Alessio Perrone

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Work In Progress

Work → In Progress: Where Have All The Workers Gone?

Reams have been written about the shift to remote working. And yet, for many people, the more pressing issue right now isn't where, but how much they work.

After the economic slowdown brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, companies all over the world are taking advantage of loosened lockdowns and progress on the vaccine front to ramp up operations and make up for lost productivity. But the frenetic spurts of the recovery are getting serious pushback: From the rise of the four-day work week to legally punishing overtime, the world is waking up to the importance of a balanced workload.

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Geopolitics

German Election: How Far-Right AfD Hit Its Ceiling

Germany's anti-immigrant far-right party has so far been unable to benefit from the decline of the Merkel's CDU party and find new voters.

BERLIN — When the results of the German federal election arrive Sunday, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party should have something to celebrate: the party, which has made nationalist, anti-immigration rhetoric a staple of its electoral program, could become the leading political party in the states of Thuringia and Saxony. In addition, the party is likely to elect several members of Parliament in the two states.

Security is also a major concern.

And yet, increasingly, we say that every AfD gain is relative. While the AfD may be making small gains in some German states, its share of the vote is poised to decrease compared to the last federal election in 2017. In nationwide polling surveys, the party has been stuck between 10-12% for months: While the ruling CDU hemorrhages voters as it seeks to build its future after the departure of Chancellor Angela Merkel, the far-right doesn't seem to have been able to exploit the opportunity. Its modest advances are largely happening in places that were already party strongholds, like Saxony and Thuringia.

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Economy

Merkel's Legacy: The Rise And Stall Of The German Economy

How have 16 years of Chancellor Angela Merkel changed Germany? The Chancellor accompanied the country's rise to near economic superpower status — and then progress stalled. On technology and beyond, Germany needs real reforms under Merkel's successor.

BERLIN — Germans are doing better than ever. By many standards, the economy broke records during the reign of outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel: private households' financial assets have climbed to a peak; the number of jobs recorded a historic high before the pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020; the GDP — the sum of all goods and services produced in a period — also reached an all-time high.

And still, while the economic balance sheet of Merkel's 16 years is outstanding if taken at face value, on closer inspection one thing catches the eye: against the backdrop of globalization, Europe's largest economy no longer has the clout it had at the beginning of the century. Germany has fallen behind in key sectors that will shape the future of the world, and even the competitiveness of its manufacturing industries shows unmistakable signs of fatigue.

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Coronavirus

Bravo Italy For World’s Strictest Vaccine Mandate - But Where’s Mario?

Italy's new "Super Green Pass" is great, but where's "Super Mario"? Such a sweeping measure, which requires workers to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test, risks encroaching on the fundamental right to work. It's necessary right now, but also needs Prime Minister Mario Draghi to explain why.

-OpEd-

ROME — There is not a single good reason to criticize Italy's new "Super Green Pass", the new decree announced on Thursday that will mandate more than 20 million of the country's workers to prove they've tested negative to COVID-19 or that they've been vaccinated to work, beginning Oct 15.

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Society

Spiderman To Jewish Stars: Global Vaccine Protests Get Ugly

More protests are bound to spread after President Biden announced that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of U.S. workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

Vaccines used to be a quiet thing: someone getting a flu shot or UNICEF shipping off jabs to children in a faraway country. No longer. COVID-19 has put vaccinations at the center of both global health policy and national partisan politics — and plenty of noise has ensued.

After some initial demonstrations earlier this year critical of slow vaccination rollouts, protests are now firmly focused on local and national policies that require vaccines, including obligatory jabs for medical workers and the so-called "green pass" vaccine-required access to certain locations and activities. No doubt more protests are bound to spread in the United States after last week's announcement by U.S. President Joe Biden that vaccinations will become mandatory for millions of workers in certain categories of employment, including those who work for the federal government and large corporations.

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Society

The Politician And His Rolex, A Timeless Morality Play

From Fidel Castro to JFK to Barack Obama, world leaders have long sported expensive watches. Does that create a distance with the people they lead?

-Essay-

ROME — I love the way social networks give you the real-time pulse of society. Here in Italy, for example, the plight of Afghans has apparently become boring and we've heard enough about anti-vaxxers — and so the online crowd has focused its unquenchable thirst for justice toward Roman Pastore, a young political candidate pictured wearing a Rolex watch.

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Green

Why All The E-Scooter Bashing Is Just Urban Myth

European media is failing to state the obvious about electric scooter reality: Our cities have to adapt.

Across Europe, newspapers and magazines continue to warn the public about the Biblical scourge of electric scooters. The stream of articles have turned into a tired trope: Start with the story of a recent electric scooter accident. Then move on to explain how the driver violated decades-old traffic rules — maybe he rode on the sidewalk or didn't wear a helmet or two people rode it at the same time. Then rant about how chaotic our streets have become after the coming of the scooters. And the article inevitably wraps up with a scathing indictment: Electric scooters should be banned or heavily restricted.

Such articles litter the media across the continent. We've seen them in Paris, where electric scooters are a mighty fearsome time bomb and prompted public outcry after an accident on the sidewalk caused the death of a young woman, as Le Parisien reported. The city of Lisbon has levied hefty fines for the electric scooters parked on its sidewalks. And the latest has come from Italy, where national media thundered against them after a young man died in an accident. (Plot twist: The man who lost his life was the e-scooter rider; a motorbike plowed into him. But I digress.)

If we find electric scooters so annoying, it's because most of our infrastructure was built to serve cars.

A few telling details are often missing. Accidents frequently happen on sidewalks or roads, because there is no adequate infrastructure for e-mobility. Often, it's the driver that gets hurt. In Italy, media emphasized that four people have lost their lives in e-scooter accidents in 2021 so far — but failed to compare that with the number of casualties of car, motorbike, bicycle, boat or plane accidents. Demand for this new technology is high, and it's not hard to see why given how inexpensive it is, how little public space it takes and how convenient it is for short-haul commutes.

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Green Or Gone

Record Drought & Heartbreak: Italy's Farmers Reap The Damages Of Climate Change

CERVERE — It hasn't rained in two months. The corn has not grown. Six out of ten hectares of this plain field are completely parched. "It's late now," says Giovanni Bedino, running his dark fingers through the dry leaves of the corn. The farmer, now 59, has been working the land since he was 15.

"Since the day my father passed away, I have done nothing else," he says. "I love this job, but a year like this takes away your love and leaves you sad. The corn died, it was born small and it remained small, stuck, without water and not even a bit of humidity. We couldn't water the fields and nothing came down from the sky. I remember, the summer of 2003 was a very difficult one — but it wasn't even close to this year. I have never seen such a drought."

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Geopolitics

Will Afghanistan Tarnish The End Of Angela Merkel's Tenure?

The German leader's aloofness on the collapse of Afghanistan has surprised many. For the past few months, her government has taken the issue too lightly and failed to debate it properly. This could prove a big mistake in her last weeks as German chancellor.

Anyone who summarizes Angela Merkel's government statement on the situation in Afghanistan comes up with the same words: "somewhat stupid." The coolness with which the chancellor and her government are approaching the collapse of the Afghan state has been breathtaking. It almost seems as if Merkel and Vice Chancellor Olaf Scholz have agreed to talk about abstract mistakes, in an effort to consign the Afghan failure to history's rubbish heap as quickly as possible.

Merkel is helped by the fact that she's about to leave: Her 16-year tenure as chancellor will end in less than a month. And four weeks before the election, hardly anyone seems to want to ask hard questions and uncover the breadth of the Afghanistan debacle. But this is what is urgently needed to draw the necessary conclusions for future operations. The Bundestag federal parliament could have used its meeting on Wednesday to set up a committee of inquiry, but it wasted this opportunity.

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Green Or Gone

A Picturesque, Damning View Of Our Wildfire Planet

Salento, the very southeastern tip of Italy, is a flat and shrubby land of farmers, stunning beaches and simple rural villages built around Baroque churches. Thousands of Italians and foreigners flock to this part of the Puglia region on the heel of the Italian boot every summer, lured by its promise of a rustic, idyllic break.

My family is there now, like every summer, because that's where they (we!) come from: my grandfather was one of the farmers that looked after the centuries-old olive trees, vineyards and orchards that grow in the parched, deep red earth under the scorching summer sun.

But it has more recently also become a land of wildfires. Dozens of hectares of farmland have gone up in smoke during a series of testing heatwaves — the harshest of which is predicted to hit later this week. The flames have sieged the highways, scared tourists off the camping sites, then danced towards the beaches, in scenes I have not seen there since I was born. It is just one flare up in a rash of fires that have consumed some 103,000 hectares across Italy so far this year.

Of course, it's part of a continental, if not global, inferno. The world has watched in awe as wildfires ravaged places as far away as Siberia and Turkey, California and Canada. Earlier this week, tourists and thousands of residents were forced to flee the Greek island of Evia after it experienced the worst heatwave in decades, propelling temperatures well above 40℃ and creating ideal conditions for fires to rage. On the other side of the Mediterranean, Tunisia's fires have suddenly turned deadly. After Greece, Italy has recorded the second-highest number of wildfires in Europe so far, with southern regions like Sicily, Sardinia and Puglia burning at unprecedented speeds.

Watching from a distance, I couldn't help but see the events as predictable — most of my generation has known the dangers of climate change for years. When a major UN climate report this week described climate change as an inevitable, unprecedented emergency that is happening sooner and faster than expected, that too was no surprise.

We've been warned plenty of times before. We knew there would be consequences, damages, casualties. We have, indeed, seen the fires spreading.

And yet it's a different feeling not only to know about the threat of wildfires but to see it on your doorstep, closing in on your family, devouring the increasingly arid land your grandfather used to look after. Even if I've always been conscious of climate change and have tried to act accordingly, I never thought it would touch someone I know so soon. It's frightening, mesmerizing, hypnotic — like watching a fire burn — to think that even myself and my generation have been staring at reality, and yet never truly realizing that it's already happening. That it's coming for us.

Geopolitics

Nord Stream 2: Merkel's Farewell Gift To Putin Is A Slap To Biden

Germany and the U.S. have agreed on a compromise to complete the gas pipeline — or rather, the Americans have submitted to Angela Merkel, who in turn had a farewell gift for Russia.

BERLIN — Angela Merkel's chancellorship comes to an end with a farewell present. Not for her, but from her: a gift for Vladimir Putin. The Russian President is the beneficiary of the compromise that Merkel has made with U.S President Joe Biden on Nord Stream 2 — the proposed Baltic Sea pipeline that will deliver Russian natural gas to Germany and the EU, bypassing countries like Poland and Ukraine.

American politicians across party lines have regularly criticized the pipeline as a devious Russian influence project that would entrench Europe's energy dependence, provide billions of dollars to the Kremlin, and make Ukraine more vulnerable to Russian aggression.

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Geopolitics

Summer Revisited: Does Warm Weather Reduce COVID-19 Spread?

The number of infections is decreasing in many places, even as restrictions are eased. Vaccines matter, say scientists, but it's not the only factor.

BERLIN — The summer will be good. The horror scenarios of some models have proven to be too pessimistic; even if infections are ticking up in the UK, France and the Netherlands, they are currently falling rapidly across many European countries, despite the easing of restrictions.

People are pouring into cafes and beer gardens, and hope for the end of the pandemic is growing. But one question remains for the time being: Who is doing most of the work to kill the virus: summer or social distancing and vaccines? How much can we celebrate right now?

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