizing the limits to aggregate global economic growth. We have now reached those limits, and wealthy countries must embrace this ecological reality. 

“Civilization has a metabolism, about 7.1 milliwatts per dollar of GDP (2005 US$),” explains ecologist Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota. “Currently, 80% of nitrogen in our bodies and 50% of the protein comes indirectly from natural gas.”  A study published in Bioscience, by J.H. Brown and colleagues points out that “energy imposes fundamental constraints on economic growth and development [similar to] scaling of metabolic rate with body mass in animals. … Additional economic growth and development will require some combination of (a) increased energy supply, (b) decreased per capita energy use, and (c) decreased human population. … The ruins of Mohenjo Daro, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, the Maya, Angkor, Easter Island, and many other complex civilizations provide incontrovertible evidence that innovation does not always prevent socioeconomic collapse.” 

During the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, Global material use actually slowed. Historically, economic recessions provide the only examples of reduced consumption, and here we may recognize the genuine solutions to resource consumption: allow and encourage wealthy economies to stabilize and contract.  The UN report recognizes that “the level of well-being achieved in wealthy industrial countries cannot be generalized globally based on the same system of production and consumption.”

This part, they get right. Humanity needs a new economic model that does not require the delusion of endless growth in a finite global habitat.



UNEP Report, PDF: Global Material Flows, Resource Productivity, 2016; limits, overshoot

Energy Skeptic: Limits to Growth? 2016 United Nations report provides best evidence yet

Huffington Post: Consumption Of Earth's Resources > Tripled In 40 Years, UNEP

Climate News: Plunder of Resources 

Grassroots Recycling Network: Waste, Recycling and Climate Change

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth

The Way Forward: Survival 2100, William Rees, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions. 

(Soddy 1926, Odum 1971, Georgescu-Roegen 1977, Ruth 1993, Schneider and Kay 1995, Hall et al. 2001, Chen 2005, Smil 2008). 

Energy efficient automobiles increase leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl (Jeremy Cherfas, 1991)

Refrigeration efficiency led to larger refrigerators and more electricity consumption (Daniel Khazzoom, 1987). 

Mario Giampietro:

J.H. Brown, et. al., Bioscience:


Researchers at Mainz University in Germany have found a link between intelligence and shortsightedness, saying those who wear glasses may often be smarter than those who don't. | 10/10/16
China has signed agreements on the mutual recognition of higher education degrees with 19 EU member states, including France, Germany and Italy, according to the Ministry of Education. | 10/9/16

The first biography of Adolf Hitler which presented him as "Germany's saviour" and compared him to Jesus may have been written by the future dictator himself, a Scottish historian has claimed. "Adolf Hitler: Sein Leben und seine Reden (Adolf Hitler: His Life and his Speeches)" was the first major profile of Hitler and appeared in 1923, authored by Victor von Koerber. Historian Thomas Weber, from Aberdeen University, has unearthed documents in a South African archive which indicates the book was "almost certainly" written by Hitler himself as a "shameless but clever act of self-promotion". | 10/8/16

Much of the responsibility in caring for refugees arriving in Germany has fallen to local authorities. This has brought challenges, but also successful innovations that must be widely shared – and quickly, says Brookings Institution scholar Bruce Katz.

Between January 2015 and July 2016, 1.3 million migrants and refugees fleeing poverty and economic deprivation arrived in Germany. The arrival of so many people, most of them in need of a home, food and healthcare, posed immense humanitarian challenges for the country’s leaders and communities as a whole.

A new study by the Brookings Institution found that much of the responsibilities for accommodating refugees in the country fell to those working at a local level. The lessons learned on the front lines of Germany’s response to the crisis could have lasting implications for cities around the world, the study says.

The report, called “Cities and Refugees – The German Experience,” was released last week during the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. Its authors, Bruce Katz, Luise Noring and Natnke Garrelts, examined how refugees have been distributed in Germany in the past 18 months and how cities across the country responded to that challenge.

They concluded that successful handling of the crisis will depend on whether European cities are given a greater voice in international decision making and receive greater financial and political support.

Refugees Deeply spoke with Bruce Katz, Centennial Scholar at the Brookings Institution, about the research.

Refugees Deeply: Nearly 60 percent of refugees today live in urban areas, placing huge responsibilities on local authorities. Yet these cities don’t always have the funding or authority to respond adequately. How did that disconnect play out in Germany?

Bruce Katz: Germany is a federal republic with a federal government, 16 states and hundreds of cities and municipalities. Three of the states – Hamburg, Bremen and Berlin – are city-states and combine the functions of a city and a state. Responsibility for substantial domestic activities in Germany, like housing, schools and many of the labor market efforts are locally and state based.

Germany is a highly devolved federal republic and that has meant that cities do have power and agency. Responding to the refugee crisis, Germany’s national government has used its powers to open the border, and to reset the rules around citizenship and integration. However, a lot of the responsibility for the response, not just in the delivery of services but also the actual design and financing of them, has fallen to local and state governments, and to a burgeoning network of nonprofits that has emerged in the aftermath of the crisis.

As this crisis goes forward and the focus shifts from short-term response to longer-term integration, there does need to be more of a federal role in investment and finance, and more support so that when one city cracks the code on a particular set of issues or comes up with an innovative response, other cities know about it in rapid fashion.

Refugees Deeply: How did the cities you studied handle the influx of refugees? What were the successes and what were the challenges?

Katz: The challenges were pretty substantial. The federal government distributed refugees according to a formula that was previously used to distribute research money to different states in the federal republic. That led to higher density in the city-states, particularly in Berlin and Hamburg, and affordability issues with housing.

The biggest challenge initially was finding accommodation for refugees that didn’t just provide basic, humane shelter but were a platform for moving forward. We’ve learned, including from the aftermath of natural disasters in the U.S., that it’s really critical to bring normalcy to people’s lives as quickly as you can. That means running facilities for refugees in places with access to services and a guarantee that families have privacy and children can go to school as quickly as possible. That’s what brings back routine to people’s lives.

All of these challenges – housing, education, access to services – were magnified in states like Hamburg and Berlin because, as city-states, they have a limited amount of land. To their credit, they moved as quickly as possible to find accommodation and innovative ways to locate facilities. The old American notion that crisis begets innovation is very much apparent when you go to Germany and compare what the crisis looks like today and what it looked like last September.

Refugees Deeply: Could you describe one of the innovations that struck you the most?

Katz: I was struck by an effort in Hamburg called Finding Places, which is a collaboration betweenMIT, Hamburg City University, the city government and the residents of Hamburg. It’s an open access data system allowing citizens to look at available land and buildings and verify whether they’re really there. Citizens also help think about how their communities can begin to get past nimbyism and how to communally decide how to use assets so refugees aren’t concentrated in particular parts of the city, but instead land and buildings are used smartly to distribute refugees and give them a good start.

In Berlin, I saw the use of shipping containers for housing in a very sensitive way. The community was well-landscaped, and it really felt like housing that a family could live in for a substantial amount of time. What we’re always looking for when we’re seeing the response to refugees is whether some of these lessons and innovations could be used for other issues: for example, the big homelessness problem in the U.S.

Refugees Deeply: David Miliband, president of the IRC(International Rescue Committee), argued at Brookings last week that it makes economic sense to invest in the resettlement of refugees. Have you found that to be the case in your research in Germany?

Katz: Europe definitely faces broader labor market and demographic issues because of the aging of society, but the response to refugees has been for humanitarian reasons first and foremost. I believe Germany really had a moral conviction to open up its borders and help people fleeing conflict. That requires a short-term response and a long-term response, and there are questions about how efficient and effective that response can be when you’re faced with the arrival of tens of thousands of people in a very short period of time.

Integrating large numbers of people into your economic system, let alone your social system, requires an intense focus on education and skills. Going forward, the question of schools and skills is both imperative and incredibly challenging. Germany has a highly sophisticated economy with very rigid credentials, and that’s a challenging labor market to integrate refugees in. You need to speak in German and you need to have a serious level of skill to access many of the jobs in the productive sector of the German economy.

Refugees Deeply: Many refugees prefer to resettle in areas where fellow nationals have settled. On the other hand, the potential formation of parallel societies with increasingly segregated urban neighborhoods is a major concern for policymakers. What policies could help refugees benefit from the support of a community and network, while at the same time avoiding patterns of segregation?

Katz: This is one of the most serious questions countries like Germany, France, Belgium and Sweden face – already from prior waves of immigration. It’s not surprising refugees want to move to an area where there’s more comfort and cultural familiarity when they first arrive in a place, particularly when they don’t speak the language. The U.S., with its different migration waves, has seen this pattern repeat itself again and again.

One of the challenges is how this relates to the housing markets. We’ve seen that housing prices in certain parts of Germany are not just forcing people to specific parts of the cities, but are forcing people outside of the city. You’ll find large numbers of migrants and refugees, not only in the core cities but in many small municipalities outside the city. Because housing and labor markets are metropolitan it will require a broader metropolitan response. We’re undertaking research right now to thinking about multi-municipal responses, particularly in places like Germany where so much power is devolved down.

Where enclaves do exist, we need to think how we can ensure that they’re as open and networked as they can possibly be. In the U.S., we’ve always talked about building neighborhoods of choice and connection. You want people to choose where they want to live, but those communities need to be connected into the broader city and the broader metropolis through labor markets, housing markets and other kinds of services and activities. I’m not saying the U.S. is a shining example, but once we start talking about city innovations, what happens in Houston matters in Hamburg and vice versa. Going forward, in responding to these kinds of humanitarian crises, we’re going to see a lot more sharing across cities rather than just beyond national borders.

This interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

“Cities and Refugees – The German Experience” was released at a Brookings Institute event last week. Speakers included U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken, President of the IRC David Miliband and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. You can read a summary of the discussion paper here and watch footage of the event below.

This article originally appeared on Refugees Deeply. For weekly updates and analysis about refugee issues, you can sign up to the Refugees Deeply email list.

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The oldest known person was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at age 122. However, the new findings don't mean that researchers know for sure that humans will never live longer than 122 years, said Steven Austad, a professor of biology and aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the study. In the new study, the researchers looked at the Human Mortality Database, an international database with detailed mortality data that's maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Max Plank Institutes in Germany. | 10/5/16

The oldest known person was Jeanne Calment, a French woman who died in 1997 at age 122. However, the new findings don't mean that researchers know for sure that humans will never live longer than 122 years, said Steven Austad, a professor of biology and aging at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who was not involved in the study. In the new study, the researchers looked at the Human Mortality Database, an international database with detailed mortality data that's maintained by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and the Max Plank Institutes in Germany. | 10/5/16

If you’re worried about holiday weight gain this year, you might have cause for concern: It seems weight gain surrounding festivities is a nearly universal truth, according to a new study conducted in Germany, the U.S. and Japan. 

Researchers found that citizens of these three countries put on weight at different times of year, each time corresponding to specific holiday celebrations in each country. This may come as a surprise to those who believe that weight gain in the holidays is a unique phenomenon in the U.S., or even only in the West.

The common denominator in all three countries was the Christmas-New Year holiday. The first 10 days after Christmas led to the highest average weight increase for all three groups: Americans gained an average 1.3lbs, 1.8lbs for Germans and 1.1lbs for the Japanese.

But the study also found that Americans gain weight during Thanksgiving, too, while for Germans the equivalent is the period around Easter. And for the Japanese, the bump happens surrounding a holiday period in the beginning of May called the “Golden Week.”

Researchers chose the three countries because they represent different continents, said co-author Elina Helander, a postdoctoral researcher at Tampere University of Technology, Finland. 

Her study included 3,000 participants in all three countries who were given wireless digital scales to monitor their weight every day for a full year, starting from August 1, 2012. The researchers then assessed changes in the participants’ weight compared to their initial weight.

The most interesting discovery the researchers made was that, while people would shed around half of the weight they gained during the holiday season almost immediately, the other half would remain intact well into summer and even longer.

Of course, seasonal variations in weight could also be at play: Studies show that most people exercise less and eat more during the winter. But the researchers said that holidays specifically accounted for at least some of the weight gain in the study.  

“Holidays are sharper peaks, whereas seasonal (gain) is associated with slowly varying trends,” Helander told HuffPost. In other words, we gain weight more abruptly during a holiday period, while weight changes over a season tend to fluctuate more slowly.

Overall, the study confirms what people suspected for a long time: gaining weight over the holidays is real almost everywhere. But instead of frustrating us, this fact might actually help us get more savvy with our food next time we get into festive mood.

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In the second installment of Syria Deeply’s Experts to Watch series, meet seven doctors and researchers doing incredible work on public health in Syria. 

More than five years into the war, the public health sector in many parts of Syria is on the brink.

Medical infrastructure, particularly in opposition-held areas of the country, has been crippled by frequent, targeted attacks. Medicines and critical provisions are in short supply. Few medical workers are left. In the city of Aleppo, World Health Organization representative Elizabeth Hoff told Syria Deeply, roughly 95 percent of doctors have either fled or been detained or killed since the beginning of the crisis.

The desperate shortages have not only affected the care for victims of war, but also affect millions of patients suffering from chronic diseases, like diabetes, asthma, cancer and kidney and heart diseases. The Syrian American Medical Society estimated in 2014 that at least 200,000 Syrians had died from chronic diseases since 2011.

Meet seven experts working on the complicated and multifaceted health crises Syrians face.

Annie Sparrow

Dr. Annie Sparrow, an associate professor and deputy director of the human rights program at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, currently focuses on the Syrian conflict. Sparrow spends much time on the Turkey-Syrian border, documenting the health crisis and training Syrian medical workers. She has written extensively on the polio epidemic in the country, as well as the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons and its attacks on the Syrian healthcare system. She has also been extremely critical of the approach of some U.N. agencies to relief work during the crisis. Sparrow has been working on the intersection of medicine and human rights for more than a decade. She turned her attention to refugee health after practicing as a pediatrician in London and Perth and spending years in Africa working on topics like HIV, sexual violence in conflict, malaria and tuberculosis. Sparrow’s on Twitter at @annie_sparrow.

Fouad M. Fouad

Fouad M. Fouad, a general surgeon in Aleppo, was the coordinator of the Syrian Center for Tobacco Studies and the director of a primary healthcare department in his hometown before the start of the war. Since leaving the country in 2012, he’s been working at the American University of Beirut, focusing on health crises related to the conflict. Fouad painted a grim image of the state of Syria’s health sector in a 2015 interview with Syria Deeply, explaining that thousands of doctors have left the country, infrastructure has largely been destroyed, medicine is in short supply and chronic illnesses are left untreated.

David Scales

In the summer of 2012, between the end of a postdoc in biomedical informatics at and the start of his residency in internal medicine at Cambridge Health Alliance, David Scales traveled to Jordan to meet some of the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who had crossed the border into the neighboring country. He spent two months with the Syrian American Medical Society and the National Arab American Medical Association, working with Syrian refugees in the Zaatari camp and at a spinal cord injury center in Jordan. Since then, Scales has written frequently about his work and the refugees he encountered. His academic writing has focused on infectious diseases and the structures and policies that complicate their handling. He tweets at @davidascales.

Elise Baker

Elise Baker is a researcher at Physicians for Human Rights and leads the Syria mapping project, which documents attacks on medical facilities and personnel in the country. She’s the author of a July report on the dire conditions in in Madaya, a small, besieged town an hour’s drive from Damascus where more than 80 people died of starvation. “The cost of political impasse is death and destruction in Syria,” Baker told Syria Deeply in May after fighting intensified in Aleppo. “If Syria’s leaders and the international community cannot reach a peace accord, there’s no doubt attacks on healthcare will continue and the consequences will be deadly for everyday Syrians.” Before joining Physicians for Human Rights, Baker studied the effects of post-conflict restoration and reconciliation in Burundi and Rwanda. Baker is on Twitter at @elise__baker.

Maher Aboumayaleh

Maher Aboumayaleh coordinates the health response of the Aga Khan Development Network to the Syria crisis. Previously, he was a member of the World Bank Civil Society Consultative Group on Health, Nutrition and Population and a director of Primary Healthcare in Latakia, Syria.

Zaidoun al-Zoabi

Dr. Zaidoun al-Zoabi heads the Union of Syrian Medical Relief Organizations, a coalition of humanitarian, nongovernmental and medical organizations providing relief and medical care to victims of the war. The organization was founded by Syrian health workers and is known for its impartiality. It runs several hospitals and medical centers in Syria, trains medical workers and funds medical supplies. Several of the organization’s hospitals have been damaged or destroyed in the war. Originally from Daraa, Zoabi now lives in Germany but frequently travels to the region. He made an impassioned plea on CNN last year for the violence in his country to come to an end. “What wrong have we done to endure such a bloody, stupid war?! It is enough for us, for God’s sake,” he said.

Mahmoud Mustafa

Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa is a field ophthalmologist and the director of Independent Doctors Association (IDA), a Syrian nonprofit organization of Syrian medics providing healthcare services to the population of Aleppo province. A native of Aleppo, Mustafa and his colleagues work to reactivate and rehabilitate health facilities in the opposition-held parts of the region in an effort to cover the health needs of people living in one of Syria’s most war-torn regions. Faced with the persistent attacks on health workers in the region, Mahmoud and IDA are strong advocates for the protection of medical workers and facilities in Syria.

This article originally appeared on Syria Deeply. For weekly updates about the war in Syria, you can sign up to the Syria Deeply email list.

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Mr. Mannheimer visited hundreds of schools and other institutions, advocating democracy and helping ensure that Germany’s World War II horrors were never repeated. | 9/28/16
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. | 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:

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

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

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

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)

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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

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A sexual abuse scandal in the central state of Hesse has rocked Germany. Recent details emerging suggest there may be many more victims involved. | 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 | 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?

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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.

— 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. | 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. | 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. | 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 [...] | 9/15/16

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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