Saturday, January 23, 2021

Maskgate

While Germany's somehow successful fight against the pandemic is praised by many countries, we still started it badly. I am talking about the wearing of face masks.

Although in Asiatic countries, face masks are common and proven to be effective in preventing airborne infections, people wearing a mouth-nose-coverage in western countries were rarely seen at the beginning of 2020.

When the first wave of the pandemic swept through Europe the president of the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) Lothar Wieler said at the end of February on the subject of masks in everyday life, „There is no evidence whatsoever that this is helpful in any way."

On March 11, our Minister for Health Jens Spahn said that surgical mouthguards or medical masks provide "only manageable protection, to put it that way."

These statements by the federal government and the RKI on the wearing of face masks were not driven by facts: The aim was to prevent a run on masks so that the scarce commodity stayed reserved for those who needed it most urgently, the medical staff.

At that time, it was known that face masks protect efficiently against aerosols contaminated with the Coronavirus. On March 22, a study appeared in the medical journal, The Lancet, stating, "Universal use of face masks should be considered.“ This was not communicated: we, the people of Germany, we're screwed!

It was perfectly clear that wearing an Alltagsmaske (everyday mask mostly homemade) could at least protect other people to a certain extend. Germany’s Fauci, Christian Drosten acknowledged this fact for the first time in his popular radio podcast on March 23, adding that FFP2 masks could even protect oneself from being infected by others.

Red Baron proudly wearing an Alltagsmaske on a streetcar on April 10.
This “elegant” everyday mask was produced by a Turkish tailor in my quarter.
Only at the beginning of April, the RKI changed its strategy and recommended everyday masks. On April 17, Saxony became the first German state to decide to make masks mandatory with some success regarding the Coronavirus spread.

Above: Medical or surgical mask
Below: FFP2 mask certified in the European Economic Area (CE)
So by now, it is common knowledge that the wearing of appropriate masks reduces the risk of infection with Corona. Last Tuesday, our federal government in a video conference with all 18 state governors took this into account and imposed the wearing of medical or FFP2 masks in public places, i.e., public transport, hospitals, administrative buildings, and supermarkets. 
 
There were nine months between the beginning of April when the RKI came around to recommending masks. This leads to the crucial question: How can it be that Germany has not managed to provide the population with the cheapest, demonstrably effective means of containing the pandemic in more than nine months? How many lives could have been saved by wearing masks?

There is always at least one governor marching to a different drummer. Bavarian’s Markus Söder declared an obligation for an FFP2 mask in all public places where people cannot observe a sufficient distance.

Here is a defeatist remark by the president of the RKI, “FFP2 masks are masks used for medical, occupational safety. They have high efficiency if they're worn correctly and if the people who wear them are well educated about how to wear them."

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Vaccinated

On Sunday night, December 27, I read an article in the daily Badische Zeitung (BZ) on my iPad titled: Questions and answers concerning Freiburg’s Central Vaccination Center. This article appeared in its paper edition only the following Monday.

One paragraph headed, “How can I register?” found my full attention:

Registration is possible online via a central web platform that can be accessed at http://www.impfterminservice.de. Appointments for the vaccination center in Freiburg can be booked there. However, only for those over 80 years of age, people in need of care and those who work in care. Entitlement will then be rechecked in detail on-site at the vaccination center.

Note date and time of the email
I immediately started to look for an appointment when the trouble started. After a long hour of frustration on the computer, I suddenly received a twelve-digit code and was assigned an appointment for February 7 at 8:30 a.m. Then the system asked me to reserve the date for the second shot of the Biontech/Pfizer vaccine too, but there I failed.

Some friends aged above 80 but mostly younger than me tried in vain the following morning to reserve a date at the Impfzentrum.


Freiburg’s Central Vaccination Center is located at the Messehalle (Hall for Fairs and Exhibitions on Madison Allee

Waiting with distance outside
This morning I arrived 20 minutes early at the Impfzentrum. There were a few people in front of me, so I had to wait in line. The reception was as described in the BZ article:

The code and any certificates will be checked before entry to the exhibition hall. Inside, registration then takes place at set-up counters, where the health insurance card is also scanned. The vaccination center may only be entered wearing medical mouth-nose protection, which everyone should bring himself. If someone does not have such protection on hand, it will be provided by the center. All employees will wear FFP2 masks. A fever measurement will be taken at the entrance. Anyone with a body temperature above 37.5 degrees centigrade will not be allowed into the hall.

My vaccination booth.
The waste bin is marked Data Protection Garbage
Following all this, I have been vaccinated against SARS-CoV-19 once and shall receive an invitation for my second shot.

Recovery space and coffee bar at 8:57 a.m.
Before we inoculated persons were allowed to leave the hall, we had to sit on chairs at appropriate distances. So I helped myself to a well-deserved espresso served at a small kiosk near the exit.

©BZ
I was positively impressed by the diligence, competence, and friendliness of the staff. They easily could inoculate 2000 persons a day but are limited by the quantity of the vaccine so far delivered. In the meantime, they found out that instead of five, they can squeeze out six doses from a flacon.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Renaming

Let me start by wishing you all a healthy 2021.

The topic of my first blog in the new year is "renaming." Red Baron has written about the renaming of streets in Freiburg and Berlin in the past. This time two small towns carrying names that no longer seem acceptable are presented.

For safer traffic.
Please, don't drive too fast! (©Kurier/Österreich)
The first village, originally named Fucking, is located in the so-called Innviertel (Inn quarter), an area that belonged to Bavaria for centuries. In 1779 the territory became Austrian in the Treaty of Teschen. This is why Hitler, born in Braunau am Inn had Austrian citizenship. For more information, read the appendix.

Wikipedia knows: The village’s name was particularly popular with British tourists; as a local tour guide explained, "The Germans all want to see Mozart's house in Salzburg; the Americans want to see where The Sound of Music was filmed; the Japanese want Hitler's birthplace in Braunau; but for the British, it's all about Fucking." Augustina Lindlbauer, the manager of an area guesthouse, added, "The area has lakes, forests, and vistas worth visiting, but there is an obsession with Fucking." She once explained to a British tourist, "There are no Fucking postcards."

Place-name signs were frequently stolen. So in August 2005, all eight signs at the four entrances to the village were secured against theft by setting them in concrete, riveting, and welding them.

The settlement Fucking is believed to have been founded in the 6th century AD by Focko, a Bavarian nobleman. Initially, in 1070, the village's name was documented as Vucchingen, as Fukching in 1303, as Fugkhing in 1532, and got its modern spelling in the 18th century. The ending -ing is an old Germanic suffix meaning the people belonging to the place of Fuck, i.e., Fuck’s people.  In German, the vowel "u," in Fucking is pronounced sounding like in English "book." 

The name was frequently used in German with the English connotation. A brewery fermented a Fucking pale lager beer and sold it as Fucking Hell. An effort to make Fucking into a spa (bath) ended badly with Bad Fucking.

Men at work (©Reddit)
On November 17, 2020, the municipal council decided to rename the village to Fugging as of January 1, 2021.

(©Sauerland Kurier)
The other village still to be renamed (?) is an idyllic spot in the Sauerland region, close to the popular Biggesee, with hiking trails in the greenery. The place called Neger is located in the valley of the river Neger and is divided into Unterneger, Mittelneger, and Oberneger. The names are several centuries old. No one accuses the 400 inhabitants of racist tendencies. However, in the face of everyday racism and increasing linguistic sensitivity, the name of the village causes confusion.

Where does the name come from? It has been documented for 700 years. The disturbing word is formed from a stem "Nag-." About the origin and original meaning of Neger, nothing exact can be said except that there isn’t any derivation from the Latin word "niger," which means black, dark.

Other place names could be controversial, like Mohrkirch and Negernbötel in Schleswig-Holstein or Groß Mohrdorf in Mecklenburg-Pomerania. These places are small and little known. Although place names should be treated as proper names, some linguists claim that today's origin plays a less important role than its current meaning.

The place-name Neger existed when its racist, personal designation in German was not yet known. The present-day meaning, however, is unambiguous.

A proposition goes like this: If the name can be derived historically from "Nag-," then why not "Nager"?* Then one could possibly say at some point: "Welcome to the Nager Valley!"
*Nager in German are rodents


Appendix:

Hitler (right) and his Bavarian comrades in France (©SZ)
Hitler, having renounced his Austrian citizenship in 1925 after he had served during the First World War as private first class and Meldegänger (reporting officer) in the German army in a Bavarian infantry regiment, ended up as a stateless person living in Germany.

In 1932 he eventually was made a German in the Free State of Brunswick with the help of his right-wing friends being employed as a Regierungsrat (state council) at the Landeskultur- und Vermessungsamt (state cultural and surveying department). He was supposed on duty as a clerk at the Brunswick state representation in Berlin, an appointment he never held.

The new state servant was sworn in on February 26, 1932, receiving at the same time the "citizenship in the Free State of Braunschweig," which simultaneously made him a "citizen of the Reich" under state law.

The whole „fascinating" story of Hitler‘s strive for German citizenship is well documented.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Philosophy Is to Stay at Home

Angela Merkel said this wise phrase on December 13 when she and the 16 German governors decided a hard shutdown for the country given the rising number of Corona infections.

And then I came across the following statement: Studies show that female leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic led to more evidence-based, sustainable, inclusive, and effective outcomes; see, e.g., Denmark, New Zealand.

While the Covid-19 infection rates remained low in Germany during the summer holidays, the pandemic picked up the pace with the cold days arriving.


The number of infections started to climb during October in such a way that our government, after long deliberations, installed a "breaker" for the second wave of the pandemic, what some people called a lockdown light. The measures starting on 2 November and supposed to last until the end of the month included the shut down of all restaurants, but retail stores, daycare centers, and schools remained open.

By mid-November, the number of daily infections had started to stabilize, although on a high level. When at the beginning of December, the curve started rising again; governors and chancellor agreed during a video conference on December 13 to step up the country’s lockdown measures valid from December 16 to January 10. The complete lockdown should stop the exponential rise in the number of  Corona cases.


In spring, states in Germany’s east had been spared during the initial Covid-19 outbreak. They now have become the nation’s hotspots. The purple color was introduced to mark infection rates of greater than 500 per week and 100,000 people on the above map in the case of Saxony.

Germany has closed most stores and all schools to further limit social contacts. With the previous lockdown light, the number of contacts was reduced by only 40%. However, a reduction by 70% had been needed to reach the magic figure of 50 new infections averaged over a week per 100,000 inhabitants in a district.

The number of people requiring intensive care is rising rapidly.
About half of them need ventilators.
High infection rates will lead to a collapse of intensive care. While there are still enough beds and ventilators, qualified medical personnel is missing. 

By the way and what had been predicted: the initial measures of contact limitation combined with the AHAL-rules have reduced the usual number of severe influenza infections by a factor of eight.

Red Baron lived through all these developments in the splendid isolation at the Reha. I was released on Sunday 13 and took a taxi home. 

Following 8 weeks of growing, my only worry was to get a haircut before the total shutdown on Wednesday 16. In despair, I called my hairdresser on Monday, and he gave me a "cutting slot" on Tuesday 15 at 6.p.m. I already took a reservation for January 27, not knowing whether hairdressers will be reopened by then.

Last Thursday, December 16, Red Baron went downtown to his pharmacy looking for a body shower lotion I had left behind at the hospital. Limping on crutches into their premises, I benefitted from the free distribution of three FFP2 masks. They are paid by the federal government and are handed out in pharmacies to all people above the age of 60. I simply call them Volksmasken.

Supported by my two crutches I could not take any photos in town. Here are some impressions of deserted Freiburg borrowed from David Lohmüller's© Corona Fotoblog:

Obligation to wear a mask within the inner city

Rathausplatz and Bertold Schwarz monument

Konviktstraße and Herrenhuter stars

To finish my last 2020 blog off, here comes a true German Christmas story. The director of the Institute for Medical Microbiology at the University Hospital in Halle had estimated, "If everyone in a church has masks on and there is a maximum of one person per five square meters in the room, church services at Christmas are acceptable. But only if there is no singing! Otherwise, we have too many aerosols."

Mass 2019 in Freiburg's Minster Church (©Patrick Seeger/dpa)
Two other eminent German virologists were vexed and wanted to have their finger in the pie too. So one virologist refined, "Even the common creed or the 'Our Father' must be silent - at most the 'Amen' at the end is okay." The other expert demanded that every churchgoer must not only wear a mask but at least an FFP2 type. These masks could be financed through a collection. Isn't it all well organized in my country?

Dear friends, I wish you all a Merry Christmas, stay healthy, and expect 2021 to be a better year than 2020. The city of Freiburg looks forward to 2021, provided:

We celebrate best keeping our distance

PS: O no, I just learned that there is a British Mutation of the Wuhan Virus. If it wasn't for the trade, the Brexit now is real with most EU-countries cutting all flights from and to the UK.

Saturday, December 5, 2020

Afghanistan

End of November, a virtual donor conference for Afghanistan collected another 10 billion dollars to assist the country in its democratization efforts. How did we arrive here? The answer is rooted in the country’s turbulent past.


Afghanistan‘s Recent History


In the 19th century, Afghanistan became the plaything between the colonial powers Russia and Great Britain. British intervention in a war for the succession to the throne instead led to a succession of Anglo-Afghan wars. The British attempt to occupy Afghanistan failed.

When in the 1970s, conservative Islamic forces pushed the Afghan governments into an increasingly defensive position, the Soviet government marched troops into Afghanistan on December 25, 1979. Suddenly the country became the scene of a "proxy war," in the conflict between the power blocs dominated by the Soviet Union and the United States. 

Although the Soviets had a superiority in terms of weapons technology, they failed to break the resistance of the various Islamic groups (Mujahideen). The Afghan resistance fighters ultimately won the conflict with the help of the same guerrilla tactics (avoidance of open field battles) as in the Afghan-British wars; they could also rely on support from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, which, for example, bought and supplied Chinese weapons for the mujahidin. The last Soviet troops left the country on February 15, 1989. Especially mercenaries recruited in orthodox Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia settled in the fragmented country after the war. Local Taliban regimes have ruled the land since 1969.

Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States began Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001, to overthrow the Taliban system. In particular, they aimed to smash the Taliban supported terrorist organization Al-Qaeda and its leader, Osama bin Laden, with massive attacks from the air. While there was agreement among the NATO countries that the military strike was justified, there were demonstrations against the war in Islamic countries, e.g., in neighboring Pakistan. 

On November 13, 2001, the capital Kabul fell. A few weeks after the first attacks, Afghanistan’s Northern anti-Taliban Alliance, which had controlled about 10 percent of the territory, managed to take almost the entire country. After the first international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Hamid Karzai was appointed interim president in 2002.


ISAF


From the beginning, the US had asked their NATO allies for support. An international protection force named ISAF* was set up.
*International Security Assistance Force

Former Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen visiting her ISAF troops.
Von der Leyen is now president of the European Commission (©RT.com).
The West had big plans. The USA, the Germans, the French, the Australians, the British, and many other countries sent soldiers, weapons, equipment. The reactions to ISAF were typical. Opponents against the deployment of German troops abroad were muzzled by the argument, “Germany is defended at the Hindu Kush.“ The French modified a slogan dating back to the beginning of the Second World War, “Mourir pour Dantzig?” into “Die for Kabul?”

After the allies had pushed back the Taliban and fumigated the al-Qaeda terrorists, they wanted to bring democracy to the Afghans. So they built local parliaments, schools, - for girls too - hospitals and military camps, trained locals to become soldiers and policemen, and transferred many billions of dollars to the Hindu Kush. This is how they believed they would win the war after the war.


Is there a Future?


How far have we come? Almost 20  years have passed since the fall of the Taliban, and a deeply insecure Afghanistan is still dependent on foreign aid. The news remain the same: fighting, attacks, hardship, suffering, and lawlessness. Only slowly do Washington, Berlin and the other capitals begin to realize that the prophecy those who knew the country had already expressed at the beginning of the mission could possibly be true: Afghanistan cannot be conquered, and the local tribes cannot be bought, no matter how much money is involved. They want to be their own masters, and they want to settle their business, their conflicts and even their peace with each other, without having the rules explained to them by haughty democracy missionaries with assault rifles in their hands.

Eventually the Americans bit the bullet, entered into peace talks with their mortal enemies and withdrew more and more troops embarrassing their allies.

The fact that POTUS now wants to complete the curfew quickly before his closing time is causing unrest among the allies.

The United States assumes many functions in Afghanistan that enable the deployment of all remaining soldiers of the alliance. This involves, e.g., fighter jets that defend against attacks or helicopters that support soldiers when they are ambushed. If the U.S. unilaterally withdraws such essential troops, the safety of all other soldiers there would be endangered. Germanys Foreign Minister Heiko Maas is categorical, ”We will not leave a single German soldier there if security cannot be guaranteed.”

What still remains is an oppressed country, bombed by terrorists, shot by soldiers from all over the world, humiliated by corrupt politicians, abused by religious hypocrites of virtue. The West finds it difficult to come to terms with this. To make sure that its years of adventure were not completely wasted, it is pumping even more money into official and less official channels in the Hindu Kush.

While the money of the recent donor conference is being collected fine words full of wishful thinking are spoken about peace. There is no question that every cent for the suffering people is helpful and highly welcome. But the chaos on the ground will remain. It will probably be some time before the West admits to itself that it has experienced in Afghanistan what has happened to all conquerors there for centuries: It has failed.

Died a hero’s death for western values (©content.time.com)

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Reha

In Germany, following major surgery people are sent to a Reha - short for rehabilitation clinic - where physiotherapists try hard to get you moving again.

The view from my window
Following the replacement of my worn-out hip and remaining one week at the Lorettokrankenhaus I was transported directly to Freiburg‘s Mooswaldklinik thus avoiding any contact with the Corona-infested outside world. During my three weeks at the Reha, absolutely no visits are allowed. The clinic takes no risk with risk patients.

My high walker
At my arrival I was greeted by fellow sufferers on crutches except that I experiencing balance attacks had a high walker with arm rests supporting me.

Red Baron immediately became known like a bunter Hund (colored dog), i.e., being known all over the place. 

The second day a physiotherapist took me secretly aside and showed me how to walk safely with crutches only revealing that all their walking aids were too short. With those Red Baron already being bent bent over even more. 


The next day the longer crutches arrived. It was the talk of the hospital. All the various specialists treating various aspects of my hip replacement hailed my new walking aids.

Screenshot taken at 1557 hours on December 2, 
for treatment on Thursday December 3.
Here is the list of treatments I suffer from morning to afternoon during a normal day and that for a duration of three weeks. 

My pharmacy
I am still on a full hand of painkiller pills four times a day (those cryptic numbers following the meals in the schedule shown above refer to the various kinds of pills).

This overdosed? medication makes me sleepy during the day when I am not exercising but sleepless during the night.

My wet cell (Nasszelle)

My workstation
I am missing my desktop PC. Neither can I modify a Webpage nor dress up my photos.


Success. One full week of treatment have me walk short distances with less pain than before surgery. Most important, I now can fetch my food being no longer dependent being served at the table. 

We sit all alone each one at a separate table and must eat fast for food is served in three shifts, Corona oblige.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Christian Drosten about Friedrich Schiller

Many people regard Christian Drosten, a virologist at Berlin's famous Charité where Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis bacterium in 1882, as Germany's Anthony Fauci. Drosten is probably the most well-known German scientist at present due to his research into coronaviruses.

He had the PCR test for the coronavirus ready by the beginning of March and completed it recently by a parameter on viral load. This parameter will allow medical people to judge the risk that a positively tested person presents to spread the infection further.


In March, Christian became known and famous to a greater public for his podcasts. There he explained the pandemic to laypeople in a most descriptive and nevertheless scientifically accurate way.

Every year, on the occasion of Friedrich Schiller's birthday - the poet and studied physician was born in Marbach on November 10, 1759 - prominent public figures give a Schiller speech at the German Literature Archive ibid.

Speakers so far included artists, authors, economists, and politicians. This year, Professor Drosten held the discourse, and due to the corona pandemic, the event took place virtually. Here is a video recording of Christian Drosten's speech. What follows is a translation of his most remarkable statements:

”Of all people, you invited me - a virologist - to give the traditional speech on Friedrich Schiller's birthday. In doing so, you have made an extremely unusual choice - one that is undoubtedly one that demonstrates openness and genuine courage to take risks.”

”I can also see the curiosity behind this invitation. Curiosity to leave familiar territory. And curiosity about something new, unknown, and perhaps even uncomfortable. I find this appealing, also because curiosity is precisely what has always driven other researchers and me anyway.”

”Schiller and I have one thing in common: we both studied medicine. We also left practicing medicine behind - albeit with different motivations and different goals. He was drawn to literature, I to medical research.”

”My interest as a researcher is directed towards the gain of useful scientific knowledge. I want to come to conclusions based on experiments, observations, and studies that everyone can verify. I do not pursue any political intentions in my work. It is up to the authorities to cast scientific recommendations into executive orders or laws.”

”Neither do I want to explain Friedrich Schiller to you that legions of literati and historians have done since long thoroughly and convincingly, nor do I want to win over him for myself or put him in front of my cart. But I do want to deal with him.”


Schiller‘s Freedom


”In the core question of what Schiller means to me personally and to what extent his life and work are relevant to us today, we will not be able to ignore the leitmotif of his work: freedom. But we will also have to talk about responsibility because, for me, both elements are complementary.”


Three Dimensions of Freedom


Continuing, Drosten distinguished three dimensions of freedom. First, there is the freedom of science itself. Nobody gives Drosten a direction or demands that he should not pursue specific questions or topics, whereas Schiller had to fight hard for the freedom of his word. He was threatened with a writing ban and forced to flee.

For Drosten, the second essential element of freedom concerns the method by which he gains scientific knowledge. A researcher is exclusively committed to the facts - the scientific experiment, observations, and conclusions. What counts is the own intellect, the collegial exchange, the constant struggle for resilient progress in knowledge. At the same time, a researcher must always face the challenging scientific debate about his work. This way of working makes him independent of possible expectations and interests of third parties. This process takes place worldwide according to established rules and the same high standards. 

For the philosopher of Enlightenment, Schiller, freedom also meant using one's intellect. He was certainly not someone who has simply passed on the ideas of others. The freedom of thought was a pleasurable challenge and obligation for Schiller. In return, he was personally prepared to accept hardships, to flee, and to start all over again, the latter scientists are often obliged to do.
                                                                            
Finally and thirdly, Drosten enjoys the freedom to share his research results with others without hindrance. Only when findings are shared, discussed, and reviewed, disproved, or further developed in the process do we shall make progress in research. For society to benefit, researchers must communicate their results understandably and transparently.


Information and Guidance


”In the pandemic, I, like many other scientists, see it as my duty to provide information and guidance. The better we all understand the virus and the pandemic, the sooner we will make the right decisions for our behavior. How do we stop the rapid spread of the virus? How do we manage not to overload our health care system? How can we avoid infections and severe disease progression up to death?”

”The pandemic is not an inevitable fate. We determine through our behavior whether the situation worsens or improves. Either way, each of us makes his or her contribution. That's why I believe that science-based information of the public is as important a strategy in the fight against the virus as the development of a drug or vaccine.”


Freedom and Society


”This brings us to the second central point, ’What do we do with all the freedom that we value so highly? What do we derive from it for our dealings with other people and society as a whole?’”

”In answering these questions, Schiller seems to me to be particularly topical. For Schiller, personal freedom cannot succeed in isolation from society. For the freedom of all to be created and maintained, people must stand up for one another and take responsibility for one another. The better this works, the less need there is for intervention from above.”

”The pandemic has shown how relevant this principle still is. The more I behave as an individual of my own free will responsibly, the less reason I give the authorities to intervene in social life. But the more thoughtless and selfishly I act, the more the authorities must restrict my freedom to effectively protect the community, i.e., the well-being of other people.”


A Pandemic Imperative


”But what does responsible action mean? Is it enough - according to Schiller - to make people aware of their free decision to do the right thing only out of inclination and without external pressure? Will they participate voluntarily?”

“Or do we - freely according to Immanuel Kant - need a rather strict reference to duty and responsibility? A kind of pandemic imperative: ‘Always act in a pandemic as if you had been tested positive and your counterpart belonged to a risk group’”

“My role and my contribution as a scientist consists of explaining the methods of my field of expertise, showing the limits of scientific studies, classifying what is fact and what is fiction. And of course I feel obliged to take corrective action and to call a spade a spade. In doing so, I must translate the language of science into vivid but still coherent images and analogies that are catchy for everyone.”


Scientists and Public Opinion


“If you, as a scientist, get involved, you are immediately in the middle of the broad public opinion battle of the coronavirus pandemic. Scientific results are not objectively and coolly dissected like in the circle of experts. They are discussed in terms of their political, social and personal impact and evaluated with a high degree of emotion. This takes place around the clock at high temperatures in the spin cycle of social media.”

“As a scientist I have the job of communicating unpleasant truths regarding the coronavirus. The virus is there. It does not negotiate and does not compromise. It is the task of us virologists to make this truth, which is supported by scientific knowledge, heard again and again in public. It is the responsibility of the scientist to draw a realistic picture and not the desired one.”

“How we can deal with this uncompromising opponent. We must take responsibility for ourselves and others in the spirit of Schiller’s spirit. In practical terms, we observe rules of distance and limit our mobility and contacts as far as possible.”

“Currently, the restrictive measures enacted by policymakers are still too often judged on the basis of the status quo. The exponential growth potential of the virus is only taken into account by parts of society. Accordingly, the measures are all too often branded as excessive or premature, the occurrence of infection appears less threatening. Accordingly, many people are skeptical about further restrictive measures.”


The Gain of Scientific Knowledge


“Another challenge arises from the limited public understanding of the logic behind the gain of scientific knowledge. Original theories and assumptions can prove to be wrong. For people who are not used to this, it is sometimes difficult to understand, especially if - as is now the case with the pandemic - they hope to obtain valid information on which to base their actions.”

“For political decision-makers in particular, our scientific activities are a real imposition. Political action follows a fundamentally different logic. It is aimed at creating framework conditions that are sustainable in the long term. The fact that political decision-makers had to constantly improve or correct the measures based on new scientific findings - just think of mouth-and-nose protection - was not always well received. But such course corrections were foreseeable and obvious. If there is something new, you have to adapt your assessment accordingly. This is the way science works.”


Scientists, Politics, and Society


“We as responsible scientists must actively explain this development process to politics and society if we want them to trust and support us. This is what drives me in my communication efforts. I want people to be informed. Recourse to this information puts them in a position to participate in the discussion about what is necessary and required in each case actively and thus to help shape the fight against the pandemic. The opportunity to participate will hopefully ensure broad social acceptance.”

“The same applies to all major global challenges of our time: If we want to preserve our freedom and well-being, we must take the trouble to take the entire society with us. We must also prepare complex issues for the general public and provide them with appropriate information.”


Take a Stand with Facts


“At the same time, we must not stand by and watch when facts are ignored, twisted or shortened. If science is politicized, instrumentalized or its standards violated, we must take a stand with verifiable facts.”

“And this by no means only applies to infection research in a pandemic. It applies to all fields of science that address urgent problems with decision-making pressure and far-reaching consequences, such as climate research, which deals with another treacherous development on a global scale.”

“Therfore, for free science, responsible communication is a social obligation. It is the duty that arises from freedom, which Friedrich Schiller reminds us of today on his birthday.”

“Let me conclude my speech by returning to Friedrich Schiller, because he has another important piece of advice for us scientists and our work. It is about how we raise our voice and in what attitude we make our contribution.”

“Each of us is called upon to act not only out of duty and responsibility. The inclination and the desire belong inseparably to it. And even if Kant admonishes us that man should not obey his reason out of joy alone: He may well do so. The joy of knowledge may therefore also drive our responsible actions in the present situation. From this, I am quite sure: Friedrich Schiller would also wear a mask.”

“I will leave it at that.”

“Preserve the freedom and joy of thinking. Show responsibility. And above all: Stay healthy.”


Trouble started when Bettina Schulte, cultural editor of Freiburg’s Badische Zeitung, wrote a review titled:

 Why Drosten hasn’t understood anything on Schiller.


“In what times we are living when virologists are allowed to talk about the poet Friedrich Schiller? Sure: The son of an officer from Marbach studied medicine and worked as a military doctor for two years before he fled to Thuringia to escape from his sovereign, Duke Karl Eugen, and exchanged the scalpel for the pen forever.”

“Christian Drosten did not address this issue in his twenty-minute Schiller speech. Instead, he, who has become ‘virtually’ famous overnight with his Corona podcast, picked the topics ‘freedom’ and ‘responsibility.’

“Drosten is less interested in Schiller’s intellectual freedom than in his own concept, i.e., freedom of research. The virologist repeats his credo in a downright prayerful manner. As a researcher, he is obliged only to his own interest in knowledge and to nobody else. That is beautiful and also very reassuring to hear. Drosten, who has repeatedly complained about being misunderstood, also wants nothing to do with politics. The researcher researches, the politician acts.”

“It is as simple as that. As simple as that?”

“The virologist is convinced that Schiller would have worn a mask. What else! Don Carlos can mumble the famous sentence "Sire, geben Sie Gedankenfreiiiuheit!” well with mouth-nose protection. Christian Drosten didn't understand a thing about Friedrich Schiller - and the German Literature Archive threw itself at the bosom of the zeitgeist with this speaker.”
*Sorry, Frau Schulte: In Goethe’s drama Don Carlos, it was not the eponymous hero but Marquis Posa who demanded King Phillip II of Spain, “Sire, give freedom of thought!”

“And then Drosten moves smoothly from the ‘freedom of thought’ to the (ethical) ‘duty to give orientation’ and to the (political-moral) appeal to ‘stand up for one another.‘ Keyword: responsibility. In a stricter interpretation, this finally leads to the ‘pandemic imperative’: ‘Act as if you were Covid-19 positive.’ Does Mr. Drosten mean to say that we should all put ourselves in permanent voluntary quarantine?”

Bravo Bettina. Did you aim to be funny? There were several letters to the editor. Here is the one I wrote:


When I read the title of Bettina‘s review, I had expected a lot and was disappointed by its superficiality and attempted satire. Question: Did the author read Christian Drosten's lecture at all and, if so, did she understand it? Even Goethe had his difficulties with the concept of freedom: "Freiheit ein schönes Wort; wer's recht verstände.” That's why I was impressed by the surprising statements of a medical doctor about Schiller, both in content and form.
*Freedom a beautiful word. Who understands it right? Duke Alba, Spanish Governor of the occupied Netherlands, on Egmont’s question, “Who guarantees freedom?

Our federal president awarded Christian Drosten the Federal Cross of Merit.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Hip Surgery

Talking about diseases is annoying and a killer of any good conversation. So, you are welcome to ignore this blog about my hip surgery at Loretto Hospital in Freiburg last Monday afternoon.

At my age, I didn‘t want to have done anything anymore to my body, but the operation became unavoidable. I have been struggling with my joint since 2007.

On October 23, a Friday afternoon – bad things always happen on the weekend - on my way home, the pain in my right leg suddenly became unbearable so that I could barely make it to my apartment. Over the following long weekend, moving around in my apartment, supported by a walking stick, I completed my medical record, prepared my patient file, informed my orthopedist, and contacted my health insurance.

The following Monday at 8 a.m., I took a taxi to the nearby Loretto hospital. Still, when I announced my desire to be taken in charge, the lady at the reception of the orthopedics department told me, ”If you have pain, you must go to the outpatient clinic.”

When I insisted, a doctor came from behind, “This week there are school holidays in Baden-Württemberg. I am alone in the department. Let the receptionist give you an appointment.” She offered me to come to a first examination on October 28, at 2 p.m. This was early.

The x-ray showed the devastated condition of my right hip that I discussed with Dr. Rütschi, the specialist who is not only well known in Freiburg as the master of artificial hips. People come to the Lorettokrankenhaus from all over Germany to get defective joints replaced.

Rütschi, the *real stable genius looked at his schedule hanging from the wall, found a slot that had become free due to the Corona pandemic, and said, „I’ll fit you in.“ He then determined the date of my surgery for Monday, November 16. This was late but the earliest date that I could get.

On the one hand, many people being afraid of going to a hospital in times of Corona have their surgery canceled or postponed thus opening slots for other suffering people like me. On the other hand, during the following two weeks, Red Baron lived in a mounting feeling of angst that the replacement of his right hip might be postponed due to hospitalisations of Corona patients. Their number was and still is steadily increasing as new cases surge in Germany.

Eventually, my tension dropped when I underwent my entrance examination at the Lorettokrankenhaus on November 12. They wouldn’t let me suffer four long hours for nothing? And so it was.

I entered the hospital on November 15, a lazy Sunday afternoon, but suddenly on Monday morning Dr. Rütschi entered my room with the shocking message, „We have to postpone your operation. Your blood value is not good enough yet. Maybe in the afternoon.“ At home I had brought down my haemodilution-value to 1.4 on Saturday morning assuming that the INR would have decreased to 1.0 valid for a normal person by Monday morning. The medical poeple administered me vitamin K to accelerate the degradation of the blood thinner.

Eventually, at 1 p.m. - my hair covered by a thin net - the anestaesists rolled me into the vestibule of the operating room … around 4 p.m. I awoke at the recovery room. 

My new hip
I could move my torso. Around me in the dim light I distinguished four other people on stretchers and waved to them. I could not sens my lower-body though and had the feel of bended legs with my soles firmly posed on the srtretcher. I reality my legs were fully stretched as I saw for myself.

Me and my walking buck
After the first night with my new hip I had a good feeling, for the pain was quite bearable. Now five days after surgery I only notice postoperative pains in my leg when I am walking leaning heavily on a Gehbock (walking buck). This support is safer than a walker with wheels. The annoying part is that one has to carry the buck in front of the body displacing it when advancing.

The coming Monday I shall be transferred to a REHA, a rehabilitation clinic in a Freiburg suburb, for three weeks. For re-learning walking the method of choice are crutches but suffering from balance problems Red Baron has ordered a Hochrollator, i e., a high walker with arm supports. Placing the forearms into them while walking will relief weight from the body on my legs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Borderlines

During the recent election campaign, Red Baron learned about PoC and the Thin Blue Line flag. Until recently, I only knew about a red line that should not be transgressed. 

Kellyanne Conway,
The Thin Blue Line flag is flying HIGH at President Trump’s rally in Wisconsin!

Looking for an explanation of the blue color, I found that the thin blue line stands for the borderline between chaos and order reflecting the blue uniforms of law enforcement.

In ”Letters from an American,” Heather Cox Richardson reported, ”On October 24 in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Trump held a rally, not in front of an American flag, but in front of the Thin Blue Line flag, a black and white American flag, with a blue stripe running across its middle. The creator of the new flag, Andrew Jacob insists, “the flag has no association with racism, hatred, bigotry…. It’s a flag to show support for law enforcement—no politics involved.”

”But white supremacists waved the flag at the 2017 ‘Unite the Right' Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it has come to symbolize opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. Its adherents talk about ’socialism’ and ‘law & order’ and ‘illegals.’ According to Jacob, ‘The black above represents citizens… and the black below represents criminals.’”

”Flags matter. They are the tangible symbol of a people united for a cause.” 

Here are two other examples of flags that matter:


Why is he carrying an assault rifle? Isn’t a six-shooter sufficient for self-defense?


And God said to Noah (Genesis 9:14-16), "Whenever I bring a cloud over the earth, then the rainbow will appear in the cloud. And I will certainly remember my covenant that I made between me and you [Noah] and every living creature of every kind, and never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the rainbow will occur in the cloud, and I will certainly see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of every kind on the earth."

Due to our past, we Germans have an ambivalent relationship with flags. Initially, already the order of the colors on the bunting posed a problem, then the use of flags in wars became predominant, and eventually, a break with tradition was not successful.

During a sleepless night in 1900, the Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a masterpiece about a flag.

 The Lay of the Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke von Langnau 

In the battles fighting the Turks on the Balkan, the eighteen-year-old Cornet should be carrying the flag in front of his comrades. But one day, he is late at the roll call.

And with sly breath stammer horns in the yard:
Gather, gather!
And trembling drums.
But the flag is not there.

But the flag is not there. 

Calls: Cornet!
Raging horses, prayers, shouting,
Curses: Cornet!
Iron to iron, command, and signal;
Silence: Cornet!
And once more: Cornet!

And out with the roaring cavalry.
But the flag is not there ... 

Eventually, Christopher Rilke von Langnau finds a horse but not his helmet ...

... and it is like a cry: he rides over everything and pasts everything, even his comrades. And also the flag revives, never was it so royal; now they all see it, far ahead, and recognize the bright man without a helmet and recognize the flag ...

And then the flag starts to shine, stands out, becomes big and red... their flag burns in the middle of the enemy, while they chase after it.

Christopher Rilke von Langnau is deep in the enemy, all alone. Horror has made a circular space around him, and he is holding, in the middle of it, below his flag that is slowly blazing.

Slowly, almost thoughtfully, he looks around him. There are a lot of strange, colorful things in front of him. Gardens - he thinks and smiles. But he feels that eyes hold him, and he recognizes men and knows that they are the pagan dogs - and throws his horse right into them.

But, as the men behind him are closing up, there are gardens again, and the sixteen round sabers that leap at him, beam after beam, are a fest, a laughing water art …

So misled, so sad. Just saber fodder.


Red Baron learned that PoC stands for a "Person of Color"; sometimes BPoC (Blacks and People of Color) is used, more rarely BIPoC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color), emphasizing blacks and indigenous people. Here in Germany, we don’t know these abbreviations although, swashing over from the States, racist topics are currently discussed.

Still one has to distinguish between two debates in Germany. The dispute over whether Berlin's Mohrenstrasse should be renamed is a debate about ”racism.”. Mohr is a deeply colonialist and racist term, say its proponents, while the opponents of a renaming consider it nonsensical and oblivious to history. Read more background information in my previous blog.

The other debate in Germany is devoted to "race," which is to be removed as a term from legal texts because its concept is contaminated by National Socialism and is unscientific too.

In the debate on the elimination of the term "race" from Article 3 of Germany’s Basic Law, the Hamburger Senat, i. a., the government of the state of Hamburg, proposes a solution: "Race" is to be replaced by the word "racist." The Senat wants to introduce this proposal to the Bundesrat, Germany's upper house (corresponding to the US Senate). The wording of Article 3 would then read, “No one may be discriminated against or favored because of his or her gender, ancestry, language, home, and origin, faith, religious or political beliefs or racial bias.

Isn’t ”No one may be discriminated against or favored because of his or her race, gender, etc." less verschwurbelt (convoluted) than the new text?

These developments don’t surprise the emeritus linguist Rudi Keller. He considers it hopeless to solve the deeply rooted problem of racism linguistically, "Racism does not disappear by introducing new words. After all, this does not invent a new category, but merely a new term for one and the same attitude. Anti-Semitism can’t be eradicated by ‘fiddling with language’.”


Racism will always exist, but there is an important aspect when racism becomes salonfähig*, i.e., you can openly talk about and live your racism, being made socially acceptable.
*as in Nazi Germany

Monday, November 9, 2020

Remember Remember the 9th of November

Of all those blogs out, there is only one I follow. The blogger is a professor emeritus from Chicago, Jerry Coyne. He has thousands of followers, while my blog only has 19. Jerry, the cat and duck lover, is extremely prolific, for he sometimes writes up to five blogs a day. 

The daily top runner is named Hilly Dialogue, presenting a photo of a cat called Hilly somewhere in Poland who always has something to say or kvetch about. In his daily blog, Jerry also presents a chronological list of events for the specific day. Read what he has noted down for November 9

Click the picture to start the video

November 9 truly is a historic date for Germany.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Blue Cheeseheads

Early in Germany at 6 a.m.
The German people shared the excitement of watching the outcome of the presidential election and were deprived of their nights of sleep. The "Is he gone?" felt like the Groundhog Day movie in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (sic!).

Now on Saturday, November 7, at 5:25 p. m. CET CNN made the call with Joe Biden leading in four battle states and counting. 

This means that POTUS should start packing although there is some fear that the National Guard must be called in to escort him out of the White House. Let that nightmare be fake.  A Biden spokesman confirmed that if Biden wins and Trump refuses to concede, “The United States government is perfectly capable of escorting trespassers out of the White House.”

 

For me, the real winners of the election campaign are the people of Dane County, a square dark blue island in a reddish sea. The result for the State of Wisconsin was close, but the votes of Madison and its surroundings flipped it. This is why Stephen Colbert "nobled" the people of Wisconsin as blue Cheeseheads.

When one of my correspondents in Madison, former AYF resident director professor James Steakley sent me the above graphic on Thursday morning I immediately posted it on the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft Facebook site. It went viral with more than 300 visits by Friday morning. 

And even better, the local newspaper Badische Zeitung (BZ) took up the post the same morning:


On Saturday, Florian Kech titled his weekly satirical column in the BZ," Biden ist uns was schuldig (Biden Owes Us Something).” 

"As we know by now: last not least Joe Biden won the important swing-state Wisconsin due to the votes (75%) in our partner city Madison. Unbiased election observers from Martin Horn's Oval Office at Freiburg’s townhall claim that this result is clearly linked to our city’s positive influence. Hence, it would be neither surprising nor too much to ask that in one of his first official acts, our man in the White House moves the U.S. Embassy from Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to Freiburg's St. Martin's Gate." 

 While in the States the words healing and bridging trenches dominate the news here in Germany, commentators keep harping on the theme of how the Good-Bye president has damaged democracy in the US. 


The people of Wisconsin have shown that the rule by and of the people still works in their State. Just look at the voter turnout. Judging from the depth of the color. Who is the first MN or WI?

Friday, October 30, 2020

Breaking the Wave?

©ntv
This morning the number of daily Corona infections in Germany reached the 20,000 mark. This means that intensive care units are approaching their limits, not for hospital beds or ventilators but for experienced medical personnel. 

During the last days, still an orange isle in a read sea.
Today Germany's Corona case incidence passed 100 cases
per week and 100,000 inhabitants, i.e., it became deep red, too (©ntv).

Last Wednesday, Chancellor Angela Merkel video conferenced with the governors of the 16 states. “It is clear that we must act, and act now to prevent a national health crisis,” she said. The measures agreed upon rather rapidly aim to ease the country’s health system strain, where hospitals have seen the number of patients double in the past 10 days.

New restrictions in Germany will be valid throughout November. The primary goal is to reduce the number of contacts by a calculated 75%, thereby flattening the curve again. The temporary restrictions limit the number of people allowed to meet up in public areas to ten provided they belong to two families only. The measures are regarded as a breaker for the second Corona wave.

While hotels are off-limits for private stays (no holidays) and restaurants and bars are closed, supermarkets, stores, schools, and daycare centers will remain open. The German media labeled the restrictions, which are less comprehensive than those imposed in the spring, when schools and most businesses were forced to close too as “lockdown light.”

The virus's rapid spread should be brought to a halt before the coming Christmas holidays without bringing the economy to a complete standstill. Therefore, the government will compensate small- and mid-sized businesses affected by the monthlong closures with up to 75% of losses, i.e., the financial aid for affected businesses will be worth up to 10 billion taken out of a fund of 25 billion euros.

The Corona situation in southern Baden.
New infection on October 29 (red) and
seven-day incidence per 100,000 (yellow) (©BZ).
The restrictions also mean that we can no longer meet at our monthly Freiburg-Madison Stammtisch. Red Baron will miss the  Kieser Training in particular.

©The governement of Baden-Württemberg
In the meantime, the fourfold AHAL developed into a fivefold AHAAL. The additional "A" stands for "app," Germany's Corona tracing application.

20,3 million Corona apps working on mobile phones (iOS and Android) had been downloaded by October 23, representing 24,4% of the German population. According to a study at Oxford University, the "app" is already useful at a 15% penetration; at 60%, the pandemic could be stopped.


The cryptic green message on my iPhone possibly means that I had come near to a person that had been tested negative on Corona.

Tomorrow, I shall visit the Minster market and eat my last Bretzel and drink my ultimate small Weizenbier vom Fass (wheat beer on tap) to the health of all my readers before Toni‘s place will be closed on Monday.


P.S.: Promises made, promises kept. On Halloween morning at Toni's on Münsterplatz at 11h30. But when I had finished ...


... an old Frank Sinatra tune came to my mind, "The tables are empty, the floor is deserted ..." and taking the lyrics further, "It wasn't my first lesson in learning the blues."

Too sad ...