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.