Süddeutsche Zeitung is one of Germany's premiere daily quality newspapers. It was founded on 6 October 1945, and has been called "The New York Times of Munich".
Italy's decision to introduce a COVID-19 vaccine passport sparked angry demonstrations across the country, like here on Rome's touristic Spanish Steps

The Latest: North-South Korea Rapprochement, Capitol Riots Emotion, Fiji Twitter Rookie

Welcome to Wednesday, where North-South Korea ties keep improving, the investigation on U.S. Capitol riots is off to an emotional start and a Fiji politician is delighting Twitter users. Meanwhile from Germany, Die Welt"s Marlen Hobrack helps us deconstruct the twisted logic behind the feminist defense of prostitution.

• North-South Korea rapprochement continues: A day after restoring hotlines South and North Korea, the two countries are discussing reopening a joint liaison office that was demolished by Pyongyang last year. According to South Korea government sources, a summit to restore relations is also being discussed.

• First day of Capitol riot inquiry: Four police officers gave their emotional, first-hand accounts of the Capitol riots, at the opening hearing of the congressional panel investigating the violent Jan. 6 insurrection. The committee also shared never-before-seen footage of protesters storming onto the Senate floor.

• Ecuador revokes Julian Assange citizenship: An Ecuadorian court ruled in favor of revoking the citizenship of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The decision nullifies Assange's status as a naturalized citizen of Ecuador, which was granted to him in 2017 by then President Lenín Moreno. Assange's lawyer said he would appeal the ruling.

• COVID-19 update: With the Delta variant surging, U.S. President Joe Biden said plans requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated are "under consideration." Meanwhile in the UK, plans to end the quarantine requirement for fully vaccinated arrivals coming from the U.S. or amber-listed EU countries are to be announced later. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, has said it will impose a three-year travel ban on citizens who travel to countries listed as "red" by the Kingdom.

• At least 18 die in India bus crash: At least 18 migrant workers were killed after a truck crashed into their bus early Wednesday morning. The bus, which was "overloaded beyond its capacity," was being fixed after its engine broke down in the Barabanki district in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

• Simone Biles withdraws from Olympics: ​​U.S. gymnast Simone Biles has pulled out from the individual all-around final at the Tokyo Games. The four-time Olympic gold medallist said she wanted to focus on her mental wellbeing, a decision praised by fellow athletes. It is unclear whether Biles will participate in next week's gymnastics events.

• Fiji politician discovers Twitter: Pio Tikoduadua, a leading opposition MP from Fiji, is gaining online fame after his awkward start on Twitter. Among other things, he had to be told what "OG" means (he assumed it was short for "Old Girl").

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In Leeds, UK

Bad To Worse: The Homeless And COVID-19

Like so many before him, João took a bus to Rio de Janeiro in search of the kind of hope and economic opportunity that only big cities promise. "I came looking for something better, then the worst happened," he told a Globo TV crew. The worst was COVID-19.

As deaths skyrocketed in the city and around Brazil, freedom of movement was limited, leaving João (who spoke anonymously with a reporter) stuck, unemployed — and eventually homeless. He spends his days scavenging landfills in search of metal, copper and aluminum to resell. Another recently homeless person told Globo : "We are dumped here, discarded and abandoned."

Such stories are being echoed all over the world.

• Though most evidence is anecdotal, coronavirus has appeared to cause a notable uptick in homelessness in many cities and countries. And the homeless are particularly exposed to the health risks of the pandemic.

• Now, in the face of what appears to be an impending economic depression, finding a solution for the most vulnerable has become more urgent than ever.

Networks collapsing: Speaking to German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, anthropologist Luisa Schneider described one homeless girl she's followed. "Before the crisis, she was able to study and wash in cafes or libraries. Neither is possible now." Schneider expects more Germans to sleep on the streets in the coming months. "Many networks have now collapsed. Even homeless people who used to support each other are now losing sight of each other."

Numbers rising: A recent study from Columbia University projects that, unless unemployment levels somehow decline, the rise in the rate homelessness in the U.S. will reach between 40% and 45% by the end of 2020. In Italy, another country particularly hard-hit by the virus, news wire AdnKronos reports that 62% of Italians fear losing their job (often the precursor to homelessness) because of the predicted economic crisis — eight percentage points higher than the worldwide average.

French aid: In France, government authorities and NGOs were able to accommodate 177,600 people with shelter during the lockdown period, reports Le Monde. The government has invested more than 2 billion euros helping those without homes, including requisitioning 13,300 hotel rooms. Yet while this may seem like a bright spot compared to the aforementioned struggling countries, France's emergency phone number for homeless assistance remains overwhelmed, with over 200 calls on average daily and many unable to secure a temporary housing situation. And as the country continues opening up, it is unclear how long the special accommodation period will last.

Busking in Paris — Photo: Ev

British aid: The UK recently allotted an extra 105 million pounds (115,000 euros) to municipal governments to shelter rough sleepers. Dame Louise Casey, chair of the COVID-19 rough sleeping taskforce, called the move an "extraordinary opportunity" to decline homelessness rates in the long term. The money will not only go to adding more temporary accommodation, but providing long-term housing.

Upside down: In Chile, homelessness is being exacerbated by as winter approaches in the Southern Hemisphere, bringing bad weather and the cold and flu season.

• With 250,000 confirmed cases and 4,900 deaths, Chile was already one of Latin America's most COVID-affected countries. It's overburdened healthcare system will be put under further strain as doctors struggle to differentiate diagnoses between the flu, colds and COVID.

• To make matters worse, 35% of Chile's homeless population suffer from chronic diseases, and 43% are over 50 years old — circumstances that increase the danger to their health due to a possible spread of coronavirus.

Medical workers rally in Sejong, South Korea, calling for an expansion of public medical services and measures to curb illegal medical treatment.

The Latest: Apple Daily Shuts Down, Taliban Gains, Millions Of New Millionaires

Welcome to Wednesday, where Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily officially announces its closure, new clashes have broken out in Ethiopia's Tigray region and the number of millionaires continues to increase despite the pandemic. Latin American business magazine America Economia also reports on how business schools around the world are now adding the environment to their curricula.

• Apple Daily forced to close amid Hong Kong crackdown: Hong Kong's biggest pro-democracy paper, whose headquarters were raided last Thursday, has announced its closure and will print its final edition Thursday. The board was forced to end all Hong Kong operations due to government pressure, and its lead writer was arrested earlier today. Hong Kong's first National Security trial also began today, with the 24-year-old activist pleading not guilty.

• Taliban gains in Afghanistan: According to the UN's envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyon, Taliban insurgents have seized more than 50 districts of 370 in the country since May. Lyon warned the increasing conflicts in the region also means increasing insecurity for other countries. The uncertainty comes as the U.S and NATO are still aiming for a complete pullout of troops by September 11.

• Crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray: Heavy conflict broke out between the rebel Tigray Defence Force (TDF) and the federal Ethiopian army in the northern region of Tigray, with reports of dozens of civilian casualties after an airstrike hit a busy village market. It is the most serious crisis since the government claimed victory in the conflict last November.

• NYC mayoral vote: New Yorkers cast their ballots yesterday in city primaries, with the Democratic nominee likely to win the mayor's race in November. Of the top four Democratic candidates, former police captain Eric Adams is in the lead, while former presidential candidate Andrew Yang has conceded. Due to ranked-choice voting, the results may take until mid July to be finalized.

• Saudis who killed journalist received military training in U.S.: According to the New York Times, four Saudis who participated in the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi received paramilitary training in the U.S. last year, with the approval from the State Department.

• New COVID-19 variant troubling India: Delta Plus, which is believed to be deadlier and more transmissible by scientists, has been labelled a "variant of concern" by the Indian government. There have been at least 22 cases related to Delta Plus in India. The variant has been found in the UK, the U.S., Canada, Japan, Russia, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey.

• Britney Spears to finally speak out: #FreeBritney fans are eager to hear what pop icon, Britney Spears, will say when she publicly addresses her conservatorship today. The controversial legal arrangement, which many fans argue was unfounded and has stripped the star of her independence, allows Spears' father "control over her estate, career and other aspects of her personal life."

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A march in favor of decriminalizing abortion in El Salvador on March 6

From Poland To Uruguay, What The Pandemic Means For Abortion

Across the globe, swamped hospitals and shelter-in-place measures have impacted people's access to healthcare for any number of non-COVID-19 issues. One of them is abortion, a time sensitive procedure that is also — even the best of times — both emotionally and politically charged.

Now, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, some countries have used emergency decrees to change their policies related to pregnancy terminations. While several have extended access to abortions in an effort to ease pressure on women and guarantee their rights, others have seen the situation as an opportunity to make abortions more difficult to access.

  • In Poland, which has one of the strictest abortion laws in Europe, access to pregnancy terminations is now becoming even more difficult as women cannot easily travel to another country to undergo abortion. On top of that, Polish President Andrzej Duda backed in a citizen's bill last month that would outlaw abortion even when the fetus is malformed, the Catholic weekly Niedziela reported. So far, terminations in Poland have only been allowed when the fetus is malformed, the health or life of the mother is endangered, or in the event of rape or incest – with the first reason accounting for most in-country terminations. Although the bill was not passed, it was not rejected either, and is now idling in a parliamentary commission.

  • France: With overwhelmed hospitals and strict lockdown measures that until this week forced people to stay home, rights groups have raised concerns about the difficulty of accessing abortions during the epidemic, warning that some women would have to wait past the legal date. Under the normal, pre-pandemic circumstances, women can ask for prescribed abortion pills and take them at home up to seven weeks after their last menstruation, or up to nine weeks under medical supervision. But in early April, the French Health authority extended access to the medication at home up to nine weeks, to guarantee women's rights to access abortion during the epidemic and to avoid as much as possible that they go into a health facility, reported Le Parisien.

  • In the United States, abortion by telemedicine is expanding rapidly as several states, including Arkansas, Texas and Oklahoma, suspended access to surgical abortions during the crisis, adding abortions on a list of "non-essential" procedures, The New York Times reported. The limited access to abortion means that many women must travel much further to abortion clinics, sometimes to different states where restrictions are milder. But with traveling also close to impossible, women resort more and more to "TelAbortion," a program that has been operating as a research study for several years and which allows women to have video consultations with certified doctors and then receive abortion pills by mail to take on their own. Concerned about the program's growth, Republican senators recently introduced a bill to ban it.

  • As a result of the pandemic, human rights organizations in Germany have warned that women might not be able to visit counseling centers, which is one of the conditions for legal abortion in the country. Access to abortion is also in danger due to the shortened opening hours of these centers, travel restrictions, shortage of medical personnel, lack of protective equipment and the fact that many doctors who perform abortions are at risk because of their age, reports Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Women's Day Manifa march in Warsaw on March 8 — Photo: Attila Husejnow/SOPA Images/ZUMA

  • The abortion issue is also making waves in Uruguay, one of just two countries in Latin America that allows women to voluntarily terminate a pregnancy. Abortion was legalized there in 2012, during the presidency of José Mujic (2010-2015), a leftist. But the country's new president, conservative Luis Lacalle Pou, opposes the practice, and in his inaugural address, on March 1, talked about defending the rights of "those who have no voice…the 10,000 children in this country who aren't born." Two months later, in a May 4 videoconference, the president reiterated his opposition to abortion, but also said he respects the laws of the land as they stand, the Uruguayan daily El País reports.

  • In Colombia, a high-profile court case linked to the country's decades-long civil war turned public attention to the issue of forced abortion. On May 11, a court in Pereira sentenced a man named Héctor Albeidis Arboleda Buitrago to more than 40 years in prison for carrying out numerous abortions, including on minors, at the behest of armed rebel groups. "El Enfermero" (The Nurse), as he's known, sold his services to different guerilla organizations over the course of seven years (1997-2004), the Colombian daily El Tiempo reports.

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Light matters, inside and out.
Anne Goebel

Stuck At Home? Let There Be Good Lighting

Now more than ever is the time to find just the right light for our homes and apartments.

MUNICH — In dark times, light is a source of comfort, a symbol of hope.

After the 9-11 attacks, the Twin Towers were projected onto the New York City skyline so that from a distance it looked like they were still standing. Four and a half years ago, the day after terrorist attacks brought fear to the streets of Paris, landmarks from London to Melbourne were lit up with the colors of the French flag. And now people are trying to make their imposed isolation more bearable by using lights to signal to each other. There are calls for people to unpack their Christmas lights and switch them on as a sign of solidarity. A few days ago in Berlin, hotels lit up their windows with hearts as "lights of love."

However good it may feel to promote unity and connection through these gestures, there is one place where light now truly does make a difference: the home. And now that so many of us are confined to living within our own four walls, it is important to make sure our space is well-lit. Suddenly, questions that may have been ignored are coming to the fore: Is this room too dark or too bright? Does this lamp create a cozy feel or give off an anaemic glow?

"Our lives have all changed dramatically," says Axel Meise. "We are turning inwards and looking more closely at our home environments."

Axel Meise is a lighting designer who founded his company, Occhio, 21 years ago. The choice of name is not simply a pretty word. It's a philosophical statement. Meise says his work as a designer is not just about stylish lamps, but about people, spaces and a fundamental question: In what light do they see themselves? Does a calming, warm light offer refuge? Does it create a striking space, or sharp outlines, or all of the above?

Meise is not surprised that now, when we all have more time for reflection, he is seeing greater demand for his lighting concepts. Not that there's been a run on Occhio's online shop, which sells designs such as "Mito" or "Sento." The German market leader's offerings are too exclusive and expensive for mass markets. "But our trading partners are reporting lots of interest," he says. "People are thinking about light at the moment."

We are turning inwards and looking more closely at our home environments.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. When we spend all day at home, we notice things that wouldn't have bothered us before: the ugly spotlight in the hall, the dim light above the dining table, the way the ceiling in the tiny kitchen always seems lower than in other rooms. And we're also having to use our homes for many more tasks during this outbreak. Everyone suddenly needs a well-lit room where they can work, have video conferences or pore over schoolbooks.

For anyone looking to invest in better lighting, Axel Meise has one piece of advice: "Always use natural light as a guide for artificial light." The sun should be your example. Sounds simple, right? It's not — because the sun's rays are not as warm as we think they are.

Although turning your face to the sun gives a pleasant feeling of warmth, in reality this star gives off a relatively cool light, around 5,000 Kelvins. As a point of comparison, lights used in operating theaters are around 3,600 Kelvins, and good old 60-Watt bulbs are around 2,700. Kelvins are the unit of measurement for the color temperature of a light source — the proportion, in other words, of warm red light and cold blue light. The higher the number, the colder the light. So anyone looking to recreate the effect of sunlight while stuck indoors (perhaps to make up for that canceled Easter holiday to Italy) shouldn't necessarily turn to golden Mediterranean shades. Intense, cool light is closer to the quality of sunshine on a cloudless day.

Gold and white hanging pendant lamps Photo:​ Andre Hunter

Of course your choice of lighting will be partly determined by your personal taste and budget, and not only when it comes to the light fitting itself. People also have different preferences when it comes to light levels and color temperature. Our daily rhythms should be the main guide: When you're working during the day, cold, bright light is best as it keeps you alert. For relaxing in the evenings, reddish, muted light is better — like a campfire.

You can also use light to trick your body. "Our daily rhythms are changing," says Meise. "If you need to be productive for a couple of hours in the evening, a colder light can help. That makes you feel more alert and active."

From a medical perspective, this effect has been proven many times over. Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Schulte-Markwort at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf has researched how light therapy can be used to treat attention deficit disorder or depression. The basis of his study is that a melanopsin receptor in the eye suppresses the calming hormone melatonin in bright light.

"Working in very brightly lit spaces could have the same effect as a few espressos," says Schulte-Markwort. In lower light, the melatonin level rises.

Schulte-Markwort has been saying for years that children need much brighter, colder light in classrooms or for home-schooling. He recommends having a "learn light" at 6,000 Kelvins. And he thinks it's a shame that people don't pay much attention to the lighting in their homes. "Everyone knows that sunlight makes them feel better," he says. "But there is hardly any awareness about how important the quality of artificial light is for our mood and health."

That could be about to change. The first step towards greater awareness came a few years ago when standard light bulbs were replaced by new LED technology, and we could all see the unpleasant consequences of poor light quality. And right now people are paying attention to how they can improve the atmosphere in their own homes.

These are "threatened spaces," says Georg Soanca-Pollak. The Munich-based light designer doesn't mean that entirely seriously, but he wants to highlight a significant aspect of our new living situations: Our former boundaries are disappearing. We're having video conferences in the dining room, typing on our laptops in bed. He says people can use lighting to reflect this new arrangement, rather than moving all the furniture round.

"The most important thing is to use as many light sources as possible. That makes the space much more flexible," he explains.

If you've set up a temporary home office in your living room, you could consider replacing the central ceiling light with two standing lamps, one near the sofa and the other by the desk. "That makes it clear: This here is my workplace, and over there on the sofa is where I read or watch TV." Having a desk lamp that can be moved for different tasks is also important. It should be nearer when you're reading, and further away when you're working on a screen, to avoid glare.

You can't suddenly create more space in your home, but with clever lighting you can make rooms seem larger. This feels even more necessary when your family of five is now sitting down in the same room three times a day to eat, as you can feel like you only got up from the table five minutes ago. Or if your kitchen suddenly feels cramped because you're cooking lunch there every day instead of eating in the canteen.

"Uplighting can make ceilings seem higher," says Soanca-Pollak. Installing an upward-facing light above kitchen cupboards, for example, or putting floodlights in corners can make a room feel bigger. "That can be a relief at this time." And it's relatively easy to achieve, even if hardware stores and furniture shops are closed. These lights can also be ordered online.

Movable lights that you can use to mark out different spaces in the home are also becoming more important at the moment. They are a speciality of manufacturer Tobias Grau, one of the leading German lighting design companies. Whether it's the small "Salt & Pepper" model or the minimalist, battery-powered "Parrot" standing lamp, these designs are ideal companions for those who find themselves wandering around their homes. There are also imitations available at lower prices, just without the technological ingenuity.

Tobias Grau's designers are also contemplating the stars. "The sun brings a sense of movement to the day," says Timon Grau, the founder's son. "Playing around with artificial light can create a similar sense of movement within your own four walls." If there ever was a time to try it out, it's now.

Working the screens
Maria Hunstig

Social Isolation And Social Media, A Toxic Combination

Do we need to see influencers in their designer pajamas?

MUNICH — Every day feels like it lasts a month. The constant news alerts are overwhelming and our own attitude towards the coronavirus changes by the minute. "Give me a break!" we want to shout at the relentless updates. But there's one place where anyone looking for a bit of rest and relaxation... certainly won't find it: Social media.

Social distancing, of course, only applies to physical meet-ups and not to social media, so there has been an increase in online activity since isolation measures were introduced. There are still plenty of photos to post from within your own four walls. People are now using the hashtag #FromWhereIWork to show off the beautifully designed home office where they're opening their Macbook and sipping third-wave coffee from a ceramic mug – only breaking off for #MealPrep, whipping up a bowl of avocado, spinach and beluga lentils for lunch. They're sharing the #ViewFromMyWindow, a glimpse of their garden or a spectacular sunset, and a quick video of their personal #AtHomeWorkout.

The most effective way to convince others to follow suit is to issue a challenge, and the online community has dreamt up plenty over the past few days. Friends and followers are challenged to share their home offices, baking creations, cute photos of their kids, to take part in a quick-change challenge on Tiktok or post a photo of their current "work from home" fashion choices on Instagram.

Where is all the content coming from if no one is going shopping or leaving the house?

You'd be forgiven for thinking social isolation would have put an end to the parade of fashion photos on Instagram. The platform is best known for its highly filtered, rose-tinted (often paid) photos of outfits, so where is all the content coming from if no one is going shopping or leaving the house? The truth is there are still plenty of designer clothes around, as well as tips from influencers and stars who are posting every day from their balconies.

Last week, Mariah Carey posted a message with the #IStayHomeFor hashtag attached to a completely authentic photo of herself and her children in pajamas... although her PJs had a Louis Vuitton monogram and she was flawlessly made up. The next day she posted again — this time singing on the cross trainer in her home gym, dressed in a glittery Gucci shirt, sunglasses and gloves. Cathy Hummels took to social media looking fresh as ever doing yoga in a floaty skirt, and Karlie Kloss appeared in a sports bra and perfect eyeliner, calling for people to do a 10-minute work-out.


Woman wearing a face mask browses her phone in the streets during quarantine Photo: ​Serhii Hudak

All these prettified feel-good messages from self-isolation can get a bit tiresome. It's great that social media can be a way to share important messages, find creative solutions to problems, show solidarity and keep people connected.

But there are plenty of us who don't feel like posting a selfie after 18 Zoom meetings and 29 Slack calls. We don't want to film home yoga sessions that show us sweaty and red-faced in old joggers, or clean the house to host a virtual dinner with friends. For those of us who'd rather sit and stare at the wall while eating frozen chips, it can feel like we're shut out.

There is already enough to be stressed about at the moment, without adding social pressure to the mix. But if, after weeks of self-isolation and living in jogging bottoms, you want to dress up and slap on a load of make-up for your morning video conference, go ahead. These days, anything goes.

Coronavirus home schooling in California

Coronavirus — Global Brief: Education In A Locked-Down World

For the coming weeks, Worldcrunch will be delivering daily updates on the coronavirus global pandemic. The insidious path of COVID-19 across the planet is a blunt reminder of how small the world has become. Our network of multilingual journalists are busy finding out what's being reported locally — everywhere — to provide as clear a picture as possible of what it means for all of us at home, around the world. To receive the daily brief in your inbox, sign up here.


How will today's children look back on this moment? Beyond the fears about contagion and rumors circulating on social media, many will no doubt remember the coronavirus outbreak with two words: school's out. With UNESCO estimating at least 130 countries facing nationwide closures, and some 80% of world's student population shut out of the classroom, educators are forced to improvise.

In some parts of the world, schools have set up online classes on platforms like Zoom and Skype that have offered the possibility for the learning to continue in ways that wouldn't have been possible even just a few years aog. Still, as Le Monde reports, even in France's robust national education system technical glitches have slowed down classes since the country was put on lockdown last week. And of course many students without digital access simply remain shut out from learning for months at a time.

Beyond such digital divides, television and radio (which more families have access to) has come in handy: Argentina"s public television and radio are broadcasting special educational programming, with a website with e-books, interactive tools and other learning materials was set up to complement the broadcast programs. The Czech Republic"s Ministry of Education also instated educational public television programs — in a mere 5 days. TV editors were originally sceptical as many teachers had no experience in front of a camera, yet the first episodes proved successful with high viewership among 4-12 year olds. In Norway, the prime minister herself lent a hand, holding a national press conference for children, explaining the measures put in place to fight the virus and answering questions ranging from "Can I have a birthday party?" to "What can I do to help?"

Meanwhile, China gave us a reminder that no matter how much young people still need to learn, they're bound to outsmart us. Students in Wuhan flooded their homework app with 1-star reviews in a collective effort to try to get it kicked off the App Store. School's out!

— Rozena Crossman


  • Olympics postponed: The Summer Games in Tokyo have been postponed until 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Open or close? India orders nationwide shutdown of the country's 1.3 billion people for three weeks. UK government introduces new stricter restrictions, closing "non essential" shops and banning gatherings of more than two people. Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump announces the country will "again and soon be open for business." In Wuhan, where the epidemic began, China will partially lift lockdown on April 8.

  • Moving faster: The World Health Organisation warns that the coronavirus spread is "accelerating" around the planet, and the US could become new epicenter of outbreak as the number of cases has jumped to more than 46,000.

  • Toll: Italian death toll passes 6,000 mark, as Spain registers a record 514 deaths in 24 hours, confirming it is on a similar trajectory as Italy.

  • Eurozone economy suffers "unprecedented collapse in business activity" in March, with services sector, especially tourism and restaurants, taking the biggest hit.

  • Where next: Myanmar reports first two cases in men returning from abroad. The country of 54 million was the last world's most populous country not to report a single case, despite sharing a long border with China.

  • Prominent deaths in Africa: Cameroonian saxophone star Manu Dibango dies at 86 after contracting the virus. A similar fate for a top Zimbabwe broadcaster, Zorozo Makamba, who is dead at the age of 30.

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Auf wiedersehen, gender equality
Cerstin Gammelin

Angela Merkel's Party Risks Reverting To Male Domination

The debate about Angela Merkel’s successor shows that her CDU party is lacking in powerful women to take the party forward. As strange as it seems, her party still has a long way to go to achieve gender equality.

BERLIN — A week after CDU party leader Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's shock announcement that she will be stepping down, Norbert Röttgen – the first candidate who has put himself forward to replace her – has laid out his plans for the party if he were elected.

Röttgen belongs to the ranks of men who during Merkel's time in power have found themselves pushed to the back benches after an embarrassing blunder – in his case, a humiliating local election defeat in North Rhine-Westphalia. He stuck it out though, which shows courage — and yet raises questions.

For 20 years now, it has been women – most prominently Angela Merkel – who have been at the helm of the CDU. But now that there's a leadership contest to choose her successor, no women are joining the race. Promising candidates such as the party's deputy leader Julia Klöckner and Susanne Eisenmann, Culture Minister for the state of Baden-Württemberg, have not put themselves forward. That's a shame, and it sends the wrong signal to women in the CDU. If they won't put themselves in the mix, they shouldn't be surprised when male colleagues set the tone of the debate, vaunting their own capabilities with perhaps a little too much self-confidence.

There are structural reasons why women are not putting themselves forward.

To avoid any misunderstandings: of course it doesn't say anywhere in the CDU's constitution that only women can be party leader. Of course, after two decades of female leadership, there can be a male successor. But there can equally be a female one. This isn't a question of whether a man or a woman takes on the leadership, but of how the CDU can preserve its reputation as a party that appeals to men and women, old and young, from all walks of life. That will not be possible if it doesn't attract female voters.

The CDU chairmanship remains vacant after AKK's resignation: Kay Nietfeld/DPA via ZUMA Press

There are structural reasons why women are not putting themselves forward, but the causes also lie in the party's internal relations. The late hours involved in politics put many women off, as does the fact that they are still often judged on physical appearance. And the CDU has still not achieved equality within the party. The fact that there has been one female Chancellor has distracted from the reality that the party still has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.

Merkel was groundbreaking in many ways: as a Protestant, an East German and a physicist with a PhD. But now that her Chancellorship is coming to an end and her anointed female successor has thrown in the towel, it is clear that the CDU is lacking in female leaders. It has no female state Minister Presidents, only one woman among its regional party leaders, and hardly any female mayors or municipal council leaders. Only one fifth of the party's representatives in parliament are women. This cannot be allowed to continue if the CDU is to be a party that genuinely represents society.

A vigil in Munich for the victims of the Hanau attack
Kurt Kister

Hanau Attack: Echos Of The Past In Germany's Far-Right Hatred

After the killing of nine in the western German town of Hanau, it is clear the state must do more to crack down. But the responsibility extends much farther.


MUNICH — Watching the video in which mass murderer Tobias R. explains to the world that the US military is killing children and engaging in satanic rituals in underground bases, it's easy to dismiss him as crazy. But now he has killed ten people, all of whom – apart from his mother – he shot because he wanted to kill foreigners, immigrants, non-Germans. The attacks in Hanau were racially motivated terrorism – regardless of whether the perpetrator was suffering from mental illness or not.

For Germany, this brings back uncomfortable echoes of the first half of the 20th century, when racially motivated terrorism grew out of widespread xenophobia and racism among the population, mainly – although not solely – directed at Jews. It started with a few individual perpetrators, then groups that were protected by parts of society. They were not seriously investigated by police, and the justice system often treated them leniently as "politically motivated offenders."

The terrible events of the 1920s and 30s are not about to repeat themselves. Nowadays there is no danger of a coup, no revisionist foreign policy that aims to reunite Germany's "stolen" land. Most people live, think and love differently from how they did a hundred years ago. However, in Germany, there is plenty of reason to remind ourselves of what went before, as some of what is happening now is uncomfortably familiar.

At Munich's Odeonsplatz, a memorial for victims of the Hanau attack — Photo:Sachelle Babbar/ZUMA

The so-called "lone wolves' who carried out attacks in Munich in 2016, Halle in 2019 and now Hanau, as well as the neo-Nazi extremist who killed politician Walter Lübcke in 2019, acted in the knowledge that there are many others who think the same way they do – even if they wouldn't commit the same acts. The terrorists are targeting the same people who were targeted a hundred years ago: Jews, foreigners, representatives of "the system." Now, Muslims and refugees have been added to the list. You only have to look at the U.S. to see how quickly mass murders can change a society: there, the number of shootings has become so great that they seem to be accepted as part of everyday life. The President says his prayers are with the victims, society is outraged, and three months later another shooter kills twelve people.

Although it's terrible, there is still hope. It is a good thing that the supposedly homogenous Germany of the 20th century no longer exists. For it was this Germany that was responsible for one of the worst crimes in human history. Today Germany is a diverse country that is looking towards the future with a fierce determination. Despite the attacks in Hanau and Halle, Germany has never been as good, and as free.

The justice system often treated them leniently as "politically motivated offenders'

This Germany is what the murderers are attacking when they shoot migrants. But they are not the only ones we have to fight. We must also look at the people who prepare the ground for them. People who constantly speak about "foreign infiltration," who denigrate specific communities, who compare lifestyles to diseases, who try to build barriers between "us' and "them." People like polemical politician Thilo Sarrazin who disparage Muslims; people like reactionary Alexander Gauland who break taboos because they want to divide society; people like Alternative for Germany (AfD) party member Björn Höcke who use neo-Nazi rhetoric. Of course these people don't load the murderers' guns, but they create an atmosphere in which the murderers don't feel like "lone wolves' – because they're not.

Yes, the state has to take a stronger stance against right-wing extremism in all its forms. It needs to offer better protection to synagogues and mosques while the threat is so significant. Restricting individuals and shooting club members from keeping certain guns at home would also be an important step towards prevention.

However, none of this alone will be enough. Every individual also has a responsibility, whether they're making insensitive jokes or not speaking up against everyday racism. We have to call a spade a spade: anyone who votes for AfD is aligning themselves with the far-right, as they are also voting for the right-wing extremists within the party. This country, its society and its people – whether they originally come from Berlin, Ankara or Krakow – deserve protection, especially from those who, through their words or their actions, want to turn the clock back.

Five Eyes on Huawei's 5G
Julianne Smith

The 5G Debate: Time To Choose Sides In China-U.S. Showdown?

Allowing Beijing to have a hand in the new, faster mobile network would entail significant risks. But in Germany, debate about 5G is also a question of who you like more: China or the U.S.


MUNICH — For months now, the German government has been discussing whether they should allow high-risk suppliers to be involved in setting up the 5G mobile network. Unfortunately, this important debate keeps getting side-tracked, as Donald Trump's government is pursuing a misguided campaign to pressure Germany into ruling out Chinese supplier Huawei, thus turning the problem into a standoff between the U.S. and China.

Who do the Germans trust more? Which relationship is more important? It doesn't seem like Washington has much chance of success, given that three-quarters of Germans say they don't trust the U.S. president. However, Germany's 5G debate shouldn't be turned into a referendum on Donald Trump.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's decision is about much more than whether or not she should rely on a reasonably priced but highly risky supplier from China. It is about Germany's values and democracy. The greatest irony here is that, although the Trump administration has a very strong opinion on the matter, they can't offer an alternative supplier to Huawei. The other options are based in Europe — Nokia and Ericsson — or South Korea.

These facts are getting lost in all the noise: threats from the Americans, threats from the Chinese and news articles in the German media questioning the trustworthiness of Silicon Valley and the U.S. government. Of course it's difficult to separate this debate from worsening transatlantic relations or from recent revelations about the Swiss encryption company that for decades has secretly been owned by the CIA and the German intelligence services. But it's vital that the German government now focuses on what is really at stake.

Assuming that the European project is at the center of German foreign and economic policy, the EU's position on this question should hold the greatest sway. It considers that using a company based in a country with no democratic or constitutional control mechanisms would pose a significant security risk.

It's about much more than technological solutions for technological problems.

The EU has published security recommendations for its members, and although these are not binding, they should shape the debate. Most important is to consider a variety of non-technological questions, such as where a potential supplier's headquarters is located, its relationship with the government of that country, the legal position on surveillance of telecommunications and the likelihood of complaints about possible espionage, sabotage or political blackmail being properly investigated.

As well as looking to the EU, the German government could also learn from the experience of other democracies. Last summer, Australia announced a ban on Huawei. Unlike the United Kingdom, Australia does not believe that limiting the high-risk supplier to a part of the network, the periphery, and shutting it out from the sensitive core truly reduces the risks.

A Huawei 5G phone — Photo: Yang Suping/SIPA Asia/ZUMA

As well as examining why the members of the Five Eyes Intelligence Alliance (the USA, Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand) have come to very different conclusions in their risk assessment, it could be interesting for German politicians to ask their Australian colleagues how their decision has affected bilateral relations with China. What have been the consequences? Have Australia's economic and trade relations with China been irreparably damaged by the Huawei ban? And, just as importantly, what alternatives is Australia now considering?

Germany should also work closely with France, a country that is similarly facing severe pressure from the U.S. and China. Unlike Germany, France's networks only partly use Huawei technology, which makes the decision easier. French telecoms company Orange has announced that it will probably use Nokia and Ericsson.

It's about much more than technological solutions for technological problems.

If Europeans want to establish a continent-wide policy that relies on the EU's regulatory powers, France and Germany must take the lead in telecommunications policy. The recent joint meeting of the German parliament's Committee for Foreign Affairs and the National Assembly in Berlin, which discussed telecommunications, is a good starting point. Under the right conditions, Germany and France could later aim to develop an alternative transatlantic network with the U.S.

I hope that when Germans see Huawei posters claiming that 5G is about "values," they will agree. Huawei's right about this. As the EU has made clear, it's about much more than technological solutions for technological problems. At its core, this is about how democratic states protect their societies and economies from authoritarian states and from possible blackmail in the future. Germans undoubtedly understood this before Huawei began its advertising campaign. Now the government must reach a decision about 5G that endorses and protects the values that are important to the German people.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer on Feb. 10
Nico Fried

In Merkel's Shadow: What Brought Down Kramp-Karrenbauer

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that she will not run for Chancellor and will step down as leader of Germany's ruling CDU party. It was a slow implosion over the past year, with Angela Merkel's mixed messages partly to blame.

BERLIN — In the end, her decision came swiftly. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer announced that she will not run for Chancellor and will step down as leader of Germany's ruling CDU party. The result of a regional vote in Thuringia – where some local CDU politicians voted with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party to elect liberal leader Thomas Kemmerich – was the spark, but Kramp-Karrenbauer didn't lose her authority in one fell swoop. It happened little by little. She was unable to achieve consensus between the CDU factions in different parts of the country, another sign of her lack of authority that was evident throughout her time as party leader.

After her narrow victory over Friedrich Merz at the CDU party leadership election in Hamburg in 2018, Kramp-Karrenbauer wanted to bring the party together. However, this led to a lack of conviction, a wavering that weakened the CDU's standing as well as her own. With a great deal of fanfare, she promised not to take on a cabinet position and instead focus on the party itself, but backtracked when she was offered the role of Defense Minister.

Kramp-Karrenbauer & Chancellor Angela Merkel — Photo: Frank Hoermann/Sven Simon

It was a decision that damaged her credibility and didn't pay off politically either. Kramp-Karrenbauer announced plans to deploy more troops abroad, but she couldn't control the foot soldiers within her own party. ​Kramp-Karrenbauer was the architect of her own downfall, but she wasn't helped by fellow party heavyweights. Her rival Friedrich Merz never truly supported her after she defeated him in the leadership contest. He kept himself in the game, but never took responsibility when it would have been helpful to do so.

CDU deputy chairman Armin Laschet didn't have the guts to stand for the party leadership in 2018, but he was happy to criticize Kramp-Karrenbauer whenever the opportunity presented itself. It's worth noting that of all people, it was Jens Spahn, one of the greatest thorns in Angela Merkel's side while she was CDU leader, who showed his loyalty by keeping quiet. Of all Kramp-Karrenbauer's possible successors, he is the only one who has improved his political standing and gained respect over the past year, although he also had the most catching up to do.

It was Merkel herself who brought her experiment crashing down.

Angela Merkel's experiment of separating the Chancellorship and party leadership during the transition period has also failed. As party leader, Kramp-Karrenbauer remained in the Chancellor's shadow. In the end it was Merkel herself who brought her experiment crashing down: She criticized the election results in Thuringia vehemently, and pushed her authority as Chancellor to the edge of acceptability in demanding that an elected local president step down. And she was only able to save the coalition with the SPD by making concessions that Kramp-Karrenbauer as party leader could not agree to.

The question of how long Merkel will remain Chancellor depends on who the CDU chooses as new party leader and Chancellorship candidate. It will also depend on how much support Merkel still has in the CDU, especially in the East. Her recent decisions have shown that Merkel is thinking like a Chancellor, not in terms of managing compromises within her party.

And there is an insurmountable contradiction between Merkel and growing swathes of her party: Many in the CDU see the right-wing Alternative for Germany party (AfD), one of their biggest problems at the moment, as a result of the Chancellor's own politics. Merkel, however, thinks it is the CDU's lack of open opposition to the AfD that has allowed the far-right party to grow in popularity.

Merkel may hope to rule through the end of Germany's stint in the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union next autumn. But it would be more through the support of the public than from her own party.

Spraying disinfectant in Changsha on Feb. 5
Lea Deuber

Coronavirus Exposes Weakness Of China's Autocratic System

The virus could have been better contained if China had not tried to hush it up at the start. Autocracy comes at a price.


The coronavirus outbreak in China has stirred up anti-Chinese sentiment in many countries across the world and there have been growing reports of attacks on people of Asian heritage. This violence cannot be tolerated. Diseases recognize no nationality, respect no borders. There will always be epidemics, and as the world becomes more connected, the risk of a disease spreading across the globe will only increase.

It's important for the international community to learn from crises like this one and invest in international bodies such as the World Health Organization, whose work is proving to be incredibly important. Like racism and prejudice, nationalist politics have no place in this crisis. Those affected in China deserve our solidarity, especially those in poorer regions who have little chance of receiving adequate medical care.

No one is to blame for the epidemic, but when it comes to dealing with and containing the disease, we must hold the Chinese government responsible. For political reasons, they did not inform the population or the international community about the outbreak quickly enough. The virus was therefore able to spread across the world, as the local government first arrested eight doctors who discovered the outbreak, then waited three weeks to go public, when the epidemic could no longer be concealed.

Foreign powers assumed that the affected province of Hubei was being sealed off in January for political reasons, when in fact it was a desperate attempt to contain the virus — an overreaction from a political system under stress. Nowadays Beijing's actions come as no surprise in Germany, where we are used to dealing with an autocratic China and accept that they promote their political system as an alternative to our liberal democracy. We lap up the benefits of working with China, happy to profit from their economy without having to bear the human cost of such lack of freedom.

China prioritized its international reputation over its citizens' wellbeing.

The epidemic could have been contained much sooner if people in the affected region had been warned by the authorities. Instead, China prioritized its own international reputation over its citizens' wellbeing. If the virus spreads to Germany, that could be one of the prices of an autocratic system, but here we're not used to paying the price.

There are already hints about what lessons the Chinese government will draw from the crisis. What the country needs is independent reporting so that the political failings can be identified and rectified. It needs apolitical institutions that people outside of the government can trust. And yet, Beijing is currently stepping up censorship, preventing journalists from reporting from the region and arresting citizens who draw attention to mismanagement or need.

Still, the lesson China's leader Xi Jinping is most likely to take from the crisis is proof that his power is actually not far-reaching enough, not all-encompassing enough. And that spells trouble for the future.