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Archive for the ‘Germany’ Category

European Court Deals Blow to Stem Cell Research

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The battle first started when Greenpeace sued against German neurobiologist Oliver Brüstle, who had patented his method for the production of neuron precursor cells from human stem cells in 1997. The battle was taken from one authority to the next, being appealed in each round. Now Europe’s highest court has banned stem cell patents.

picture courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Human Embryonic Stem Cells

At first glance, this seems a reason to celebrate: While the necessity of private funding in science is obvious, patents on certain methods or cell types mean the privatization of certain lines of research, restricting the freedom of science and placing scientific progress firmly in the hands of private financial interests.

But the wording of the European Court makes it clear that this is not a victory for free science over private economic interests, but a victory of conservative values over scientific progress.

Single cells are deemed human.
The European Court has ruled that cells fall into the definition of a human embryo starting at the moment of their fertilization. The same takes effect even for unfertilized eggs that have been coaxed into proliferation by a transplantation of nuclei or other techniques.

So basically, they’ve ruled that single cells have human dignity to an extent that justifies protection by the law, and their reasoning boils down to the ever-failing argument from potential. They’ve put a gun to the head of European science, and pulled the trigger with a smile.

“the fruits of years of translational research by European scientists will be wiped away and left to the non-European countries. European researchers may conduct basic research, which is then implemented elsewhere in medical procedures, which will eventually be re-imported to Europe,”[…] said Brüstle. […]
Professor Austin Smith of the Wellcome Trust Centre for Stem Cell Research at the University of Cambridge, agrees: “This unfortunate decision by the Court leaves scientists in a ridiculous position. We are funded to do research for the public good, yet prevented from taking our discoveries to the market place where they could be developed into new medicines. One consequence is that the benefits of our research will be reaped in America and Asia.”

(source: eurostemcell.org)

The ruling has prompted outcries from scientists and organizations all over Europe. “This is a devastating decision which will stop stem cell therapies’ use in medicine. The potential to treat disabling and life threatening disease commonly using stem cells will not be realised in Europe,” said Professor Pete Coffey of UCL, London.
Such reactions are understandable, as the decision threatens too invalidate over 100 embryonic stem cell patents in Britain and Sweden.

The legal battle over the issue is expected to continue, as the European Court’s decision is not compulsorily binding to all European nations, but a guideline and interpretation of legal issues that the high courts of individual European nations are expected to follow and implement in their respective countries’ laws.

In an interview with the austrian newspaper Der Standart (link in German), Brüstle said he sees the verdict as a stigmatization of stem cell research in general: “In the end this isn’t about my patent, but a sweeping announcement: ‘What you’re doing is not moral’.”

Written by Phil

October 24, 2011 at 12:57

Pope Speaks, Germany Protests

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After some struggle and public controversy, the pope was allowed to speak at the Bundestag in Berlin. It was a small victory for him though, as over one hundred delegates chose not to appear as a gesture of protest.
I feel with them: For anyone with modern values it must be painful to watch Europe’s last absolute monarch speak at the very heart of our democracy – The pope is the head of the only western state that has yet to ratify the international Bill of Human Rights.

Anyhow, the ruling conservative politicians just couldn’t have that. And so they chose to initiate what I view as one of the most pathetic moments in Germnan politics of (at least) the last two decades: They filled the empty seats with extras.

Which, by the way, I think ought to have consequences. The absent delegates in this case perfectly fulfilled their function of representing the German public. Masking this fact to the media (as well as to the pope!) is to lie to the people they are supposed to represent, in order to make a guest feel welcome who is unwelcome to half of the people here.

Anyhow. Meanwhile, more than 20.000 people went to the streets, making their anger at this blatant disregard of our constitution known. Among the many groups reporting the protest were, among others, several Human Rights organizations, the “Black Block” of the left-extremist AntiFa (anti-fascist initiative) and of course numerous feminist and gay groups. Here’s some pictures:

The Pope’s reaction to the protests, of course, was consistently in line with his churches’ policy: He ignored them.

Written by Phil

September 26, 2011 at 00:45

Memories – Of My Father

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Going through a box of old stuff, my brother recently unearthed some really interesting stuff: An A4-sized sheet of paper with photographs glued to the front, and a text written by our late father on the back. The photographs date from roughly 1930 to about 1990 and depict my father’s father at various stages of his life. All of them are pictures neither of us had seen before. The text on the backside is entitled “Memories – Of my father” and was written by our dad on the day our grandfather died.
Reading it, for the first time in my life I realized that I know next to nothing about my grandfather. We’ve always been a rather atomic family. Relatives tend to live rather far away and contact tends to be maintained loosely. We did visit my grandparents when we were kids, but not too often, and almost never for more than a single day at a time. My grandfather died when I was 7 years old, and until then I had mostly stayed out of his room, which he only left for meals.
To a seven-year-old, he was an intimidating figure – a grumpy old man sitting in a dark and dusty room, tied to strange and noisy machines that seemed to serve the purpose of doing his breathing for him. This is what he looked like then, and how I remember him:
Paul Schaub

I never spared this man much thought – he simply didn’t play any significant role at any point in my life. Still, reading my father’s recapitulation of his life had me choking down tears. I’m not sure whether that’s due to the depressing facts of my grandfather’s life, or a reaction to the sadness of my father’s voice speaking from the old text. One way or the other, the summary of my granddad’s life is a story worth reading, so here it is:

Memories – Of my father Left: My Grandfather

Born on October 4th, 1921 in a well-off family, he spent a childhood that, according to his own account, was “happy”. With his brother he noshed on raisins and marzipan in his uncle’s Bread-factory, and was allowed to ride along in his beloved grandpa’s (the 7th German to own a Penny Farthing bycicle) Ford “Model T”.

The beginning of his adolescence concurred with the beginning of the Nazi-reign in Germany. Convinced as well as indoctrinated by the new ideology, he volunteered to serve at the warfront at the age of eighteen.

Chaperoned throughout his teenage-years by the HJ (Hitler Youth), he spent his youth in the trenches of a horrible war, and returned “home” in 1946 as a young man from russian war captivity – One bullet in his stomach, the lung penetrated by another, leg injuries, Frostbite, “Russian Periodontitis”, Malaria – without teeth of his own and plexiglass-implants below his knees instead of real bones. A physical wreck at the tender age of 25.

An iron will to persist, cheerfulness and humor (later also alcohol), were the sanctuaries that allowed him to forget his lack of physical ability.

Whether office parties at the post-war-employer’s, rounds of Doppelkopf (a card game) or simply with friends at a bar – with his blunt or sharp remarks, superficial or subtle jokes, his flat crudities or his fiery esprit he always was at the center of any social gathering. Somebody who made people laugh – and made them forget the surrounding debris and its causes, push it to the back of their minds at least temporarily.

He, himself a master of suppression, was considered a humorist, a blithe spirit, the life of every party – and liked that role. Nobody could or wanted to see his suffering, which he wouldn’t allow to surface for even a moment.

A new job, marriage, the birth of his son – the highlights of the fifties.

He lived without regard for his infirmity – which he put out of his mind, but which still existed. Whenever he spoke of scars or injuries, it was like he wasn’t talking about himself, but about entirely abstract objects.

But the suppression of reality did not enable him to endure the permanent burden of a life in the workforce. In his early forties he was as often certified sick as present at the workplace, and was signed unfit for work (or, as he called it, “broken”) before the age of fifty.

1975 his physician predicted that he’d have perhaps two, maximally three years left to live. 1978 he moved to the countryside in good spirits, hoping to be able to catch his breath in the fresh air and for an improvement of his condition. But nothing did improve.

His ailments didn’t get worse, either, but the chronic presence of his condition and the continuing, for him always surprising experience of his physical limitations increasingly wore him down.

The continuous intake of drugs and the accompanying side effects lead to an increasing loss of physical balance, which in turn was medicated with even more drugs (with side effects of their own). Even though he made fun of that essentially ridiculous loop with unbroken (gallows-) humor; the captivity in this vicious circle too exhausted a large amount of his strength.

Today, on February 10th, 1995, his strength is finally drained.

Written by Phil

May 16, 2011 at 22:46

Posted in Germany, Life

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Much Ado About Nothing

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My local catholics are playing dress-up again, walking the streets chanting and carrying candles. I left my window open for just a minute too long, and now my whole fucking room stinks of fucking incense. I am seething. Just what gives them the right to rub their silly rituals in my face like that?
If I’d run through public streets at this hour being as loud and producing as much smell, I’d be arrested within minutes. From noise pollution to disturbance of public peace, scandalization and what-not, I’d be charged with a variety of stuff and it’d end up being a very expensive prank. Plus, if I was wearing as silly a costume and a funny hat while annoying the shit out of people for no reason, I’d probably be put straight into the mental ward. And rightfully so, because that is where people who engage in this kind of activity belong. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Phil

November 14, 2010 at 19:34

Nazis Got Bitchslapped

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It’s the most uplifting news-story I’ve read in a while. The magazine Focus online reports that the German town of Riese, Saxony, changed the name of one of its streets. Allow me to explain why this event bears any significance at all: They changed it from “Mannheimer Straße” to “Geschwister Scholl Straße” (engl.: Siblings Scholl Street). For those who are not familiar with the latter name: Sophie and Hans Scholl were famous figures of the resistance-group Weiße Rose (White Rose) during the 1940ies and were executed in 1943 by the Nazi regime.
You’re probably still wondering. Some germans changed the name of a street to honour some prominent figures of the Resistance… so what?
And here comes the punchline: Housed in that street is the publishing house Verlag Deutsche Stimme (engl.: German Voice Publishing) and a good few other right-wing-extremist addresses such as the local quarters of the German Nationalist Party, NPD. All of them will have to print the names of some of the most well-known resistance-fighters onto their cards and letter-heads from now on. The only two who voted against the change of name were the two delegates from the NPD.

Fucking Priceless.

A Few Words On Hitchens and Wulff

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It’s a dark day. First, there is a new President of Germany: Christian Wulff. The Humanist Press Agency hpd aptly called him a “Wulff in a Sheep’s Guise”. As I reported before, he’s a religious nutbag in complete denial of the fact that his country is to more than 30% non-religious, and one of the worst conservaties this country has to offer.
So not only do we now have one of the most delusional presidents in the history of this country, the vote is also likely to produce serious instability within the ruling coalition.

The other piece of bad news is that Christopher Hitchens is appearently suffering from esophageal cancer. There is not too much information on this – Hitchens is keeping a private matter private. What he offers us is but a very brief statement :

I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice.

I have lost a family member to cancer. It is an ugly disease, and not an end that I’d wish for anyone. I hope for the very best for Mr. Hitchens – so the world may enjoy his great wit, common sense and eloquence a little longer.

Written by Phil

July 2, 2010 at 17:19

Germanys Foreign Minister: FHM’s #2 Unsexiest Woman 2010

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Guido Westerwelle

Schwesterwelle: Makes a Very Unsexy Woman

Meet Guido Westerwelle. He is Germany’s current minister of foreign affairs, the sate’s chief air-head, and general moron. I was delighted to find out that he almost won the title of this years unsexiest woman, an annual prize which is awarded by the men’s lifestyle magazine FHM. He is not the first male to be placed on that list, but he’s the first to get so close to the top of it.

This is not the first time Westerwelle has been target of ridicule due to his rather female demeanour – He has been given the nickname ‘Schwesterwelle’ (“Sisterwelle”) long before his official coming out in 2004.
Don’t get me wrong; I know very well it is a cheap shot to vote a gay man onto the list of the 100 unsexiest woman, but he deserves the ridicule. Not because he’s gay, not because of his pathetically squeaky voice, not because his demeanour. No, he deserves ridicule because he’s a moron that maintains but the weakest of links to reality. Read the rest of this entry »

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