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“My God, my kid needs to go here”: In Hamburg, Germany, a professional soccer stadium is also home to an early-education program. | 4/24/17

For the non-state actors who are making efforts to approach cybersecurity issue in a different and creative way, the state actors, however, have given clear signs that they have exhausted their patience and insisted on doing things alone by bringing traditional old tricks back into cyberspace.

This is exemplified in the bilateral meeting of two cyber sovereigntists — the Chinese and U.S. presidents on April 6-7, and in the multilateral G7 Declaration on Responsible States Behavior in Cyberspace on April 11.

Particularly disturbing in the wording of the G7 Declaration is its call on "states to publicly explain their views on how existing international law applies to states' activities in cyberspace to the greatest extent possible".

If we associate that with the words shared by Ms. Heli Tiirmaa-Klaar, Head of Cyber Policy Coordination at European External Action Service at an event on March 29, during which she promotes the application of "the Law of Armed Conflict based on the interpretations in the two Tallinn Manuals”, then it is clear that the G7 nation-states are eager to introduce the traditional logics of conflict solution into the cyber domain.

This has given rise to the trend that the whole set of industrial age narratives such as allies, threats, deterrence are being replicated in the cyber rules-making. Once this lid is opened, global Internet governance will be dominated by those whose way of thinking divides people rather than unites them. Nevertheless, at the approaching UN GGE conference in June, it would be clearer about how far the states can go.

The real dilemma goes beyond the warring rhetoric of states, but rests on the very legitimacy the states have on striking a deal on cybersecurity. As early as in 1996, Barlow had a good reason to call states like "China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States" as "weary giants of flesh and steel". By 2017, their legitimacy and credibility in cyber policy-making had suffered numerous fatal blows.

It is in this context of the crisis of traditional models that the multistakeholder approach represented by ICANN has been widely celebrated, and the industry initiative on a Digital Geneva Convention by Microsoft is highly appreciated. Professor Milton Mueller has compared the Microsoft initiative to a "2017 version" of the Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

When the industry and civil society find ways to join hands, there is a chance that they can make a difference. Take the China-U.S. case for example, now that the two presidents have agreed to carry on the cybersecurity dialogue, the two countries' IT industry leaders like GAFA and BAT and civil society groups should reach each other to make sure this dialogue happens in a multistakeholder framework and is not dominated by those who approach the issue from a national security lens.

After all, state actors are often willing to compromise cyber issues for other geopolitical gains. The IT sector and the civil society groups who are active in the field, however, have the interests and motivation to treat cyberspace as a different domain that nurtures new values, gives birth to creative mechanism of global governance, and, in turn, enlightens the physical world and traditional mentality.

Written by Peixi (Patrick) XU, Associate Professor, Communication University of China | 4/13/17
New research at Germany's University of Heidelberg reveals that mothers who experience stress during pregnancy could increase their child's risk of age-related disease in years to come.
Home education is a right recognised by international human rights. And yet, Germany fails to honour these agreements, writes Alexandra Tompson. | 4/6/17
A group of researchers at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany and INRS-EMT in Canada is paving the way for mass-producing low-cost printable electronics by demonstrating a fully inkjet-printable flexible resistive memory.* Additive manufacturing (commonly used in 3-D printing), allows for a streamlined process flow, replacing complex lithography (used in making chips), at the [...]
Scientists at the University of Bonn in Germany converted skin cells from patients into induced pluripotent stem cells. | 4/5/17

Amal Clooney (née Alamuddin) made a name for herself as a human rights lawyer long before she married George Clooney in September 2014. She's used her newfound fame to help publicize certain issues happening all over the world, including international crimes in Iraq and Syria and women's rights. Her work has been published in multiple books, including The Law and Practice of the Special Tribunal For Lebanon, but you're probably wondering where Amal is from.

Amal was born in Beirut, Lebanon, to parents Ramzi and Baria Alamuddin. She and her family left for London during the height of the Lebanese Civil War when she was 2 years old. Her mom, Baria, is a foreign affairs editor at Al Hayat (a Lebanese newspaper), while her dad is a retired business professor from the American University in Beirut. Amal is fluent in English, Arabic, and French. It's likely that Amal's upbringing inspires the work she does with refugees today. In 2016, Amal and George sat down with German chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss Germany's plan to help with Europe's refugee crisis, and the lawyer is currently working with Nobel Peace Prize nominee Nadia Murad to convince UN officials to investigate ISIS, an issue Amal is very passionate about. George has also never been one to shy away from being a political activist for causes close to his heart - he even started a charity with Brad Pitt and Matt Damon dedicated to protecting human rights, called Not on Our Watch, in 2008.

BERLIN — Scientists in Germany have for the first time mapped the entire genome of rye, a cereal known for its hardy properties.

Eva Bauer, a plant researcher at the Technical University of Munich and lead author of the study, says rye has received less attention than wheat, barley and maize, which are more widely cultivated.

This meant there was less funding from industry to sequence the rye genome, which is about 2½ times the size of the human genome.

Researchers from University of Warwick in the UK also found that parents in Denmark and Germany deal with the least amount of crying and fussing. | 4/3/17
The story of a 14-year-old who had to change schools to escape anti-Semitism is making headlines in Germany. The boy's tormentors were of Arab and Turkish descent - making the news even more explosive. | 4/2/17

Wentworth Miller is best known for his ridiculously good looks and his role as Michael Scofield in Fox's Prison Break, but there's so much more to him than that. Like, did you know that he has a bachelor's degree from Princeton University, or that he's starred in not one, but two Mariah Carey music videos? Read on to get to know more about the star in six quick facts.

  1. Wentworth is a dual citizen. He was born in England to American parents and moved to Brooklyn when he was just a year old. Each of his parents have at least three different ethnic backgrounds. "My father is black and my mother is white. Therefore, I could answer to either, which kind of makes me a racial Lone Ranger, at times, caught between two communities," he previously told GQ Germany. His dad has Jamaican, African-American, Jewish, and English ancestry, while his mom is Russian, French, Dutch, Syrian, and Lebanese.
  2. He's gay. The actor famously came out as gay in 2013, and in an interview with Details the following year, Wentworth opened up about his decision, saying he felt more open and honest. "I feel more fully expressed. After Prison Break, I came to grips with the fact that my public persona was in misalignment with how I actually felt. I was out to a handful of people in my twenties, and once I hit 30, I was out to family and friends. But professionally, I was feeding a fantasy. I created this air of 'We don't address that thing.'"
  3. He has a bachelor's degree in English literature. Wentworth graduated from Princeton University in 1995, and during his time there, he sang with the a cappella group Tigertones, performed in Theatre Intime's production of Amadeus, and drew political cartoons for The Daily Princetonian.
  4. Wentworth has starred in two Mariah Carey music videos. Not only did he play Mariah's main love interest in her 2005 video for "We Belong Together," but Wentworth also appeared as a party guest in her 2009 "It's Like That" video.
  5. He also made an appearance on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Before he made it big on Prison Break, Wentworth made his first onscreen role as Gage Petronzi, a member of the Sunnydale High Swim Team who becomes a Gill Monster, in the episode "Go Fish." He's also appeared in films, including Underworld, The Loft, and Resident Evil: Afterlife.
  6. He's a screenwriter. His movie scripts include Stoker, its prequel Uncle Charlie, and The Disappointments Room. During an interview with Movieline back in 2010, Wentworth revealed he used the name Ted Foulke as a pseudonym, saying, "That wasn't about protecting my identity. I just wanted the scripts to sink or swim on their own."
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Germany and Leiden University in the Netherlands have shown how this enormous developmental step occurs: a critical fibre connection in the brain matures. | 3/29/17
Germany will not tolerate foreign espionage on its territory, the interior minister said on Tuesday, in a robust response to media reports that Turkish secret services were spying on supporters of the Gulen movement in Germany. Fethullah Gulen, a U.S-based Muslim cleric with a large following in Turkey, is accused by Ankara of orchestrating a failed military coup last July. Ankara has purged state institutions, schools and universities and the media of tens of thousands of suspected... | 3/28/17
[AIM] Maputo -Mozambique and Germany on Friday in Maputo signed technical and financial accords establishing support for the sectors of education, sustainable economic development, and public finances. | 3/27/17
A new book Getting to Zero: Global Social Work Responds to HIV provides an unprecedented international snapshot of the HIV/AIDS situation, covering Brazil, Canada, the Caribbean, Ethiopia, Germany, India, Mozambique, Scotland, South Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Ukraine, United States and Zimbabwe, across 18 chapters. It was released on Tuesday at the UNAIDS headquarters in Geneva. With 2030 fast approaching, the goal of ending the world HIV/AIDS epidemic is an ambitious one. Now, a new joint publication from the International Association of Schools and Social Work (IASSW) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), gives renewed global focus to the getting to zero strategy. | 3/24/17
Up to 38 percent of jobs in the U.S. are at a high risk of being eliminated due to advances in automation, according to a new report by consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). The risk is highest in sectors such as transportation and storage (56 percent), manufacturing (46 percent), and wholesale and retail (44 percent) and lower in sectors such as health and social work (17 percent), according to the study.

"These estimates are based on an algorithm linking automatability to the characteristics of the tasks involved in different jobs as well as those of the workers doing them (e.g., the education and training levels required)," PwC said in the report. The estimates are based on anticipated technological advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics between now and the early 2030s.

U.S. Jobs More Vulnerable than Other Economies

There is still an enormous amount of uncertainty in these figures, however, as PwC was quick to point out. "Not all of these technologically feasible job automations may occur in practice for the economic, legal and regulatory reasons," according to the report.

The study also found that jobs in the U.S. are significantly more likely to be at risk of being replaced by computers. Only 30 percent of jobs in the U.K. are considered at risk. In comparison, 35 percent of jobs in Germany are considered at risk and only 21 percent of Japanese jobs are thought to be at risk.

"We find that the larger proportion of jobs at potential high risk of automation in the US is almost exclusively driven by differences in the automatability of jobs for given industry sectors," PwC said. EUThe US has a similarly service-dominated economy to the UK with relatively little difference in employment shares by industry sector."

Finance Jobs at Risk

The biggest differences between the two economies... | 3/24/17
In a study of the bone marrow of mice, researchers from the University of Ulm, Germany, found older rodents tended to lack levels of the protein osteopontin.


Sixty years after the Treaty of Rome was signed, a lot of work still needs to be done. The European Union is suffering the blows of a widespread lack of trust in European institutions, a refugee crisis and its link to arising xenophobia, generational inequalities, populism and many other issues that can undermine its foundations and achievements.

In occasion of this anniversary, it’s time to celebrate the past, but also to rethink the future. And the young must affirm its role in the institutional dialogue.

This is why we as NEOS are supporting as media partners an initiative whose importance seems of great relevance and significance to us. The German-Italian Centre for European Excellence, Villa Vigoni and the organisation United Europe have selected a group of outstanding young European scholars and professionals who will develop a common vision of where Europe should be heading. The aim is to write a document, “The Rome Manifesto”, which should offer a perspective on the future of Europe.

The authors are brilliant young Europeans – from 25 to 40. Half of them are young scholars specialised for instance in history, philosophy, EU law and public governance. The other half are young professionals including a doctor, a startup entrepreneur, a business consultant and a public affairs specialist.

They are divided into three groups:

  1. “Narrative of European integration”, with Germany’s former finance minister Peer Steinbrück as patron. While the fundamentals of Europe’s mission – safeguarding peace and prosperity – continue to be valid, the interpretation of what that means will need to change in order to explain Europe’s raison d’etre to today’s Europeans.

  2. “European institutions”, whose patron is Filippo Taddei, Director of the Bologna Institute for Policy Research at the Johns Hopkins University in Bologna and Chief economist of the Italian Democratic Party. Currently, decision-making at the EU level not only lacks effectiveness, but also transparency. Ordinary people do not understand how Europe’s institutions work which harms their legitimacy. Add to that the fact that many national governments have taken to blaming the EU for unpopular decisions, even if they were involved in making these decisions, themselves.

  3. “European Identity”, with Sylvie Goulard, French Member of the European Parliament. This group is is discussing what the European identity represents, and how Europeans can be made aware of it, in order to strengthen the link between Europe and its citizens. Across the continent, Europeans have many common roots in history, culture, politics, society and values. The geographic proximity also contributes heavily to a common destiny. If the European Union is to regain popular acceptance, more Europeans – including the older generation and people with a variety of educational backgrounds – will need to start sharing this sense of a European identity.

The choice of involving young Europeans has a double symbolic valence. On the one hand, it reflects the forward-looking feature of the Manifesto. On the other hand, it is the acknowledgment of a rising European identity in the young, which is well shown by the following chart by the 2012 Eurobarometer 78.

“It is among the young generations and the most economically and socially advantaged categories that the European Union enjoys the most favourable image”, says the Eurobarometer 83 of 2015. Positive perceptions are the most widespread among Europeans belonging to generation “Y”, born after 1980 (47% “positive” versus 14% “negative”, and 38% neutral stance) and people who studied up to the age of 20 or beyond (49% versus 15%, and 35% “neutral”).

The working groups have recently met at Villa Vigoni to conclude the drafting of the document. In the run-up to the anniversary celebrations of the Treaty of Rome, the document will be presented at the Residence of the German Ambassador in Rome, Villa Almone, on 23 March. | 3/14/17
Here’s something to smile about. The enigma wrapped in a riddle known as Mona Lisa has long been the subject of speculation – is her ambiguous expression a smile? A recent study by the University of Freiburg in Germany found that nearly 100 percent of people described her as unequivocally “happy.” “We really were astonished,”... | 3/13/17

According to the 2015 World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015 Report, the water crisis is the world’s #1 risk. The problem is not only the amount of water available in the world’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers, but the pollution of those resources from human contamination, including bacteria, toxins, and nutrient loading.

Around the world, lakes are dying off through bacterial and algae blooms. Lake Erie between Canada and the US, Lough Neagh in the UK, Lake Taihu in China, to name but a few of the thousands of dead or swampy lakes around the world devastated by humanity’s commercial, agricultural, and septic runoff.

Xuzhou Steel Group’s steel plant is located near Weishan Lake, China, 4 May, 2015

In 2009, Earth systems scientist Johan Rockström and colleagues published “Planetary Boundaries” in the journal Nature, showing that human activity has threatened seven essential systems – including fresh water and the disruption of the world’s nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, which effect fresh water.

Phosphorous and nitrogen are critical for organic molecules such as nucleic acids, adenosine triphosphate (ADT), and for DNA. All plants need phosphorous and nitrogen and have evolved to find and absorb these nutrients. However, nutrient loading from human sources leads to accelerated productivity in water – called eutrophication – signalled by algae blooms, oxygen depletion and dead zones. Agricultural fertilisers, phosphate soaps, and household septic systems all contribute to the nutrient cycle disruption.

Human communities, factories and livestock also contribute bacteria to the world’s water tables. Health officials are particularly concerned with coliform bacteria, often used to indicate hepatitis or giardia, since those pathogens prove difficult to detect but often exist in combination with fecal coliform. In particular, health authorities monitor water for Escherichia coli (E. coli), a source of disease.

Industrial and domestic toxic waste products including arsenic, fluoride, selenium, uranium, iron, manganese, mercury, pesticides, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and microbial pathogens are also major sources or water contamination.

Fortunately, this triple threat of nutrient loading, bacteria, and toxins – can be mitigated using organic, biological methods, generally known as “bioremediation.”


Certain microbes, bacteria, fungi, and plants can remove or metabolise pollutants in soil or water, including assisting in the removal of industrial chemicals, petroleum products, and pesticides. Some compounds – certain heavy metals, such as cadmium or lead, for example – resist bioremediation. However, some studies have found that fish bone and bone char can remove small amounts of lead, cadmium, copper, and zinc from soils.

A healthy ecosystem is, in itself, a bioremedial network of organisms, processing each others’ wastes, and this process can be enhanced by design. Purely organic systems include bioswales, plant buffers, and biofilters regulated by microorganisms.

Ecological farming Finca Organopónica Cayo Piedra, Cuba, 14, January, 2017

Smart farmers and communities have used bioremediation for millennia. Permaculture and simple composting employ bioremediation to metabolise unwanted bacteria or pathogens in soils. Simply replanting native species along disturbed shorelines helps take up nutrients and bacteria. Microbes and mycelium can be added to soil, to enhance the natural uptake of unwanted compounds and organisms.

Bionics to Biomimicry

In the 1950s, American biophysicist Otto Schmitt copied the nervous system of a squid to help design an electronic trigger circuit that is still used today to remove noise from signals in digital circuits. He coined the word “biomimetics” to describe the process of taking design advice from organisms and ecosystems. His colleague Jack Steele coined the term “bionics,” later used in Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg, associated with increasing human powers using artificial body parts.

In 1997, Janine Benyus published Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, expanding biomimetics and popularising the idea of using natural systems to design commercial products. The classic example is Velcro, patented in 1955 by Swiss engineer George de Mestra, designed after the surface of common burs.

“When we look at what is truly sustainable,” wrote Benyus, “the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world.” Producing commercial products, however, is a different matter than restoring degraded ecosystems. Nevertheless, it remains feasible that nature-inspired design could help restore ecological balance.

Last year, Jesse Goldstein at Virginia Commonwealth University and Elizabeth Johnson at University of Exeter, published Biomimicry: New Natures, New Enclosures to address these questions. They critique a “neoliberal illusion” that we help the ecosystem by creating a faster “bioeconomy,” using spider web chemistry to create bullet proof vests, or natural designs to create more powerful aeroplanes, faster computers, sharper video screens, or biotech patents.

They warn that neoliberal economics overlooks biophysical limits and the inherent unsustainability of relentless economic growth. They suggest that the bioeconomy can become another form of private accumulation, whereby patents of nature’s creations replace fences to enclose the natural commons for private profit, driven by venture capital funding, not for the restoration of nature, but for the “reproduction of capital.”

However, biotechnologies can include genuinely restorative systems, including bioremediation fields, a sharkskin design used in hospitals to repel bacteria, or a Nubian beetle technique of drinking from fog, used to collect water for buildings.

“How,” Goldstein and Johnson ask, “can we imagine a form of production that can both reproduce beautiful lives and unmake the infrastructure of our ecologically catastrophic social formation?”

Ecological restoration

To create successful biological design, we not only have to ask, “How does nature solve this physical challenge?” but also ask: “What is natural economics?” The economy of an ecosystem is non-hierarchical It is a web of shared relationships that contribute materials, energy and services to other parts of the network, as growth fluctuates within natural limits.

Lake Winnipeg in Canada suffered from high levels of phosphorus loading from the surrounding community, causing severe algae blooms. Researchers planted cattail to reduce nutrient flows. Certain plant species, such as cattail and canary grass produce sugar-like compounds that move through the roots, into the soil, and enhance nutrient collection and disease resistance. The Lake Winnipeg project has been so successful that researchers are now harvesting cattail as a heating fuel, further increasing the nutrient removal, since the plants are not left on the lakeshore to decompose.

Biologist, Dr. John Todd, has designed what he calls “Living Machines” – bioremediation fields to clean up contaminated soil and water in the US, China, and elsewhere. The system on Moskito Island in the Virgin Islands, treats domestic sewage on a terraced hillside, using solar heat, gravity, and ecological systems to take up nutrients and distribute them to plants, animals, bacteria and fungi throughout the system.

Fungi in the Kellerwald forest near Edersee, Germany, 25 October, 2013

In Mason County, Washington, US, mycologist Paul Stamets uses mushrooms to capture contaminants from water. Mycorrhizae fungi support plants by extending their root structures, and myco-remediation utilises this natural symbiosis to absorb bacteria, nutrients, heavy metals, and toxins. Stamets can match certain fungal species with target pollutants. Wood-degrading fungi are effective in breaking down hydrocarbon compounds and chlorinated pesticides. Oyster mushrooms will capture petroleum products and E. coli. Turkey tail will bind mercury pollution with selenium, forming a non-toxic compound. The Ecuadorian fungus Pestalotiopsis can consume Polyurethane.

The Loess Plateau, in North-central China – a 1200-metre elevation region the size of France between the Wei and Yellow Rivers – is the cradle of Chinese civilization, occupied by people for a million and a half years. However, by the twentieth century, ten thousand years of agriculture, livestock grazing, logging, and amassed dynastic wealth had degraded the land so thoroughly that the rolling hills stood bare, and gullies annually washed a billion tons of sediment into the Yellow River. The ecological devastation caused droughts, famine, and poverty.

In the 1990s, John Liu, an American who had been living in China for over 30 years, joined a Chinese government ecological rehabilitation initiative to restore the Loess Plateau economy by restoring the ecosystem. Local citizens terraced the hills to retain water, replanted trees, grew crops, and created vast ecological zones that allowed biodiversity to recover. Agriculture has grown, and family incomes in the Loess region have since tripled. Over 35-thousand square kilometres of bare land have been restored into a diverse green belt.

Liu emphasises the importance of soil carbon as a way for humanity to restore the carbon disequilibrium in the atmosphere. “CO2 emissions are a symptom of systematic dysfunction on a planetary scale,” says Lui. “Human impact on the climate is not simply emission-based; it is degradation.”

The Loess project was primarily low-tech, employing people while building community cohesion, an example of genuine biological restoration that also restores human economy, health, and welfare.

“Landscape restoration,” explains Lui, “starts with restoring ecological function. This changes the socio-economic function. If the intention of human society is to extract, to manufacture, to buy and sell things, then problems arise. Real economy is understanding that natural ecological functions that create air, water, food and energy are vastly more valuable than anything that has ever been produced or bought and sold. Rather than commoditise nature, we need to naturalise the economy.”

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

Resources, links:

“Thirty Years and Counting: Bioremediation in Its Prime?” Bioscience, March, 2005.

“Contaminants in drinking water: Environmental pollution and health ;” John Fawell Mark J Nieuwenhuijsen” British Medical Journal, 2003.

“Assessing the resistance and bioremediation ability of selected bacterial and protozoan species to heavy metals,” I. Kamika and M. Momba; BioMed Central, Microbiology, Feb. 2013.

Water crisis as the #1 global risk: World Economic Forum, Global Risks 2015 Report.

“Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis,” The Guardian, March 2015.

“Removal of Escherichia coli from synthetic stormwater using mycofiltration,” Taylor, A., Flatt, A., Beutel, M., Wolff, M., Brownsona, K., Stamets, P.; Ecological Engineering, May, 2014.

Clu-in, EPA report: Citizen’s guide to bio-remediation

“Interview with Paul Stamets”: Mother Earth News.

Helping the Ecosystem through mushroom cultivation: Paul Stamets, Fungi Perfecti

John Todd: Ecological Design

What is Biomimicry: Biomimicry Institute

Biomimicry: New Natures, New Enclosures: Jesse Goldstein, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Elizabeth Johnson, University of Exeter, 2015.

John Lui, documentary: Green Gold.

“Environmental Challenges Facing China – Rehabilitation of the Loess Plateau,” John D. Liu, Director of the Environmental Education Media Project.

The descendants of a publisher, Rudolf Mosse, who fled Germany in the 1930s, is also teaming up with a university to find the family’s art collection. | 3/7/17
[The Point] A veteran banker who is the chairman of Gambia Revenue Authority has said that The Gambia could follow the pathway of Germany to development, saying the European country was able to recover from the total destruction of the World War II and develop as a result of discipline and education. | 2/27/17
Researchers from University of Stanford in the US and University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany suspected that a brain-scanning test called the Monetary Incentive Delay Task (MID) may be a better test than the Novelty test. | 2/26/17
A new study says Germany is an exception with its free higher education. But while free tuition brings lots of foreign students here, it’s also keeping some of them away. | 2/24/17
Many EU member states are too slow to implement socio-political reforms in crucial sectors like education, according to a new study. EURACTIV Germany reports. | 2/23/17
Bono is in Germany right now for the Munich Security Conference this weekend. On Friday, he delivered another speech about how development of education, employment, and empowerment can prevent extremism in third-world countries, and yesterday, he briefly met with Mike Pence. The U2 singer thanked the Vice President for defending the President's Emergency Plan For… | 2/19/17

After an address at the Munich Security Conference in Germany on Saturday in which he vowed that the Unite States will “hold Russia accountable,” Vice President Mike Pence had a brief visit with U2 frontman and activist Bono.

The two men discussed the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) — a government initiative to provide treatment, testing, education, and counseling to those suffering with HIV/AIDS in Africa (among other places).

It was first signed in 2003 under President George W. Bush and later renewed in 2008 under President Barack Obama. As an Indiana congressman at the time, Vice President Pence was an advocate for PEPFAR’s passing.

“Twice on the House floor you defended that,” Bono told Pence. “That’s how we know you.”

“It was an extraordinary historic accomplishment and you played a leading role in carrying it forward,” Pence responded.

Bono meets Vice President Mike Pence in Munich: "You're the second busiest man on earth."

— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) February 18, 2017

The rockstar has been raising awareness about the global HIV/AIDS epidemic for nearly two decades now — co-forming Product Red, which partners with big brands (Nike, Gap, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Beats by Dre, etc.) to help raise money for charities fighting the disease.

He also co-founded the ONE Campaign which aims to eradicate poverty and HIV/AIDS in Africa by raising awareness and encouraging Americans to contact senators/elected officials and voice their opinions.

While Pence did advocate for PEPFAR’s passing, some critics have claimed that he enabled an HIV outbreak in Indiana when he was serving as governor. The critics claim that Pence’s defunding of Planned Parenthood, which was one of the few places in some parts of Indiana that offered HIV testing, as well as his alleged dithering on pushing forward a needle exchange bill to fight passing infections, led to a rise in HIV patients in Scott County. He eventually approved a bill for needle exchanges which led to a reduction in the number of HIV cases.

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“I appreciate the chance to get together for you for a minute,” Pence told Bono. “I heard you were in town.”

“You’re the second busiest man on earth,” Bono joked.

Afterwards, the Pence tweeted about the meeting. “Enjoyed chatting w/ Bono at @MunSecConf,” he wrote. “Discussed prior effort to twice pass Africa AIDS assistance & future security in developing nations.”

The Munich Security Conference marks Pence’s first trip overseas as vice president. | 2/18/17
Researchers at Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU) of Munich in Germany conducted an online survey to assess people's motives and judgements when taking and viewing selfies. | 2/12/17
An Algerian and a Nigerian were detained in Göttingen, a university town in Lower Saxony, and a machete and guns were confiscated. | 2/9/17

Making a documentary often requires directors to gain the trust of their subjects, which can be a delicate process. Dan Krauss certainly knew that would be the case when making “Extremis,” a film about the tough decisions families and doctors have to face when dealing with ICU patients who are being kept alive on respirators.

“You have to imagine approaching people on what may be the worst day of their life and ask them if you can film it,” Krauss told Steve Pond at TheWrap’s Screening Series. “I approached it very gingerly, always without a camera, and always with the introduction of a physician.

“I had a conversation about the goals of the film, and people for obvious reasons felt uncomfortable with participating in the film,” he said. “I got a lot more ‘no’ than I did ‘yes.’ But for the people who did say ‘yes’ … they saw the camera not as an intrusive presence but as an opportunity to connect to other people.”

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For his hard work, Krauss has earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short, and Tuesday night he spoke to TheWrap at the Landmark Theaters at Westside Pavilion about his work with his fellow nominees. Joining Krauss were directors Daphne Matziaraki (“4.1 Miles”), Marcel Mettelsiefen (“Watani: My Homeland”), Orlando von Einsiedel (“The White Helmets”), and Kahane Cooperman, along with producer Raphaela Neihausen (“Joe’s Violin”).

The other directors also talked about how convincing people to let them tell their story on camera took months or even years. For “4.1 Miles,” Matziaraki wanted to film the efforts of a rescue boat on the Greek island of Lesbos as they aid refugees from the Middle East in danger of drowning while crossing the Aegean Sea. She says that these boats were originally used for tourist cruises and their crews had to undergo CPR and other medical training before they could go out and rescue refugees.

“When I realized that the captain and the coast guard was a great place to tell this story, I had to get access on this boat,” Matziaraki said. “I tried for months and months to get access, but I couldn’t because it’s a very bureaucratic process with the ministries of Greece … The footage that you see on these boats comes from a single day. I was on the boat for three weeks and this was from the first day.”

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Mettelsiefen told the story of Syrian refugees from a more grounded perspective. His film, “Watani, My Homeland,” shows the struggle of the refugees who do make it into Europe by following three children who start a new life in Germany after their father, Syrian rebel commander Abu Ali, was captured by ISIS. Mettelsiefen said he had been covering the conflict in Syria for several years and decided in 2013 that he wanted to change gears and talk about how the war affects children. That is when he met Ali, several years before the violence escalated, and after a brief discussion he was allowed to follow Ali’s children for three years.

“I started not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said. “Obviously it was not easy to go in and out and follow these children as it became more dangerous. Then, when [Ali] disappeared, I took this decision to leave again. The most difficult decision I had after filming was how I was going to end this with the jeopardy so high in Syria. Then they ended up in Germany … and I realized that it’s time that needs to dictate the speed of the film to show how all these characters changed.”

Von Einsiedel also had to deal with the danger of the Syrian crisis while making “The White Helmets,” which chronicles the deadly missions undertaken by a team of volunteer rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defense as they rescue civilians from collapsed buildings in Aleppo after Russian bombings. Einsiedel said the White Helmets were very willing to speak about their work, but the film crew was not allowed to follow the rescue team during their missions in Aleppo because they risked being targeted by ISIS, who have hunted down and killed foreigners and journalists in Syria. Instead, the footage taken from Aleppo was filmed by the White Helmets themselves.

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“When we began this project, we thought it should be a feature because there is so much story to tell,” Einsiedel said. “But it just didn’t feel right spending two years making a film about what’s going on in Syria. We felt we really needed to make this film as quickly as possible because it’s just so urgent. With a short, we manage to make it in seven months.”

The most uplifting offering on the list is “Joe’s Violin,” a story about Holocaust survivor Joe Feingold and his beloved violin. Director Cooperman says that she learned about Joe and his violin shortly after ending an 18-year run as a segment producer for “The Daily Show.” She heard on the radio about how a violin belonging to a Holocaust survivor had been donated to the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls (BGLIG), which gives young New York girls a chance at an in-depth arts education.

Producer Neihausen said that it took several months of negotiations with BGLIG to get the opportunity to bring their cameras into the school and to talk with Brianna Perez, the daughter of Dominican immigrants who was presented with Joe’s violin as a reward for her hard work mastering the instrument.

“We had to get about three hundred or four hundred release forms from the parents of every girl in the school before we could film,” Neihausen said.

Also Read: UTA Cancels Oscar Party to Host Immigration Rally

But once they had access, Cooperman and Neihausen were able to show the passion for music that Joe and Brianna shared. When the two finally met for the first time, Brianna showed her appreciation for Joe’s gift by playing a piece by Edvard Grieg whose lyrics Joe’s mother sent to him in a letter after their family was separated by the Holocaust. Joe’s mother did not survive, as she was killed in the Treblinka death camps.

Cooperman said that after a career in TV comedy, she wanted to get back to what originally drove her to get behind a camera: the belief that every person has a story to tell. To her, Joe Feingold and Brianna Perez are a testament to that belief.

“Growing up, I would look at buildings with lots of windows and wonder ‘Who lives in there? What’s their life like?’ I believe that behind every window is a whole story,” she said. “Making this film was two stories that combined into one. It’s not really about a violin, it’s about how people survive and get through life. Documentaries have the ability to show us … the choices people make, and how they open themselves up to cameras and to filmmakers is the most generous thing in the world.”

All the Oscar nominated short films in the live action, animated, and documentary categories are arriving in theaters for a limited time starting this Friday. Click here to find a screening near you.

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Oscar-nominated documentary short film director Daphne Matziaraki knows how prescient her film about Syrian refugees is — now that President Donald Trump has signed a travel ban.

“These people do not want to leave their homes,” she said of her time filming “4.1 Miles.” “They do not want to go to Europe. They do not want to go to America. They have no other option because they are on this fine line between life and death, and these are the people who are not allowed to come into this country,” she told TheWrap’s Steve Pond at our Screening Series event in which the filmmakers behind this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Documentary Short spoke.

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Their films cover topics like education, healthcare, and the Middle East; issues that have become hot button topics thanks to the new Republican-controlled government in Washington. As part of TheWrap’s Screening Series, all five nominated filmmakers discussed how the rise of Donald Trump and the GOP has quickly given the stories they tell new context.

For one movie, Trump has had a direct impact on the people responsible for making it. “The White Helmets,” a Netflix doc directed by Orlando von Einsiedel, embeds itself with a team of volunteer rescue workers from the Syrian Civil Defense, who are tasked with rescuing civilians from collapsed buildings in Aleppo after Russian bombings. Due to the potential danger, Einsiedel and his team only filmed interviews and the Helmets’ training exercises near the border. The footage of the team in action in Aleppo was actually filmed by the Helmets themselves. After learning of their Oscar nomination, Einsiedel had hoped to bring the rescuers featured in the film to America to tell their story. Trump’s travel ban brought an end to that.

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“Within 36 hours, this new executive order came into place, so of course that was incredibly disappointing for them,” Einsiedel said. “I talk about it because it was an incredibly lost opportunity for America… The voices of people from other parts of the world, especially places like Syria, is so important at the moment to bridge misunderstanding. The message of compassion and dignity which the White Helmets embody is such an important message, and it’s such a shame that they won’t be able to share it with everybody.”

Einsiedel was joined on the panel by fellow directors Matziaraki (“4.1 Miles”), Marcel Mettelsiefen (“Watani: My Homeland”), Dan Krauss (“Extremis”), and Kahane Cooperman, along with producer Raphaela Neihausen (“Joe’s Violin”).

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“The White Helmets” is just one of three films on the nominee list that approaches the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. “4.1 Miles” tells the story of a Greek coast guard captain who patrols the Aegean Sea to save those fleeing Syria on the dangerous trek into Europe. “Watani: My Homeland” shows the struggle of the refugees who do make it into Europe by following three children who start a new life in Germany after their father, Syrian rebel commander Abu Ali, was captured by ISIS.

Mettelsiefen said that a major reason why he made “Watani” was to show a story about Muslims that could counter the violent images from the Middle East that dominate the news cycle.

Also Read: Oscar Nominee Mahershala Ali on Why 'Moonlight' Resonated With Audiences

“The only story that is coming out right now is bearded men chopping off heads,” he said. “This is dictating an entire narrative for an entire religion…Xenophobia and social divide and hate and fear is what’s happening all around the world and it’s exactly these people — children, families, women — who have been leaving and escaping this very danger from the Islamic State…and they are now denied entry into several parts of the world because they are identified with the monster that has been created.”

Joining these films on the nominee list are “Extremis,” Dan Krauss’ observational look into the tough decisions surrounding end-of-life care in an intensive care unit, and “Joe’s Violin,” an uplifting tale of a violin that changes hands from Polish Holocaust survivor Joe Feingold to 12-year-old Brianna Perez, who is learning how to play violin at the Bronx Learning Institute for Girls in New York.

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Though “Joe’s Violin” is the most cheery of the five contenders, Kahane Cooperman and Raphaela Neihausen said that even they felt that their work has been given new context by Trump’s presidency. Neihausen said that both she and Cooperman are first generation immigrants, as are the subjects of their film.

“Making this film just really affirms…what is this country about? What are our shared values?” Neihausen said. “It became so imperative [to show] what an arts education gives to a young person in this country. It’s astounding how these lives are changed by learning music. A simple thing changes lives.”

Also Read: '20th Century Women' Director on Filmmaking in Trump Era: 'I Have to Change My Game'

Cooperman noted the final scene in her film, when Joe and Brianna say their goodbyes. She noted that the scene shows Joe, a Polish immigrant, climbing into an Uber car with an American flag on it. Cooperman explained that a large percentage of the Uber drivers in New York are also immigrants.

“At the time, it was such a typical sight I didn’t think anything of it,” she said. “But as soon as the election happened, I was watching it at a screening and thought, ‘Wow, an immigrant is driving another immigrant away from a school where he just had a bond with this Dominican girl.'”

Krauss agreed that following Trump’s election, “all films have been reframed” and encouraged the audience to read Dan Schoenbrun’s essay for Filmmaker Magazine titled “All Movies are Political Movies.

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“It made the point that every movie from the most benign animation to the most overt political film…everything we contribute to our cultural fabric matters,” he said. “And I think that as filmmakers we feel that responsibility more than ever before. I think that one of our primary responsibilities as storytellers is to imbue that dialogue with empathy and respect in a way that we’re not experiencing right now.”

All the Oscar nominated short films in the live action, animated, and documentary categories are arriving in theaters for a limited time starting this Friday. Click here to find a screening near you.

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The Austrian government's planned ban on full-face veils has naturally encountered resistance. But it's not the only religious symbol that is coming under scrutiny, as the display of crucifixes in kindergartens and schools also faces fresh debate. EURACTIV Germany reports . | 2/3/17
A controversial study about video games and guns titled in part “Boom, Headshot!” has been pulled because of issues with the original data, the website Retraction Watch reported recently. The now-retracted study argued that training with a violent video game can actually make people better at shooting with a real gun. The study, published in 2012, involved 151 participants who played different video games. One of those games had “humanoid targets” and “rewarded headshots,” according to  a version of the study that’s still online . The upshot? People who had played the violent game with a controller that was shaped like a pistol subsequently did better when asked to shoot “a realistic gun at a mannequin.” “Thus, playing violent shooting video games can improve firing accuracy and can influence players to aim for the head,” the study reported. But the study has now been retracted because two other researchers, who were not involved in the study, pointed out “irregularities in some variables of the data set,” according to a  statement  about the retraction. RESEARCHERS USING VIRTUAL REALITY TO HELP TREAT PTSD “Unfortunately, the values of the questioned variables could not be confirmed because the original research records were unavailable,” that statement added. That same retraction statement also said that one of the two authors on the study, Brad Bushman of The Ohio State University, was “in agreement” about the retraction decision. The study has been disputed for years, Retraction Watch  pointed out . One of the researchers who pointed out problems with the data was Malte Elson, a postdoctoral researcher at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany. WOMAN 'SEXUALLY ASSAULTED' IN VIRTUAL REALITY BY CYBER-GROPER “I am pleased to see the paper is finally retracted almost 3 years after the authors were first notified of the concerns (and 2 years after it was first reported to the Ohio State University),” Elson told Retraction Watch. “The public record has now been corrected, which is the only thing Patrick [Patrick Markey, of Villanova University, who was also concerned about the study] and I ever wanted after we found evidence of severe errors in the data on which the now retracted paper was based.” The Ohio State University said in a statement that they had been "alerted to irregularities in some of the variables of the data set" in the beginning of 2015. "The university and Dr. Bushman were unable to confirm the values of the questioned variables because the original research records had been taken from The Ohio State University," the statement said. Ultimately, an editor at the journal that published the study "decided a retraction was warranted." The statement added: "A replication of the study by Dr. Bushman has been done and is under review." | 1/26/17
Imams in Germany have informed Turkish authorities of alleged supporters of cleric Fethullah Gulen, according to reports. Germany's religious leaders have urged authorities to clarify the situation before it's too late. | 1/25/17

The Israeli government on Sunday reported a global increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, citing sharp rises in Germany, Britain and the United States compared with the previous year. "We have seen an increase in the number of anti-semitic incidents in the world, ranging from anti-semitic insults, especially on social networks, to physical assaults," said a 54-page report published by the diaspora affairs ministry ahead of Friday's international Holocaust remembrance day. It said that the number of incidents reported in Germany was up 50 percent, while Britain showed a 62 percent rise and on US university campuses there were 42 percent more complaints. | 1/22/17

By Arshad Mohammed WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President-elect Donald Trump's national security transition has been more chaotic than others in recent memory, with important positions unfilled and many of his people less able, or willing, to engage on substance, U.S. officials said. The uncertainties surrounding Trump's personnel, policies, and rise to power have rattled many of America's allies, including Japan, Germany and Britain, at a time when China is more assertive, Russia more aggressive, terrorism more diffuse, the Middle East still unstable and North Korea nuclear-armed and unpredictable, said U.S. and foreign diplomats. Disruption and uncertainty can provide strategic advantages, Mark Lagon and Ross Harrison of Georgetown University wrote in Foreign Policy magazine. | 1/20/17
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Dutch voters head to crunch parliamentary polls in two months time, heralding the start of a "super election year" in three of Europe's leading economies: The Netherlands, France and Germany. After the surprise Brexit result in Britain and as Donald Trump's inauguration looms on Friday in the United States, the spotlight is shifting to the continent's future political landscape. "It's going to be something of a 'super election' year in Europe," said University of Amsterdam political analyst Claes de Vreese. | 1/17/17

By Madeline Chambers BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's Constitutional Court looks likely to reject on Tuesday a historic attempt by the country's 16 federal states to ban the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD), described by the intelligence agency as racist and anti-Semitic, say law experts. This is harder to prove, as the party has failed to capitalize on the refugee crisis, which shows its weakness as a political force while the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) has soared to 15 percent in some polls. "The signs are mounting that the court will not ban the NPD," said Oskar Niedermayer, politics professor at Berlin's Free University. | 1/16/17

Europe is still reeling from a tumultuous year after the fractious Brexit vote, multiple terror attacks and an ongoing refugee crisis. On the heels of this turmoil, Germany, the Netherlands and France are all set to hold elections in 2017 ? three states where populist far-right parties look set to make significant gains.

The past year has been a boost to these anti-EU, anti-immigration parties, which have rushed to capitalize on economic, political and ethno-nationalist frustrations. In the months ahead, some of the most well-known populist far-right politicians will see if their rising public support can actually translate into political power.

Although these parties are promoting a narrative of a surging silent majority that will upend “elite” politicians and return power to their narrowly defined version of “the people,” there is nothing inevitable about the populist far-right’s rise. This was evident last month when Austria’s Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer lost a presidential election that he was widely expected to win.

Current polls also show that in each of Europe’s major upcoming elections, the populist far-right is far from governing. The surprising results of the U.S. elections and Brexit referendum have buoyed these parties’ hopes, however, and given them a talking point that the public should not believe the polls. 

Here is a look at the state of major far-right parties in the three European nations that will hold elections in 2017.

The Netherlands: Geert Wilders and The Party for Freedom

Scheduled Election Date: March 15

The first major election in Europe is scheduled to take place on March 15 in the Netherlands. Dominating headlines and leading polls ahead of this vote is Geert Wilders, the country’s populist anti-Islam politician and leader of the Party for Freedom, or PVV. 

Wilders has been a consistent presence in Dutch politics since at least 2004, when he split with the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, or VVD, after it backed Turkish accession talks with the European Union. Forming his own party in the aftermath, Wilders has positioned himself as one of Europe’s loudest far-right voices. 

Wilders, like many far-right populists, has defined himself through opposition. He is against the EU, the Euro currency and immigration. Most fervently, he opposes Islam, which he describes as a totalitarian ideology. Some of Wilders’ anti-Islam policies include calling for a ban on the Quran, halting immigration from Muslim majority countries and deporting Dutch Muslims with dual citizenships if they break the law. He also wants to ban mosques and shut down Islamic schools, as well as asylum centers.

Wilders has maintained a consistent spot in the limelight through his extreme platform and Islamophobic rhetoric. He’s also aligned himself with likeminded populist figures such as France’s Marine le Pen and President-elect Donald Trump, who he openly supported earlier than most of Europe’s far-right. In early December, Wilders was back in the headlines after he was convicted, though not penalized, in a hate speech trial for discriminatory remarks he made against Moroccans at a campaign rally in 2014. Less than two weeks later he was voted Dutch politician of the year in a public television station’s poll.

An Ipsos poll of Dutch voters released last month shows that 46 percent believe the PVV will become the strongest party after the election, the highest number for any party running. But given the multiparty structure of Dutch politics, it’s extremely unlikely that Wilders will gain power, despite his popularity. The more probable scenario is that a coalition of more centrist-leaning parties band together to form a government, excluding and effectively sidelining the PVV.

Even if this is the case, Wilders will hold seats in parliament and his popularity may force Dutch policy makers to shift to the right. Some policies associated with the populist far-right already have support in parliament. For instance, the country’s lower house passed a partial ban on face veils last month, a proposal Wilders supports as an incremental measure towards much more extreme policies.

France: Marine Le Pen and The National Front

Scheduled Election Date: April 23 

The National Front’s Marine le Pen is currently the favorite to make it to France’s second round run-off in presidential elections this spring. Although there’s no indication she is likely to win the presidency in that second vote, Le Pen is hoping to defy the polls. She has tried to draw comparisons with President-elect Donald Trump’s surprise win in U.S. elections, and even showed up in Trump Tower on Thursday.

Much like Trump, Le Pen has been campaigning recently on border security and bringing back jobs ? especially in manufacturing ? from abroad. She is also advocating a return to the Franc for a national currency, and exit from the European Union. The National Front platform also calls for heavy restrictions on immigration, which Le Pen has blamed for terror attacks.

Le Pen took over the National Front in 2011 from her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, one of the founding fathers of modern Europe’s populist far-right. She has tried to distance the party from anti-semitism and racism charges against her father, who has been put on trial in the past for his comments minimizing the Holocaust. But the younger Le Pen’s hardline stances opposing immigration, Islam and the EU keep the party rooted in populist far-right ideology. 

Recent polls put Le Pen at around 22 percent of the vote, which is currently enough to advance her into the second round. In this scenario, she would face conservative Francois Fillon of the Republican party and likely lose handily.

There is also the possibility that Le Pen will be shut out of a second round entirely. Independent Emmanuel Macron has made headway in recent polls to gain ground on Le Pen, creating the possibility that he will be the one likely to face off with Fillon during the final vote. If that were to happen it would be a crushing defeat to Le Pen and the National Front’s narrative of a growing movement that will upset establishment politics.

Germany:  Frauke Petry and Alternative for Germany

Scheduled Election Date: October 22 (at the latest)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking to be elected to a rare fourth term in October, but she has faced pressure from the upstart, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, or AfD, in the last year. The AfD made significant gains in state elections, while leader Frauke Petry gained media attention for her anti-immigrant statements and harsh criticism of Merkel.

Petry, a 41-year-old businesswoman-turned-politician who holds a doctorate in chemistry, has led the AfD since 2015. The party originated four years ago as a reaction to Germany’s involvement in European bailouts, but Petry’s victory in a leadership election marked a shift in policy. The AfD began to heavily embrace anti-immigration and anti-migrant sentiment, as well as ratchet up attacks on Merkel’s asylum policy. Some of the party’s early leaders decried the xenophobic shift, including founder Bernd Lucke who quit the AfD after losing the conference vote to Petry. 

The AfD surged in popularity under Petry, who has played to fears of terrorism and the integration of hundreds of thousands of refugees into German society. Petry has attracted controversy, and publicity, for such extreme anti-migrant rhetoric. In January 2016, she was widely criticized after floating the idea that police should be able to shoot migrants crossing into Germany illegally. Elements of the AfD have also advocated for anti-Islam policies such as banning minarets on mosques, and issued a manifesto called “Islam is not a part of Germany.”

Although the AfD is set to make large gains in the upcoming election ? polls show it’s on track to become Germany’s third largest party ? the country’s multiparty system gives it little chance of governing. Merkel is likely to win a fourth term, according to polling, and her grand coalition of the CDU and SPD has a strong chance to continue. The chancellor’s popularity has indeed wavered over the past 12 months, in part due to controversy over refugee policy, but it remains high at almost 60 percent. As parties position themselves for this year’s election campaign, however, the AfD will make every attempt to bring that number down.

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At this point most people know about neonicotinoids and the serious risk they pose to honey bees. Bees are a link in a chain of biodiversity and pollination of incredible value to our food production. Up to 75% of our crops directly or indirectly depend on pollination. We need to start protecting our pollinators against the threat pesticides like neonicotinoids pose. In 2013 scientific findings in Europe lead to a partial ban of four of the worst bee-harming pesticides (clothianidin, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam and fipronil) – at least when they are used on crops which are attractive to honey bees.

Neonicotinoids: a risk for bees and other animals

Hundreds of new studies show threat more serious than thought

Since 2013 research on the impacts of neonicotinoid pesticides has continued. Greenpeace France asked one of the leading institutes in this field, the Sussex University, to review all new science. Two independent scientists analysed hundreds of studies and pulled together a new report. The report paints an even more worrying picture. It reveals that neonicotinoids are not only a serious threat to honey bees, but also for a broad range of other animals, including bumble bees, butterflies, birds and even water insects.

Bumblebee pollinating an Echinacea plant in Germany.

Industrial agriculture: a threat to wildlife and environment

Some wild bumble bees are already in decline and becoming extinct. Neonicotinoids can be found in the plants of neighboring agricultural fields and in a wide range of different waterways, including ditches, puddles, ponds, mountain streams, rivers, temporary wetlands, snowmelt, groundwater and in the outflow from water processing plants. The data available for other species paint a similarly worrisome picture. Many farmland butterflies, beetles and insect-eating birds, such as house sparrows and partridges, come in contact with pesticides either directly or through the food chain. Water insects can get exposed to neonicotinoids through its leaching from agricultural soils, from sowing and spraying machines and from water systems in greenhouses. These toxic substances are in our environment, not just in agricultural fields.  

A combine harvester processing a field of wheat in France.

Let’s break the cycle of pesticide dependency

The decline of our pollinators is a symptom of a failing industrial agriculture system which drives biodiversity loss, destroys foraging habitats and relies on toxic chemicals. Pollinators are routinely exposed to insecticides, herbicides and fungicide. If we’re going to take the protection of our pollinators seriously, we must fully ban bee-harming pesticides, starting with the three neonicotinoids.

To break our dependency on synthetic chemical pesticides we also have to move towards ecological alternatives.

Butterflies enjoy flowers in an ecological wheat field near Valence, France.

Ecological farming protects our pollinators

Ecological farming maintains biodiversity without any chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilisers. It also increases the overall resilience of our ecosystems. Many European farmers are willing to change their agricultural practices, but are dependent on pesticides and fertilisers and stuck in this system. 

Politicians must help farmers switch to ecological methods. They must eliminate the most environmentally harmful subsidies and shift public spending to research and solid rural development projects which include ecological farming. We have a long way to go, but it’s the only way to protect our birds, butterflies, bees and other pollinators.

Anne Valette is the Project lead of European ecological farming project at Greenpeace France 

By Madeline Kennedy (Reuters Health) – - Grandparents who help out occasionally with childcare or provide support to others in their community tend to live longer than seniors who do not care for other people, according to a study from Berlin, Germany. Having full-time custody of grandchildren can have a negative effect on health, but occasional helping can be beneficial for seniors, the researchers write in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “Having no contact with grandchildren at all can negatively impact the health of grandparents,” said lead author Sonja Hilbrand, doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. | 12/30/16
By Madeline Kennedy (Reuters Health) – - Grandparents who help out occasionally with childcare or provide support to others in their community tend to live longer than seniors who do not care for other people, according to a study from Berlin, Germany. Having full-time custody of grandchildren can have a negative effect on health, but occasional helping can be beneficial for seniors, the researchers write in the journal Evolution and Human Behavior. “Having no contact with grandchildren at all can negatively impact the health of grandparents,” said lead author Sonja Hilbrand, doctoral student in the department of psychology at the University of Basel in Switzerland. | 12/30/16
Scientists from the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany, have found that hops in beer can lessen the harm done to the liver following a night of heavy drinking. | 12/28/16
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Quadriplegia, mostly due to cervical spinal cord injury caused by traffic accidents, falls and violence, deprives patients of control of all their limbs. For the rest of their lives, such people are bound to wheelchairs, incapable of performing even the simplest tasks, such as lifting a fork or a cup. Researchers at the University of Tubingen, Germany, are experimenting with a hand exoskeleton that may make quadriplegics’ lives easier. VOA’s George Putic reports. | 12/13/16

Most lung cancer patients survived four months longer on an immunotherapy drug than those treated with chemotherapy, according to trial results published Monday. Patients with non-small-cell lung cancer -- which represents by far the majority -- survived for 13.8 months on average on the drug called atezolizumab, compared to 9.6 months for those on chemotherapy, the study authors said. "Atezolizumab reinvigorates patients' immune systems against cancer," the study's lead author Achim Rittmeyer of the University of Goettingen in Germany, said in a statement. | 12/13/16

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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