Sunday, March 29, 2020

#freiburghaeltzusammen

Red Baron introduced splinters last year. Here comes a heap of Corona splinters.

Fake News

The corona epidemic gives birth to lots of fake news on the Internet, e.g., concerning disinfectants, most of which are excellent for bacteria but useless against viruses. Used in excess, they present a severe overkill. Remedies against SARS-CoV-2 do not exist. Those offered are fake, and some of them could even be deadly.


It was only a matter of time until good old Nostradamus would rear his head. Allegedly he wrote in 1521: “There will be a twin year (2020) when a queen (Corona) from the East (China) will come. In the darkness of the night, she will spread the plague on a land with 7 hills (Italy) and will turn the twilight of the people into dust to destroy the world. It will be the end of the world economy as you know it."

Linguists looked through all of Nostradamus’ work and were unable to locate the above quotation.

Corrupt News

Air pollution over northern Italy (©boredpanda)
Italian scientists have claimed that there may be a link between air pollution and the frequency of Covid-19 cases. Viruses could persist on fine dust particles for several days, especially in humid air, and will be spread by the wind.

This “scientific” news fueling panic is bullshit and deserves POTUS’s newly coined comparative form of fake news, i.e., corrupt news.

It is common knowledge that the lungs exposed to fine dust over extended periods are damaged. Such prior damage makes lung tissue prone to additional attacks.

During his professional life, Red Baron learned that miners working in a dusty environment end up developing silicosis. This is “minor” compared to workers like those in Schneeberg, Erzgebirge, digging uranium ore for the Soviet Union after the war. In addition to dust, these miners were exposed to high levels of airborne Radon. While exposure to Radon gas already is a health hazard, those miners almost without exception developed lung cancers later in life due to the combined effect of dust and radioactivity.

Money

Note the empty seats in the Bundestag. The deputies keep their distance.
Some took their seats in the otherwise empty public gallery above.
Last Wednesday, the Bundestag (Germany's House of Representatives) unanimously passed a 50% extension of Germany’s annual federal budget. A sum of 156 billion euros is devoted to fighting the effects of the Corona pandemic on the nation's health system and the economy. Within a few minutes and unanimously, the lawmakers buried Germany's Holy Cow, the Black Zero, i.e., a balanced budget the federal government had enjoyed over the last five years. On Friday, the Bundesrat (Senate) representing the Länder (states) followed suit.

Research Efforts

Minister Kaliczek is touching her face on national television.
The same day our Federal Minister for Education, Science, Research, and Technology Anja Karliczek held a press conference announcing a pact between all German universities and national institutes* united in a joint effort to fight the Coronavirus. While in the past competition between the various institutions for federal research money was keen, the situation must now change. In a first effort, Anja’s ministry will inject 150 million euros in a pact bundling research on medical methods, medication, and vaccination.
*e.g., the Frauenhofer Gesellschaft or the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres

Encounters

Many people in Freiburg walk ... alone or with one partner only. So during my forced marches, I meet friends and less known people on the street with whom I exchange comforting words while keeping the due distance.


One of the most enjoyable encounters on my way to the pharmacy on Friday was the one with the Director of Freiburg's Carl-Schurz-Haus, charming Friederike Schulte, walking her son in the spring-like sun. While in full social contact, we talked at a physical distance of 4 meters being larger than recommended.

Children's Insight

Coronavirus is stupid
Walking his self-imposed goal of a least 20 minutes in the afternoon on Saturday, Red Baron passed by some street art. Children accustomed to neither social nor physical distancing are more frustrated by the present situation than widowers.

City Anniversary Goes Online

Freiburg sticks together
Last Wednesday, Lord Mayor Martin Horn announced in Freiburg's Amtsblatt (Official Journal):

The ban on events decreed to contain the coronavirus has far-reaching consequences for the city's anniversary too. However, the goal of celebrating a festival for and with the people of Freiburg remains the same despite changed circumstances.

Therefore, over the last few days, various players have met under the motto "Freiburg sticks together," and have come up with ideas for a digital offer. As many cultural and educational events as possible will be made accessible In the coming weeks from home.

All present and future offerings will be bundled on the anniversary homepage www.2020.freiburg.de. The site currently contains the digital offerings of the municipal library, the municipal theatre, and the city museums with more to follow.

Gruesome Numbers

Today at 1830 hours MET.
Here are the lastest graphics I recorded on the Internet just a few moments ago. While the German curve of new Corona cases is still increasing substantially, the steep slope for the States looks dramatic. Such an increase is observed at the onset of a pandemic until protective measures start to slow down the rate of new infections.

Protective measures even in Plattdütsch (Lower German)
The most effective protection measure is not “washing your hands” but rather don’t pick your nose, yet ...

Two-way traffic and a minimum 2-meter distance to be observed for joggers
 at the west bank of Hamburg’s Außenalster (Outer Alster lake) (©Die Zeit)
... above all, keep a physical distance to your fellow men/women. The mitigating effect of protective measures will only become visible with the incubation delay of the Coronavirus.

Although the curve starts to bend, it's not over yet (©ntv).
This is the increase of Corona cases for Germany with time on a logarithmic scale. The curve is slowly becoming convex.

Do not rejoice: not all the cases have been counted for March 29 (©ntv).
Here is another way of presenting the infection data. The percentage of cases per day in Germany now is low but not as low as to allow full churches at Easter.

Chancellor Angela Merkel told the German people that the strict measures taken will stay in effect until April 20. It is Führers Geburtstag, a bad day for Germany.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

When the Old Synagogue Was New


The Nazis burned down Freiburg's "old" synagogue on 9/10 November 1938, in the so-called Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass).

Meeting at the site of the Old Synagogue.
On March 11, Red Baron participated in an excursion offered by the Badische Zeitung on Jewish life in Freiburg, guided by Professor Heinrich Schwendemann, a known expert in the field.

Heinrich Schwendemann and photographer Ingo Schneider.
In the background, street sign Gurs 1027 km.
It was possibly the last public tour in a long period to come.

On March 11, there is only moderate physical distancing.
Red Baron is talking to the author of Freiburg zu Fuß (© Ingo Schneider).
Here`s pointing at you, Red Baron (© Ingo Schneider)
A hitherto unknown aerial photograph of the Old Synagogue in flore.
Historian Heinrich Schwendemann talked about Jewish life in Freiburg, taking the occasion of the solemn inauguration of the synagogue on September 23, 1870, nearly 150 years ago.

Jews lived in Freiburg, demonstrably in Schusterstraße and Wasserstraße as early as the Middle Ages. They worked as retailers, peddlers, grocers, and ironmongers, for the mighty guilds did not allow them to become craftsmen or artisans.

Jews as money lenders: A Jew sets his mind night and day on how he may ruin a Christian
When a resolution of the 4th Lateran Council in 1215 tightened the canonical prohibition against Christians demanding interest for loans, the Jews stepped in. Emperor Frederick II, in particular, appreciated their usefulness as lenders and, for their protection, declared them slaves of the royal chamber for all time in 1236. Although "protected" Jews had to pay protection money to their specific rulers, some of them became quite wealthy and were regarded with envy by Christians.


Here I will add some additional information about Jewish history in Freiburg based on some earlier information by Professor Schwendemann.

In 1310 the Counts of Freiburg had acquired the lucrative regal right* to levy protection money. The fees paid were not sufficient for the greedy rulers so that in 1326 Count Conrad had accumulated a debt to the Jews of 400 silver marks. Thus he was obliged to issue a comprehensive letter of protection dated October 12, 1338, to the local Jews for the benefit of the city and to avert damage to his rule.
*Always in need for money, the German kings had traded their regal right to levy protection fees to their sovereign princes

With the onset of the plague in 1349, suddenly, this letter was no longer valid. At the instigation of Freiburg’s city council, Jews suspected of well-poisoning were arrested. After cruel torture, many of them made forced confessions of guilt. In their fear of death, they also accused fellow believers from other places. As a result, the persecution of Jews spread from place to place.


On Friday before Candlemas of 1349 (on January 31), all adult Jews in Freiburg, except for pregnant women, were burned for their misdeeds and murders that they had instigated and then admitted. The children of those executed were compulsorily baptized. There were rumors that with this action, the city council had wanted to harm the counts of Freiburg, depriving them of their funds.

The creditors of the Jews now hoped to get rid of their debts, but Freiburg's city council decided to waive only five pounds of pennies from each citizen's obligation and to transfer the remaining debts to the city coffers.

The poisoning of the wells served as a pretext for the Christians, but as a Strasbourg chronicler writes, "The wealth of the Jews was the poison that killed them."

Following the pogrom, Jews only hesitantly resettled in Freiburg. The city council was not sure how to handle this situation when in 1392, Freiburg’s Austrian ruler Leopold IV (1386-1411) came for a visit. At the request of the city council, he issued a Jewish Order on September 14, 1394: Jewish men were required to wear Gugelhüte (pointed hats) and were generally forbidden to wear the liturgical colors red and green.

As a result of the news of ritual murders of Christians in faraway Bavaria and after consultation with Duke Leopold, the city council had the clergy announce from their pulpits the expulsion of all Jews from Freiburg on July 4, 1401.

When the city got rid of its Jews, the joy was so general, and the event seemed so important that all city councilors solemnly signed the resolution that No Jew shall ever be allowed to settle in Freiburg.

From 1411 onwards, Jews were re-admitted, but during the time when Freiburg was an imperial city (1415-1427), King Sigismund, at the request of the city council, officially confirmed the decree of 1401 in 1424 with the Eternal Expulsion.

It was not until 1862 that Jews were again allowed to stay legally in Freiburg.

I shall stop here but not for 438 years. Stay tuned for the second part of Jewish life in Freiburg.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Corona 5

Today was Red Baron's shopping day. I went early to the bakery and was alone in the small room. I bought my supply for the next two days and headed home.

At precisely 1000 hours, Professor Wieler of the Robert Koch Institute gave his daily report on national television on the Corona situation in Germany. On Monday, he had spoken of the apparent trend that the exponential growth curve is flattening out somewhat. Still today, he did not want to make a new evaluation quoting the recent number of cases, "We must continue to wait and see whether the measures taken take effect."

"At the moment, it is too early to make any reliable statements. Germany is only at the beginning of the epidemic", he continued. "How the situation will develop is completely open."


Here is an interesting graphic I found this morning on the Internet channel of NTV, illustrating the situation in China, Italy, South Korea, and Germany. If you are suspicious about the Chinese data, the Koreans have demonstrated that the rate of Corona infections can be lowered by drastic measures. While the number of new infections is now flattening in Italy, the number of dead is still high.

In the background, the Church of St. John the Baptist.
Following my solitary lunch, I took a long detour walking to the grocery. On my way, I marched down empty Talstraße.

When I entered the supermarket guiding my shopping cart with gloved hands, my first sight was that of a full pallet with toilet paper. The supply of canned food was sufficient too.

I filled my backpack with my needs for the next days and went home. On arrival, I proudly noticed that I had 42 minutes forced walk today, covering a distance of 4.8 kilometers.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Corona 4

No, it's not a new strain of the virus, but instead, number four in my Corona reports from Freiburg and Germany.

Yesterday evening at the chancellery
 Last evening at 1830 hours following a video conference with all female and male governors (Ministerpräsident or other titles) from Germany's federal states (Länder), our chancellor was life on national television. Angela Merkel spoke about the pandemic or rather read the following statement:

1: Citizens are urged to reduce contact with other people outside the members of their own household to an absolutely necessary minimum.

2: In public, wherever possible, a minimum distance of at least 1.5 meters, or better still 2 meters, must be kept from people other than those mentioned in the first paragraph. It is essential that this distance rule is observed. At a certain distance, the risk of infection is reduced to almost zero. Whether you stand half a meter apart or 1.5 meters makes a huge difference (Being a physicist, she knows the inverse square root law well).

3: It is only allowed to stay in public spaces alone or with one other person not living in the household or in the circle of members of one's own family.

4: The way to work, emergency care, shopping, visits to the doctor, participation in essential meetings, necessary appointments and examinations, help for others, individual sports, and exercise in the fresh air as well as other essential activities remain, of course possible.

5: Given the seriousness of the situation in our country, groups of people celebrating in public places, in homes and private institutions, are unacceptable. Violations of the contact restrictions should be monitored by the regulatory authorities, and the police and sanctions should be imposed in the event of infringements (Angela is careful using "should" for the police authority is with the German Länder).

6: In Addition to pubs and restaurants, catering establishments will be closed. This does not include the delivery and collection of takeaway food for consumption at home.

7: Personal hygiene service providers such as hairdressers, beauty salons, massage parlors, tattoo studios, and similar establishments will be closed because physical proximity is essential in these cases. Medically necessary treatments remain possible.

8: It is essential to comply with hygiene regulations and implement effective protective measures for employees and visitors.

9: These measures should be valid for at least two weeks.

Yesterday evening two lighted windows. Our chancellor is working from home.
Angela seemed somewhat nervous and had while she was reading several slips. Later the nation was informed about a possible reason. The chancellor will stay in her apartment in Berlin-Mitte next to the Pergamon Museum, observing a quarantine of 14 days. She had contact with a doctor for vaccination against streptococci who later was found tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Streptococci may cause pneumonia for the deadly outcome of an infection with Corona.
Tonight's Breaking News: The result of the first Corona test of our chancellor was negative.

On the recommendation of his cardiologist, Red Baron had his streptococci vaccination in 2015 that should be valid up to 2022.

For Red Baron, the new, more definite rules, as Angela called them, do not change very much. Living alone since May 2019, my family being social contacts slowly but steadily has disappeared over the last two months. What I miss in particular is my training at Kieser. To keep my circulation alive, I now do a forced walking of at least 20 minutes per day. Yesterday I was at Elisabeth's tomb and walked for 24 minutes. Today I stressed my legs and lungs for 28 minutes.

I shall go shopping only every second day. When I went to the baker this morning, a young father with his two daughters (remember there is no school) was inside the small shop. So I waited in front, behind me three other persons in more than two meters distance were queuing up (sorry, standing in line). There was no bread left of the kind Red Baron likes, but I bought from the delicious homemade pastry my need for two days.

Later at the grocery, I had to wait less than a minute until a friendly young man called me in to take a shopping cart. They cleverly had reduced the number of shopping carts, limiting the number of customers inside the small supermarket. The only item I could not find was my beloved coarse whole-grain bread. So I went next door to a bakery chain and bought half a loaf of crusty Urbrot.

Friends, don't worry: I will not starve.

I then watched the press conference of the Robert Koch Institute this time for health reasons without journalists present. They had sent in their question before. Professor Wieler was mutedly optimistic regarding the Corona situation in Germany. The number of new infections is slowing down, but Wieler warned that the effect may be because not all new cases over the past weekend were reported to him.


Here is the optimistic curve of infections of this morning in a logarithmic presentation. An exponential increase shows as a straight line that in the case of Germany seems to turn convex. Maybe the earlier measures taken here one week ago, i.e., the closing of universities, schools, and Kindergärten, show already an effect. Let us keep our fingers crossed.

On national television, this afternoon: Freiburg's Kanonenplatz on Schlossberg is deserted.
The poet Reinhold Schneider once wrote the sonnet, "To the steeple of the Freiburg Minster" consoling Freiburg's citizens in a time when their city was in ruins following the air raid of November 27, 1944:

Steh' unerschüttert herrlich im Gemüte,
Du großer Beter glaubensmächtiger Zeit!
Wie Dich verklärt des Tages Herrlichkeit,
wenn längst des Tages Herrlichkeit verglühte.
Stand unshaken beautiful in mind,
You great prayer of a faithful time!
How the day's glory transfigures thee,
when long ago, the beauty of the day burned away.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Keep Your Distance


Yesterday, March 19, Red Baron went downtown to meet a friend in a restaurant for lunch. On my way, I took the following photo.

Freiburg's Rathausmarkt on March 19 at 11:55 p.m.
Suddenly the first lines of Goethe's epic poem Hermann und Dorothea came to my mind, ”Hab ich den Markt und die Rathausgasse doch nie so einsam gesehen! Ist doch die Stadt wie gekehrt! wie ausgestorben!" (I've never seen the market and Rathausgasse so lonely! The city is as if it were swept! Were extinct!).


This was, however, not the case in Freiburg's parks and on the banks of the Dreisam River, where the young generation threw what is now called Corona parties.

This is why Freiburg‘s mayor was on national television yesterday evening.

ARD anchor woman Caren Miosga interviewing Martin Horn
ARD news speaker Susanne Daubner
For the first major city in Germany Martin Horn decreed:

From March 21 to April 3, residents are allowed to leave their houses or apartments only for urgent matters. Those who wish to stay outside may do so only alone, in pairs, or with persons who live in their own household. This is mandatory for all public places, i.e., parks, squares, and ... streets. A minimum distance of 1.50 meters must be kept from all other persons. One may, however, continue to go to work or to the doctor as well as shopping for food.

Justification: Less than a week ago, the city of Freiburg and the neighboring districts banned all events with 50 or more participants until 20 April.


However, time and again, people had not complied with this general order and had not restricted their contacts with others.


Especially in the springlike temperatures, many citizens spend their free time outdoors in public places, parks, and green spaces. The recommended distance between people is often not observed.

Life in Freiburg, with its young population, is grinding to a hold.

The restaurant we went to yesterday had only a few tables occupied, so distance wasn't a problem. All the pubs are closed, and all the places serving meals must close at 1800 hours. Das Geschäft bricht weg (business collapses). My generous tip does not really help. The restaurant owner told us that next week they will close for it is more profitable to ask for unemployment pay than to shoulder the costs that are not compensated by income.


This morning in his daily press conference Professor Lothar Wieler, President of the Robert Koch Institute, again made clear the danger of the Corona pandemic and urged everybody to comply with the recommendations of his institute. While shaking hands is now definitely out, people still do not observe their local and social distances. Keep the distance, avoid the spread.


Distancing not too bad at Freiburg's Münster Market this morning ...


... but even better in this case. Note, it can't be overdone.


In our nation's capital. Three (!) people are standing too close on Pariser Platz. The tall white building on the left is the right wing of the US Embassy.

P.S.: This morning, Bavaria followed Freiburg's example on a State level. Besides, all restaurants will be closed even for lunch. Just a few moments ago, the State of Baden-Württemberg decreed the same draconic measures as Bavaria.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

More on Corona in Freiburg

On March 13, the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft was informed that the Academic Year in Freiburg program 2020/21 was officially closed on March 11 and that the home universities have ordered their students to return to the US.

This step is regrettable and painful. However, it is also understandable that in this time of crisis, AYF students are returning to their home countries.

Thus, the traditional May excursion of the FMG with the American students on May 1 is canceled.

Although we do not reach the quorum decreed by the city of a maximum of 50 people gathering, we will cancel the FMG Stammtisch on April 1 in the wake of the city's recommendation to refrain from all meetings that are not absolutely necessary.


In Freiburg and the surrounding  district of Breisgau-Hochschwarzwald, 99 people are currently (as of Sunday 15 March, 10h45 a.m.) known to be infected with SARS-CoV-2.


 Mayor Martin Horn announcing drastic measures for Freiburg on Facebook
As already mentioned above: Events and meetings with 50 or more people are prohibited in Freiburg from Saturday, March 14 until midnight on April 20, 2020.

All municipal museums, the swimming pools, and the planetarium were closed on Saturday. Bars, cafés, restaurants, clubs, and cinemas may open - but must restrict admission accordingly.

The University Hospital and many retirement homes have issued a visiting ban to protect patients and residents.

All schools in Baden-Württemberg will be closed from Tuesday, March 17.

The Albert-Ludwigs-University of Freiburg has suspended teaching until April 19, 2020. The UB (Library of the University) is closed.

Freiburg sticks together
Nobody knows what the situation will be like after the Easter holidays, when the schools are to reopen on April 20.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Corona in Freiburg

Slowly I get the nomenclature of the Coronavirus right. SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrom Corona Virus 2) is the name of the virus. As for number one, we had an outbreak known as SARS in China and on a small scale around the globe in 2002/2003. Covid-19 (Corona Virus Disease 2019) is the name of the disease where the first cases were observed in December 2019 in the Chinese town of Wuhan.

At present, SARS-CoV-2 is spreading in South Baden. There are eleven diagnosed cases of Covid-19 in Freiburg and eleven in its surroundings. What counts more is that, according to the Robert-Koch-Institute (RKI) neighboring South Alsace, now is a risk area. Thousands of people from France working in southern Baden and Basel cross the Rhine River daily.

Yesterday, Freiburg's crisis unit called off all public and private events with more than 1000 people until March 31. Yesterday night a pop concert was canceled on short notice. The SC Freiburg will play soccer at an empty Dreisam stadium as a" ghost game," and the popular Freiburg marathon with record participation this year is called off.

However, Freiburg's municipal theater with "only" 860 seats will continue to perform although yesterday Red Baron could not buy a ticket but only got a reservation for Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew" for March 22. I shall be informed in due time by email whether the virus is sufficiently tame by then to allow the performance of "Der Widerspenstigen Zähmung."


Berlin's RKI informs daily about the spread of the disease in Germany, recommends measures to be taken, and reports new scientific findings. All actions proposed and taken serve the purpose of slowing down the spread of the pandemic, so our hospitals do not become overloaded.

I learned that the endless discussions about the mortality rate of Covid-19 (3 or 0.3% ?) are pointless at this time because the basis for the statistics is ill-defined. Some - mostly children and young people - show only mild or no symptoms when infected and are not counted. Undetected, these people are likely to spread the virus further without knowing. Older people catching the virus could become severely ill and tend to develop pneumonia. This is because SARS-CoV-2 perturbs the immune system of the lung, so intruding bacteria can easily infect the weakened tissue. The risk of dying from Covid-19 is more than 25% for old white men over 80. Red Baron is warned, but you may or should instead think of future American Presidents.


Professor Drosten in his lab at the Charité (©ARD)
Is there no silver lining on the horizon? Virologist Professor Christian Drosten who developed the PCR* fragment analysis method on swabs taken in the throat area, said that this diagnosis tool is 100% sure. As a scientist, he competently and calmly talks about recent findings and new developments on SARS-CoV-2 in a daily podcast.
*Polymerase Chain Reaction

Drosten was fast, "Within a week he had produced the test."
He and his colleagues at Berlin's Charité found that the virus replicates not only in the lung but in the throat area as well. They further detected the virus in a high concentration in feces of infected persons, but those viruses are no longer contagious. Likewise, swabs taken from the lungs of healed patients still contain the virus, but these are unable to proliferate. So persons showing no longer any symptoms of Covid-19 may leave those precious hospital beds already after one week and continue their healing process at home. Meanwhile, the research for effective vaccination against the virus goes on in labs worldwide.

How long will the pandemic last? Inshallah.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Spring Feeling

When yesterday Red Baron walked through his part of town, Mittelwiehre, he was stunned how nature is premature this year.

Actually, I wasn't amazed, for Freiburg, and all of Germany experienced the warmest first two months of a year since meteorologists started to take accurate weather data in 1881.

Am I unfair? 2020 is a leap year, and February counts 29 days. So we are one day more advanced than usual. No more arguing; instead look at some photos that I took yesterday:

Magnolia
Daffodils, normal size
Daffodils, a smaller kind
I don't know
  Red plums are blossoming one fortnight (two weeks) too early on Maximilianstraße
I would like to add a photo I took today visiting Elisabeth at the municipal cemetery.