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Experts for life

With its campaign "Experts for Life," Caritas wants to focus this year on the strengths of the elderly and their potential for society. Debates about life in old age are often truncated and tainted with negative portents, Franz Fink of the Catholic association criticized in an interview with this site on Tuesday.

"We want to contribute to widening the view of women and men in old age," said Prelate Peter Neher, President of the German Caritas Association. More than 80 percent of people in Germany wanted to remain in their familiar surroundings if they needed care, Neher reported at the presentation in Berlin. Cities and communities, as well as neighborhoods and parishes, are not sufficiently prepared for this, he says. Neher called for the creation of an appropriate infrastructure: with easily accessible stores, expanded public transportation and various forms of housing for the elderly. "We should enable a piece of home in the last phase of life," said Neher.The Caritas president also renewed the demand for financial security for people who care for relatives. Analogous to the parental allowance, there should also be an income-based care allowance, Neher said. The career break of up to half a year, which is currently possible by law, can only be afforded by certain income groups.

Spots on television, materials for church services

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“Urgent need for action”

The two major churches in Germany have urged politicians to act more decisively on reform tasks. The chances of overcoming the current "hard test" have not been exhausted, says a joint word of the German Bishops' Conference and the Council of the Protestant Church in Germany. "The urgent need for action will not tolerate any further omissions," they admonish.

They cite unemployment and demographic trends as major challenges. In the nearly 50-page document, the churches call on citizens to become more involved and are also critical of the role of the media.In the document, the churches urge basic attitudes that go beyond strategies for staying in power. Otherwise democratic institutions would be emptied. Politicians must break their "fixation on the present" and have the courage to pursue a long-term policy. The previous idea that all individual interests harmonized with the common good if they were left to the invisible hand of the market or the visible hand of the state was shaken. Churches see need for dismantling welfare state standards. At the same time, the text states that it is not about sweeping party and politician scolding. The goal is rather a common reflection on the common good. Exercising justice and solidarity must be a common concern of all democrats.

Parties welcome church word as indispensable and kl The major parties have welcomed the churches' democracy paper. SPD chairman Kurt Beck spoke of an "indispensable contribution to the democratic culture" of a free society. CDU Secretary General Ronald Pofalla called the Common Word "important and wise".Beck said the major churches were fulfilling their political-diaconal responsibility with their admonitions. The point that democracy is not a given, but must be constantly reshaped, is very important. Democracy needs strong democrats. SPD leader welcomes churches' recognition of difficulties in securing common good. Pofalla sees the document, "despite all the critical remarks addressed to parties and politicians," as an encouragement for a policy that names challenges and problems and does not obscure them. He said that it was necessary to implement unpopular measures as a matter of responsibility to future generations.

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“Not for the garbage can”

Food in a garbage can © dpa

When shopping, appetizing-looking fruit or grilled sausages tempt shoppers to reach for them. But much from the shopping cart ends up not in the stomach, but in the trash. This does not have to be, says nutritionist Ute Gomm and advises to buy with a sense of proportion.

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Polarizing the splitters

Representatives of the Central Council of Jews and the Central Council of Muslims are satisfied after the first top-level talks between the two associations. The meeting was "very critical and very constructive," both sides emphasize – and announce a continuation of the dialog.

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A cologne farce

After more than a decade of negotiations, a Cologne couple has withdrawn its pledge to donate an annex to the Cologne City Museum. In a statement published on Wednesday, the founders justified their withdrawal with the personal attacks against themselves, which had led to an enormous strain.

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“First casualties: tolerance and patience”

"In the Netherlands, we are witnessing a self-fulfilling prophecy," says Belgian author Stefan Hertmans. Due to the rebellion of the democrat Rutte against Turkey, he fears a radicalization of the Turkish population.

Interviewer: To what extent is the dispute that has been sparked between Turkey and the Netherlands part of the election campaign in the Netherlands??

Stefan Hertmans (Author): It is definitely a crucial part of the election campaign! Rutte, who has voiced the ban against the Minister of Turkey, knows very well that – if he had not voiced the ban – half of the population would go along with Widlers. We now feel an entire country in the grip of fear. A democratic politician like Rutte, does something that is incomprehensible especially for us Belgians. This should not be done. In one night, he may have radicalized and stimulated "pro Erdogan" half of the Turkish population in the Netherlands by doing so. He did that because he's afraid of Wilders.
Interviewer: That is, if Wilders did not exist, Rutte would not have taken such a hard line against Turkey?
Hertmans: I ame that. By nature, Rutte is someone who wants to control everything. Wilders is now in a situation where he has to do nothing. He can only laugh and be cynical.
Interviewer: Gerd Wilders' so-called Freedom Party, of which he is only a member himself, could become the strongest party in the Netherlands in Wednesday's elections. That sounds frightening at first. On the other hand, even if the party becomes the strongest, it will get at most 17 percent of all votes. Is Wilders party a little overrated?
Hertmans: This is a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. One prophesies it and it will come also in such a way, because one is afraid of it. This is the same force that is at work in France with Marie Le Pen. All the media are talking about it. That's why they are always in people's minds. In Belgium, for example, we have a party that is very separatist and wants to divide the country. Then we would have an independent Flanders – but what should we do with it?? That is nonsense. They say they are the voice of the people, but that's not true. Once you count the votes, it is only 22 percent of the population that is leaning towards them. The majority of the population does not agree with them at all. You can also see this with the "Trump scam" of the populists. They always say that they only visualize what everyone says and that this is common sense. However, this means that representation is greatly overestimated by these parties.
Interviewer: The Netherlands has long been considered a model of a country where many cultures get along peacefully and well together. Why has this changed?
Hertmas: I have only one explanation for this: the image we got abroad of the Netherlands as a progressive-open nation primarily referred to Amsterdam, Den Hag, Utrecht, Rotterdam – the big cities in the West. In the east of the country, on the other hand, have always been very conservative areas. Protestants are also still very conservative in these areas, rejecting some medical treatments, for example. This Holland we have not seen. It's a kind of "revenge movement" of people who felt oppressed by the left and progressives. So there is a rural-urban divide. Wilders himself comes from Venlo, the province of Limburg. You can see how his words roll over. Even people in Amsterdam are now saying, "We've had enough of the Turks," "We always thought they were emancipating themselves, but they're not doing it. Instead, they only radicalize themselves". There is just so much confusion that the first casualty is tolerance and patience.
Interviewer: What must happen now? What can we do to prevent these developments, the increasing nationalism in Europe, and xenophobia from getting worse??
Hertmans: That is a difficult question. I am a poet, not a politician. Maybe we need to defend again more what democracy means. And the dialogue on new thinking must be encouraged. The author David Van Reybrouk has written a book against the elections. He says the electoral system we have now can't change anything. Proper participation is no longer possible through the current system, in which elections are held only every four years. Citizens' initiatives can change that. There needs to be more discussion, more tolerance and more openness. This may sound naive, but there is no other way.