A Crack In The System
September 3, 2021
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“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” — John F. Kennedy
Angela To The Next Chapter
Soon, a historical era will come to an end in Europe. 67-year-old Angela Merkel, modern Germany’s second-longest-serving chancellor after Helmut Kohl, is not on her country’s September 26 election ballot. Kohl dedicated his political life to rebuilding Germany within a united Europe following World War II, and led the governing center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, continuing at the helm of a reunified Germany from 1990 to 1998.
Merkel won a seat in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament, in Germany’s first post-reunification election in 1990. She became Kohl’s protégée, until April 2000, when Merkel was elected head of the CDU, becoming the first woman and first non-Catholic to lead the party. After the 2005 general election resulted in a stalemate for both major parties, a coalition government was formed with Merkel at its head. On November 22, 2005 Merkel took office as chancellor — the first woman, the first East German, and, at age 51, the youngest person to date to hold the office.
Over the next 16 years, Merkel achieved status as a global diplomatic heavyweight, deftly managing a succession of crises, including tackling the financial meltdown in 2007-2008. She helped implement major reforms and policies on healthcare, energy management, and migration. She reduced unemployment, ended military conscription, enabled the legalization of same-sex marriage, introduced a national minimum wage, and raised payments to new parents. She pushed through a later retirement age, put more women in senior government posts, and set Germany on a course for a future without nuclear and fossil-fueled power.
Internationally, Merkel sought compromise and pursued a multilateral approach to the world’s problems through turbulent years that saw the U.S. drift apart from European allies under former president Trump, and Great Britain leaving the E.U. Time Magazine once dubbed her the “Chancellor of the Free World,” and she topped the 2018 Forbes list of the “World’s Most Powerful Women.” And in the twilight of her career, she led a COVID response that saw Germany fare better than some of its peers.
Ralph Bollmann, a journalist and Merkel’s biographer, said: “I think [her] most important legacy is simply that, in such a time of worldwide crises, she provided for stability.” Through “a constant succession of crises that were really existential threats … her achievement is that she led Germany, Europe and perhaps to some extent the world fairly safely through that, for all that you can criticize details.” When Merkel insists others must judge her record, Bollmann answers: “You protected our country well.” (Independent, Britannica, AP)
No Need(le) For Vaccines
- North Korea is saying “thanks, but no thanks” to repeated offers of coronavirus vaccines. In July, the secretive nation rejected shipments of around two million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. Russia’s Foreign Minister told reporters that it had offered to supply North Korea with its own Sputnik vaccine on multiple occasions without success.
- Last month Pyongyang said the almost three million doses of Sinovac shots the Chinese offered should be sent to harder hit nations. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that as of August 19, North Korea had recorded no cases of COVID-19. The WHO also said some 37,291 people, including health care workers and those with flu-like illnesses, had been tested and all were found to be negative.
- North Korea had imposed strict anti-virus measures from the beginning of the pandemic, and was one of the first countries to close its borders in January 2020. But the closed borders, coupled with international sanctions, has led to severe food shortages and a worsening economy. In June, North Korean media reported that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un had berated top officials over “lapses” that caused a “grave incident” related to Covid-19, whatever that means. (BBC)
A Reach To Impeach
- From 2015 to 2019, Inger Stoejberg served as Denmark’s immigration minister in a center-right government propped up by the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party. Stoejberg spearheaded the introduction of more than 100 new restrictive immigration measures, one of which involved the confiscation of valuables from asylum seekers.
- Now, Stoejberg is facing impeachment for an order she gave in February 2016, that married refugees under 18 years old must not be accommodated with their spouse. Twenty-three married couples, some with children, were separated before the policy was dropped a few months later. Stoejberg maintains she was trying to protect girls and combat child marriage, but at the time her staff had warned her the practice was illegal.
- This is Denmark’s first impeachment trial in almost three decades, and only the second in a century. The trial is taking place at a special impeachment court and is likely to last until December. Thirteen Supreme Court judges and 13 appointees will decide if the former minister has violated the Ministerial Accountability Act. (BBC)
Additional World News
- Millions of children in religious groups in England and Wales vulnerable to abuse (Guardian)
- Schools in Nigerian state shut after mass kidnapping of students by gunmen (CNN)
- Afghanistan: Qatar and Turkey become Taliban’s lifeline to the outside world (BBC)
- Indian troops deployed to Srinagar after death of Kashmir separatist leader (CNN)
- China set to open new stock exchange in Beijing (BBC)
- J&J vaccine shipments from S.Africa to Europe halted, AU says (Reuters)
- WHO urges countries to halt plans for COVID-19 booster shots through September (The Hill)
Cheney Of Command
- Representative Liz Cheney (R-WY) has been appointed as vice-chair of the select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob. She joined the committee in July after being ousted by fellow House Republicans from her leadership position. She had publicly challenged former President Trump’s false claim that the 2020 election was stolen.
- Representative Bennie Thompson (D-MS), the committee’s chair, welcomed Cheney’s appointment and said her presence “underscores the bipartisan nature” of the effort to get to the bottom of events that led to the attack on the Capitol. Republicans are in lockstep opposing the committee; some even threatened to shut down private telecommunications and social media companies that comply with the committee’s requests.
- Representative Andy Biggs (R-AZ), a Trump loyalist who helped spearhead the push to overturn the election results in Congress, is calling on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to boot Cheney and the other Republican on the committee, Adam Kinzinger, (R-IL) out of the GOP party. Cheney, 55, has called her decision to publicly fight Trump a matter of principle, warning that allowing him to falsely claim that the election was stolen amounts to an attack on democracy and is destructive to the GOP and its values. (WaPo, Business Insider, CNN)
A Crack In The System
- On Monday, Sarasota County School District staff began enforcing a new mask policy requiring students either wear a mask or provide a form signed by a licensed medical professional stating that the child “cannot wear a mask or a face shield (or both) due to a medical, physical or psychological contraindication.”
- After over 500 students provided medical exemption forms signed by Dan Busch, a Venice, Florida chiropractor, Superintendent Brennan Asplen issued an updated mask exemption form Tuesday evening stating that exemption forms can only be signed by medical doctors, osteopathic physicians, or nurse practitioners.
- A Venice attorney representing Busch said the new policy unfairly raises questions about the credentials of chiropractors as medical professionals. Busch told local media he was examining the children for conditions that would allow them to be waived from mask requirements. But some families told news reporters that they simply grabbed a pre-signed form off of the counter in Busch’s office. (Sarasota Herald Tribune, WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Critical race theory fight boils over at defense bill markup (CNN)
- QAnon ‘poster boy’ for Capitol riot sent back to jail after violating court order to stay off Internet (WaPo, $)
- Democrats race to resolve House-Senate disputes on $3.5T megabill (Politico)
- New York and New Jersey declare states of emergency as remnants of Hurricane Ida hit Northeast (CBS)
- Texas Republicans’ new restrictive voting law: What’s in it and what it does (Vox)
- The Wind Is Changing In Lake Tahoe, And That Could Help Firefighters (NPR)
- Manchin to Dems: Pause social spending plan (Politico)
Out On A Limb
Which came first — the chicken or the egg? Another good question is: who first designed artificial limbs that can ‘feel’?
Paul Marasco is an associate professor in the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, and the lead author of a study on a new “bionic arm” published Wednesday in the journal Science Robotics. The new bionic arm enlists help from tiny robots to recreate the vital sensations lost when one loses an upper limb. The bots do that by safely vibrating muscles at the amputation site. Marasco says the artificial limb appears to be the first bionic arm to simultaneously test several metrics of its benefits over typical prosthetics, and indications are that it replicates the mechanics of natural arms precisely enough to restore unconscious reflexes in amputees who use it.
However, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine almost a year and a half ago reported on three Swedish patients with arm amputations who’ve been living for several years with technology that lets them experience sensations of touch in a mind-controlled arm prosthesis that they use in everyday life. This study was done by Swedish, Austrian, and U.S. scientists. They say theirs is a new concept for artificial limbs which they’re calling neuromusculoskeletal prostheses, because they’re connected to the user’s nerves, muscles, and skeleton. The concept of a neuromusculoskeletal prosthesis is unique because it delivers features never presented together before in any other prosthetic technology in the world: direct connection to a person’s nerves, muscles, and skeleton; mind-controlled; and self-contained.
Maybe the difference is that one study calls its invention a “bionic arm” and the other calls its creation a “neuromusculoskeletal prosthesis.” Maybe that’s enough to make them both “firsts.” (CNET, Science Daily)
- China bans reality talent shows to curb behaviours of ‘idol’ fandoms (Guardian)
- US podcast star Joe Rogan tests positive for Covid (Guardian)
- You’re Not Alone: Monkeys Choke Under Pressure Too (Wired)
- Twin elephants born for the first time in almost 80 years in Sri Lanka (USA Today)
- TikTokers flood Texas abortion whistleblower site with Shrek memes, fake reports and porn (Guardian)
- Virginia Supreme Court Clears Path for Removal of Robert E. Lee Statue (NYT, $)
- Capybara are invading lawns of wealthy area in Argentina (USA Today)
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