People with disabilities and Corona: The forgotten children

At the beginning of the pandemic, children with cognitive disabilities received little attention. The challenges are enormous.

A boy plays in a center for autistic children in Gland, Switzerland Foto: Foto: Amelie-Benoist/picture alliance

BERLIN taz | At first, Ciwan didn’t understand why everyone wore a mask, says Berin Binici. “Now I can see that he misses school. Especially his class team. ”Binici is the mother of two children. Her younger son Ciwan is eight years old and has autism. Usually he visits a support center for physical, motor and mental development in Kiel.

In the pandemic, Binici, who works in the hospital, and her husband take turns looking after the children at home. During a phone call you can hear Ciwan calling in the background, Binici changes rooms in the two and a half room apartment. “Sometimes he’s really upset right now, like being thrown through a washing machine,” says the 42-year-old mother.

Social isolation, digital teaching, parental care – in the course of the corona pandemic, these topics were discussed a lot and controversially, but initially little consideration was given to children with cognitive impairments. They and their families are facing additional challenges in the pandemic: Not all children can follow digital lessons, social isolation can lead to a significant step backwards in learning and caring for children with cognitive disabilities can be particularly challenging for parents.

The back and forth between school closing and temporary opening confuses her son, Binici says. “While my older son is mostly lazy in lockdown, the change of day makes Ciwan very nervous. He’s very busy at home. ”The constant care for their children brought the parents to the limit at times.

Symptom of dealing with people with disabilities

Children at special schools were forgotten at the beginning of the pandemic, criticizes Ilka Hoffmann, board member of the Education and Science Union (GEW). This is a symptom of how people with disabilities are dealt with in society – regardless of the pandemic: “Responsibility is delegated to the special facilities. The people who work there take care of those affected and the rest of society has nothing to do with it. “

Those who are removed from everyday life are quickly forgotten. “For the special school teachers, the children were of course visible, but they were lost,” said the union.

“Our children simply do not exist in the perception of the ministry,” says the chairwoman of the GEW special education group in Schleswig-Holstein, Kerstin Quellmann. It is still often not clear whether the corona regulations announced for schools also apply to special needs schools. “The school administrators can happily interpret it themselves and are left completely alone with this responsibility,” she criticizes.

Quellmann, who is also the teacher at Ciwan, considers the home office to be simply impossible for parents of children with cognitive disabilities: “In my class, I don’t know a single student where the parents can do something other than looking after their child at the same time . “

Individual learning packages for every child

In Kiel, Kerstin Quellmann and her colleagues have therefore been trying since the beginning of the pandemic to make the situation easier for their students and their parents by providing packages with teaching materials. This includes: modeling clay, handicraft instructions, recipes and worksheets for learning to read and write. Depending on what corresponds to the development of the children. In the first lockdown, Quellmann personally brought the parcels to the children’s home, “to at least see them for a moment,” says the teacher.

Now many families don’t want her to come over for fear of an infection. The special needs school is therefore increasingly relying on digital offers: every morning at 8:45 a.m., the Quellmann’s class meets for a video conference. The team of teachers tries to replace the lack of social exchange.

“It’s really nice when one of the children comes to the video conference who isn’t there that often,” says Quellmann. “It’s always a huge joy for the whole class.” However, some children can only participate to a limited extent. Ciwan walk through the picture every now and then during the video conference and also notice the other children. The meetings on the screen are too abstract for him to participate properly. Without personal contact, it is difficult to keep in touch with children with cognitive disabilities, says Quellmann.

A child in her class only comes to the conference if the part-time mother is at home. She is particularly worried about another of her students. He seems very tense in the online meetings, in the background you can hear the screaming of the siblings. Some parents, on the other hand, did not dare to use video conferencing as a medium. “It now depends on the parents’ homes even more than before the pandemic, the gap is widening,” she says.

Existing problems intensify

Bernd Klagge from Bonn also describes the fact that parents of children at special schools are particularly challenged in the pandemic. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the IT specialist and father of a son with Down’s syndrome has seen a clear development in the digital competence of teachers at special needs schools. He also praised the provision of teaching material. However, “the commitment of the parents is required, because our son cannot do his learning tasks without assistance,” explains Klagge.

Corona intensifies existing problems at special schools for children with cognitive disabilities. Due to a lack of teachers, Klagge and the state parents of the special needs schools with a focus on intellectual development in North Rhine-Westphalia complain about a significant loss of lessons. A survey initiated by parents at 39 special needs schools in North Rhine-Westphalia with a focus on intellectual development showed that four to five hours of lessons per week had been canceled since the summer holidays – and that before the lockdown.

The students The range of special education classes is aimed at children with increased needs, for example because of cognitive or physical disabilities or learning difficulties.Country matter Depending on the federal state, there are different names for special schools as well as different types of special schools. Their focus can be: promoting learning, seeing, hearing, language, physical and motor development, mental, social and emotional development.

In December, parents published an open letter to the NRW Minister of Education, Yvonne Gebauer (FDP), to point out the dramatic loss of classes at special schools. In the letter, the parents demand an improvement in the staffing situation at special schools for children with disabilities and the possibility that children who are entitled to integration assistance can be supported by them with learning at home.

The extent to which the school attendants, who otherwise help the children individually with the tasks at school, also work in the private sector is currently regulated differently depending on the federal state due to hygiene regulations. The answer from Minister Gebauer announced to the parents has not yet been received. At least there are online meetings initiated by the ministry with representatives of different parent associations, reports Klagge.

Storage instead of educational support

The father is happy that pupils at special schools, regardless of age, are entitled to childcare while the school is currently closed. Depending on the staff situation at the schools, however, this is more of a storage to relieve the parents than educational support, says Klagge. “Our concern is of course that our children learn something.”

In a position paper, Lebenshilfe also emphasizes that children and young people with disabilities have the unrestricted right to education and support even during the pandemic. Pupils and their relatives should receive the necessary support for alternative teaching formats.

“Ultimately, you have to take money and resources into your own hands to solve such problems,” says Bernd Klagge. Education costs something and organizational shifting back and forth doesn’t bring any solutions. Ilka Hoffmann from the GEW joins these demands. The funds from the digital pact would have to be adapted to the special needs of learners with disabilities. In addition, all schools would need additional staff in order to provide all children and young people in the pandemic with educational opportunities.

“Creativity is required here,” says Hoffmann, “the short-term additional involvement of volunteers, students and freelancers on a fee basis could also be considered, for example.” Educational justice must mean keeping an eye on all children. Hoffmann therefore advocates more inclusion in mainstream schools, which in turn should offer more space for children in their diversity and with their different needs: “Only a well-equipped inclusive school system is crisis-proof.”

No criticism of the corona restrictions

None of the interviewees doubts that the contact restrictions are also important and necessary in special schools for coping with the pandemic. However, union member Quellmann lacks transparency about the infection situation in schools. In their opinion, the hygienic equipment for the teaching staff is inadequate. So far you have received two FFP2 masks. For their daily use in emergency care with children, some of whom cannot wear a mask for health reasons, this is insufficient.

Due to the social contact restrictions, there are also many points that have a particularly negative effect on children in special needs schools: “The pandemic reduces the already few contacts between children with intellectual disabilities,” says Bernd Klagge. “As a result, they take dramatic setbacks in development.” This is also evident in motor development, according to teacher Quellmann. She speaks of stunted muscles and unlearned movement sequences after the school closings last year. “We had to do a lot of construction work, and that will probably await us again now.”

Ciwan’s mother also knows that after the pandemic it will again be some time before her autistic son will contact the other children in his class again. That would have just started slowly before Corona. Nevertheless, Berin Binici also observed a positive change in the lockdown: “Ciwan speaks to us a lot more than before. Because people are talking more at home too. “


Classification by the Protection of the Constitution: Suspected case of AfD

The protection of the constitution has been investigating for two years, now it apparently wants to declare the party a suspected right-wing extremist. The announced lawsuits.

Attention, Alexander Gauland: The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has you in its sights! Photo: Kay Nietfeld, dpa

BERLIN taz | The Office for the Protection of the Constitution obviously wants to classify the AfD as a suspected right-wing extremist case in the coming week. The taz learned this from security circles. The secret service believes that right-wing extremists in the party are so formative that monitoring the party as a whole is justified. Intelligence means such as telephone surveillance or informants can then be used against the AfD.

Two years ago the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution classified the AfD as a test case. The right-wing extremist “wing” around Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz and the AfD youth were already classified by the secret service as a suspected case, one level higher. In March 2020, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution even declared the “wing” to be a full object of observation: it was a “proven extremist effort”.

The “wing” officially dissolved as a result. His supporters around Björn Höcke remained active in the AfD. Only co-leader Andreas Kalbitz was excluded from the party for formal reasons. Since then the question has been: How great is the influence of the right-wing extremists on the party as a whole?

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution has been checking this since the first classification in 2018 and gave itself two years – which are now over. The Federal Office is said to have submitted an approximately 1,000-page report to Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. It apparently stated that the former “wing” supporters continued to be influential in the party. At the beginning of next week, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution will meet for a round of officials after which the classification could be announced.

Checked for two years

The AfD had also founded a working group months ago to repel an observation by the constitution protection. In the event of a classification, she announced lawsuits against it. At the last federal party conference, party leader Jörg Meuthen spoke out strongly against right-wing extremist tones in his party. One last evasive maneuver – in vain.

When reporting the approaching classification, AfD boss Tino Chrupalla told the taz: “We will, as we have repeatedly announced, take legal action against it.” Party vice-president Stephan Brandner also emphasized: “Everything has already been prepared. We expected that. The protection of the constitution is used politically in the year of the federal election. ”The Brandenburg AfD is already taking legal action against their observation. On Tuesday she wanted to file an organ dispute with the state constitutional court and a complaint before the administrative court. As the regional association announced, an interim order is being sought to prohibit the Brandenburg Ministry of the Interior from reporting on the classification.

The Brandenburg State Association has been monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution since last June. The Thuringian secret service had previously classified Björn Höcke’s regional association there as a suspected right-wing extremist.


Patricia Highsmith 100th Birthday: Playing with Demons

Patricia Highsmith would have turned 100 on January 19th. She was an author who was convinced that anyone could become a murderer.

Patricia Highsmith in October 1989 at her home in Locarno, Switzerland Photo: Sophie Bassouls / image

She took the liberty of being angry when she wanted to. In their works anyway, but also, as many people have said, in real life. Patricia Highsmith is said to have made plans to murder her stepfather at the age of eight. Even as an adult, she made no secret of her obsessive aversions to all sorts of things and, above all, to many people.

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Although politically left-wing, she was anti-Semitic and racist at the same time. She didn’t like dogs, flowers, or children. She considered women to be inferior to men – but wanted them sexually. She tried men too, in principle would have liked to marry one and was even engaged once.

The pressure of conformity of the times must have played an enormous role in this agonizing self-search and search for a partner. An attempt to “normalize” oneself sexually with the help of psychoanalysis failed. No wonder, because 12-year-old Patricia already felt like a boy in the body of a girl.

Love relationships – mostly with women – Highsmith had many over the course of her life, many of which assumed obsessive traits. Stalking was also one of her bad habits. An encounter with a fascinating woman, whom she reenacted for a long time (and probably in vain) in real life, inspired the novel “The Price of Salt”, which she published in 1952 under a pseudonym. It was not until 1990 that it was reissued under its own name.

Mutual love hate relationship

That was still not a direct commitment to being a lesbian; but Patricia Highsmith has never gotten closer to an official coming-out.

Your childhood wasn’t easy. At first, the child Patricia, who grew up mainly with her grandmother, moved with mother and stepfather (her parents had divorced before she was born) from Texas to New York at the age of six. There, too, the mother, who must have had a rather restless personality structure, did not come to rest.

Frequent moves and partner changes also affected the life of the daughter, who had a strong love-hate relationship with her mother throughout her life. It was based on reciprocity: both women are said to have kept lists of each other’s misconduct.

Patricia Highsmith began writing in high school, but she also showed talent in the visual arts at an early age. At the renowned Barnard College she studied English literature as well as the subject “English composition”, ie creative writing, and then lived for many years with the help of regular work as a comic author.

Hitchcock filmed “Strangers on the Train”

She no longer needed to earn a living when, in 1950, after she had already written two other novels and never finished, her first novel was published. “Strangers on a Train” (Eng. “Two strangers on the train”) was a great success. The fact that Alfred Hitchcock immediately decided to film the material (with a princely rewarded Raymond Chandler failing to make a script out of it) ensured that Highsmith became famous.

However, she has continued to enjoy great fame as an author more in Europe than in the USA. In her home country she was more perceived as a genre writer; and since Highsmith’s novels, despite all the murders that take place in them, are by no means genre-conforming, the crime readership was more skeptical of their psychologically cryptic stories. Highsmith only found an American publisher for “Edith’s Diary,” which does not even have a murder, when the novel was already published in Europe.

The author lived in Europe from 1963, but moved every few years. A time in Italy was followed by four years in England, then 14 years in France, and in the early 1980s she moved to Switzerland. In Ticino she had a house built for her that looked so unwelcoming from the outside that a friend called it “Hitler’s Bunker”. In 1995 she died in her adopted Swiss home.

She wrote five Ripley novels

The most famous of Highsmith’s fictional characters is also American in Europe: The name Patricia Highsmith is not so closely linked to any of the other characters she invented as to Tom Ripley, the multiple murderer without morals who should not let go of his author. She wrote five Ripley novels altogether, whereby the shocking cold-bloodedness of the young Tom, who kills a friend in order to be able to assume his identity, is overlaid in the course of the other novels by the hardships that Ripley has to expose as an established killer and middle-aged art forger to defend his carefully constructed double life.

She thinks Ripley is “amusing”, said its inventor, and found his popularity (the material has already been filmed several times and is now also to become a series) very easy to explain: Ripley, who was only 26 in the first part, only dreams of the same things as other young people: having plenty of money, a bit of glamor and dolce vita. Other people were just reluctant to walk over dead bodies to achieve these goals. The author is said to have made fun of it, sometimes signing as “Tom Ripley”.

The Diogenes Verlag in Zurich, where the German translations of Highsmith’s books have been published for many years, have not only published new editions of several novels for the 100th birthday, but are also planning a first German edition of the author’s diaries as a special coup for autumn this year. In addition, a volume with early stories has just been published under the title “Ladies”, many of them also for the first time in German.

Literary cruelty

If you read all these stories in a row that Patricia Highsmith wrote as a very young woman (between the ages of 15 and 27), the later creator of the psychopathic Tom Ripley is not really recognizable in most of them. What is missing is the consistent literary cruelty that Highsmith displayed in her novels and which consists not least of all in the fact that she denies her readers any opportunity to identify with her less sympathetic protagonists.

The heroes of these early tales are different. There are not only “ladies”, but also a few men, but this gender distribution is also something special, because in her novels, with the exception of “Ediths Tagebuch”, Highsmith consistently uses male main characters. In these stories, on the other hand, a woman is even allowed to become a murderer (or at least harbor real murderous intentions) and thus at least temporarily abandon the function of a female appendage to a man. Another is a loving nanny and a dangerous pyromaniac at the same time.

However, many of the stories are more about turning points in the inconspicuous existence of their protagonists, such as the one about a capable middle-aged office lady who has to help the neighboring family in a crisis and cannot go to work for days, which finally gives her boss the opportunity understand how much she means to him.

The uncanny creeps in

One would hardly believe that this romantic secretary’s tale comes from Patricia Highsmith – just like the story of a secret couple who meet at lunchtime to hold hands intimately on a bench and are watched suspiciously by a woman from better circles. However, both texts reveal a very precise look at the peculiarities of American society in the forties.

The uncanny has already crept into other stories: For example, when the friendship between a man and a little girl is described, which suddenly loses all innocence when the man realizes what other people might think of him. And in “The Snail Researcher” you can find out (in very unsavory pictures) where it can lead to breeding snails at home and leaving them unattended for too long.

By the way, Patricia Highsmith pursued the hobby of snail breeding herself – and shares it with the protagonist of her novel “Deep Water”, which will certainly attract special attention again soon, because there is also a remake of it (with Ben Affleck in the Main role), which is slated to hit theaters this year. “Deep Waters” is about the hell that marriage can become – and about the monsters that may slumber in apparently cultured people.

Murder without scruples

The protagonist of this story also murders (and his wife’s lovers) without being morally scrupulous, and only regrets that he is unable to tell his six-year-old daughter about his terrible deeds: because the child with his still Unsettled Moral Compass is very disappointed that his father is not, as other children have heard, a murderer. For the little girl, a murderer is synonymous with the hero of a story.

This little girl’s name is not Patricia, but she is very similar: Beatrice. In this secondary figure of the only child neglected by her easy-going mother, traits of the author herself have entered. How much of herself is in the main character, in the educated, sophisticated publisher and psychopath Vic, who outwardly endures his wife’s antics with universally admired equanimity, can only be speculation.

But just reading this novel, which was written in 1957, in comparison with the early stories, makes it clear that Patricia Highsmith has come quite a long way to develop her consistently amoral narrative mode.

To quarrel with sexuality

It is certainly not too far-fetched to ascribe some income to her psychoanalyst (who was probably a man back then, in the early 1950s). It is true that he may not have succeeded in turning the young writer, who struggles with her sexuality, into a heteronormative, married average American woman.

But that the “talented Miss Highsmith” (the title of the Highsmith biography by Joan Schenkar) brought the demons slumbering inside her to the surface to be able to play with them literarily was possibly unintentional, but in retrospect but quite a beneficial side effect of that therapeutic treatment.


After Laschet was elected CDU chief: Merz steers in – a little

Friedrich Merz is now calling for support for the new CDU boss Laschet. For many delegates, however, that might come too late.

No beginning of a wonderful friendship: Merz and Laschet Photo: Michael Kappeler / dpa

BERLIN taz | Will Friedrich Merz still get the corner? At least he turned into this a little on Monday evening. Merz, who failed for the second time in the election as CDU chairman on Saturday, called on his supporters in a letter to support the new party leader Armin Laschet. The Union needs unity and good cooperation: “We have to fight together: for our convictions and our country,” says the letter that was emailed to all CDU members on Monday and is available to the taz.

Merz was just inferior to his rival Laschet with 55 votes in the election for chairman at the CDU party convention on Saturday. He had turned down a candidacy for the party presidium.

Unlike the third candidate, Norbert Röttgen, Merz had not initially said himself that he would now support Laschet, nor had he asked his supporters to do so. Both would have been signals that could have brought the split party together. Instead, shortly after the party conference ended, Merz let it be known on Twitter that he was offering Laschet to join the federal government as Minister of Economic Affairs, which the Chancellor immediately refused.

With this admission, Merz had caused incomprehension even among his most convinced supporters. Carsten Linnemann, deputy chairman of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group in the Bundestag and as head of the SME association something like a Merz-Ultra, told ntv that the Merz push had “more than irritated” him. In his letter Merz now writes: “I ask all delegates to take part in the final written vote and to give our new chairman Armin Laschet a strong vote. And then we go to work together. “

Have the letters already been sent?

For legal reasons, the delegates have to confirm the result of the vote in a postal vote. However, only Laschet’s name will be on the ballot paper. The result, which should be available on Friday, could therefore be a first mood test for Laschet. Merz had set the bar high in the run-up to the party congress: In the written election, the new party leader would have to reach more than 80 percent.

His request to support Laschet now could come too late for many delegates. The CDU had asked the delegates to post their election letter by 6 p.m. on Monday so that it would arrive safely at the CDU headquarters by Thursday evening. Many delegates should have voted long ago when they received Merz’s letter, which was attached to an email from CDU General Secretary Paul Ziemiak. According to information from ARD, this was on Monday evening around 9 p.m. What Merz is really aiming at with the letter and what he plans to do remains open.

In his letter, Merz goes on to say that a year ago the CDU leadership at the time proposed to him that he should contribute in a very specific way. “I was and still am open to this idea,” said Merz. “At the same time, I very much regret that irritations arose around my person over the weekend in this context.” He wanted to make it clear: “Even without an office, I will keep my promise to continue working for the party.”

In “this historic hour” of the corona pandemic, Germany should not be left to red-red-green experiments, Merz continued. If the party is not closed, Germany threatens “to slide into right-wing populism or green-left neo-socialism. Our country would be seriously damaged ”. Merz did not comment on the candidacy for chancellor or his specific plans.


Case Alexei Navalny: Logic of the Autocrats

Dealing with members of the opposition like Navalny is not a Russian specialty. In the long term, this weakens autocratic regimes.

Dealing with critics of the regime like Navalny is a long-term threat for autocrats Photo: Dmitri Lovetsky / ap

Russia’s actions against Alexei Navalny not only make fun of the rule of law. It also goes against the rulers’ own interests. Because nothing increases the effectiveness of an opposition more than its ruthless persecution. This persecution may ignore political opponents and condemn them to silence. But every day that an apparently innocent man spends behind prison walls makes him more of a martyr – and thus an even greater threat to those in power.

The dilemma that Russia is facing is inherent in the system, of course. An autocratic regime cannot act like an established parliamentary democracy. The latter can withstand systemic opposition well. A change of power at its head does not shake the foundations of the state, but is one of the rules of the game.

An autocratic system, on the other hand, must not allow its own leadership to be questioned. It strikes back so ruthlessly because a change of power is not part of the game, but the foundations of the autocracy are shaken and thus dangerous to the state.

Therefore the persecution of Navalny is not a Russian specialty. There are hundreds and thousands of women and men of the type of Navalny – in Belarus, China, Uzbekistan and other countries, but also in some formally democratic states whose governments are characterized by corruption and nepotism. For those in power here, deprivation of power is synonymous with their downfall.

In the short term, the imprisonment of those who criticize the regime will always benefit these leaders. But in the long run they are digging their own grave. Vladimir Putin’s administration can put Alexei Navalny in jail for ten years. The only thing she will achieve with it is to have created a role model. The result will be a hundred new Nawalnys who will continue on his way.


Condemnation of Alexei Navalny: fear of the Kremlin critic

The tense economic situation and the tough crackdown on Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny could give his colleagues a boost.

Alexei Navalny on Sunday in Berlin before his return flight to Moscow Foto: Mstyslav Chernov / dpa

Pathetic: That is the performance that has been going on in Moscow since Sunday evening. The Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny is sentenced to 30 days’ arrest in a fast-track trial; his arrest at Sheremetyev Airport followed the script of the Federal Penitentiary Authority (FSIN): retrospectively converting probation for violating conditions into three and a half years imprisonment – a plan that itself is following Russian law is legally questionable.

The foreplay was also instructive. Wnukowo airport besieged by security forces, dozens of arrests and a diversion of the machine for “technical reasons”. There is a surprising amount of fuss about an allegedly political nobody whom the FSB secret service, to speak to President Vladimir Putin, could have easily transported into the afterlife if he had been willing.

The demonstration of strength lets you look deep. There is obviously fear in the Kremlin, and for good reason. Even if Navalny were to disappear behind bars for years, the “problem” for the Russian government would not be over, also with regard to the Duma elections in September. On the contrary: In view of the growing resentment in the population, also due to a tense economic situation, the crackdown on Navalny could even give his fellow campaigners a boost.

The reactions of many Western politicians are as ritualized as they are helpless: the demand for immediate release and compliance with the rule of law. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas shoots the bird with his statement that Nawalny’s arrest is completely incomprehensible.

The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have called on the EU to give a clear response to Moscow. It is precisely these voices that should be taken seriously in Brussels. Anything else would mean a further loss of credibility and would be no better than what is happening in Moscow.


Corona protection in local transport: ban on speaking on buses and trains?

The federal and state governments advise on corona protection in local public transport. Transport companies consider a speaking ban to be useful in order to reduce the spread of aerosol.

Berlin U-Bahn at rush hour: Still very, very full Photo: Jochen Eckel / imago

BERLIN taz | A “speaking ban” on buses and trains to reduce the spread of the coronavirus – this is suggested by the Association of German Transport Companies (VDV). The association, in which 600 companies from public passenger and rail freight transport are organized, is critical of the introduction of an FFP2 mask requirement.

At the meeting of the Prime Ministers and the Federal Chancellor on Tuesday, in addition to the question of a night curfew to contain the corona pandemic, other nationwide uniform requirements for retail and public transport are on the agenda. The federal government has already clearly denied reports of the closure of local public transport.

Bavaria should be a model for new rules. There, customers in retail and on buses and trains are required to wear an FFP2 mask. These masks offer far more protection than simple cover. With the exception of cashiers sitting behind Plexiglas, employees in retail must wear mouth and nose protection inside, but not an FFP2 mask. In Berlin, on the other hand, employees in supermarkets have so far not had to wear any mask.

According to the VDV, the number of passengers in local transport is currently 30 to 40 percent of the usual volume nationwide. This corresponds to around 14 million trips a day. Overcrowded buses and trains are still not uncommon in rush hour traffic. It is true that a mouth and nose cover is compulsory on public transport, but the quality is not mandatory.

In Spain there is already the requirement of silence

The VDV does not consider an FFP2 mask requirement in buses and trains to be the right step. On the one hand, it is not possible to check whether passengers have the correct mask. In addition, protection might be lacking in other areas. According to calculations by the VDV, more than 100 million FFP2 masks would be needed per month if the Bavarian rule were to be extended nationwide. It is unclear what the supply situation is in Germany. The North Rhine-Westphalian Minister of Health Karl-Josef Laumann (CDU), for example, fears bottlenecks, while pharmacists are more likely to give the all-clear.

The VDV considers the ban on passengers in buses and trains to talk or make phone calls to be more sensible than an FFP2 mask requirement. “Avoiding conversations with each other and by telephone would be another way of reducing the spread of aerosols,” said VDV President Ingo Wortmann. In Spain, the government had already recommended in autumn to remain silent on buses and trains. The regional government of the Balearic Islands has now banned talking on buses and trains in Mallorca.

The epidemiologist and SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach considers an FFP2 mask requirement for public transport to be far more important than a “speaking ban”. “It is important to introduce the FFP2 mask requirement in public transport,” he told the taz. Lauterbach demands that poor people get free masks. He thinks it makes sense that people speak less on buses and trains, because much more aerosols are emitted when speaking than when simply breathing. In his opinion, it would be enough to hang up signs on buses and trains with a corresponding note and a request not to speak.

Upper limit for passengers

Health expert Lauterbach advocates introducing an upper limit for the number of passengers on buses and trains in order to further contain the virus. Traffic experts would have to set this limit, he said. The VDV rejects the introduction of such an upper limit. “That would stop the system from working,” said VDV spokesman Lars Wagner. Buses, for example, have to pass stops when the upper limit is reached or, if exceeded, could only start when passengers have alighted. So timetables are not to be adhered to.

The service union ver.di is also critical of an upper limit in local public transport. “We are dependent on the employees of the systemically important industries, it must be ensured that they get to work with priority,” said Ver.di Deputy Chair Christine Behle. Should the federal-state round decide on Tuesday, accompanying measures are required. According to ver.di, this includes priority for employees in system-relevant professions when traveling by bus and train during rush hour. In addition, additional money must be made available for hiring the necessary staff.


New social network Clubhouse: You can’t get in here

The audio platform Clubhouse is experiencing a hype in Germany. But the elitist access is not the only problem with the app.

This is how it looks – in the club Photo: Christoph Dernbach / dpa / picture alliance

In 2005, the futurologist Matthias Horx predicted: “In five years no one will talk about Facebook!” Today the network has 2.6 billion monthly active users. So you can say with a clear conscience that Horx was wrong with his prediction. However, if the name of another platform were used in his forecast, he would probably have been right. Because new social media regularly sprout up out of the ground, but very few succeed in establishing themselves. In 2018, Vero – True Social should be the new big thing, today nobody speaks of it anymore.

Now there is a new social medium that is experiencing a hype. There is nothing to read, see or like at Clubhouse. It’s an audio-only platform. Panel discussions or entertaining rounds of talks take place in the various rooms, while music is played in still others. As a user: in you can create rooms or join existing ones, silent listener: in being or speaking yourself. A hybrid form of live podcast and conference call.

The app was founded in March 2020 by Paul Davison and Rohan Seth with their company Alpha Exploration Co. from Silicon Valley. Last weekend she really made it to Germany. Its success is due not only to boredom in the pandemic, but most of all to its marketing strategy.

So far, only iPhone users can install the app, so a large number of smartphone users are excluded. You also need an invitation. Every user: in the Cloubhouse has the right to invite two more people. The fact that there are also many celebrities among the users increases the attraction.

A chat with celebrities

In the US, Paris Hilton and Oprah Winfrey were there early, in Germany you could meet politicians on Sunday: Christian Lindner or Dorothee Bär, the influencer Caro Daur or the Spiegel-Columnist Sascha Lobo entertaining. The idea is not new, but it works: the artificially limited access to the app makes it a topic of conversation. For everyone who was there, wanted to get in, or definitely doesn’t want to be part. The desire to belong to the “club” sometimes goes so far that users offer their invitations for 50 euros on eBay classified ads.

But before the platform has established itself, some problems become apparent, starting with data protection. If you do not allow access to your address book when you set up the app, you have to do so at the latest when you want to invite others. This also gives the group access to data from people who do not use the app themselves – a concept that is likely to violate the General Data Protection Regulation.

In addition, all conversations are recorded. According to the terms of use, this happens “temporarily and encrypted”, but if a warning occurs during the conversation due to a possible rule violation, the recording is stored until the warning evaluation process has been completed.

But not only the lack of inclusion and the lack of data protection are problematic, dealing with hate speech, disinformation and conspiracy theories is also problematic. Since the discussions all take place live, there are hardly any opportunities to document statements relevant to criminal law. While hate speech is one of the biggest problems with the successful platforms, one would have wished for better handling from a new platform than just the possibility for users to report violations or to block other users.

Extreme right-wing bloggers on Clubhouse too

Various US media have already reported Holocaust denial and racist and sexist statements that have been made on the platform. The Journalist Taylor Lorenz documented on Twitter, for examplethat right-wing extremist blogger Curtis Yarvin is one of the regular users of the app and has not been removed despite repeated racist statements. It is therefore also questionable whether the app in Germany can comply with the applicable laws regulating hate speech.

In many ways, Clubhouse will probably not be a better alternative to Facebook & Co. Despite everything, the hype is real: the app is still in beta, but is already valued at $ 100 million. It remains to be seen whether the app will catch on in the mainstream after it is opened to everyone and we will still be talking about it in five years’ time. In the past, platforms like Tiktok, which were initially used primarily by teenagers, were particularly successful. At Clubhouse they don’t (yet) come in. The club is only open from 18.


Arrest of Alexei Navalny: symbol behind bars

In a judicial farce, the Russian state sentenced Alexei Navalny to 30 days in prison. The regime involuntarily makes him a real alternative.

Supporters stand in front of the number 2 police station in Khimki, where Alexei Navalny is being held Foto: Maxim Shemetov/reuters

I don’t understand what’s going on here, ”says Alexei Navalny, who in his blue hoody looks diagonally into the camera, next to him is the Russian tricolor, a worn linoleum floor. It’s a video that his lawyer is circulating. She too does not understand what is happening in the police station number 2 in Khimki, a Moscow suburb. Like hardly anyone else in Russia.

One thing is clear: this is where the detention for the 44-year-old Kremlin critic is being negotiated. In the late afternoon the judge gives her verdict: 30 days arrest. The court meets directly at the station. “It is the highest level of lawlessness,” says Navalny. Journalists are not allowed to participate in the process that is declared public. Talking about a Russian constitutional state is “completely pointless” in this case, say several Russian lawyers.

After his return from Berlin the day before, the opposition politician was taken away by officials directly at passport control. For 14 hours, neither his lawyer nor his family knew where he was. He was not allowed to make phone calls, even though the Russian Code of Criminal Procedure gives those arrested the right to telephone calls.

However, in the Navalny case, the Russian state is not concerned with complying with any legal system. Here he no longer even maintains the appearance of a constitutional state including a separation of powers. Navalny’s arrest took place in “no man’s land”, the Muscovite had not even entered the country, and lawyers were not allowed to see him until shortly before the “trial”.

Russia doesn’t care about foreign countries

The session began without the accused or his lawyer knowing what the crime was. The allegation of violating probation requirements in a previous case should actually be decided on January 29th whether his conditional sentence will be converted to a real one. Now he should remain in custody.

Even by Russian standards, this judicial farce is unprecedented. For a long time, Russia has given nothing to opinion from abroad. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described the outrage in Germany, the EU and the USA over the arrest of Navalny at his press conference on Monday as a “diversionary maneuver for their own liberalism crisis”.

For a long time, the Russian regime pursued a tactic of attrition against Navalny. The authorities harassed him and his supporters, took them to court, but released Navalny – so as not to make him a martyr.

The attempted murder with the banned neurotoxin raised the anti-corruption fighter to a new level: Navalny became a world-famous politician. The state that is fighting him involuntarily made him an alternative in this state.

Struggle inside

Navalny has long ceased to be a “nobody” whom the Kremlin is trying to make him into with a number of “special operations”. For a nobody, flights would not have to be diverted or half the city would be cordoned off. This system is not certain of the stability that the Putin system propagates.

Navalny is not allowed to hold any political office, he has no registered party, and his approval ratings had recently fallen. But: Navalny is a symbol. For the fact that the rampant dissatisfaction of the people in the country will one day discharge. The Kremlin only knows the answer from the sledgehammer to this dissatisfaction. Navalny is a threat to Putin’s system because he is not afraid of this hammer.

Putin’s number one opponent consciously took the risk. The state had done everything possible to prevent him from returning to Russia. It is hardly possible to influence domestic politics from abroad – as shown by cases like Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Garry Kasparov.

Navalny decided to fight inside. It won’t be an easy one, especially since he’ll have to keep him behind bars. In addition, through arrogant demeanor and uncompromising attitude, he not only alienated some like-minded people, but also never managed to become a moral leader in civil society.

Departure instead of apathy?

However, recent events could trigger a process of politicization in Russian society. Some in the country are now even saying that his wife Julia could follow in his footsteps, following the example of Svetlana Tichanovskaya. The Belarusian went her political path through the imprisonment of her husband Sergei, who was arrested as a candidate for the presidency.

Julia Navalnaja wrote on Instagram on Monday: “We can handle it too, Lyoscha (nickname for Alexei). Everything will be fine in any case. “

The state is putting more and more obstacles in the way of the Russian opposition. Corona doesn’t even make meetings possible anymore, the people in the country are worried about their own survival right now. Indifference and political apathy are common.

The arrest of Navalny and the attitude of the state to be allowed to do anything, no matter how inhuman, dangerous to health, how clumsy, absurd and even illegal under Russian law the actions are, could change the course of society. An even more radicalized policy would be the result – especially in this year in which the parliamentary elections are taking place.


Refugee caravan heading for the USA: stopped in Guatemala

Up to 9,000 people have set out in a caravan from Honduras to the USA. Police and military took action against them in Guatemala.

Heavy military operation against the refugees from Honduras in Vado Hondo, Guatemala Photo: Sandra Sebastian / ap

OAXACA taz | The Guatemalan government leaves no doubt that it will not allow a migrant caravan from Honduras to travel through their country. About 50 kilometers from the border of the neighboring country, soldiers and police officers used tear gas and batons against the march on Sunday, in which around 6,000 people took part.

The Hondurans had previously tried to break a lockdown by the security forces. “Several migrants, members of the army and employees of the immigration authorities were injured,” reports Alejandra Mena, spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Institute for Migration (IGM).

With the deployment in Vado Hondo near the city of Chiquimula, the officers were able to stop the caravan, but thousands of women, men and children were still waiting at the barrier early Monday morning. More are on the way there. The IGM informed that only those who had a negative Covid-19 test were allowed to continue traveling.

At the same time, according to the authorities, 980 people were deported to Honduras by Sunday evening. Videos from journalists show that Mexican buses are also used for repatriations.

The goal: USA

According to the Guatemalan government, around 9,000 people have entered the country from the neighboring country in the past few days. Your destination is the USA. Even before the migrants left the city of San Pedro Sula last week, the governments of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras made it clear in a joint declaration that they would not tolerate “illegal immigration” and took appropriate measures.

The Guatemalan government had “prevention status” in order to maintain “citizen security and social peace” in the face of the pandemic. Police officers and soldiers were instructed to break up public meetings. In Mexico, 500 national guards marched on the border. Soldiers also patrolled the Rio Suchiate, which separates the country from Guatemala.

Despite the measures, around 4,500 migrants broke the border between Honduras and Guatemala on Friday. Since there were also numerous children among the travelers, no violence was used, said a police chief at the El Florido border post.

Should those involved in the caravan succeed in crossing Guatemala and overcoming the Mexican border, they will face another challenge in northern Mexico. Future US President Joe Biden, who will take office on Wednesday, has announced that he will no longer continue the repressive migration policy of his predecessor Donald Trump. Nevertheless, he called on those seeking protection not to come now. “The situation at the border will not change overnight,” he told NBC News.

After the Guatemalan security forces were deployed, the government of Honduras asked for an explanation. Guatemala must investigate how the unfortunate incident could come about, it said in a communiqué. The Guatemalan ombudsman for human rights, Jordán Rojas, also criticized the actions of the security forces. He recalled that the migrants had to flee their homeland from poverty and violence. In addition, two hurricanes that struck the country in November exacerbated the situation.