Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category:

Sylvester in Berlin

Written on December 31st, 2009 by Suzanneno shouts

Sylvester is what Germans call New Years Eve. There are parties all over Germany and everybody counts down to midnight, toasts with champagne, and the parties start. They are rarely over before 3 or 4 in the morning (here it seems everybody waits for midnight and then goes home). Midnight is when it all starts. Kids of all ages go outside after they toasted each other with champagne and we light up fireworks. In front of houses, behind houses, on top of the buildings – fireworks everywhere. An entire city glowing, deafening sounds, and the smell of gunpowder. Yeah, that’s how New Years is supposed to be. You have to see it to believe it. It is midnight over there in twenty-some minutes. You may be able to get a glimpse of the fireworks at one of the web cams, not sure though. One is here:

http://www.ipb.de/webcam/?imgsize=huge&cam=cam

Germany, history, and fear of involvement in a war

Written on November 29th, 2009 by redwaterlilyno shouts

Growing up in a country with a reputation as bad as Germany’s in regards to war is tough. You learn about WWI and WWII just about every other year in history class, you get to visit former concentration camps, and you go to any holocaust exhibition near where you live. You get it rammed into your head that Germans did bad things, that they killed millions of people for no real reason at all, and that you have to do all you can to make sure that history never repeats itself. I didn’t grow up being patriotic and even today I have a hard time saying or writing that I am proud to be German (or, now that I have the American citizenship, that I am proud to be from Germany. I have no problem to say that I am proud to be from Berlin – but the words pride and German together just don’t feel right – they always make a somewhat uncomfortable feeling creep up, because those two words together always bring up pictures of Germans in Nazi uniforms, of the mass graves in the former concentration camps that I saw, and of all the horror that has been shown on TV and in museums. Even waving a German flag during a game of the National soccer team felt wrong – a shame actually. So when Germany was asked to enter the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Germans were hesitant to do so, because there was a fear and believe that if anything goes wrong, other nations will find some way to blame Germany for it. Germans did not support Germany’s involvement in those wars — but it was expected.

During the last days I have followed news coverage of two German officials resigning because of air-strikes in September in Afghanistan.

BERLIN — The German military’s top official was removed Thursday for failing to properly pass on information to political leaders about a September air-strike in Afghanistan that killed civilians.

The new defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, told parliament that the military’s inspector general, Gen. Wolfgang Schneiderhan – the equivalent of chief of staff – had asked to be relieved of his duties.

That came after Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper published what it said were still captures from confidential videos of the incident. Peter Wichert, a deputy defense minister who was in office at the time of the air-strike, also stepped down.

I was very ambivalent myself about Germany’s participation in the war. I still am. But I believe that Germany’s history makes it even more difficult. Germany is bound to lose support of their citizens if the reports are made available, because Germans don’t want to read about Germany military having conducted air-strikes that caused deaths – but not reporting about it is bound to backfire as well – as is the case here. German officials and the German military are caught between a rock and a hard place – no matter which way they turn, there is bound to be criticism from the citizens. But withdrawing and not participating in the war will lead to criticism from the other nations that are expecting Germany to share toe cost and manpower needed.

I believe that participation will force Germany to deal with the past in a new and different way – and to carve out its place in conflicts around the world. I look forward to seing the results of this inner struggle

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Christine O'Donnell. Mammograms, and Health Care

Written on November 19th, 2009 by redwaterlilyno shouts

While she has not yet “officially” announced that she is running for Senate, she has been on WGMD repeatedly to talk about it and said that she would officially kick of her campaign once she reaches 10K in donations. I think it is fun to keep her around for the entertainment value – sort of like Mike Protack – just another perennial candidate that makes us laugh out a lot (or shake our heads in disbelief).

ANYWAY – my favorite comment of hers during the last radio interview was that she said it was the SOCIALIST AGENDA that caused the recommendations by the United States Preventive Services Task Force to begin breast cancer screening for women at age 50 rather then 40 ((http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/17/health/17cancer.html)), as is the case right now.

According to her, Socialists would change the age for screening because they do not care about the individual but they would change the age because screening at a younger age is not beneficial to the people at large. It’s that tired old argument that socialists only do what benefits the greater good rather then any individual.

No Ms. O’Donnell – it’s not the SOCIALISTS that would change the age for screening, but the CAPITALISTS that want to remove one more procedure from the list of items health insurances have to cover and pay for. The New York Times writes:

The guidelines are not expected to have an immediate effect on insurance coverage but should make health plans less likely to aggressively prompt women in their 40s to have mammograms and older women to have the test annually.

And I believe they are right – that is EXACTLY what will happen – health insurances will see a way to save money and act upon that, because…

Congress requires Medicare to pay for annual mammograms. Medicare can change its rules to pay for less frequent tests if federal officials direct it to.

Private insurers are required by law in every state except Utah to pay for mammograms for women in their 40s.

So the major benefit of changing the age for mamograms is the cost saving – does that sound like a socialist agenda item to you?

Oh yeah, and I don’t consider myself a SOCIALIST but a SOCIAL DEMOCRAT. Though, I doubt Ms. O’Donnell would know the difference between the two.

Sidenote: Having lived in a country with universal health care, I can not say that the individual is not cared for. To give a few examples of my history with health care in Germany.

  • I rarely ever made appointments with my primary care doctor, most of my appointments where walk in with a wait of less then 30 minutes.
  • Dental care is part of the regular health insurance and not separate. This was especially important to me when an accident at age 13 knocked out my two upper front teeth and required me to have first a partial and later a bridge to cover the gap. I walked into my dentists office without an appointment as soon as possible after the accident and left that same day (many hours later) with a partial denture to cover the gap (I was too young for a bridge at that time).
  • A school accident left me with a moderate concussion at age 16. I walked into the Emergency room and, within an hour, was admitted into the hospital. 10 days and several brain scans later I was released with almost no residual effects of the concussion. The reason they kept me rather then sent me home was that they know children do not lay still at home and because this was a moderate concussion that left me with no memory of the 2 hours following the event, they felt it was necessary to monitor me. The concussion was so severe that I did not go to the hospital the day it happened but rather then next morning – when my parents thought I was on my way to school, I walked myself to the hospital 45 minutes away — I have no idea why I did that – I don’t remember much of the hours after I passed out (I passed out and hit my head on a sink).
  • When I was pregnant with my son I had some minor complications (very low blood pressure) and could see my doctor any time needed to address this. Unfortunately I had to have a c-section; however, since German’s consider this a type of major abdominal surgery, they like to keep you in the hospital. I left the hospital with my son 9 days after he was born – drains, bandages, stitches – everything had been removed. Again – they like to do this to make sure you are OK and that there aren’t any complications.

I don’t know about you – but I personally felt that I as an individual mattered and was cared for.

As for the mammograms, I had my first one shortly after my 38th birthday and a second shortly thereafter because of “issues” – and it was emotionally very stressful and I worried a lot. Luckily the second one came back fine. I believe they should not change the age for mammograms but maybe have them a bit less frequently before age 50 – say every two years or three years until age 50.

Almost 20 years later

Written on July 17th, 2009 by redwaterlilyno shouts

Looking through then Newsweek this morning I came across an article about Russia. In the article they mentioned the fall of the Berlin Wall nearly 20 years ago. 20 YEARS!!!! Has it really been that long? Has it really been 20 years since I received a phone call from a friend telling me that the borders to East Berlin had been opened. Within 30 minutes we were in the car heading for the checkpoint at Bernauer Strasse. When we arrived there, the checkpoint had not opened yet but there were hundreds of people on both the west side and east side of the gates. The East German guards had holed themselves up in their little gate-house – even though they had rifles, they had no chance of doing anything — there were too many of us on each side. We yelled, screamed, and chanted for another 15 or so and kept pushing against the gate – and finally one of the guards just hit the button and the gate was opened. Within seconds people from both side of the wall started walking on streets that used to be off limits to them toward a part of our city that we had never been able to get to this easily. While West Berliners slowly walked and looked around and tried to take in the fact that we could get into East Berlin without a Visa, people from the East appeared to run toward the West – afraid that the gates may close again before they make it across. Some of the people passing me by had suitcases in their hands while others had strollers not with babies peacefully sleeping in them but personal goods and household items. They literally ran to freedom – not thinking twice and not looking back – but taking advantage of a situation that none of us understood.
20 years since that night. Sometimes it still feels like yesterday.

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