Divorced Homemakers Catch a Break

NOTE: This blog was originally published on December 6, 2012. It was revised for greater distinction between personal opinion and fact.

German divorcées of long-term marriages are given some flexibility on support payments that come with ending a union due to upcoming law provisions.

Newly developed legislation will be proposed to the Bundestag lower house of parliament to adjust divorce maintenance payments to accommodate married homemakers.

An article titled “Divorce Deals Should Factor in Marriage Length” from The Local states that post-divorce payments may be recalculated for stay-at-home spouses who likely have little to no income, depending on how long the marriage lasted. The provision intends to save housewives or husbands from taking on unmanageable fees from alimony, child support, and their own living costs after relying on their spouse for so long.

The idea of such a law seems reasonable and fair at face value, but I found it riddled with too much uncertainty to actually be effective.

For one, the lawmakers defending this provision seem biased to women facing divorce. The quotes in the article referenced complications that only housewives or stay-at-home moms might face. There seemed to be little to no concern for men in the same situation, aside from the author of the article, who makes effort to include the Mr. Moms out there.

Ute Granold, a legal expert for the Conservative Union parliamentary fraction told Welt am Sonntag newspaper, “We want [to make sure] that married women who got married a long time ago don’t fall into an abyss in case of a divorce.”

To add to that, “Bavarian state Justice Minister Beate Merk told the paper she wanted the new law to include a provision for divorced mothers with one or more children under 15 to clarify that they would not be expected to work full-time,” reads the article.

A sense of favoritism for the female partner seems apparent and this just doesn’t set well with me. From what I can tell, preferential treatment will be shown to women and mother divorcées when adjusting the maintenance payments in court. Judges may not take as much pity on a stay-at-home husband.

Of course, as a woman, I can see why there is less emphasis being placed on the male counterparts, but I am no proponent of double standards. If the law declares to uphold a “fair balance of interests,” then it should address and acknowledge both parties involved.

In the US, the basic guidelines for determining maintenance payments are: the standard of living established during the marriage, the length of marriage, the ability of the lesser-income spouse to support him or herself (and children, if applicable), and the conduct of both during the relationship. This comes from examining several states’ divorce laws, including my own state. Missouri’s Revised Statutes were last modified August 2012.

Now I’d assume the actual wording of the German divorce law is gender neutral, but when the officials upholding the law are so defensive of female homemakers, it makes me question their integrity.

Aside from the female bias, there’s the obvious question of “how long is long enough?” On what guidelines is the divorce system basing the length of time a couple is married? And on that note, why does the longevity of the relationship matter? If a newlywed abandons his/her job and livelihood to move for a new job their partner just got, and things don’t pan out after two years, why can’t the law apply to him/her as well?

These questions won’t likely be answered until the law is actually presented. I admit the this new legislation has hints of usefulness, but there are simply too many loose ends and uncertainties surrounding the issue for it to be immediately effective.

Comments to the article seem indifferent to the provisions as well—some in approval, and others in discontent.

Comments left by readers of The Local

 
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Buzzed in the Bio Lab

Note: This blog was originally published on December 5, 2012. It was revised on December 9, 2012.

Buzzed in the Bio Lab— German Students Brew Caffeinated Beer

German biology students have concocted a beverage to accompany that hangover from a “Thirsty Thursday” night and keep you sharp for class the next day.

According to an article from The Local, a website for Europe’s latest news and events, reports that 19 scholars from Munich Technical University’s Centre of Life and Food Sciences—Weihenstephan will present a variety of caffeinated beers to a panel of experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

The group experimented with yeast and food engineering to produce several extraordinary caffeine spiked beers, including: lemon-flavored, sweetened, and even one supposed to battle cancer. The brews are reportedly non-addictive and said to curb the drowsy feeling typically experienced after consuming beer. Attending class a little buzzed, but competent, might be a near reality for the day drinking college student.

German students creating caffeinated beer in lab, taken from The Local news site

The students made it to the final round of MIT’s Genetically Engineered Machine Competition, which would suggest that they’ve got quite a grasp on the benefits and risks of caffeinated beer, right? I’d like to think so, but research in recent years suggests otherwise.

A report out of Boston University’s School of Public Health states “there appears to be little or no protective benefit from the addition of caffeine to alcohol, with respect to the safe execution of activities that require sustained attention with rapid, accurate decisions.” This is no surprise considering the distribution and sale of certain caffeinated alcohols, like Four Loko, was banned in several states for a short time pending its reformulation to exclude caffeine.

The German biologists readily disclosed the advantages, as well as the hazards, in consuming their beers, which they haven’t even taste-tested for themselves yet. “There could be nasty micro-organisms in it, or the caffeine content could be far too high,” explained Volker Morath, one of the scientists on the team. “If it turns out to be potable, the group plans to make a batch of lemon-flavored and caffeinated beer for their own consumption,” reads the article.

Lemon-flavored or not, I’ve never been much of a beer drinker and I stray away from caffeinated beverages (coffee, dark sodas, etc.), so best of luck to those of you who might venture into this territory. With variations of caffeinated beer already on the market, I suppose the Bostonians at BU and MIT will have to battle it out over the uncertainty of such a drink.

Germany Casts Its Vote

Note: This blog was originally published on November 6, 2012. It was revised and edited for greater clarity and content on December 9, 2012.

The U.S. Presidential Election is here and the race is extremely close with President Barack Obama and opposing candidate Mitt Romney both maintaining 49% in recent polls. With American polls in a deadlock over who will win, sentiments around the globe are not nearly as unsure.

As a journalism student, I am employed at an ABC News station and constantly learning of recent election news. While in the newsroom today, there were reports on the magnitude of campaigning. As it turns out, America’s election has made it onto media homepages abroad such as “The Voice of Russia”, United Kingdom’s “The Guardian”, and German “Sueddeutsche.” The fact that international newspapers and media outlets dedicate website tabs to the 2012 U.S. presidential race highlights the importance that November 6th will bring. How many times have you seen The New York Times or The Washington Post add pages for the democratic practices of other countries?

Unlike their American counterparts, Germans have been relatively outspoken about their preferred candidate and policies. Since the conclusion of World War II, Germany and America have been in close relations on topics of foreign and economic policy. . A Washington Post article finds the association between the United States and Germany is based on concerns with the ongoing economic crisis in the euro zone that may soon enough take its toll on America too. Thus, this election holds a serious stake in the continuance of that relationship.

The article touches on why much of Europe is heavily weighed in favor of Obama. “Many European leaders have built alliances with the Obama administration that they worry would reset to zero under Romney, analysts say. The Republican challenger has pointed to Europeans as symbols of the big-government socialist state that he says Obama wants to build.”

An article from “The Voice of Russia” reports that 89% of Germans would elect Obama if they could. “The level of support for his policy is even higher; more than 90 per cent of Germans have acknowledged that they are satisfied with Obama’s policy course. Thus, we see that Obama’s approval rating in Germany is much higher than in the USA. Mitt Romney, the other presidential candidate is often linked to the administration of former Republican American president, George W. Bush Jr.”

Aside from that, Twitter is flooding with trends promoting Obama, but none referring to Romney. Two worldwide trends on Election Day were: #VoteObama and “My President is Black.”  The #VoteObama finds itself trending at the top of lists all across the world, including Germany and its most prominent cities: Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg.  #VoteObama is promoted and paid for by the Obama For America campaign organization, while the others are just happenstance.

Screenshot of Worldwide Twitter trends, taken on November 6, 2012– Election Day for the United States of America.

Screenshot of Germany Twitter trends, taken on November 6, 2012– Election Day for the United States of America.

 

GlobeScan/PIPA also conducted a poll between July 3 and September 3 to measure global preference for either candidate. The BBC published this poll and presented graphics showing the overarching popularity of President Barack Obama.

 

Screenshot from article published by the BBC, countries ranked by favor for Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney.

Screenshot from article published by the BBC, countries ranked by favor for President Barack Obama.

 

 

The poll was conducted throughout 21 countries and surveyed nearly 22,000 people among those countries. As you can see, the only nation to support Mitt Romney over Barack Obama is Pakistan.

From the looks of it, Germany, and the rest of the world for that matter, knows who they want to lead America for the next four years. Americans, do you?

Fiery Tensions in Greece With Merkel Visit

Greece’s distaste for German Chancellor Angela Merkel is no quiet-kept secret. On October 9, Merkel visited Greece for the first time since Europe’s economic hardships skyrocketed and the appropriately named Euro-crisis struck Greece three years ago.

Merkel’s visit sparked uproar throughout the streets of Athens in which glass bottles and rocks were thrown at police and security. There to “urge the country to stay the course on reforms and budget cuts,” Merkel was met with violent and dangerous objections.

Her hopes of solidarity with the nation seem short-lived following the protests. Even in light of the European Union lending more money to Greece, much of which will come from Germany, the Greek people opposed any more austerity measures.

Kipper Williams of the United Kingdom’s The Guardian newspaper depicts Merkel’s visit, in which she and a colleague are eating from a garbage can in Athens.

Greek authorities placed some 7,000 police officers on duty, including anti-terrorist units and rooftop snipers, according to Mirror News.

Police contain violent protesters in Athens.

Even thorough protection wasn’t enough to ward off hostile Greek rioters. Some dressed in Nazi uniforms to express their discontent with Germany’s colonial statutes. Banners read: “Merkel out, Greece is not your colony,” and “This is not a European Union. It is slavery.” Others burned swastika flags to affirm their stance against German oppression and bullying.

Protesters burn Nazi flag in anti-Merkel riots.

“Rather than bailing out Athens, Berlin is insisting on rigorous policing of the Greek austerity programme by a triple force from the commission, the ECB and the International Monetary Fund, an exercise never attempted in the eurozone,” says another article from The Guardian.

From what I can tell, Greece has dug its own grave. Germany has done its part to keep neighboring nations afloat. The reactions last week to Merkel’s visit got out of hand. There’s much to come in weeks following Merkel’s visit. My only advice—“don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

Germans are the Victim, Not the Villain!

The recent Euro Crisis has many of the region’s countries in economic disorder. Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and several others are floundering financially to stay afloat until the European Central Bank’s recently proposed solution kicks in.

On the other hand, Germany maintains its position as the largest economy in the Euro-zone. Some, namely Angela Merkel, might say that Germany is a flourishing country to be modeled after. One article, published online by The Guardian, discusses Merkel’s reasoning for why she wants to make the rest of Europe more like Germany.

Thus it comes as no surprise that Germany is still looked upon as a hegemony- hungry bully by its neighbors. As a result, the country faces slander and backlash even in its time of vast economic success.

It seems that Germany just can’t catch a break, despite its immense growth economically and morally, since the Potsdam Conference in 1945, which left Germany powerless and at the mercy of the Allied Powers.

Making Germans the villain seems to be an easy blame. It’s obvious in pop culture even today. Comics often depict unfavorable Germans as Nazis, simply because that is the image attached to the country.

Some fellow comic bloggers hold a similar sentiment:

Username, Finfangfool, posted a comment in a Comic Book Resources forum. He writes, “ I’m sick to death of Nazi villains. What more could you do, except to write individual soldiers in the German army during the Nazi’s reign as actual human beings instead of cartoonish caricatures of villainy? It’s also lazy as f**k. Because you can attack them and nobody is going to get offended…”

Below is a comic found in Greek newspapers about the current Euro Crisis, but with Nazi allusions.

More pictures can be seen here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2163159/Euro-2012-Angela-Merkel-cheers-delight-Germany-puts-Greece-Euro.html

You can see the “Euro” sign in the background placed on a red and white banner, as if replacing the Nazi symbol of the swastika. Furthermore, the armed persons in the comic resemble Nazi soldiers with their uniforms and armbands. The masked figure appears menacing and is clearly leading the group in harassing a civilian. This picture confirms that Germans are constantly associated with the dismal past of their country and wrongfully seen as a bully by the rest of Europe, in spite of its apparent progress since those times.

You’ll find that Germans also received the unfavorable end of the Euro Crisis resolution. The ECB and its president, Mario Draghi, supposedly brought the Euro Crisis to a close on September 17 by implementing a bond balancing strategy. Essentially, the ECB will buy more bonds from suffering countries to lower their interest rates, and sell more bonds of stable nations, like Germany, producing the opposite effect: higher interest rates.

Germans have had their fair share of punishment. Can we stop persecuting them for moving on from the past and becoming the successful nation it is, today?

German Comics: From “Kid’s Stuff” to Political Propaganda

I came across a reflection on Wright W. Wright’s book titled Comic Book Nation, which focuses on the growing culture of comic books in America and their influence globally. The piece is written by author Jennifer G. and can be found here:

http://www.class.uidaho.edu/pop/Comic%20Book%20Nation.htm

 

One statement caught my attention and sparked this post. She writes:

“Created by youth and for youth, comic books were a marketing phenomenon that began with a simple idea to expand upon pulp fiction and newspaper comics. Initially the books were given away as product advertisements. But as you’ll see, they took on a life of their own and grew into a cultural machine, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality.”

 

She mentions Wright’s visit to Germany at the age of nine. Upon his travels, he and his father were met by a guard who searched their car and confiscated the young Wright’s comic books.

 

The nature of this encounter illuminates the vast impact and unexpected transformation comic books roused in Germany. With the power to manipulate children’s imaginations—children who would someday grow to be soldiers for their nation—comic books proved to be a vital key to fostering nationalist views and political propaganda. Their drift from adolescent entertainment to adult persuasion was swift and, clearly a conscious effort.

 

Hans-Peter Dürhager, of the Goethe-Institut, explains in his 2004 blog post that comics, not just in Germany, but worldwide, had become a means of promotion during heavy Cold War times.

 

“In the ‘sixties, comic strip elements found their way into the pop art movement. In Germany, too, comics were no longer seen only as “kid’s stuff”, but were specifically directed at adults as well. At this stage comics became political as well. In conjunction with the student uprising and the climate of political upheaval in the sixties, a culture of biting, satirical comics arose.” You can read the rest of Dürhager’s blog here:

http://www.goethe.de/kue/flm/prj/kub/lit/en3951151.htm

 

And the trend didn’t dissipate with Cold War resolutions. Today’s German comics offer hints of political propaganda too, although they aren’t nearly as widespread (Dürhager). The Euro Crisis in Europe has ignited a new brand of propaganda fuel . My fellow blogger, Cody Smith, discusses further about Euro Crisis comics in his blog:

http://eurokulture.missouri.edu/?p=16388