Saturday, November 22, 2014

Robbery in the Neighborhood

The upstairs guy came to note to me today....that his lady-friend's Audi station wagon (seven years old) had been stolen overnight.

Yep, it'd been parked in front of our house, and this morning.....gone.

For 2014, I think the village (around 4,000 residents), just a couple miles outside of Wiesbaden, is up to around ten vehicles stolen.  They tend to be Audi or BMW.

The odds?  Two months ago, one of the village's stolen cars was noted on the autobahn going into Czech.  The cops picked up on the plate numbers.....pulled the guy over, and arrested him.

I'd take a guess that from Wiesbaden itself...counting up the 'burbs' within the town.....there's probably near a hundred vehicles stolen this year.  It has to be a mafia group working the deal.....all driving the vehicles as quickly as possible from the region over toward Czech and onto either Ukraine or Russia.  They just make up forged registration paperwork and nobody says anything as they sell it.

Action by the cops?  Nothing much.  There's only three roads into town and you'd think they'd put up some camera that gets active at night and takes pictures of folks within the vehicle.

The thing that gets me.....even if you have full insurance, you ARE screwed.  A seven-year old car will pull maybe $7500 max from the insurance company.  A new car?  Figure $25,000.  So, in effect....this car which was in great shape and maybe another five to seven years of availability.....is gone and you have to find the fifteen-odd thousand out of your pocket.  In my mind, it's a pretty negative deal.

A Local Clinic

I live in an area of Germany (within twenty miles of Wiesbaden) that has had its share of sorrow and woes over history.

In 1242, the local folks around Wiesbaden had upset the Catholic Bishop of Mainz, who maintained some control over the region.   The Bishop sent over some thugs....and burned a good portion of Wiesbaden down to the ground. 

From WW II, roughly 4,000 Jews from around Wiesbaden were rounded up and sent off to death or concentration camps.

From 1676/77, the local town of Idstein conducted witch trials and sentenced off 39 men and women to death.

Toward the conclusion of WW II....the US and UK conducted bombing runs over the train station just over the hill from where I live and destroyed the whole railway, and just about every house within walking distance of the station.

So, this week, I came around to Hadamar.....a town just north of Limburg, maybe twenty minutes driving distance from my place.

Hadamar has a fascinating little history.  In 1883, some medical group got some funding and renovated a former monastery into a clinic.  The original concept was to take vagrants and "nuts" from the region, and intern them within a walled community, and attempt to treat them.  There might have been some positive aspects with the plan in the beginning, but with all things....it's not easy to follow the moral trail.

236 rooms for men, and 80 rooms for women were set up.  It was generally supported by the state health care apparatus created by Bismarck.  

Over a twenty-year period, it progressed from a treatment center....to simply a holding facility.  

After the Kaiser was kicked out and new governmental reforms occurred in the 1920s....Hadamar found itself various practices to tout.....to include sterilization and euthanasia.   The government finally stepped in by 1927 and deemed these to be inappropriate.  

As the Nazi era came into effect (1930s).....the state apparatus gradually changed.  Less funding became one of the objectives of the new structure of health control.....based mostly out of Berlin, instead of individual states.

Hadamar needed more of a gimmick to ensure it's financial survival.  In 1939, Hadamar became the place where you sent German kids with serious issues to be sterilized.  The Berlin folks made it a funded project.  At some point, the evaluation went to a new stage where euthanasia was accepted (easily in fact).  Within six months, the new attitude was that you didn't need to limit this to just kids....you could do the same thing with adults.

The local gas chamber at the facility went into full operation, and by the end of summer of 1941....they'd done the job on 10,000 individuals.  Note, these were Germans....kids, crazies, adults with mental issues, women who'd married Jews, disturbed guys left over from WW I, etc.

This entire operation was known throughout the community and openly became a treat that teachers would use on students...suggesting they'd be sent off to the ovens if they were cooperative. At some point near the end of 1941....the Catholic Bishop sent off a letter to Berlin....noting that this was fully known by the public and not being condoned or accepted well.

For some reason, the Hitler staff made a decision to temporarily shut down the operation by the end of 1941.  

This was short-lived....with the operation starting back up in 1942.  The new method was to avoid the gas chambers and crematorium methods....simply using old-fashioned euthanasia on incoming patients.

The groups?  After 1942, the list simply got wider.  German Army solders who'd suffered shell-shock....were being sent there.  Germans at the facility were killing their own society, without any reservations.

All total?  Generally, the number with phase I and II....come near 15,000 killed.  Most all were Germans.  

When the US Army arrived in the spring of 1945....it's difficult to figure out how they stumbled upon the operation.  Nothing much is written of this discovery.  I would suspect that some locals got into a conversation with approaching US Army personnel....told them of the facility and figured that would finally settle the problem for the locals.

The Army walked in and came to be fairly shocked at the extent of the operation.  By the end of 1945....there was one significant problem with the charging of crimes on this.  They had enough rules in the book for war crimes, but simply killing your own countrymen....that wasn't in the book of rules.  So, they invented a new rule called rule number 'ten', which involved crimes against humanity.  

The investigation continued, and by 1947, Germany had established a court process to handle 'euthanasia' crimes.  They eventually hanged three of the folks who ran the establishment.  

Hadamar?  After WW II.....there was some agreement that there were still a number of mentally ill people around, and the facility made sense to keep open.  Today, it's a mental facility with modern buildings and some plaques on the wall to note it's long history.  Buried around the facility are the remains of the 15,000-odd folks.

How many sterilizations took place there?  Unknown.  From Germany as of a total, it was near 400,000.  You can figure that tens of thousands probably were greeted at the gate of Hadamar, and a day later were sterilized.  In some ways, you can look around Germany today, adding up the men lost in the World War I/II, and the Germans forced under sterilization, and note the zero-population growth attained in today's atmosphere.

There's a phrase that fits this....social Darwinism.  Basically....society working to evolve itself, within it's own medical means, and ensure the fittest and more mentally capable folks carry society forward.

For me, this is an odd piece of history from the local region.  How many folks know the story?  I'd take a guess that barely one or two percent know the whole story.  It's not a pleasant thing that you'd like to share or discuss.

Photo: ushmm.org.  Date is probably around the summer of 1941 before they were told to shut down for phase one.  Smoke is from the crematorium on the site.  

Germany and Refugee News

When you talk refugee status in Germany....you tend to get a brief and chaotic look by the typical German.

This week, there were some talks about how the region (Hessen) will handle the housing situation.  On the table currently.....there's the Bundeswehr Army barracks in Fulda, which is supposed to be completely vacated by mid-summer of 2015 (one report says third-quarter, one media source said mid-summer).  The talk from the political folks is that the barracks has moved up to choice number one, but folks around Fulda are not pleased with the discussion.

The three centers currently in operation around Hessen have reached maximum capacity (3,000).  So the recent efforts have been to funnel some folks out to small towns and just force town councils to cook up some type of arrangement because there's just no more room.

Added to the chaos is the decision this week by Hessen's finance ministry to channel roughly 30 million Euro over to the refugee centers.....to make up for cash already used by the local communities of Giessen, Bad Arolsen and Kirchhain.  What some political folks have said....it's simply not enough.  Trying to find more loose capital in the state budget of Hessen is just about impossible at this point....without cutting into actual programs and allowances....thus getting just about everyone infuriated.

A month ago, the government put out a figure that they estimate for the full-year of 2014 in Germany.....of 300,000 refugees.  The simple truth is....they just don't have the capacity to handle this type number, and it's likely to be just as many in 2015.  The pressure on individual communities to cover basic life requirements?  If you only get X amount of Euro to feed and house 300 refugees....then you figure food, heat, utilities, etc.....you come to the point where it's just a break-even point and you wonder what happens in two years?  Disgruntled refugees sitting and thinking they were going to be on some mythical and magical deal with a real house, real job, and real lifestyle.

Folks around Fulda have to be concerned over the old military barracks turning into a refugee center, but then you look around Germany at dozens of US facilities in some stage of being turned over, and the locals are likely freaking out because they really don't want ownership at this point in time. It simply begs for creating a ghetto out of thin-air.

In essence, there simply never was a plan "A", and we've mostly wrapped up a marginal plan "B" for the situation, and probably already looking for a plan "C".

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Tolerance Week by ARD

The state-network folks continue to run this week with the topic of tolerance.  Our local state-run radio state (HR3) did their part yesterday.

One of the editors for the radio station out of Frankfurt did her part.....by donning a burka (completely covered, to include the face), and walked along the streets of Frankfurt to get commentary from people.  Generally, the tolerance level noted by the public....didn't get past the marginal level, as the dressed-up burka gal discovered.

You can imagine the scene.  Gal dressed in black burka....face covered except for eyes, and a film crew behind her covering the public viewing her along a major shopping area of Frankfurt.  A circus-like atmosphere to bring up into the public spectrum via the network's tolerance week theme.  The brief thirty-odd second clip with the tolerance coverage?  Short and to the point.....the public perception isn't progressing, and it's just not going to be accepted (in the long-run or short-run).

It's an interesting gimmick here....tolerance.  Because of intellectual status, a number of people were willing to use tolerance to reinforce their perceptions and beliefs upon the intolerant.....assuming that they weren't focused or thinking the right way.  All you needed to do....was simply put a few pieces of reality out there.....let them know that peer pressure was to be applied....and people would fall in your direction.  It's a simple task, if you think about it.

An entire network (state-run of course), spending an entire week, and working all of their news pieces, forums, and a fair amount of their entertainment works (movies, TV shows, etc) into the situation.  All focused on some element of tolerance, and selling it to you as the viewer.

I'm just an American who happens to be in the middle of this and logically viewing it the way that an American would see it.  The tolerance group assumes they are in the tolerate chair, and what they suggest is the right point to view everything.  The folks on the other side of this.....by their view....are intolerant.  So, their view is simply to right-a-wrong.  How they came to be in the right chair and focused in such a way?  Unknown.  Nor would I suggest that they have any understanding of the people that they are focused against.

It's a fair amount of effort that the network guys have used in this discussion....across the entire nation of Germany.  Oddly enough....from regular viewers.....there might only be ten million Germans who routinely view ARD....of the eighty million residents.  For what was put into this effort....I'm not sure if any pay-back will ever occur.

Anyway, the positive is that we are on Friday, and the theme has come to a conclusion as of today.  The tolerance sales job comes to a close, and reality goes back into prospective.

Frankfurt Update

HR, our local state-run TV network, did a news report from last night to cover the developing episode in Frankfurt over marijuana.  The Linke Party has pushed the subject to the top of the discussion stage within the local city hall, and there's going to be some debate over the next week or two of a pilot-program.....which more or less opens the door for Frankfurt to become the first city in Germany with an open-policy on marijuana usage.

What you see lining up....is a group of different political parties finding common ground. The Linke Party, the Greens, the SPD, and the FDP.....all appear to agree on this open-door policy.  The CDU?  Without enough numbers to oppose it, will simply be the minority.  The CDU has strongly hinted that there is no cause to rush into this or develop this as a fast-paced project.  At this point, I think they've lost the argument, and the pro-marijuana crowd have the numbers to approve just about any program they desire.

Based on commentary so far, I'd take a guess that it'll be a step-by-step process, with some relaxed rules going into effect by spring of 2015.  Another round of talks by fall of 2015, with more relaxation.  And by summer of 2016....pot shops will be in full operation within Frankfurt city limits....taxed by the city....and selling to adults.

No one in Wiesbaden or Mainz will care much.  Mostly because if you needed a joint.....you already have your local guy that you buy from.  But, if you felt the need to be legal.....it's a 30-minute train ride to Frankfurt and you could buy your weed from the legit city dealer there.

What's all this say?  Society has changed over the past five decades, and a majority of voters (I think) have smoked marijuana and don't think it's a big deal.  The Linke Party is pressing a topic that people connect with.....and are getting more local support than they did five years ago.  This in turn.....takes votes away from the SPD.

All of this would lead a person to ask if the voting public is changing.  I noted this morning that a new poll suggest eighty-percent of Germans are in favor of assisted suicide now, which means it'll come up in 2015 as a major political topic.  If you had a listing of significant topics that people were generally against in 1984.....here thirty years later....they'd be mostly approved by the general public.  It's a trend.  Society is more accepting of things that were not acceptable years ago.

With the trend, I'd say by 2016....Frankfurt will have legal pot shops, and Wiesbaden might see the same thing by 2018.

Wind-Power Approval in Hessen

After hours of debate yesterday here in Wiesbaden....the regional council finally voted on the expansion of windmills onto the Taunus ridge overlooking the valley and the city.  A couple of "no-votes" were registered, but they had more than enough to pass the project.  As I've written on for the past couple of months....here in the Rhine Valley, it's been a hostile episode brewing.

For at least a decade....as you drove north in the Pfalz area (the German state to the south of Hessen) toward Mainz and Wiesbaden.....you'd notice dozens of windmills.  Expansion has been a monthly episode.  Last week, as I drove south toward Kaiserslautern, I noted two new mega-sized windmills going up.  All total, from Kaisersalutern to Mainz, I'd take a guess that well over 100 wind-mills now exist within two or three miles of the autobahn route.

The expansion has finally reached the ridge on the south side of the Rhine River.....overlooking Mainz, and this by itself.....thus getting the Hessen state crowd frustrated.  Landscape damage,  Scenery encroachment.  Terrain alteration.

So, as an energy company did the numbers and realized that wind flow over the Taunus ridge was a big deal.....the mere suggestion of putting up a wind-farm (maybe five or six windmills) on the ridge overlooking Wiesbaden itself.....got some folks all peppy.

The fight has gone on for a year, and the council has said it's part in approving the deal.  The mayor....a SPD party member....even put it in blunt terms.....if you were against coal power and nuke power, you have zero choice in this matter but to accept wind power, wherever it might end being applied.

For me?  It's a curious thing.  My village is about two miles from the edge of where one of the wind-parks would be developed.  The idea was to carve out around twenty-odd acres of wooded area (protected by the state, no less).....allowing an access road to be developed (maybe avoiding paving it, but there are dozens of fire-access roads there anyway)....and put up the wind-mills.

If they are mega-sized wind-mills.....I'd be able to easily sit on my balcony and notice them twirling during daylight hours.  Amongst the four thousand residents of the village.....I'd take a guess that ten-percent will be extremely bothered and frustrated by the event, but there's not much you can say or do.  The mayor of Wiesbaden is right.....if you are anti-nuke power, there's no real solution other than accepting the wind-mills as your "friend".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Germany and E-Cigarettes

There's a debate about to erupt in Germany....over e-cigarettes.  Currently, you can buy the "liquid" for the e-cigarettes anywhere.  Court action is looming in a German federal court in Leipzig, where the judges will decide if the "liquid" must controlled, and thus only available at pharmacy operations.

The vapor unit that you'd buy at the store for smoking....is basically propylene glycol.  It's a mixture of a flavor unit (any type you want), a petroleum product, and nicotine.  The health guys fighting to make it a pharmacy item....say that it's bad for you to smoke....so the pharmacy is the only option possible for control purposes.

I would imagine that if the petroleum product wasn't involved....then it'd be the same as tobacco, and thus freely sold at any number of local convenience locations.

German newspapers aren't saying much over the odds here.  It's a bold new world for the vapor units, and I suspect it could go either way.  As for forcing this onto pharmacy operations?  It'd probably jump the profit margin of drug stores around Germany by five-percent easily.  Some lobbyists pursuing this?  It would not surprise me to find some group focused on this and trying to make the case more positive.

So, don't be surprised to wake up in a couple of weeks, to find some German court ruling and a bunch of smokers all grumpy for a day or two over their habit being screwed with once again.

UPDATE: 21 Nov 2014, the court said no.....e-smokes are not drugs.  So you can still buy your vapor stock at any store.

The Age of Enlightenment Finally Comes to Africa

Back in the late summer, as Ebola was becoming front page news.....someone did up a historical analysis of Ebola's affect on Africa....shining a great deal of light on how the disease would pop up in central Africa for a couple of months.....kill a couple of hundred....then seem to fade off.  In this 2013-2014 episode....it had appeared in western Africa instead....gotten past the couple of hundred, and was NOT fading off.  The question seemed to linger there.....why?

This week, from the Wall Street Journal, there's a fine article by Peter Wonacott ("Village Healers Complicate Ebola Fight"), that puts some reasons out on why it spread out in western Africa and seems to have no brick wall to run into.

As the article draws upon.....as the disease went into turbo fashion.....health care workers began to appear in the more remote areas of western Africa, and were immediately seen by the local village healers as a threat.  If you'd built up your whole life on being the 'witch-doctor' of some village....you really didn't want someone coming in to steal your thunder or business.....or getting the people into modern medicine.

The general accusation?  The medical experts arriving were after body organs and helping some process to steal them from innocent villagers.

You can sit and be amused by the accusation, but that's the type of mentality that you are dealing with.  Add to the mentality.....that the village healers believe it's necessary to wash down dead bodies before burial.  You can guess just how much this aides in Ebola moving quickly through a village and never

All of this puts me to history repeating itself, and a short discussion on Europe.  Village healers were a popular thing throughout Europe, and really didn't get challenged until the end of the 1600s.  When you look at the various occasions of the plague, rampant abuse of religion, and accusations of witchcraft.....your life hung in the balance every single day.

As the Age of Enlightenment came....it was more of a do-or-die battle between science and healers.  You couldn't make a law that would allow new ideas or medical processes to be accepted.  It was simply a case of someone trying something different....it works....then trying to get public sentiment to go against the leadership or healer of the local village.

The problem in Africa?  Modern society arrived some years ago in central Africa and village healers have been on the downswing in terms of trust.  That's not the same deal as in western Africa.....where a healer still has the full trust of the village.  But Ebola has not been kind in it's relationship with healers.....they are rapidly dying off.  Unless some gifted talker is sitting in the wings....there's going to be this window open where modern science and medicine might enter and gain a threshold.

Europe did not really advance at monumental speeds in the Age of Enlightenment....it walked gracefully like a duck, and sometimes slammed into brick walls. In the case of western Africa, the Age of Enlightenment has finally and gracefully arrived.  It may not be pretty.