FDR’s Coast Guard Denied Entry to Future Medical Visionary

(p. B12) Dr. Arno G. Motulsky, a former refugee from Nazi Germany who became a founder of medical genetics, recognizing the connection between genes and health long before mainstream medicine did, died on Jan. 17 [2018] at his home in Seattle.
. . .
“It was his vision to study how heredity could be involved in practically everything,” Dr. Francis Collins, a geneticist and the director of the National Institutes of Health, said in an interview. “The relationship between heredity and the response to drug therapy — nobody was thinking about that until he started, 60 years ago. He anticipated it decades before science made it possible to get the answers that he dreamed of.”
As technologies emerged to decode DNA, the fields that Dr. Motulsky helped originate came to the forefront of medicine, leading to improved diagnosis and treatments for a host of diseases.
. . .
Dr. Motulsky’s path to prominence began in harrowing fashion. He had been one of more than 900 Jewish refugees aboard the German liner St. Louis, which reached the Miami coast in 1939 but was turned away by the United States and sent back to Europe.
. . .
His parents tried to leave Germany with him and his younger siblings, Leah and Lothar, in 1939, before war broke out in Europe. In an account he gave to the Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics in 2016, Dr. Motulsky said his family had hoped to join his father’s brother in Chicago but headed for Cuba instead after hearing that a United States quota system was causing long delays in granting visas.
His father left first. His mother followed soon afterward, taking young Arno and his brother and sister with her aboard the St. Louis in Hamburg on May 13, 1939, bound for Havana. But Cuba refused to accept the refugees, as did other Caribbean countries.
“We asked to land in America, but were denied,” Dr. Motulsky said. “When we sailed close to Miami, U.S. Coast Guard cutters and planes shooed us off.”
Its passengers filled with dread, the ship headed back to Europe on June 6.
“Miraculously, a few days before we would have arrived back in Germany, four other countries — England, France, Holland and Belgium — each agreed to take one-fourth of the passengers,” Dr. Motulsky said.

For the full obituary, see:
DENISE GRADY. “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics 60 Years Ago, Dies at 94.” The New York Times (Tuesday, January 30, 2018): B12.
(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date JAN. 29, 2018, and has the title “Arno Motulsky, a Founder of Medical Genetics, Dies at 94.”)

German Energy Consumers Pay Double Due to Ineffective Solar Subsidies

(p. B1) BETZIGAU, Germany — Katharina Zinnecker’s farm in the foothills of the German Alps has been in the family since 1699. But to squeeze a living from it today, she and her husband need to do more than sell the milk from their herd of cows.
So they carpeted the roofs of their farm buildings with solar panels. And thanks to hefty government guarantees, what they earn from selling electricity is “safe money, not like cows,” Ms. Zinnecker said. “Milk prices go up and down.”
The farm has been a beneficiary of “Energiewende,” the German word for energy transition. Over the past two decades, Germany has focused its political will and treasure on a world-leading effort to wean its powerful economy off the traditional energy sources blamed for climate change.
The benefits of the program have not been universally felt, however. A de facto class system has emerged, saddling a group of have-nots with higher electricity bills that help subsidize the installation of solar panels and wind turbines elsewhere.
. . .
(p. B2) . . . renewable energy subsidies are financed through electric bills, meaning that Energiewende is a big part of the reason prices for consumers have doubled since 2000.
These big increases “are absolutely not O.K.,” said Thomas Engelke, team leader for construction and energy at the Federation of German Consumer Organizations, an umbrella organization of consumer groups.
The higher prices have had political consequences.
The far-right party Alternative for Germany, which won enough support in the recent elections to enter Parliament, has called for an “immediate exit” from Energiewende. The party, known by its German initials AfD, sees the program as a “burden” on German households, and many supporters have come into its fold in part because of the program’s mounting costs.
Julian Hermneuwöhner is one such voter. Mr. Hermneuwöhner, a 27-year-old computer science student, said his family paid an additional €800 a year because of Energiewende.
“But it hasn’t brought lower CO2 emissions,” he said. “It’s frustrating that we’re paying so much more, because the country hasn’t gotten anything for it.”
As a clean energy pioneer, Germany has not always seen the results it desired from its heavy spending.
. . .
. . . progress has been undone somewhat by the government’s decision to accelerate its phase out of nuclear power after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan. That has made the country more reliant on its sizable fleet of coal-fired power stations, which account for the bulk of emissions from electricity generation.
The country has yet to address the transport industry, where emissions have increased as the economy boomed and more cars and trucks hit the road.

For the full story, see:
STANLEY REED. “$222 Billion Shift Hits a Snag.” The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 7, 2017): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the title “Germany’s Shift to Green Power Stalls, Despite Huge Investments.”)

Costs Rise in Single-Payer Health Countries

(p. A25) As Democrats and other policy makers debate the merits of Senator Sanders’s proposal, here are a few important observations about international systems that they ought to consider.
First, a vanishingly small number of countries actually have single-payer systems. . . .
. . .
Some of the highest-rated international systems rely on private health insurers for most health care coverage — Germany’s, for example, is something like Obamacare exchanges for everyone, but significantly simpler and truly universal. The Netherlands and Switzerland have both moved recently to add more competition and flexibility to systems that were already built on the use of private insurers.
Second, single-payer countries have also failed to control rising health care costs. This is important, given that Mr. Sanders’s proposal was released without a cost estimate or financing plan. For historical reasons, many other countries started with lower levels of health care spending than we did. Several analyses have shown that this has almost nothing to do with higher administrative costs or corporate profits in the United States and almost everything to do with the higher cost of health care services and the higher salaries of providers here.
Although they started at a lower base — with, for example, doctors and nurses receiving lower salaries — countries around the world have all struggled with rising costs. From 1990 to 2012, the United States’ rate of health care cost growth was below that of many countries, including Japan and Britain. In 2015, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development warned that rising health care costs across all countries were unsustainable.behavior, more hotel rooms are available to individuals and families who need them most.”
Third, it is simply untrue that single-payer systems produce a better quality of care across the board.

For the full commentary, see:
LANHEE J. CHEN and MICAH WEINBERG. “‘Medicare for All’ Is No Miracle Cure.” The New York Times (Tues., Sept. 19, 2017): A25.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the title “The Sanders Single-Payer Plan Is No Miracle Cure.”)

Hitler Could Not Face Reality (or His Conscience?) Without Opiates and Cocaine

(p. C1) Given the sheer tonnage of books already devoted to the Nazis and Hitler, you might assume that everything interesting, terrible and bizarre is already known about one of history’s most notorious regimes and its genocidal leader. Then along comes Norman Ohler, a soft-spoken 46-year-old novelist from Berlin, who rummages through military archives and emerges with this startling fact: The Third Reich was on drugs.
All sorts of drugs, actually, and in stupefying quantities, as Mr. Ohler documents in “Blitzed: Drugs in Nazi Germany,” a best seller in Germany and Britain that will be published in the United States by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in April [2017]. He was in New York City last week and sat for an interview before giving a lecture to a salon in a loft in the East Village, near Cooper Union.
. . .
. . . the most vivid portrait of abuse and withdrawal in “Blitzed” is that of Hitler, who for years was regularly injected by his personal physician with powerful opiates, like Eukodal, a brand of oxycodone once praised by William S. Burroughs as “truly awful.” For a few undoubtedly euphoric months, Hitler was also getting swabs of high-grade cocaine, a sedation and stimulation combo that Mr. Ohler likens to a “classic speedball.”
. . .
(p. C4) “There are all these stories of party leaders coming to complain about their bombed-out cities,” Mr. Ohler said, “and Hitler just says: ‘We’re going to win. These losses make us stronger.’ And the leaders would say: ‘He knows something we don’t know. He probably has a miracle weapon.’ He didn’t have a miracle weapon. He had a miracle drug, to make everyone think he had a miracle weapon.”
Lanky and angular, Mr. Ohler quietly conveys the mordant humor that occasionally surfaces in his book, which has a chapter titled “High Hitler.”

For the full interview, see:
DAVID SEGAL. “How Hitler’s Henchmen Were Kept Hopped Up.” The New York Times (Fri., December 10, 2016): C1 & C4.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the interview has the date Dec. 9, 2016, and has the title “High on Hitler and Meth: Book Says Nazis Were Fueled by Drugs.”)

The book mentioned in the interview, is:
Ohler, Norman. Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich. Translated by Shaun Whiteside. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017.

Rat Ticklers Find Ticklishness Has Deep Evolutionary Roots

(p. A12) As Michael Brecht and Shimpei Ishiyama of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin point out in their report, tickling raises many questions. We don’t know why it evolved, what purpose it might serve and why only certain body parts are ticklish. And what about that disappointing and confounding truth that all children and scientists must grapple with: You can’t tickle yourself.
The researchers were also inspired by earlier studies. ” ‘Laughing’ Rats and the Evolutionary Antecedents of Human Joy?” published in 2003 in Physiology & Behavior, reported that rats would emit ultrasonic calls when tickled. Ultrasound is too high for humans to pick up.
. . .
The scientists found that tickling and play, which involved chasing a researcher’s hand, both caused the same ultrasonic calls and the same brain cells to be active. The scientists also stimulated those cells electrically, without any tickling or play, and got the same calls.
And they found that you can’t tickle rats when they are not in a good mood, something that is also true of people.
. . .
And the similarity of tickling in rats and humans is, Dr. Brecht said, “amazing.” They even have similar areas that are susceptible for unknown reasons, including the soles of their hind feet, but not of their forepaws.
That similarity suggests that tickling is evolutionarily very ancient, going back to the roots of touch as a way to form social bonds in the ancestors of rats and humans.
“Maybe,” Dr. Brecht speculated, “ticklishness is a trick of the brain to make animals or humans play or interact in a fun way.”

For the full story, see:

JAMES GORMAN. “When Tickled, Rats Giggle and Leap, Researchers Find.” The New York Times (Fri., NOV. 11, 2016): A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date NOV. 10, 2016, and has the title “Oh, for the Joy of a Tickled Rat.”)

Ishiyama and Becht’s recent report, discussed above, is:
Ishiyama, S., and M. Brecht. “Neural Correlates of Ticklishness in the Rat Somatosensory Cortex.” Science 354, no. 6313 (Nov. 11, 2016): 757-60.

The earlier paper mentioned above, is:
Panksepp, Jaak, and Jeff Burgdorf. “”Laughing” Rats and the Evolutionary Antecedents of Human Joy?” Physiology & Behavior 79, no. 3 (Aug. 2003): 533-47.

Another paper in this line of research, is:
Rygula, Rafal, Helena Pluta, and Piotr Popik. “Laughing Rats Are Optimistic.” PLoS ONE 7, no. 12 (Dec. 2012): 1-6.

Many Can Have Good Jobs, and Good Lives, Without College

SkillsGapApprenticeshipsGraph2016-09-30.jpgSource of graph: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) American employers struggling to find enough qualified industrial workers are turning to Germany for a solution to plug the U.S. skills gap: vocational training.

Two million U.S. manufacturing jobs will remain vacant over the next decade due to a shortage of trained workers, according to an analysis by the Manufacturing Institute, a nonprofit advocacy group affiliated with the National Association of Manufacturers, and professional-services firm Deloitte LLP.
While the Obama administration has invested millions of dollars to promote skills-based training, it remains a tough sell in a country where four-year university degrees are seen as the more viable path to good-paying jobs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said two-thirds of high school graduates who enrolled in college in 2015 opted for four-year degrees.
. . .
In Germany, roughly half of high-school graduates opt for (p. B2) high-octane apprenticeships rather than college degrees. One draw: almost certain employment.
German apprentices spend between three and four days a week training at a company and between one and two days at a public vocational school. The company pays wages and tuition. After three years, apprentices take exams to receive nationally recognized certificates in their occupation. Many continue working full time at the company.
The Labor Department said 87% of apprentices in the U.S. are employed after completing their training programs. Workers who complete apprenticeships earn $50,000 annually on average, or higher than the median U.S. annual wage of $44,720,

For the full story, see:
ELIZABETH SCHULZE. “U.S. Turns to Germany to Fill Jobs.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Sept. 27, 2016): B1-B2.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 26, 2016, and has the title “U.S. Companies Turn to German Training Model to Fill Jobs Gap.”)

Edgar Speyer Was Entrepreneur Who Created Innovative London Tube Infrastructure

(p. A13) Before World War I, Edgar Speyer headed the London branch of the German-based Speyer banking conglomerate. Among other things, he was a great lover of music. His mansion on Grosvenor Square was a cynosure for composers– Debussy, Elgar, Richard Strauss, Schoenberg–all of whom availed themselves of the luxuries of the house, playing or conducting their work in private performances. “We live even more elegantly than kings and emperors,” Grieg wrote, referring to the mansion’s suite of rooms for visitors.
Not all of Edgar Speyer’s interests were so ethereal. The British Speyer branch was a key source of railroad finance, and Edgar himself was best known for creating–in partnership with Charles Yerkes, a Chicago entrepreneur–the London tube system, with its innovative “deep-tube” design. Edgar persisted in expanding the system despite its precarious finances and for many years functioned as its chief executive.
. . .
The Speyer bank, Mr. Liebmann tells us, had roots going back to the 14th century, at the threshold of a long surge in international commerce. New forms of paper–bills of exchange, letters of credit and much else–allowed traders to leverage up their businesses quite remarkably. Over time, houses like those of Baring, Rothschild and Speyer shifted out of their traditional-goods trading for the higher volumes and higher fees available from trading just the paper claims. The Speyers were known as the leading investment and trading house in Frankfurt, Germany, usually ranked just behind the Rothschilds in the Jewish financial imperium.

For the full review, see:

CHARLES R. MORRIS. “BOOKSHELF; Second Only to the Rothschilds; Speyer banks funded the London underground, placed the first Union Civil War bonds in Europe and built the Madeira-Mamore railroad.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Jan. 26, 2016): A11.

(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date Jan. 25, 2016.)

The book under review, is:
Liebmann, George W. The Fall of the House of Speyer: The Story of a Banking Dynasty. London: I.B. Tauris & Co., 2015.

German Car Makers in No Rush to Catch Up to Tesla

(p. A7) When Elon Musk rolled out the new Tesla Model X at the end of September [2015], some grumbled that the Silicon Valley car maker’s all-electric luxury crossover was coming to market two years too late. It depends on who you ask. The Big Three German auto makers only wish they could catch the tail of Mr. Musk’s rocket.
I’m not talking about units sold, though Tesla’s target of 50,000 cars in 2015 is a respectable chunk of the global luxury-sedan market. But Tesla has taken more hide off German prestige and sense of technical primacy. I mean, the Model X was just rubbing their noses in it with those “falcon” doors, right? In executive interviews at the Frankfurt Auto Show any praise of Tesla was guaranteed to land on the table like a paternity suit.
. . .
I wonder if any traditional auto maker whose existence does not hang in the balance can ever have enough belly for the EV long game?
Even if the Germans had market-bound EVs in mass quantities, there is the concurrent problem of charging. As the estimable John Voelcker of Green Car Reports notes, the luxury incumbents have no plans to challenge Tesla on charging availability. Tesla has hundreds of charging stations in the U.S. and Europe and plans for hundreds more–all free to owners.
. . .
I am struck by the lag time. This isn’t about profit and loss but industry leadership. The Germans are headed where Tesla already is and, taking Frankfurt as the measure, they are in no great hurry to get there.

For the full commentary, see:
Dan Neil. “RUMBLE SEAT; How Tesla Leaves its Rivals Playing Catch Up.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., Oct. 10, 2015): D11.
(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Oct. 8, 2015.)

Madly-Recycling Germans Pay to Burn British Trash

(p. A1) MAGDEBURG, Germany–Each day, trucks roll into this city filled with the latest hot import from the streets of Manchester, England: garbage.
The destination is a power plant that makes a business of turning trash into electricity, or as it touts in a brochure, “spinning straw into gold.” The straw in this case is large, pillowy blobs of rubbish, neatly wrapped in plastic.
. . .
A waste not, want not attitude mixed with a national zeal for recycling has led to an awkward problem for Germany: It isn’t producing enough of its own trash.
Over the past decade, heaps of garbage-burning power plants and composting facilities were built throughout Germany as the country shut off all its landfills to new household trash. But instead of growing, as many thought it would, household-waste production flattened, in part because sparing Germans edged their already-high recycling rate even higher.

For the full story, see:
ELIOT BROWN. “Germans Have a Burning Need for More Garbage; Lack of garbage forces power plants to import waste; ‘straw into gold’.”The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Oct. 20, 2015): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 19, 2015.)

Cultural and Institutional Differences Between Europe and U.S. Keep Europe from Having a Silicon Valley

(p. B7) “They all want a Silicon Valley,” Jacob Kirkegaard, a Danish economist and senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, told me this week. “But none of them can match the scale and focus on the new and truly innovative technologies you have in the United States. Europe and the rest of the world are playing catch-up, to the great frustration of policy makers there.”
Petra Moser, assistant professor of economics at Stanford and its Europe Center, who was born in Germany, agreed that “Europeans are worried.”
“They’re trying to recreate Silicon Valley in places like Munich, so far with little success,” she said. “The institutional and cultural differences are still too great.”
. . .
There is . . . little or no stigma in Silicon Valley to being fired; Steve Jobs himself was forced out of Apple. “American companies allow their employees to leave and try something else,” Professor Moser said. “Then, if it works, great, the mother company acquires the start-up. If it doesn’t, they hire them back. It’s a great system. It allows people to experiment and try things. In Germany, you can’t do that. People would hold it against you. They’d see it as disloyal. It’s a very different ethic.”
Europeans are also much less receptive to the kind of truly disruptive innovation represented by a Google or a Facebook, Mr. Kirkegaard said.
He cited the example of Uber, the ride-hailing service that despite its German-sounding name is a thoroughly American upstart. Uber has been greeted in Europe like the arrival of a virus, and its reception says a lot about the power of incumbent taxi operators.
“But it goes deeper than that,” Mr. Kirkegaard said. “New Yorkers don’t get all nostalgic about yellow cabs. In London, the black cab is seen as something that makes London what it is. People like it that way. Americans tend to act in a more rational and less emotional way about the goods and services they consume, because it’s not tied up with their national and regional identities.”
. . .
With its emphasis on early testing and sorting, the educational system in Europe tends to be very rigid. “If you don’t do well at age 18, you’re out,” Professor Moser said. “That cuts out a lot of people who could do better but never get the chance. The person who does best at a test of rote memorization at age 17 may not be innovative at 23.” She added that many of Europe’s most enterprising students go to the United States to study and end up staying.
She is currently doing research into creativity. “The American education system is much more forgiving,” Professor Moser said. “Students can catch up and go on to excel.”
Even the vaunted European child-rearing, she believes, is too prescriptive. While she concedes there is as yet no hard scientific evidence to support her thesis, “European children may be better behaved, but American children may end up being more free to explore new things.”

For the full story, see:
JAMES B. STEWART. “Common Sense; A Fearless Culture Fuels Tech.” The New York Times (Fri., JUNE 19, 2015): B1 & B7.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date JUNE 18, 2015, and has the title “Common Sense; A Fearless Culture Fuels U.S. Tech Giants.”)

Justice on the Plains

(p. 71) “What are you doing here?” the judge asked again.
“I cannot talk,” Ehrlich answered, in his hybrid English-German. “This guard will stab my heart out.”
“You talk to me,” Judge Alexander told him. “Now what are you people here for? It’s the middle of the night.”
“Pit-schur.”
“What’s that? A picture?”
“Yah.”
An officer produced the picture that Ehrlich kept in his house–Kaiser Wilhelm and his family in formal pose.
“That’s a beautiful picture,” the judge said, then turned to the police. “Is that all you got against these people?”
“They’re pro-German. They’re hurting the war effort. Spies, for all we know.”
The judge turned to the Germans from the Volga. “How many of you are supporting America in the war?” All hands went up.
Ehrlich reached into his pocket and produced two hundred dollars’ worth of government stamps issued to support the war effort . A friend produced war bonds. The judge looked at the sheriff and asked him how many of his officers had war bonds or stamps. None.
(p. 72) “Take these people home,” the judge said. “If anything happens to them, I’ll hold you responsible .” They drove back in the freezing predawn darkness and released the men to their families at sunrise. A daylong party followed.

Source:
Egan, Timothy. The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006.
(Note: italics in original.)