Germany

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The “Unvaccinated” Question (Revisited)

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 07/08/2022 - 2:58am in

Tags 

Germany

On 1 September, 1941, Chief of Reich Security Reinhard Heydrich, one of the most fanatical, mass-murdering Nazis, issued a now notorious decree ordering Jews above the age of six to wear an identifying badge in public. The Jewish Badge, a yellow Star of David with the word “Jew” inscribed inside the star, was meant to stigmatize and humiliate the Jews and was also used to segregate them and monitor and control their movements.

Nothing like that is happening currently, especially not in New Normal Germany.

What is happening currently in New Normal Germany is the fascist fanatics in control of the government are rewriting the “Infection Protection Act,” again — as they have been doing repeatedly for the last two years — in order to allow themselves to continue to violate the German constitution (the “Grundgesetz) and rule the nation by arbitrary decree under the guise of “protecting the public health.”

This repeatedly revised “Infection Protection Act” — which has granted the government of New Normal Germany the authority to order lockdowns, curfews, the outlawing of protests against the New Normal, the mandatory wearing of medical-looking masks, the segregation and persecution of “the Unvaccinated,” etc. — is of course in no way remotely comparable to the “Enabling Act of 1933,” which granted the government of Nazi Germany the authority to issue whatever decrees it wanted under the guise of “remedying the distress of the people.”

There is absolutely no similarity whatsoever between these two pieces of legislation.

I mean, look at this “Autumn/Winter Plan” for the new revision of the “Infection Protection Act,” which will remain in effect from October until Easter, and which government officials and state propagandists (a/k/a the German media) are likening to “snow chain ordinances.”

There is absolutely nothing creepily fascistic or remotely Nazi about this plan.

Sorry, it’s in German. Allow me to translate.

On planes and trains and at the airports and train stations, everyone will be forced to wear doggy-snout masks — i.e., FFP2 “Filtering Face Pieces” as defined by the EN 149 standard — except for the staff of the airports and train stations, and the flight attendants, conductors, etc., who will only be forced to wear “medical-looking masks.” In hospitals, clinics, doctors’ offices, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities, everyone, including the staff, will not only be forced to wear the dog-snout masks but they will also be forced to submit to testing, unless they can provide proof of “vaccination” (or recovery, which also means being tested) within the previous three-month period. On the premises of private companies, i.e., offices, factories, warehouses, and so on, the previously rescinded Arbeitsschutzverordnung (“Corona Occupational Safety Ordinance”) — masks, tests, forced “vaccinations,” “social distancing,” plastic barriers, etc. — will go back into effect in October and will remain in effect until the Easter holidays.

The individual federal states will be empowered to impose other senseless “restrictions,” like general mask mandates in shops, restaurants, and every other type of “interior spaces,” limits on the number of people who can gather publicly or in their homes, and mandatory masks for kids in schools and testing in kindergartens and daycare facilities. In restaurants, bars, theaters, museums, sports facilities, and pretty much everywhere else in society, the federal states can demand that people show proof of recent “vaccination” or recovery to be exempted from having to wear a mask.

OK, allow me to translate again.

What that last part means is that anyone who refuses to submit to repeated “vaccination” or testing will be forced to wear a mask in public to identify themselves as “Unvaccinated” (i.e., the New Normal Reich’s official “Untermenschen”).

So, OK, maybe it’s a little creepily fascistic and not as non-Nazi as I suggested above. I put it this way in a recent tweet …

Needless to say, this could get confusing, as the New Normals are extremely attached to their masks, which they’ve been wearing — like Nazis wore swastika lapel pins — to publicly signal their “solidarity” (i.e., mindless conformity to the new official ideology) for going on the last two and half years. And now the masks will function like the “Jewish Badges” with the Star of David that the Nazis forced the Jews to wear, except on public transportation, and planes and trains, unless the federal states decide to force everyone to wear masks everywhere, in which case … well, you get the general idea.

Still, the fact that everyone will have to present their “vaccination papers” (or their “recovery papers”) to enter a restaurant, or a bar, or go to the cinema or the theater, and, basically, to do anything else in society, should make up for the mask confusion. I mean, what kind of a fascist society would it be if you didn’t have to show your “papers” to some beady-eyed goon to get a cup of coffee?

Now, before you report me to the BfV, i.e., Germany’s federal domestic intelligence agency, for “relativizing the Holocaust” and “delegitimizing the democratic state,” both of which are crimes here in Germany, I want to say, again, for the record, that I do not advocate using the yellow Star of David to protest the New Normal (as in the photo in the tweet above). I think it is foolish, and counterproductive. The New Normal has nothing to do with the Holocaust, or the Jews, or even Nazism per se.

But let’s be clear about what’s happening in Germany.

What is happening is, a new official ideology is being imposed on society. It is being imposed on society by force. And now, those of us who refuse to conform to it will be ordered to walk around in public wearing visible symbols of our non-conformity.

I’m sorry, but the parallels are undeniable.

This new official ideology has nothing to do with a respiratory virus or any other public health threat. At this point, I do not have to repeat this argument. The majority of countries around the world have finally rescinded their “emergency measures” and acknowledged the facts that we “conspiracy theorists” have been citing for the past two and a half years, and that we have been relentlessly demonized and censored for citing.

Not even Germany’s recent independent evaluation of its “Corona Measures” could produce any evidence supporting their effectiveness. Seriously, the New Normal German authorities are basing their claim for the efficacy of mask mandates on “the Golden Syrian Hamster Model.” (You probably think I’m joking, but I’m not.) And Karl Lauterbach, the fanatical Minister of Health, has openly stated that forcing “the Unvaccinated” to wear masks in public is a “motivation” tactic to harass them into following orders and submitting to a “vaccination” that even the German government now admits has killed or seriously injured tens of thousands of people, at minimum, in Germany.

No, this new official ideology, the New Normal — which is still very much in effect in places like Germany, China, Canada, Australia, New York, California, etc. — is nakedly, undeniably, purely ideological. It is based, not on facts, but belief. It is a belief system, as is every other ideology. It is essentially no different than an official religion … one which demonizes and persecutes all other religions, and non-religions, and all other belief systems.

According to this new official belief system, those of us who maintain different beliefs, and refuse to convert to the new official beliefs (or pretend to convert to the new official beliefs), are dangerous, foreign elements in society. And thus, from now on, in New Normal Germany, we will be forced to wear a visible symbol of our different beliefs (our “otherness”) in public, so that the authorities and the Good German masses will be able to identify us.

Is any of this sounding vaguely familiar?

I’m fairly certain that someone will read this (and see the tweets I included above) and report me for “relativizing the Holocaust.” For the record, I am not “relativizing the Holocaust.” I’m comparing one totalitarian system to another. Yes, Nazi Germany and New Normal Germany are two very different totalitarian systems, and I have outlined their essential differences and similarities, but, come on, this is not that fucking hard. In Nazi Germany, the Jews were the scapegoats. In New Normal Germany, it’s “the Unvaccinated.”

How much more blatant does it have to get before people stop pretending that this isn’t what it is? Do the authorities have to literally put us in camps? How many more people have to die or be seriously injured by “vaccinations” they did not need but were forced to submit to? I’m not talking to the New Normals now, nor to the people who have been fighting this all along. I’m talking to the people who see what is happening, and are horrified by what is happening, but, for whatever reasons, have refused to speak out … and, yes, I know there are very good reasons. Some of you have families to support, and careers to protect, and, seriously, I get it. But how far does it have to go? At what point do you feel you have to speak out regardless of the personal and professional consequences?

Maybe take some time and meditate on that.

Oh, and here’s a little visual aid that might help folks with their meditations. It’s some graffiti that someone painted on the wall of a courtyard here in New Normal Germany, in the Autumn of 2021, I think. I posted it back then, but it didn’t make much of an impression. Perhaps it will make one now.

I’ll translate. It reads “GAS THE UNVACCINATED.”

###

CJ Hopkins
August 6, 2022
Photos: Archiwum Panstwowe w Krakowie; The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany; Twitter

DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., or its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Substack page, or his Patreon page, or send a contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian sci-fi novel, Zone 23, or Volumes I, II, and III of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, feel free to contact him directly.

VIDEO: Germany criminalizes journalist for exposing Ukrainian war crimes

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/07/2022 - 5:58am in

Independent Donetsk-based journalist Alina Lipp of Germany details her prosecution by the German state for violating new speech codes through her reporting in the Donetsk People’s Republic. As the only German reporter on the ground in Donetsk, Lipp has exposed Ukrainian forces shelling civilians, attacking a maternity ward, mining harbors, and bombing a granary filled with corn for export. She faces three years in prison if she returns to her home country.

The post VIDEO: Germany criminalizes journalist for exposing Ukrainian war crimes appeared first on The Grayzone.

Fresh audio product: abortion and Nazis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/07/2022 - 8:21am in

Just added to my radio archive (click on date for link):

July 7, 2022 Jenny Brown of National Women’s Liberation (and author of Without Apology and Birth Strike) on the early struggle for abortion rights that led to Roe and what we can learn from it for today • journalist David De Jong, author of Nazi Billionaires, on how respectable German businessmen became loyal Nazis

Dangerous as the Plague

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 23/06/2022 - 10:59pm in

Anti-gay animus is nothing new.

The Federal Republic of New Normal Germany

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 12:46am in

So, the government of New Normal Germany is contemplating forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks in public from October to Easter on a permanent basis. Seriously, the fanatical New Normal fascists currently in charge of Germany’s government — mostly the SPD and the Greens — are discussing revising the “Infection Protection Act” in order to grant themselves the authority to continue to rule the country by decree, as they have been doing since the Autumn of 2020, thus instituting a “permanent state of emergency” that overrides the German constitution, indefinitely.

Go ahead, read that paragraph again. Take a break from the carnage in non-Nazi Ukraine, the show trials in the US congress, monkeypoxmania, Sudden Adult Death Syndrome, Sudden Bovine Death Syndrome, family-oriented drag queens, non-“vaccine”-related facial paralysis, and Biden falling off his bike, and reflect on what this possibly portends, the dominant country of the European Union dispensing with any semblance of democracy and transforming into a fascist biosecurity police state.

OK, let me try to be more precise, as I don’t want to be arrested for “spreading disinformation” or “delegitimizing the state.” Germany is not dispensing with the semblance of democracy. No, the German constitution will remain in effect. It’s just that the revised Infection Protection Act — like the “Enabling Act of 1933,” which granted the Nazi government the authority to issue any edicts it wanted under the guise of “remedying the distress of the people” — will grant the New Normal German government the authority to continue to supersede the constitution and issue whatever edicts it wants under the guise of “protecting the public health” … for example, forcing the German masses to display their conformity to the new official ideology by wearing medical-looking masks on their faces for six or seven months of every year.

In addition to a ritualized mass-demonstration of mindlessly fascist ideological conformity (a standard feature of all totalitarian systems), this annual October-to-Easter mask-mandate, by simulating the new paranoid “reality” in which humanity is under constant attack by deadly viruses and other “public health threats,” will cement the New Normal ideology into place. If not opposed and stopped here in Germany, it will spread to other European countries, and to Canada, and Australia, and the New Normal US states. If you think what happens in Germany doesn’t matter because you live in Florida, or in Sweden, or the UK, you haven’t been paying attention recently. The roll-out of the New Normal is a global project … a multi-phase, multi-faceted project. Germany is just the current “tip of the spear.”

Sadly, the majority of the German masses will mindlessly click heels and follow orders, as they have since the Spring of 2020. They’re all enjoying a “summer break” at the moment, but come October they will don their masks, start segregating and persecuting “the Unvaccinated,” and otherwise behaving like fascists again. I hesitate to blame it on the German character, because we’ve witnessed the same mindlessly fascistic behavior all around the world over the past two years, but, I have to admit, there is something particularly scary about how the Germans do it.

Meanwhile, Germany’s FBI (der Bundesverfassungsschutz, or BfV) is hard at work enforcing the new Gleichschaltung. According to a report in Die Welt, the BfV is not just surveilling people who use terms like “Corona dictatorship” (and presumably a long list of other “wrongspeak” words), but it is also “surveilling people and groups that disseminate conspiracy theories, or call the democratic nature of the state into question.” Politicians are insisting that the BfV “toughen up the classification of political crime, especially regarding the Corona deniers.”

Yes, that’s right, publicly challenging the official Covid-19 narrative, or protesting official New Normal ideology, is a political crime here in New Normal Germany. It has been since May 2021, when the Bundesverfassungsschutz established a new official category of domestic extremism … “Anti-democratic or Security-threatening Delegitimization of the State.” I covered this in one of my columns at the time (“The Criminalization of Dissent” ) as did some corporate press, like The New York Times (“German Intelligence Puts Coronavirus Deniers Under Surveillance”), but, for some reason, the story didn’t get much traction.

“Delegitimization of the State” … let that language sink in for a moment. What it means is that anyone the New Normal authorities deem to be “delegitimizing the state” can be arrested and charged as a “political criminal.” I wasn’t entirely clear on what is meant by “delegitimizing,” so I looked the word up, and the definition I found was “to diminish or destroy the legitimacy, prestige, or authority” of something, or someone, which … I don’t know, sounds a little overly broad and subject to arbitrary interpretation.

For example, if I, right here in this column, were to propose that the German government had no legitimate reasons whatsoever for locking down the entire population, forcing everyone to wear medical-looking masks, and demonizing and segregating “the Unvaccinated,” that might make me a “political criminal.” Likewise, if I were to describe Karl Lauterbach, the Minister of Health of New Normal Germany, as a fanatical fascist, and a sociopathic liar, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were to point out how the German state media have deceived and gaslighted the German public for over two years like the proverbial Goebbelsian keyboard instrument, that might make me a “political criminal.” Or, if I were crazy enough to publish a book of essays written over the past two years documenting The Rise of the New Normal Reich, including essays about New Normal Germany, that might also make me a “political criminal.”

Naturally, I am a little uneasy, living in a former-Nazi country where I could be classified as a “political criminal” for my activities as an author and a political satirist … which, of course, is the point of the new classification. It is meant to scare dissidents like me into silence. Or … OK, it isn’t meant for me. It is meant for German dissidents like me. I’m an American, not a German citizen. So the chances of a heavily-armed “Special Commando” team storming my apartment in the wee hours of the morning and arresting me on trumped-up weapons charges — as they recently did to Dr. Paul Brandenburg, an outspoken opponent of the New Normal Reich — are probably (hopefully) fairly remote.

In any event, I would never do that, i.e., attempt to diminish the prestige or authority of the Federal Republic of New Normal Germany, or in any way compare it to Nazi Germany, or any other totalitarian system, or describe it as a nascent biosecurity police state wherein the rule of law has been supplanted by the arbitrary edicts of fascist fanatics, because that would just be asking for trouble. After all, if we’ve learned anything from history, the smart thing to do during times like these is to keep one’s mouth shut and follow orders, and if you hear a train coming … well, just look the other way.

###

CJ Hopkins
June 20, 2022
Photos: Tagesschau, Twitter

DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., or its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Substack page, or his Patreon page, or send a contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian sci-fi novel, Zone 23, or Volumes I, II, and III of his Consent Factory Essays, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, feel free to contact him directly.

Home Is Where the Art Is

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/06/2022 - 1:20am in

Everybody in Düsseldorf knows Michael Hermann by his nickname “Hörman.” His bright red beard and impish smile distinguish him from his peers who sell the magazine fiftyfifty on street corners. “Love on the streets,” is the headline of the most recent issue, approaching “the taboo topic” with sensitivity and care.

Fiftyfifty derives its name from its founding idea 25 years ago: The mostly unhoused street vendors who sell it keep fifty percent of the sales price, currently 2 euros and 80 cents (about $3 USD). The other half finances the magazine’s monthly production. But for Hermann, selling fiftyfifty means much more than a few euros. After over two decades on the streets, fiftyfifty bought him a place to live in 2017 — not just a bed in a shelter, but a brand new studio apartment all to himself — thanks to a glamorous blonde photographed in stunning black and white by the late Peter Lindbergh. 

Michael “Hörman” Hermann. Credit: fiftyfifty

Hermann’s social worker, Oliver Ongaro, does the math: Celebrity photographer Lindbergh donated 14 pictures to the Düsseldorf gallery operated by fiftyfifty. Each print was auctioned for 4,200 euros. From these proceeds, plus a few smaller donations, fiftyfifty purchased Hermann’s apartment for 64,700 Euros (about $70,000 USD) including the cost for renovations. 

“This is basically the amount two years of care for him would have cost anyway,” says Ongaro, referring to the German social system that covers assisted living, temporary shelters and emergency health care for people experiencing homelessness. “So we might as well get him a permanent home for that.” 

Hermann decorated his 300 freshly renovated square feet with a comfy couch and well-organized wall unit. Every corner shines as if newly scrubbed. The best part: Hermann left his heroin addiction at the doorstep of his new home, along with his penchant for alcohol binges. “When I know where I can stay for sure, I can establish myself permanently, build lasting connections with my neighbors and tackle my issues,” he says.

The art of ‘Housing First’

The nonprofit fiftyfifty, which receives not a cent from the state, derives funding not only from its newspaper — which regularly publishes renowned authors — but also from its aforementioned gallery, which features some of the biggest names in contemporary art: Gerhard Richter, Thomas Ruff, Jörg Immendorff, Imi Knoebel, Wim Wenders, Günther Uecker, Andreas Gursky, Katharina Sieverding, Candida Höfer, Markus Lüpertz, Katharina Fritsch, Beat Streuli, and many more. Each one has a connection to Düsseldorf, having studied or taught at the renowned local arts academy, the Kunstakadamie, and this bond with the city underpins their support of fiftyfifty’s pioneering housing project. The artists donate their art for auction, and fiftyfifty uses the revenue to purchase permanent housing for the city’s unhoused residents, who pay only a small fee to contribute to the expenses. 

Today, fiftyfifty owns 50 apartments that house 60 people permanently, plus about a dozen more apartments that wealthy locals have “lent” at no cost to unhoused people. The success rate is immense: nearly 100 percent of the housing recipients are still in their homes. “One family moved back to Croatia for personal reasons, some need help with keeping their homes clean, and we had one woman who we just got into supervised housing because she could not kick her drug addiction,” says Ongaro. 

fiftyfiftyThe mostly unhoused street vendors who sell fiftyfifty keep 50 percent of the sales price, about $3 USD. Credit: fiftyfifty

What also makes fiftyfifty unique is that they focus on the toughest cases: the people who have been homeless the longest, with the most challenging addiction problems or mental health issues. “A lot of nonprofits want to take the cream of the crop so their results look impressive,” Ongaro says without a hint of judgment. “We’re the opposite. We want to show that this approach works for the people who have been on the street for over a decade and who might be battling more than one addiction or mental health issue at once.”

With its artsy touch, fiftyfifty brings a unique twist to the “Housing First” approach, which posits that people should be housed before they’re expected to tackle their other challenges. The model is still comparatively new in Germany, but has been successful in reducing chronic homelessness in countries such as Finland and Canada. 

Ongaro, a jovial social worker with salt-and-pepper hair and a winning smile, has been with fiftyfifty for nearly 20 years. He is all too familiar with how social services normally work in Germany. Getting permanent housing is all but impossible for someone struggling with severe addiction and no stable job because affordable housing is usually tied to conditions such as sobriety and a regular income.

“There is no way someone like Hermann gets an apartment on the housing market,” Ongaro says. Five times, Hermann got a bed in one of Düsseldorf’s residential care homes, where contracts are always limited to 18 or 24 months. “It’s really inhumane,” Ongaro says. “Towards the end, there is always stress because it’s always the same: He has to leave and no other place is available and he’s back on the street. More often than not, this leads to a relapse in addiction, and that is massively hazardous to people’s health.” The person needing a home then starts again at the beginning of the process. Ongaro calls it “the revolving door effect.”

Without art, fiftyfifty’s housing fund would not exist. It was actually Gerhard Richter, at the time the highest valued contemporary artist, who kickstarted the Housing First effort by donating his entire Cage f.ff. I-VI series, 30 colorful abstract paintings, in 2015. Each offset sold for 80,000 to 130,000 euros. This became the seed money for fiftyfifty’s housing fund. Together with the Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband NRW, a powerful regional lobbying platform for 3,200 social organizations in North Rhine-Westphalia, fiftyfifty established the fund in 2017.

Today it holds more than 1.2 million euros with which it aims to buy 100 apartments. The limit of 100 apartments was set by fiftyfifty itself. “We don’t want to become a professional real estate investor, and we can’t be the stopgap for misguided state politics,” says fiftyfifty’s founding director and editor-at-large, Hubert Ostendorf. But he hopes other organizations and cities will copy this model and continue this work.

fiftyfiftyContemporary artist Gerhard Richter kickstarted fiftyfifty’s Housing First effort with his own paintings. Credit: fiftyfifty

Since then, Richter has been donating repeatedly. For instance, he once called Ostendorf out of the blue and said, “I have two versions of a new painting but I only need one. Do you want the other?” It was one of his famous “Mother and Child” photo paintings. The answer was easy. “Yes,” Ostendorf said. The next day, he got in his car and fetched the treasure. The deal is that Ostendorf spends the money as soon as possible. The same week, Ostendorf spotted an affordable apartment for sale and bought it outright. Richter, now 90 years old, studied at the Kunstakademie, the very institute where Sigmar Polke, Joseph Beuys, Anselm Kiefer and later photographers such as Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky and Candida Höfer also mastered their crafts. 

“The artists trust us,” says Ostendorf, dressed in black from head to toe like most of his artists. Passionate about art, he had worked with local artists even before he started the gallery. For instance, photo artist Thomas Struth organized a photo campaign in 2003, distributing cameras to unhoused people who took pictures of the passersby. 

Ostendorf auctions the donated art online or at the gallery at a price he negotiates with the artists. He describes the relationships as grounded in mutual respect that has grown over a quarter century. It’s a win-win: Art lovers get exquisite art at a very fair price (but often double the sum as a donation), and the most vulnerable Düsseldorf residents get a permanent home.

Ongaro raves about how stable housing changes his clients. Hermann’s wall unit, for instance, didn’t fit into the elevator. “It was awesome to see that he didn’t give up,” Ongaro remembers. “It was enormously important for him to decorate his apartment beautifully, and his own appearance changed, too. It’s about self-worth — and that from a man who has tried for 20 years to destroy his body.”

Staying ahead of the market

Housing First was pioneered in the U.S. and Canada. By giving people permanent housing with a lock and a key — no bunk beds, no cubicles, no theft — social workers help them address other issues, such as debt, addiction or joblessness. 

The model has proven itself in dozens of cities and countries. One study examined its success in five European cities: Amsterdam, Lisbon, Budapest, Copenhagen and Glasgow. “80 to 90 percent of long-term homeless people stayed in their apartments when we looked after two to five years,” summed up researcher Volker Busch-Geertsema. “The social integration works.” But Housing First does not mean Housing Only, adds Busch-Geertsema. “It’s not about giving people a key and saying, ‘Good luck!’ There are additional services, but accepting them is not a condition of keeping the apartment.” Housing First also works best, he found, when the apartments are not all clustered in one place. This matches the experience of fiftyfifty. Neighbors often are not even aware that they live next to someone whose last address was a street corner. 

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The pandemic threatened to undo some of fiftyfifty’s progress. During the lockdown in the spring and summer of 2020, hardly anybody wanted to approach a street vendor selling the fiftyfifty magazine. “It was almost like we were the only people on the street,” Ongaro remembers. The magazine rescued itself by establishing online subscriptions to recover its costs, but it was a rough two years.

The housing crunch has been exacerbated by soaring housing prices, which have doubled and tripled in German cities over the last few years, especially in already overpriced markets like Berlin, Munich and Düsseldorf. Asked how Housing First can secure affordable housing in an overheated market, Busch-Geertsema reels off a list of measures cities and communities can take: force real estate investors to allocate up to 20 percent of new apartments as affordable, guarantee landlords their rent if they lease their property to an unhoused tenant, or motivate churches to allocate some of their real estate to people experiencing homelessness. Also, Busch-Geertsema points out that it is just as important to help housed people not slip into homelessness in the first place. “It’s much easier to support someone in their home than to start all over on the streets.” Or, as the late fiftyfifty supporter and enfant terrible artist Jörg Immendorff put it: “We need badass action from the state.” 

Despite the taxed resources, on the other hand, the pandemic made some wealthy people even wealthier. An often underestimated aspect of fiftyfifty’s concept is that it gives people a reliable tool to help the neediest. “People who buy renowned art usually have disposable income,” Ongaro has learned. “But when they give donations to organizations, it is often unclear where the money goes exactly or how much is skimmed for administrative costs. Our process is very simple: You have the money to buy an apartment, and we handle everything else. This way, the donor knows exactly whom they are helping. They can even visit the person if they want to or receive regular updates. It’s very clear cut.”

People who don’t have that kind of money but love art might purchase one of the cheaper prints in the gallery, starting at 120 Euros (around $127 USD). If they have hardly any money to spare, they could volunteer their services, for instance, to renovate an apartment, sell the fiftyfifty newspaper or simply buy a subscription online.

As of April 1, Germany had registered around 300,000 refugees from Ukraine, some of which use the same resources as fiftyfifty’s clients. Fiftyfifty has allocated two apartments for Ukrainian families, and Ongaro is on the board of a refugee nonprofit called Stay that fiftyfifty founded 13 years ago. Even with these added pressures, however, Ongaro is convinced that fiftyfifty will reach its goal: “We want to show that we can solve homelessness in this city.” 

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What Growing Up in Rural Germany Taught Me about Guns

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/05/2022 - 3:31am in

I love guns. I grew up with them. My grandpa taught me how to shoot them in our garden when I was eight years old. Like many kids who grow up in rural communities, guns were part of our life. Many in our village had at least one.

Every Friday evening, my grandfather, my father and most men (plus a considerable number of girls and women) would meet at our local pub for marksmen contests. The trophies my ancestors won still line a shelf in my parents’ modest home.

But — and here comes a crucial difference — I did not grow up in rural America, but in rural Germany. The guns we shot were BB guns and air rifles, maybe a Walther or Beretta. The people who used “real” rifles, such as a repeating rifle, were hunters, of which we had plenty in our village.

The author as a child in Bavaria, Germany. Photo courtesy Michaela Haas

In Germany, if you want to have a “real” gun, you need to have a good reason. Maybe you’re a hunter; maybe you need to protect yourself; maybe you use it for sport. Whatever your reason, you need to apply for a permit and your arguments will be considered and, sometimes, rejected. If you belong to any extremist organization, such as a neo-Nazi group, you are automatically barred from owning a gun. Magazines with more than 20 rounds for handguns and more than 10 rounds for long guns are illegal. The government figures if you’re that bad a shot, you shouldn’t own a weapon in the first place. 

The German National Weapons Registry registers all legal weapons and follows their whereabouts from production or import until destruction. Weapon dealers are required to report every sale.

Not unlike when you purchase a vehicle, you need to acquire a license, pass a vision and skills test, and you need to prove that you are able to lock up your guns securely. The police might come to your house unannounced to check that the weapons are locked away where you said they would be. Every five years, authorities will recheck that the reasons you needed a gun still apply.

If you don’t know the whereabouts of your weapons or the police find them unsecured, they have the right to confiscate them. You’ll need to undergo training all over again if you hope to get them back.

Nobody in Germany practices what to do during a mass shooting at an elementary school. Why? Because it has never happened.

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Today I live in California. And like everybody who has a heart, I am traumatized by the images of grieving parents and the 911 calls of 10-year-olds hiding in an Uvalde classroom. But two days before the massacre in Texas, I was traumatized by another shooting. The family member of a very close friend here in the US shot and killed another family member. This one barely grazed the headlines because “only” one person lost their life, a “routine” news flash in a country where more than 110 Americans die from guns every day.

We barely pay attention anymore. I cannot write more details about this personal tragedy here because I would break down and not be able to continue writing. But this perpetrator, like the Uvalde shooter, shared particular traits common to many shooters: He was a young man — angry, addicted, depressed — who should never have had access to a gun.

I understand gun culture. But if you love guns, you should want them to only end up in the hands of the most responsible people. As Nicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times: “Automobiles are a model for the public health approach I’m suggesting. We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful.” 

Nobody would propose that any blind or untrained person should be able to operate a race car. And yet, the US is the only country with more civilian-owned firearms than people: 120.5 firearms per 100 residents. There are nearly 400 million guns in cabinets, nightstands, glove compartments and closets. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and adolescents in America. They kill more minors than Covid and car crashes. And yes, this is different from every other country: The homicide rate in the US is 7.5 times higher than that in 28 other high-income countries combined, which researchers largely attribute to the firearm homicide rate, which is 24.9 times higher. 

The data is clear: States with more guns have more gun deaths. This is one of the main reasons America has 16 times as many firearm homicides as Germany per capita, and its arsenal is five times as lethal as Canada’s.

No other country kills as many children with guns. Across the 29 countries in the aforementioned study, the US accounted for nearly 97 percent of the firearm deaths among children four years old or younger, and 92 percent for kids ages five to 14.

Like many people who live in the US, I’ve thought about getting a gun, too. During the first pandemic summer, my spouse and I were attacked by gang members who promised to come back and “rough us up.” When I called the three closest gun shops, they all had the same message: We’re totally sold out. I bought a stun gun instead, and after accidentally firing it and nearly hitting my dog in the process, I stored it away. That was the end of that.

The question my European friends ask most frequently is, “How can you live in a country with so many guns? Isn’t it dangerous?”

Yes, it is. My home is only ten miles from the Presbyterian church in Laguna Woods where a shooter killed one and injured five churchgoers after a luncheon two weeks ago. The 2019 racist synagogue shooting in Poway that killed one worshipper and injured three is only a few miles from my mother-in-law’s home. A good friend was one of the first responders. When I lived in Boulder, Colorado, I used to shop at the King Soopers supermarket where a 21-year-old killed ten customers and clerks last year. In 2018, I was only a few miles from the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks when a former Marine killed 13 and injured 16 with a legally purchased semi-automatic pistol and seven banned high-capacity magazines. The bullets are coming closer. The danger that I might lose loved ones — or my own life — is real.

I have heard and read many times that the Second Amendment gives Americans the right to own guns. But when I looked deeper into the history, I learned from historian Heather Cox Richardson that the “well-regulated militia” mentioned in 2A was never meant as a “gun free-for-all” until the NRA started pouring millions of dollars into elections. 

There are successful solutions to gun violence, as England, Australia, New Zealand and other countries that have experienced mass shootings have proven. After a gunman killed 16 people in 1987, Great Britain banned semi-automatic weapons like the ones he had used. Now Great Britain has one of the lowest gun-related death rates in the world. Australia issued mandatory gun buybacks after a 1996 massacre, which took nearly one million firearms off the streets, and as a consequence, saw mass shootings plummet to only one in the 26 years since. After the 2019 Christchurch massacre where a white supremacist killed 51 mosque-goers, New Zealand’s parliament banned semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles with a near-unanimous vote. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, “I could not fathom how weapons that could cause such destruction and large-scale death could have been obtained legally in this country.” 

That an 18-year-old like the Uvalde shooter cannot legally buy a beer, but is free to purchase an assault weapon, is impossible to justify. Even police forces are scared to confront bad guys with these weapons. And yet, Texas Governor Greg Abbott proudly made it even easier to purchase guns and accessories by modifying seven gun laws last year after several shootings.

Like many people who consider America their home, I am saddened, disgusted and outraged by the death of 19 elementary school children and their two teachers, by the unrelenting staccato of sadness from Sandy Hook — El Paso — Las Vegas — Orlando — Parkland — Buffalo — Uvalde.

90 percent of Americans demand background checks, at least two-thirds want gun safety laws. An overwhelming majority of voters wants to protect us and our children from gun violence. And yet, we’re still stuck with thoughts and prayers. 

After the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne LaPierre, the then-head of the NRA, said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The Uvalde shooting put an end to that myth. In response to that often quoted saying, survivors and gun safety advocates have come up with their own version of a solution: The only thing that can take out a bad guy with a vote is a good guy or a good woman with a vote. Even a former gun industry executive believes that “the only way [gun safety legislation] will happen is if the [gun] industry senses that there is enough political pressure to cost them votes.” Ultimately, ballots have the power to stop the bullets.

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Europe’s debtors must pawn their gold for Eurobond Redemption

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 4:09pm in

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ECB, france, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK

And their central banks can buy unlimited amounts to support the price.

Not that they would do that…

Europe’s debtors must pawn their gold for Eurobond Redemption

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

May 29 (Telegraph) — The German scheme — known as the European Redemption Pact — offers a form of “Eurobonds Lite” that can be squared with the German constitution and breaks the political logjam. It is a highly creative way out of the debt crisis, but is not a soft option for Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other states in trouble.

The plan is drafted by the German Council of Economic Experts and inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s Sinking Fund in the United States — created in 1790 to clean up the morass of debts left by the Revolutionary War. Flourishing Virginia was comparable to Germany today.

Chancellor Angela Merkel shot down the proposals last November as “completely impossible”, but Europe’s crisis has since festered, and her Christian Democrat party has since suffered crushing defeats in regional elections.

The Social Democrat opposition supports the idea. The Greens say they will block ratification of the EU Fiscal Compact in the German Bundesrat — or upper house — unless Mrs Merkel relents.

“The Redemption Pact cleverly combines the advantages of lower interest rates through joint European borrowing with a reduction of debt,” says Green leader Jürgen Trittin. “Joint liability would be limited in both time and scale.”

The plan splits the public debts of EMU states. Anything up to the Maastricht limit of 60pc of GDP would remain sovereign. Anything over 60pc would be transfered gradually into the redemption fund. This would be covered by joint bonds.

Italy would switch €958bn, Germany €578bn, France €498bn, and so forth. The total was €2.326 trillion as of November but is rising fast as Europe’s slump corrupts debt dynamics. The sinking fund would slowly retire debt over twenty years, using designated tithes akin to Germany’s “Solidarity Surcharge”.

In effect, Germany would share its credit card to slash debt costs for Italy, Spain and others. Yet it is the exact opposition of fiscal union. While eurobonds are a federalising catalyst, the fund would be temporary and self-extinguishing. “The fund is a return to the discipline of Maastricht with sovereign control over budgets,” said Dr Benjamin Weigert, the Council of Experts’s general-secretary.

The ingenious design gets around the German constitutional court, which ruled in September that the budgetary powers of the Bundestag cannot be alienated to any EU body under the Basic Law — the founding text of Germany’s vibrant post-War democracy.

The court warned that open-ended liabilities are unconstitutional. The Bundestag may not establish “permanent mechanisms which result in an assumption of liability for other states’ voluntary decisions, especially if they have consequences whose impact is difficult to calculate,” it ruled. Chief Justice Andreas Vosskuhle said that any major step towards EU fiscal union would require “a new constitution” and a referendum.

The fund implies a big sacrifice for Germany. Its interest costs on joint debt would be much higher than today’s safe-haven rate of 1.37pc on 10-year Bunds. Jefferies Fixed Income says it would cost 0.6pc of German GDP annually. The Council of Experts — or `Five Wise Men’ — argue that this would be modest compared to the growth adrenaline of rescusitating monetary union.

Yet it is not charity either. One official said a key motive is to relieve the European Central Bank of its duties as chief fire-fighter. “We have got to get the ECB out of the game of distributing money, and separate fiscal and monetary policy. Germany has only two votes on the ECB Council and has no way to control consolidation,” he said.

Germany would have a lockhold over the fund, able to enforce discipline. Each state would have to pledge 20pc of their debt as collateral. “The assets could be taken from the country’s currency and gold reserves. The collateral nominated would only be used in the event that a country does not meet its payment obligations,” said the proposal.

This demand could enflame opinion in Italy and Portugal. Both states have kept their bullion, resisting the rush to sell by Britain and others. Italy has 2,451 tonnes of gold, valued at €98bn in March.

Alessandro di Carpegna Brivio, a gold expert at Camperio Sim in Milan, said Italy should treat such proposals with care. “Everything being done at a European level is in the interests of Germany and France, to save their banks. It is not in the interest of Italy,” he said.

“We should use our gold to take care of our own debt, collateralizing bonds above 100pc of GDP. That would be a far more targeted approach,” he said.

v
David Marsh, author of books on the euro and the Bundesbank, said Germany is not yet ready for the redemption fund. “The Germans have to do something, but I don’t think it will happen before the elections next year. Spain will have to go through storm first,” he said.

Ultimately, a sinking fund cannot tackle the root cause of the eurozone crisis. It may cap debt costs but it does not alter the intra-EMU currency misalignment between North and South, or help the Latin states close the chasm in labour competitiveness.

The South would still face the long grind of “internal devaluation” — or wage deflation — breaking societies on the wheel. Yet the Redemption Pact is at least a first step back from Purgatory.

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Meet the ‘Cultural Mediators’ Who Help Refugees in Germany

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/03/2022 - 2:31am in

Ali Qorbani first moved into his house in Hamburg in February 2021, more than two years after the 26-year-old Afghan arrived in Germany’s second largest city. 

To have his own place, a spacious one-floor house in the leafy western suburbs of Hamburg, has “freed his mind” and brought “profound happiness” to the young refugee, who fled the Taliban. “I can decide how I want to live and work,” he says.

About 50,000 refugees live in Hamburg and more than half of them, like Qorbani once did, currently reside in public housing known as “camps.” They are supposed to be allowed to move once asylum has been granted, or if an ongoing decision has taken more than 18 months. But on average, refugees remain in these temporary solutions — which can be cramped and overcrowded — for more than three years. More than 12,000 refugees in Hamburg are currently eligible to leave, but have not. 

Qorbani himself struggled initially, being forced to share a place with a roommate who, he says, had criminal tendencies and once physically beat him, leading to police intervention. “It was difficult to work and sleep,” he says. “It’s difficult for refugees to find apartments. There are a lot of hurdles.”

Qorbani now lives in a western suburb of Hamburg. Credit: Peter Yeung

But Qorbani benefited from the initiative Wohnbrücke Hamburg, which launched in November 2015, and takes a pioneering approach to helping refugees integrate and find their own homes.

The nonprofit organization does not rent apartments itself but mediates between landlords or housing companies and refugees — a role that they see as important but often entirely lacking from the official asylum process. Each refugee must pair up with a chosen volunteer — who receives workshop training — to help them search for a house, deal with paperwork, physically move in and more generally acts as a “cultural mediator” and friend in a country and city that is completely new and largely alien to them.

“We want refugees to not only find a house, but a home,” says Alena Thiem, project coordinator at Wohnbrücke, whose four-person team carries out follow-up visits a few weeks after each move in. “There are always social codes that you learn growing up, but if you’re a refugee you didn’t have that and it’s not clear. That’s what we try to help them with.”

Hamburg’s crowded housing market makes it difficult to find a house, especially for foreigners. According to the city’s office for housing emergencies, 150 potential tenants are interested in every apartment that becomes available. Even though the city of Hamburg will pay up to €576 (about USD$630) of social housing support for one refugee, or €1,045 (about USD$1,145) for a house of four, the search can last months or years. The fact that many refugees tend to have larger families than Germans makes it even harder.

But Wohnbrücke Hamburg also directly consults private landlords across the city to find potential homes as well as reduce fears and prejudices about refugees that they might have — an issue that, they say, is not addressed by authorities.

Between November 2015 and October 2021, the project supported 3,012 refugees — who often come from countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Iran — to leave camp and move into a home. At the same time, more than 1,000 volunteers have been trained as wohnungslotsen, or “apartment scouts,” learning legal basics and how to draft housing applications.

Petra Urban, a volunteer who works in public relations, wrote all the emails to Wohnbrücke for Qorbani and helped him apply for housing support from the government. “She’s more than a friend,” he says. “She’s like an aunt.”

Urban, who has supported four other refugees in Hamburg, met Qorbani in 2018 while volunteering for a separate charity and they struck up a friendship. She later agreed to become his so-called “apartment scout” and within a few months they found his new home. 

“I’m always very happy when someone finds a place,” she says. “But I feel a large responsibility. I want it to work well. I am one of the first people he contacts when he has a problem.”

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However, under Wohnbrücke’s scheme, refugees must find their own volunteers. The expectation is that they might meet others at the same workplace or gym or daycare, but it can be challenging. “It is the first step,” says Thiem, acknowledging the potential difficulties. “They must not be too shy.”

Nonetheless, Urban says she’s taken a lot from the experience herself. “It makes me appreciate and thankful for the life I have,” she adds. “It’s humbling. It makes me understand the world a bit better. This is one of the biggest questions of society: how do we deal with migration?”

Failed integration can lead to unhappy, marginalized refugees and xenophobia from local populations, which makes finding a solution an enormous, growing challenge, according to Jenny Phillimore, professor of migration and superdiversity at the University of Birmingham. “The trajectory is very much upwards,” she says. “As conflict rages around the world, displacing more people from their homes by the day, it will only become a greater problem.”

In 2020, there were 82.4 million forcibly displaced people in the world, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees — double the number just 10 years ago. In Hamburg, 5,538 refugees arrived in 2021, up from the 3,896 that arrived in 2020. Recent events in Ukraine and Afghanistan have seen those numbers rise further.

refugeeQorbani and volunteer Petra Urban. Credit: Peter Yeung

Yet Phillimore believes that Wohnbrücke is fulfilling a need in refugee integration that is often sorely missing from programs around the world. “Understanding institutional cultures is very tricky,” she says. “If you parachute anyone into a country where they don’t know or speak the language, it will be tough. But when local people work with refugees, the whole community becomes a lot more open.”

These provisions, she adds, should be an integral part of any government’s refugee integration system. “In an ideal world, this will be a function of local authorities,” she says. “It needs to be guaranteed for the long term. And it could also be extended to help all people in vulnerable situations, including those that are homeless.”

Fittingly, as a mark of Wohnbrücke’s initial success, more financing has arrived. In January 2021, it received three years of funding from the German TV Lottery, Deutsche Fernsehlotterie. In the future Wohnbrücke plans to expand its post-move services to refugees as well as hold social meet-up events.

For now, Qorbani is happy enough. Thanks to the steady foundations of his new home, things are on the up — he had been working in a bakery, but in January he began an apprenticeship as a dentist.

“To be in Germany is great,” he says. “But in Afghanistan, it’s important to invite people to your home, to welcome them as part of the culture. Now I can do it.”

The post Meet the ‘Cultural Mediators’ Who Help Refugees in Germany appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Habermas on the Legitimacy of Lockdown

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 24/02/2022 - 3:35am in

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Germany

Jürgen Habermas recently argued that the pandemic measures of the German government hadn’t gone far enough. To weigh the state’s duty to protect life against other rights and freedoms was unconstitutional, he warned. In the ensuing controversy, critics accused him of authoritarianism. ...

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