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Meanwhile at CNN

This is exactly why I don’t watch television news, and especially not American television news. I would love it if someone could find the clip that this was taken from.

Germany loses first place in global popularity

Since 2008, the BBC has been conducting a poll to see which countries are viewed the most positively. In the last 4 years, Germany has repeatedly topped the charts. This year however, Japan beat it out by a few percentage points. The change probably reflects the controversies that Germany has been involved in since last year, its insistence on austerity measures certainly included. But who can say in an anonymous poll like this? Much of the decreased approval seemed to come from other Western countries, which makes sense when you think about it. Approval from Spain dropped 14% and disapproval rose by 15%, which probably has to do with the cucumber scare from earlier last year. Whatever the sociopolitical reasons behind it, Germany is still very beloved. Only Pakistan viewed it more negatively than positively. As a matter of fact, only Canada was seen less negatively. It’s economy was cited as its biggest contribution to the world and its most positive influence. Its foreign policy was seen as its next biggest contribution, which also makes sense because of Germany’s overwhelmingly peaceful stance worldwide.

The poll itself is pretty interesting and is worth a look. The whole thing can be found here.

Free tertiary education returns to Germany

Medical students at the University of Leipzig

Germany has a rich and innovative tradition in the field of education, with such highlights as the implementation of the first public and compulsory education system in the 18th century under Prussian rule, to the first modern university embodied by the Humboldt University of Berlin, which served as a model for universities all across Europe.

Until recently, their tertiary education systems were free to the public, with no tuition fees. That changed in 2005, when the German constitutional court ruled that they had the right to charge tuition fees. Of the 16 German states, 7 choose to implement fees. These were light in comparison to other countries, however, and tertiary education in these states was still largely subsidized by the government. But, things have changed again and German universities are returning to their free statuses. Only Bavaria and Lower Saxony plan on continuing implementing any kind of tuition system whatsoever. It’s becoming apparent that tuition is only a temporary fad and will shortly die out completely. Germany’s 2 million university students have the Social Democratic Party to thank for leading the charge in not only Hamburg, but, in Baden-Württemberg and North Rhine-Westphalia as well.

One of the pro-tuition arguments has been the relatively high student-professor rate in German institutions, that being about 53 students per 1 professor. However, the number of professors employed in German universities has increased rapidly in recent years, rendering this point moot. To be specific, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, by as much as 8%. Another argument playing to potential budgetary issues has been that longer library hours should be secured. However, this again is another point rendered moot, this time by modern technology. Many institutions now offer their students online versions of their libraries in pdf form, which actually goes to decreasing future library costs. All in all, while there are some legitimate concerns about budgeting in the German university system, such as securing research funding to expand German sciences, these problems can be met just as easily with additional public subsidies. The German government is very cost effective in providing the entire country with a free tertiary education system, getting good results for only €36 billion. Perhaps, a little more investment wouldn’t hurt, as cash strapped students won’t be of much help in this regard, without taking out loans, which was part of the credit bubble that hurt other countries’ economies.

Germany’s New Energy Plan

Since Germany closed down a number of their nuclear power plants, with the intention of phasing out nuclear power altogether, following the Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, there has been a lot of debate. One of the hot button topics is how to provide energy to Germany’s population without nuclear facilities. Can it even be done, especially in a way that doesn’t compromise Germany’s commitments to reducing green house gases? While the answer to this is not yet known, and their nuclear program will still be functioning into 2022, according to current plans, one solution with a decent amount of potential has been put forward. The German government is currently debating whether to invest in coal power plants.

Why is this a solution with potential you ask. Normally, this would be infeasible, it’s true, since coal is a limited resource that would counteract current efforts to reduce green house gas emissions by 40% by 2020. However, there’s two special factors at work here in Germany’s case. Firstly, the Ruhr District in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen is rich in coal. It has been an industrial center since the early 19th century when Germany first started their industrial revolution. This fact would mean that while not a renewable resource for the country, it is an extremely abundant and easily obtained one. Also, interestingly, this proposal comes at a time when Germany is planning on closing its coal mines by 2018. If the proposal gets approval, then Germany’s coal industry will flourish, which will further boost their economy. The second factor at play here is that Germany invests heavily into green technologies. According to studies done by Siemens, German cities are greener than their counterparts elsewhere on the European Continent. Just take a look at Frankfurt, it’s green in every sense of the word! In 2006 the Germans broke new ground by creating the first coal power plant that emits no pollution. This is why coal can be promoted without compromising Germany’s commitments to the environment. The Germans already have 32 coal power plants, which are doubtless going to be converted and upgraded accordingly. The Ministry of Economics and Technology and Oliver Krischer of the Green Party have all come out in favor of the idea. They’re determined to make this work. Given this determination and German technical expertise, I have little doubt they will succeed in the matter, if they win the ensuing debates.

So this is the real question, then. Is Germany leading the way for the rest of the world on this issue? Is it full-hearty to switch to coal and abandon nuclear power? More and more countries seem determined to go nuclear every year, and renewable energy is still a work in progress to be sure, even in the countries that make up its best proponents. Perhaps, it’s still a little too early to tell; but, this is a bold plan and fortune favors the bold. Odds are good that future generations will talk of Germany’s green revolution like they talk of its old Industrial Revolution.

Chancellor Merkel congradulates South Sudan

Germany has just officially announced, via die Bundesregierung Online, that they recognize the world’s newest country of South Sudan, saying “Germany has already recognized the new country. We welcome the Republic of South Sudan to the international community of nations, as a new member, and look forward to cooperation.” The Speaker of the German Federal Government, Steffen Seibert, has also communicated that “Chancellor Merkel congratulates the new Republic of South Sudan and its president Salva Kiir for achieving independence today.” This is being called a “day of joy and great hope for the people in South Sudan.” The article goes on to state that independence is a big step towards the North-South peace process’s successful end.

 

The announcement can be found here.

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