Poisoned opposition leader Navalny arrested in Moscow; Migrants stopped in Guatemala; Bobi Wine’s opposition party rejects Museveni win

Poisoned opposition leader Navalny arrested in Moscow; Migrants stopped in Guatemala; Bobi Wine's opposition party rejects Museveni win

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The World staff

Alexei Navalny and his wife Yuliastand in line at the passport control after arriving at Sheremetyevo airport, outside Moscow, Russia, Jan. 17, 2021. Navalny was detained at the airport after returning from Germany.

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Mstyslav Chernov/AP

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European students return to class; King Salman sacks Saudi commander; Hotel Rwanda figure arrested abroad

European students return to class; King Salman sacks Saudi commander; Hotel Rwanda figure arrested abroad

By
The World staff

Secondary school students play in the courtyard at the College Henri Matisse school during its reopening in Nice as French children return to their schools after the summer break.

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Eric Gaillard/Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news roundup written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

With summer break coming to an end, schools across Europe are reopening. Millions of school children returned to school on Tuesday, wearing masks but also eager to be acquainted with friends after a long hiatus. Many parents anxiously sent their previously home-bound pupils off to classrooms with more social distancing and sanitization than ever before.

In France alone, more than 12 million students headed back for mandatory in-person classes. First-day excitement carried more fear than usual, after the pandemic upended the previous academic year. “I know we are being careful,” said parent Jerome Continent in the Paris suburb of Roissy-en-Brie. “The children also have to live.” French authorities are reporting a bigger uptick in coronavirus infections than any neighboring countries. But officials are hoping that plastic shields around desks and omnipresent virus warning signs will stem the spread of COVID-19 among youth.

French schools can adapt in case of a surge in local coronavirus cases by limiting attendance for a few days or weeks and, in the event of a major regional outbreak, schools can close temporarily. The WHO warned Monday that though the virus remains a major threat, school closures have impacted children’s mental health and social development, particularly for those from low-income families, with disabilities or in an abusive home environment.

But experts say the risk depends on how widespread the coronavirus is in a community and what safety measures are taken.

What The World is following

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman has sacked the commander of his country’s troops in Yemen. A royal decree issued early on Tuesday and carried by Saudi state media referred Prince Fahd, also a member of the royal family, to an anti-corruption watchdog for a graft investigation. The intention, according to a letter from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was to probe “suspicious financial transactions at the defence ministry.”

Paul Rusesabagina, who helped hundreds of his countrymen survive the Rwandan genocide, was arrested on terror-related offenses, officials in Kigali announced on Monday. Rusesabagina was kidnapped while in Dubai, his daughter said. The good Samaritan has lived abroad for decades and became known as a regular critic of President Paul Kagame.

And French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo is this week reprinting cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, just as accomplices in the 2015 attack on its office are due to begin trial on Wednesday. That massacre, led by Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, left a dozen people dead, including some of France’s most notable — and controversial — cartoonists.

From The WorldFive years after migrant crisis, integration in Germany is succeeding, policy analyst says

Syrian refugee Anas Modamani takes a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel outside a refugee camp near the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees after registration at Berlin’s Spandau district, Germany, on September 10, 2015. 

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Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

Five years ago, German chancellor Angela Merkel made what would become a famous speech in which she reiterated that migrants and refugees were welcome in Germany.

“I’ll put it simply: Germany is a strong country…we can do this,” she said. Critics said this statement, which triggered a groundswell of xenophobia, would be her undoing.

But many of her critics’ worst predictions on Europe’s migrant crisis have not come to pass, says Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

It’s official: Women are better leaders in a pandemic

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern smiles during a news conference, March 13, 2020.

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Martin Hunter/Reuters

What do countries with the best coronavirus responses have in common? Women in charge.

And few could argue with the fact that New Zealand led by Jacinda Ardern, and Germany with Angela Merkel, have seen markedly low fatality rates from the virus. Taiwan, under the presidency of Tsai Ing-Wen, performed well, too.

A new analysis of 194 countries found that women-led nations have a better handle on the coronavirus pandemic. Not only were infection rates generally lower; average fatality rates were also noticeably lower, too.

Bright spot

Lego is rolling out new building blocks that aspire to be fun and playful in a slightly different way: Braille Bricks. They’re designed to help children who are blind or visually impaired learn the Braille system of reading and writing, where characters of the alphabet are represented by raised dots.

After a pilot program last year, Lego is launching the bricks in seven countries, including the United States, France, Germany, Brazil, the UK, Denmark, and Norway. There are plans to expand to 20 more countries next year.

The concept behind Lego Braille Bricks was first proposed to the Lego Foundation in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind and again in 2017 by the Brazilian-based Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind.

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Lego

In case you missed itListen: Historic flight between Israel and the UAE lands in Abu Dhabi

An official stands at the door of an Israeli El Al airliner after it landed in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020.

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Nir Elias/Pool Photo via AP

Direct Israel-UAE flight makes historic first. Plus, the US and four English-speaking allies have shared intelligence for decades through an alliance called the “Five Eyes.” Now Japan is lobbying to join in. And, a new report from international crime fighters Interpol has found that illegal plastic dumping has sharply increased in the last two years.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

Five years after migrant crisis, integration in Germany is succeeding, policy analyst says

Five years after migrant crisis, integration in Germany is succeeding, policy analyst says

By
The World staff

Producer
Daniel Ofman

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Syrian refugee Anas Modamani takes a selfie with German Chancellor Angela Merkel outside a refugee camp near the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees after registration at Berlin’s Spandau district, Germany, on September 10, 2015. 

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In 2015, hundreds of thousands of people were on the move from Africa, Asia and the Middle East, fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria and turning to Europe as they sought safer and more stable futures.

Germany took in more than 1.7 million asylum-seekers that year. And five years ago today, German chancellor Angela Merkel made what would become a famous speech in which she reiterated that migrants and refugees were welcome in Germany.

“I’ll put it simply: Germany is a strong country…we can do this,” she said. 

Critics said this statement, which triggered a groundswell of xenophobia, would be her undoing. They argued it would open the door to terrorism, right-wing extremism in politics, and general divisions within the German population and Europe overall. 

Five years later, critics’ worst predictions have not come to pass. And while Merkel’s popularity took a hit, it has risen again throughout the pandemic.

The World’s host Carol Hills checked in on what’s happened to Merkel and the so-called “migrant crisis” with Constanze Stelzenmüller, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who focuses on German and European foreign policy.

Related: Survey: Despite crisis, most Europeans still welcome refugees

Carol Hills: Constanze, bring us back to 2015, when Merkel made that statement. What was the situation at the time in terms of the migrant crisis?

Constanze Stelzenmüller: I was mesmerized by what seemed like an absolutely historical immigration challenge for Germany and mesmerized also by the generosity of the response. And I don’t just mean the chancellor’s memorable words — for which, of course, she was castigated — but I realized that many of my friends and acquaintances were trying to help out. This was people who had 24/7 jobs in national policymaking who were volunteering in refugee shelters, to the 82-year-old mother of a friend of mine, a retired gynecologist in the former eastern Germany, who said to her son, “Well, somebody is going to have to take care of these ladies,” and reinserted herself into the workforce. So there was a general atmosphere of people rolling up their sleeves and saying, “Let’s try and get to grips with it.” But it did, of course, become apparent that there were real problems with us as well. 

So what was the backlash, and how did Merkel respond? 

There was reasonable criticism by many, it has to be said, that, while, German civil society was responding in the sort of energetic and cheerful ways that I’ve just described, German government institutions seem to be much more overwhelmed, seemed to be faltering in addressing this challenge. And this gave a completely new breath of energy and malignant force to Germany’s populist parties, in particular the Alternative for Germany, a relatively small, mildly Eurosceptic party that had been formed in 2013 and that suddenly ramped up everywhere, based on really viciously xenophobic and ethno-nationalist messaging. There was a sudden and very serious groundswell of anger against Chancellor Merkel. There was a movement on the right wing of her Christian Democratic Party called MMW for short — Merkel Muss Weg, or Merkel Must Go — and for a while, it seemed as though that was going to muster a very serious challenge to her authority. 

How did she respond?  

Well, famously, she said, if we can’t accept that we are large and wealthy enough to handle this kind of a refugee influx, then this is no longer my country. That angered many, many people. And the truth is, five years later, we’re seeing that the worst of the predictions have not come to pass. We have not had significant foreign radical terrorist attacks. We have seen some immigrant crime, but my understanding is that immigrant crime numbers are below the domestic crime numbers. There are actually a great number of success stories. In other words, the integration of those who were eligible to stay because there were genuine political refugees, I think, is now a more or less unqualified success. 

Since 2015, how did Merkel’s approach to admitting asylum-seekers change?  

Interestingly, Merkel, who is a very canny, shrewd political operator, stuck to her guns saying, we can do this and we should not change our rules or close our borders. De facto, that is exactly what we did. The border closings really happened all across Europe and then Merkel negotiated a bilateral treaty with Turkey that amounted to a promise by Turkey to keep the bulk of Middle Eastern refugees in Turkey in exchange for billions of euros in economic support. So far, it seems to have worked, and the influx of new migration to Europe and Germany is much much lower than it was five years ago. Obviously, that also has something to do with the pandemic. 

Five years on, Angela Merkel won’t be seeking another term. She’s likely to be stepping down in 2021. How is she viewed in Germany today? Broadly, is she admired or just sort of tolerated? What’s the general sense of her?   

Merkel’s popularity went down in national polls when it became clear that this influx of a million or more refugees in 2015 would be much more difficult than everybody thought at the beginning. Now, five years later, we’re in the middle of a pandemic but Merkel’s popularity is greater than it’s ever been. It’s really interesting. I think that she will go out on a very high note. And by the way, she has said that she is not running again in 2021, and I think we have every reason to believe her. She is not needy, unlike many other politicians, and I think she will calmly go into the sunset. 

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

John Bolton: Trump doesn’t understand ‘the gravity of responsibility’

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The World staff

Producer
Joyce Hackel

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Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

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US President Donald Trump made controversial remarks Tuesday about the nature of a major explosion in Beirut. The blast has been blamed on several tons of ammonium nitrate stored in a warehouse in Beirut’s port.

But Trump indicated the explosion was an attack. 

“I met with some of our great generals and they just seem to feel that it was not some kind of manufacturing explosion type of event. This was a — it seems to be according to them, they would know better than I would — but they seem to think it was an attack. It was a bomb of some kind,” Trump told reporters at the White House on Tuesday.

This type of convoluted, often erroneous messaging is detailed in a book by Trump’s former national security adviser, John Bolton, released in June titled, “The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir.

The volume, published over objections from the White House, provides an insider account of Trump’s “inconsistent, scattershot decision-making process,” according to the publisher. Bolton was fired by Trump last September amid simmering differences on a wide array of foreign policy challenges.

The World’s host Marco Werman spoke with Bolton about Trump’s response to the Beirut crisis; his order to pull 12,000 troops out of Germany, and the geopolitical consequences of Trump’s decision-making style. 

Related: Nicholas Burns: Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history’

Marco Werman: Are you surprised when you hear your former boss make that sort of comment that doesn’t later align with what seem to be the facts on the ground?

John Bolton: I don’t think that the gravity of the responsibility really weighs on him that much. I don’t think he fully understands it. So, it’s perfectly natural that he makes comments like the comment about the destruction in Beirut, or saying that maybe Microsoft should pay a fee to the US Treasury if he allows them to proceed with the purchase of TikTok’s US assets, or what he said this morning in an interview that it could be years before the November election is decided and his earlier comment that maybe the election should be delayed. 

These are incredible things for a president to say. And whether they are motivated by his own personal interest or just an inability to discipline his comments, it’s still very disturbing.

Well, let’s come back to that in a moment, how he functions and behaves. I want to get to the troops in Germany and President Trump’s order to pull 12,000 of them. You said the decision showed “a broad lack of strategic understanding.” What do you think the president does not understand about these troops, about what they represent in that part of the globe?

If anything, we should be increasing our deployments in Europe and in different places because of the threat that Russia poses in Eastern and Central Europe and the Baltics. The president himself gave his reasons for moving these troops, over half of whom will come back to the United States. And it was to penalize Germany for our trade deficit with Germany and for Germany not making progress toward the NATO target of spending 2% of its GDP on defense.

Do you see that as a legitimate move, to pull troops to punish Germany?

Of course, it’s not legitimate, but it’s the way Donald Trump operates. He’s not able to in many, many cases to distinguish his own personal interests and feelings from the national interest. He sees them essentially as the same thing. So for him, it’s legitimate to do. And apparently his advisers were not successful in talking him out of that.

So, if Trump wants to reduce troop numbers, US troop numbers in Germany, where else is he thinking about doing that? In South Korea? There are more than 23,000 troops there.

Well, I think if he wins a second term and is free of the political constraint of having to be elected again or depending on Republican majorities in Congress, really it’s hard to predict what he would do. He has said in recent days that the number of troops in Afghanistan is going to go below even the 8,600 that he announced when he announced the so-called peace deal with the Taliban. I think his number was between 4,000-5,000. And that’s on the way to zero. I think that’s a huge mistake that causes real risk for the United States if Afghanistan returns to its pre-9/11 status under the Taliban as a host for terrorist groups who could strike us or our friends around the world.

This is not anything like a well-thought-out strategy, and it’s not necessarily going to happen all at because he doesn’t think systematically. But it’s indicative of what may happen if he succeeds in winning a second term.

So, just how the White House functions with Trump: Does he see others around him as being the ones responsible for grasping the geopolitical implications of big decisions and just giving him bullet points on his options? Or is it that he can’t grasp them? You wrote that Trump once asked if Finland was part of Russia.

Well, I don’t think he’s very well-informed. And I think that means almost automatically he doesn’t really see the bigger implications. But even more disturbing than that, he’s not especially interested in learning. What you expect from a president is that he will become familiar with the issues and the background in areas that were not part of his own personal experience so that his decisions can be as fully informed as possible. And Trump just shows no interest in that.

It’s, I think, demonstrated by his disdain, almost, for intelligence briefings and his feelings that his gut really is the place where the decisions are made. He sizes people up. He sees decisions in personal terms, doesn’t need extensive briefings, and he gets things quickly and he makes his decision. And, you know, further study really isn’t necessary.

He gets things quickly. Does he always get them right?

Well, no, of course not. And I think it’s dangerous to think that, let’s say, in connection with the nuclear talks now underway with Russia to decide what to do as the New START treaty comes to an expiration point next year, if he’s still in office, what his thoughts are on what the appropriate strategic weapons capability for the United States ought to be because he doesn’t study that either.

Do you view his response to the pandemic as a national security concern?

I do. I think he’s failed. I think he in the early days did not want to hear anything critical of China, even though NSC staffers and the Centers for Disease Control staffers in early January were sounding the alarm because he didn’t want to concede that the pandemic, as it turned out to be, could have a dramatically negative impact on the US economy and therefore his ticket to reelection. I think we’ve all suffered the consequences as a result. And you know, his attitude toward China, his rhetoric, at least now, is very harsh. The administration has taken some tough steps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he wins a second term. After the election, he’ll be right back on the phone with Xi Jinping talking about the trade deal.

And now the current national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, has tested positive for COVID-19. Does it surprise you that the virus has traveled that close to the Oval Office?

It doesn’t because I think they weren’t taking adequate protections. We have to hope it doesn’t spread further. You don’t want the top decision-makers of the country incapacitated.

Finally, you’ve said on several occasions that Donald Trump is unfit to be president. What do you mean by unfit? And where does that concern take you?

Well, I don’t think he fully understands the office or what it entails. He doesn’t consider the consequences of his decisions. He doesn’t proceed on the basis of philosophy or grand strategy or even consistent policy. And I think in the national security space, that’s very, very dangerous. I think the country can recover from the damage that Trump has done in his first term, actually fairly quickly. But I’m more worried about the corrosive effects of two Trump terms.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

The global implications of Geoffrey Berman firing; US and Russia start nuclear weapons talks; US targets Assad govt and backers with sanctions

The global implications of Geoffrey Berman firing; US and Russia start nuclear weapons talks; US targets Assad govt and backers with sanctions

By
The World staff

US Attorney for the Southern District Geoffrey Berman attends a news conference on the indictment of Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, David Correia, and Andrey Kukushnin for various charges related to violations of US federal election laws in New York City, Oct. 10, 2019.

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Shares in Turkish state lender Halkbank surged 8% today after US federal chief prosecutor Geoffrey Berman was forced to step down over the weekend. Berman oversaw an indictment against the bank which alleges the company used money service businesses and front companies to evade US sanctions on Iran. John Bolton, the former national security adviser, has claimed in his tell-all book set for release tomorrow, that President Donald Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that he would intervene in the case.

The firing of Berman, the US attorney for the influential office of the Southern District of New York, was the latest in a series of moves by Attorney General William Barr that critics say undermines the independence of the Justice Department over political benefits for Trump.

Berman’s office has spent years engaging cases that take on figures in Trump’s orbit and had been investigating Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s private lawyer and a central person in the president’s interest in Ukraine and subsequent impeachment.

What The World is following

Wirecard, the former German technology darling, said on Monday that $2.1 billion is missing from its accounts and was likely never there. News of Wirecard’s accounting problems rattled Germany’s financial industry. Wirecard is a payments processor firm for companies including Visa and Mastercard, and it is now looking at the sale or closure of parts of its business.

Representatives from the US and Russia started nuclear weapons talks today in Vienna. Envoys for the countries haven’t said much ahead of the meetings, but the talks may include negotiations over replacing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires in February. The Trump administration had repeatedly asked China to take part but Beijing refused.

And Verkhoyansk, Russia, a town north of the Arctic Circle in Siberia, may have recorded a new record heat temperature of 100.4 degrees over the weekend. If verified, the temperature would be the northernmost 100-degree reading ever observed.

Bolton allegations on Trump ‘as damaging as any in modern American history,’ says Nicholas Burns

Then-National Security Adviser John Bolton listens as US President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, DC, on April 9, 2018.

Credit:

Kevin Lamarque/File Photo/Reuters

Nicholas Burns, a former career foreign service officer, worked with the former Trump White House national security adviser, John Bolton. Burns spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about the most disturbing allegations in Bolton’s book, which comes out Tuesday.

US targets Assad govt and backers with toughest sanctions yet against Syria

A woman walks past a poster depicting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus, Syria, March 5, 2020.

Credit:

Yamam Al Shaar/Reuters 

The aim is to prompt the Syrian president to negotiate an end to the war that has lasted almost a decade.

Morning meme

K-pop fans claim that through the social platform TikTok, they were responsible for the rows and rows of empty seats at Trump’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, over the weekend. 

A supporter of President Donald Trump shoots a video with his  phone from the sparsely filled upper decks at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, June 20, 2020.

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Leah Millis/File Photo

In case you missed itListen: Celebrating Juneteenth amid global outrage over systemic racism

A child takes part in a rally as people march down Central Park West during events to mark Juneteenth amid nationwide protests against racial inequality, New York City, New York, June 19, 2020.

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Andrew Kelly/Reuters

Today is the Juneteenth holiday celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery. The World hears from an African American woman who moved to Ghana decades ago to escape racism in the US. Also, Former US ambassador Nick Burns, who knows former National Security Adviser John Bolton from his time in government, weighs in on the veracity of some of the claims in Bolton’s forthcoming book. And, one-on-one concerts are replacing full orchestral shows in Stuttgart, Germany.

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Love is blind: How Germany’s long romance with cars led to the nation’s biggest clean energy failure

Love is blind: How Germany’s long romance with cars led to the nation’s biggest clean energy failure

By
Dan Gearino

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Cars jam on the motorway A8 between Salzburg and Munich near Irschenberg, southern Germany, July 20, 2019.

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A longer version of this story was originally published by InsideClimate News.

The night before the leaders of the European Union met in Brussels in 2013, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made a phone call.

After more than a year of talks, the EU nations had agreed on a plan to slash greenhouse gas emissions from cars and trucks.

But Merkel, the leader of the largest and most economically powerful of those countries, had a last-minute change of heart.

In a call to Ireland’s prime minister, Enda Kenny, the European Union president, Merkel persuaded him to delay a vote on the transportation issue. Using threats to close auto plants in other European nations and promises to cooperate on other issues, Germany then lobbied its way to a plan with more favorable terms for its auto industry.

“It was, for everybody, shocking,” said Rebecca Harms, a former member of the European Parliament from the Alliance 90/The Greens party, who was representing Germany in Brussels.

Germany’s transition to clean energy has had successes that can serve as models for other countries of how to combat climate change. But one of the most important lessons comes from a failure: The nation’s decades-long unwillingness to cut emissions from cars and trucks.

Related: What Germany’s energy revolution can teach the US

From 1990 to 2019, Germany made substantial progress in reducing emissions from electricity production. But Germans’ love affair with cars and the auto industry’s political clout meant that during the same period, the country made almost no headway in cutting the transportation sector’s emissions, which represent about one-fifth of total emissions.

The German government repeatedly deferred to the auto industry, wary of doing anything that might affect manufacturing jobs in the country’s No. 1 export and raise prices for consumers. Whether in national legislation or with the European Union, the government long acted as an advocate rather than a regulator of these corporate giants.

The result was dissonance: Germany nourished wind and solar power and democratized its electricity system through local cooperatives. At the same time, it was burning gasoline and diesel with abandon. The failure to cut vehicle emissions was severe enough to derail progress on meeting climate goals for the whole economy.

Last summer, I went to Germany to see where the energy transition stood now. I did not expect that I would spend so much time talking about cars.

I learned that the struggle to cut auto emissions is Germany’s great unsolved problem, and the process of addressing it is just beginning, a shift that is at once cultural, political and economic.

The United States faces its own long-term challenges in cutting transportation emissions, and can learn from the German example.

“The bigger lessons are really in the failure stories,” said Jonas Meckling, a University of California, Berkeley, professor of energy and environmental policy, who previously worked as a senior advisor for the German environment ministry.

One lesson, he said, is that an energy transition is not monolithic. It is made up of a series of challenges, and governments need strategies for each major sector of the economy. But even more important, he said, the leaders need to build and then maintain public support for making changes in each sector. And that gets complicated in a country where the love of cars runs deep, and speed is almost a religion.

In an energy transition, a (large) oversight

Germany began its Energiewende, or energy transition, in earnest in 2000, led by Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and a center-left coalition of Social Democrats and Alliance 90/The Greens.

The new leaders made rapid changes, but they were focused on the country’s largest emissions source, the electricity sector. The moves led to a boom in renewable energy and an ability for local communities to control projects and benefit from them. The transportation sector, however, was almost ignored.

In 2005, voters gave the center-right Chistian Democrats a plurality in the parliament, led by the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, who would turn out to be a staunch defender of the auto industry’s interests.

German chancellor Angela Merkel stands next to a VW car during the opening of the Frankfurt Motor Show in Frankfurt, Germany, Sept. 14, 2017.

Credit:

Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Over the next few years, a pattern emerged, in which Germany did little at the national level to deal with transportation emissions and also worked to weaken rules being considered by the European Union.

In 2007, the European Union enacted its first mandatory emissions rules for vehicles, a plan that would have been more stringent if Merkel’s government had not successfully pushed to set the standards at a level amenable to Germany’s auto industry.

Those standards took effect in 2009, in the middle of a global economic downturn. Environmental advocates were pleased to see early evidence that mandatory rules seemed to be working in a way that voluntary rules had not.

And they were eager to get back to the table to update the rules and make them more stringent, a process that came to a head in 2013.

Dorothee Saar is head of the transportation and air quality for a prominent German environmental group.

Credit:

Courtesy of Deutsche Umwelthilfe

Dorothee Saar, head of transportation policy for Deutsche Umwelthilfe, a leading German environmental group, participated in more than a year of negotiations in which environmental advocates and auto industry representatives worked on the details with policymakers from member states, including Germany.

The deal they reached was a fair compromise, she said, with rules that were not as tough as environmental groups would have liked, but clearly a step in the right direction.

Then, out of nowhere, Merkel intervened. She phoned various heads of state to ask them to join her in pushing to reopen the negotiations.

Saar learned of the sudden change of plans from a newspaper.

“What a mess,” she said, remembering her reaction.

Merkel’s actions had short-circuited the regular process of EU law making. Reopening the negotiations, however, only led to minor changes to the agreement. Six months later, the sides agreed on a plan to impose tougher emissions rules by 2021 instead of 2020, with new provisions that would give automakers credit for electric vehicles that would count toward offsetting emissions for other models.

Harms, the former European Parliament member, now thinks Merkel’s actions affected the credibility of the process in a way that ended up doing much more damage than the changes to the policy.

In response to questions from InsideClimate News about Merkel’s role in the 2013 negotiations and the criticism that she has been too close to the auto industry, a spokesman for the Merkel government said the chancellor “maintains working relationships to all major sectors of the German economy.” He added that the EU rules for carbon emissions from vehicles, including those passed since 2013, set a “global benchmark.”

That Germany was a leader in supporting renewable energy but also an adversary of dealing with transportation emissions might seem contradictory. Yet, inside the country, it made sense.

“Our economy still is dominated by the mobility sector, mainly by the German automotive industry and the suppliers,” said Christian Hochfeld, director of Agora Verkehrswende, a Berlin think tank that focuses on clean transportation policy.

Transportation emissions, he said, are “the elephant in the room” when it comes to Germany seriously addressing climate change.

Auto manufacturers, including parts suppliers, employ more than 800,000 Germans, making the industry an economic powerhouse. Those numbers alone would be enough to wield political influence. But the industry also has plants in nearly every German state, giving it local and national power.

In 2015, though, this bedrock industry was about to squander its goodwill.

Deconstructing ‘Dieselgate’

The German government’s efforts to protect the auto industry included staying out of the way of the growth strategy of its largest automaker, Volkswagen.

In 2015, Volkswagen was eight years into a corporate plan to increase its annual sales from the 6.2 million vehicles it sold in 2007 to 10 million vehicles, a number likely to make the company the world’s leading automaker.

Volkswagen aimed to grow in the United States by competing in the SUV segment, and by marketing its diesel vehicles as good for the environment. The catchphrase for the company was “clean diesel.”

While it was true that Volkswagen’s diesel engines were fuel efficient, with low carbon dioxide emissions, diesel vehicles emitted high levels of nitrogen oxide, a major contributor to air pollution.

To sell diesels in the United States and meet air quality regulations, Volkswagen needed to install equipment to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. But this equipment also harmed the vehicles’ performance, making the cars feel sluggish when they were driven.

So the company cheated. Its engineers developed software that could detect when a car was driving onto a lab platform for emissions testing and would then engage pollution controls. On the open road, however, the vehicles spewed nitrogen oxide at levels up to 40 times legal limits.

The scheme might have gone undetected if not for a small group of researchers from West Virginia University that did tests of various brands and vehicles to see how emissions in the lab compared to emissions on the road. After several tests, it was clear something was amiss with the Volkswagen cars.

Volkswagen initially deflected, then blustered, accusing the testers of making mistakes. But the company had been caught, and the evidence continued to accumulate, exposing wrongdoing by other automakers, as well.

Merkel urged Volkswagen and other companies to fully disclose what they had done.

“I am just as disgusted with this deception as you are, with this cheating of customers,” Merkel said in a 2017 interview.

Longtime observers of German politics and business could see signs that the government and the auto industry were no longer in lockstep, setting the stage for another round of European Union talks about increasing vehicle emissions standards in 2018.

The negotiations did not play out as they had before. Other countries pushed harder for aggressive action, and were less deferential to Germany. The result was a compromise, but one that went further than ever before.

Under the new rules, adopted in December 2018, countries are required to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new cars by 15 percent by 2025 and 37.5 percent by 2030, compared to a 2021 baseline.

A change of heart

Volkswagen soon demonstrated that it was ahead of its government in recognizing that the future of the auto industry lay in electric vehicles (EV).

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess rolled out a new strategy in March 2019, announcing an increase in the number of planned EV models and a new goal of selling 22 million EVs in the next 10 years, up from the previous goal of 15 million in the same period.

“Volkswagen will change fundamentally,” Diess said at a news conference at the company’s headquarters. “Some of you may still be rubbing your eyes in amazement, but there’s no question this supertanker is picking up speed.”

Volkswagen CEO Herbert Diess speaks at a news conference in March 2019, announcing a major increase in electric vehicle production.

Credit:

Volkswagen

Germany’s other leading automakers, Daimler and BMW, also were increasing their emphasis on EVs. With the automakers moving in this direction, the German government was running out of reasons not to pursue national legislation to reduce vehicle emissions.

In December, Merkel’s governing coalition passed legislation designed to accelerate the country’s progress in cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Among its many provisions, the law included Germany’s first-ever carbon tax for transportation, which will increase the cost of motor fuels such as gasoline and diesel when it takes effect next year.

Breaking the chains

As bad as the Volkswagen scandal was, it may ultimately have saved the company and, by helping to enact more aggressive vehicle emissions rules, provided much-needed momentum for the German energy transition.

Christian Hochfeld is director of Agora Verkehrswende, a Berlin think tank that focuses on environmental issues related to transportation.

Credit:

Courtesy of Agora Verkehrswende

“Without ‘Dieselgate,’ the old management would still be in today,” said Ferdinand Dudenhöffer, an auto analyst and former director of the automotive research center at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany, “and they would still be just saying ‘We have the best diesels.’”

Hochfeld, director of Agora Verkehrswende, the Berlin think tank, added, “The diesel scandal broke a lot of chains between the policymakers and the car industry and it also broke a lot of chains between German people and the car industry, because they lost their trust and they lost their pride in this industry.”

Even Volkswagen can see that the scandal has led to positive changes.

“The diesel crisis, the scandal, was a loud and clear call for action,” said Ralf Pfitzner, Volkswagen’s head of sustainability, in a phone interview. “It’s now helped us to be at the forefront of electrification.”

Environmental advocates are cautiously hopeful that this change is enduring, part of a broader shift that could turn around what has been the greatest failure of the country’s energy transition.

Syrian officials on trial for war crimes in Germany

Syrian officials on trial for war crimes in Germany

The pandemic has led to delays for many cases across the country, but the court deemed the first criminal trial worldwide on Syrian state torture too urgent to postpone. 

By
Holly Young

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Syrian defendant Eyad A. hides himself under his hood prior to the first trial of suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, in Koblenz, Germany, April 23, 2020.

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Thomas Lohnes/Pool via Reuters 

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The first criminal trial worldwide on Syrian state torture began Thursday in Koblenz, a city on the banks of the Rhine in western Germany.

The pandemic has led to delays for many cases across the country, but the court deemed this too urgent to postpone.

Anwar Raslan, a former colonel, and Eyad al-Gharib, a former security officer. 

The two Syrian defendants, Anwar Raslan and Eyad al-Gharib, were arrested early last year — one in Berlin, the other near Frankfurt. Both are believed to have been officials in President Bashar al-Assad’s security apparatus before defecting from their positions and arriving in Germany as refugees, in 2014 and 2018, respectively.

Related: ISIS families held in Syrian camps face uncertain futures. Now, the coronavirus also looms.

The accused face charges of crimes against humanity commited between 2011-2012 — including murder and rape. Raslan, a former colonel and the more senior of the pair, is suspected of complicity in the torture of at least 4,000 people, 58 of whom died as a result, at a detention center in Damascus known as al-Khatib — or Branch 251. Gharib is accused of assistance to torture and murder.

The indictment from the court states prisoners of Branch 251 are believed to have suffered psychological and physical abuse — including beatings, electrocutions and being hung from their wrists — as well as inhumane and degrading conditions.

As joint plaintiffs, six Syrians who were detained and tortured at Branch 251 have the right to appear in court.

“They want to reveal the truth about this whole system. They want to make clear that everybody hears not only what has happened to them, but to others. They know there are so many others that cannot speak anymore because maybe they are afraid or still in detention, or have disappeared and died under torture.”

Patrick Kroker, lawyer representing witnesses and co-plaintiffs in the trial

“They want to reveal the truth about this whole system,” said Patrick Kroker, the lawyer representing witnesses and co-plaintiffs in the trial. “They want to make clear that everybody hears not only what has happened to them, but to others. They know there are so many others that cannot speak anymore because maybe they are afraid or still in detention, or have disappeared and died under torture.” 

Related: Can COVID-19 be contained in war-torn Syria?

Wolfgang Kaleck, general secretary of legal nonprofit European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) in Berlin, says putting two Syrian officials on trial is an important milestone.

“It is very significant because so far Western European countries did only arrest and prosecute those who were fighting in the various militias such as ISIS and others,” Kaleck said. “But to cover the magnitude of what happened in Syria in the last 10 years, we need to investigate the torture regime of President Assad.”

Alongside a network of European partners, civil society organizations and public prosecutors, Kaleck’s organization ECCHR has spent years gathering evidence and testimonies on Syrian state crimes.

The ongoing conflict and no prospect for justice in Syria itself were the main obstacles to prosecutions so far, Kaleck explained. In addition, efforts to put Syrians on trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague have failed. Syria is not a signatory to the ICC, and Russia and China have blocked attempts to refer Syrian crimes to the court.

Related: Analysis: Nine years on, we still dream of a free Syria

Universal jurisdiction, a legal principle that allows states to prosecute certain crimes even if they are committed elsewhere, has provided an alternative route to justice.

Germany enacted universal jurisdiction in 2002, and it is under this that the Koblenz trial is taking place. Universal jurisdiction is also behind a number of other ongoing criminal complaints regarding Syrian state torture across Europe.

Yet, the Koblenz trial shows Germany to be at the forefront of this legal wave, something Kaleck ultimately credits to the presence of a large Syrian community in the country.

Mariana Karkoutly, law student and member of nonprofit Adopt a Revolution, is one of many Syrians in Germany who have worked extensively over recent years to gather evidence of torture in state detention centers.

“There is a sense of [a] kind of justice that people can feel that can be delivered,” Karkoutly said. “I feel we are witnessing a historic moment.”

Karkoutly says Syrians like her living in Germany will be watching the trial very closely.

“Today, there’s an acknowledgment that this happened, and this is still happening. So, in this sense, I feel like it’s a moment of hope. … this could be the beginning of a long road towards justice.”

Mariana Karkoutly, law student and member of nonprofit Adopt a Revolution

“Today, there’s an acknowledgment that this happened, and this is still happening,” she said. “So, in this sense, I feel like it’s a moment of hope. For lots of Syrians who I interviewed, it was a moment of, ‘Yes, but this is not the justice we’re looking for. We want to establish justice in Syria.’ But this could be the beginning of a long road towards justice.”

Related: The world must step up to save Syrians displaced from Idlib

As a Syrian human rights lawyer, Anwar al-Bunni has spent the last three decades fighting on behalf of victims of state detention and torture. Now based in Berlin, he has worked alongside ECCHR in recent years. He believes the Koblenz case will go beyond the individual alleged crimes of the defendants and help build evidence of how torture has been used systematically.

“It’s not just justice for the people, it’s justice for Syria,” Bunni said. “These people here that are arrested are parts from the whole machine.”

Syrians back home will be carefully following events in Koblenz, he added: “I think all the Syrians now look for what happened against these criminals: many [are paying] attention; many questions we have.”

Kaleck hopes the Koblenz trail is just the beginning.

“We hope that the upcoming trial will be like an icebreaker,” Kaleck said. “[It] will put a new dynamic on the perpetrator, as well as on the victims side, so Syrians should see that the impunity will not be forever and President Assad and his regime will not be untouchable forever.”

High-profile Syrian war crimes trial opens; Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts; Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

High-profile Syrian war crimes trial opens; Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts; Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

By
The World staff

Syrian defendant Eyad A. hides himself under his hood prior to the first trial of suspected members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s security services for crimes against humanity, in Koblenz, Germany, April 23, 2020.

Credit:

Credit: Thomas Lohnes/Pool via Reuters

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Top of The World — our morning news round up written by editors at The World. Subscribe here.

Germany began the trial of two accused Syrian war criminals Thursday: Anwar Raslan, a former colonel, and Eyad al-Gharib, a former security officer. Raslan is the first high-ranking Syrian official in service of President Bashar al-Assad to face charges of crimes against humanity, and the trial is the first in the world to deal with state-sponsored torture in the Syrian war. The case will be decided by five judges, and is expected to take up to two years.

And in the US, the response to the coronavirus pandemic is “shaking fundamental assumptions about American exceptionalism” and the leadership role the US has played on a global scale since WWII. Former Ambassador Samantha Power will discuss with host Marco Werman on The World today. 

Also: In Central African Republic, a colossal struggle against COVID-19

Countries debate rescue packages, billionaires ask for bailouts

European Union leaders are debating a rescue package in the trillions of euros to protect the bloc’s single market. In the US, the House of Representatives will vote on a $484 billion package that would refill a loan program for small businesses and provide health care funds, but no money for state governments. 

In the UK, billionaire Richard Branson is asking for a bailout for his Virgin Group airline and hospitality company, saying he would offer his own Caribbean private islands as collateral. And the Trump Organization is seeking a bail out from the UK and Ireland for its European golf resorts. 

Also: Why major food and hotel chains are getting stimulus money meant for small businesses

Missouri sues China over economic coronavirus losses

The US state of Missouri is suing the Chinese government over the novel coronavirus pandemic. The state says China mishandled the disease and did little to stop its spread, leading to billions of dollars in economic losses for Missouri residents. But the legal ground for a US state to sue a sovereign nation is shaky. Experts question how far the case will get — and if resources are being diverted from other pressing matters. 

And: In shadow of coronavirus, China steps up manuvers near Taiwan

Narcotics dealers take hit during pandemic

The novel coronavirus pandemic has slowed cross-border trade across the world. One area that’s been hit hard? Drug cartels. Sourcing chemicals for drugs such as methamphetamine and fentanyl has been disrupted, and the bars and nightclubs that often serve as fertile ground for dealers are closed. And with supply limited, prices are soaring. “Virtually every illicit drug has been impacted, with supply chain disruptions at both the wholesale and retail level,” AP reports.

And: Keep critical food supply chains operating to save lives during COVID-19, urges new UN-backed report

Also: 4.4 million Americans sought jobless benefits last week, as economic pain continued across the United States

How science denial hampers the US response to COVID-19

Science denial in the United States has for decades fueled resistance to taking action on climate change. As a consequence, the battle to prevent its worst effects may already be lost. That same science denial continues today as the country fights to fend off or delay the worst effects of COVID-19.

And: How do you stop the spread of misinformation?

US and Mexico block children from asking for asylum because of coronavirus

A migrant child, who is seeking asylum in the US, wears a protective mask as he stands in line for food, amid an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the migrant camp of Matamoros, Mexico, April 1, 2020.

Credit:

Go Nakamura/Reuters

As the coronavirus crisis sweeps across the US, asylum-seekers stuck in Mexico have grown increasingly desperate, terrified for themselves and for the children they have in tow. An untold number have decided their children’s best hope is to try and enter the US alone, even if that means never seeing them again.

From The World: Xenophobia ‘takes its toll’ as Trump works to curb immigration

Also: Trump signs order pausing immigration for 60 days, with exceptions

Morning meme

Do you have trouble judging six feet of distance? This machine might be for you. #canttouchthis

In case you missed itListen: Europe takes tentative first steps to reopen

An employee places a sign as she prepares to reopen a shop after a partial end of the lockdown imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus in Berlin, Germany, April 18, 2020. Sign reads: “Please keep your distance! 1.50 meters to the next person.”

Credit:

Christian Mang/Reuters

In Europe, a number of countries are taking tentative steps to reopen amid the coronavirus crisis. The key concern is a relapse and no one at this point can be sure what will happen next. After almost a decade of civil war in Syria, two former Syrian government officials will go on trial in Germany. Also, from Afghanistan to the Philippines, Scotland, Serbia and more, environmentalists around the world are connecting online to celebrate Earth Day.

Don’t forget to subscribe to The World’s Latest Edition podcast using your favorite podcast player: RadioPublicApple PodcastsStitcherSoundcloudRSS.

How science denial on the political right hampers the US response to COVID-19

How science denial on the political right hampers the US response to COVID-19

Writer
Adam Wernick

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Science denial has led to delays in government responses to COVID-19 and climate change and eroded public trust in the very institutions we rely on to solve large-scale problems.

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Peter/Flickr

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Science denial in the United States has for decades fueled resistance to taking action on climate change. As a consequence, the battle to prevent its worst effects may already be lost. That same science denial continues today as the country fights to fend off or delay the worst effects of COVID-19.

President Donald Trump and several Republican governors delayed action and failed to heed the warnings of the nation’s healthcare science advisors, while leaders in other countries, such as South Korea and Germany, have taken more timely and successful actions.

A decade ago, Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard history of science professor, compared climate change denial to tobacco danger denial in her book, “Merchants of Doubt,” which was penned with Eric Conway and later made into a documentary film. The two then wrote a science fiction novel, “The Collapse of Western Civilization,” that explored a future where denial about climate science in Western countries kept them from responding to the climate crisis, while an authoritarian China did.

The argument about the role of government and its relationship to science remains tragically relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The irony, we believed, was that by delaying action on climate change, they actually made the problem worse and they increased the odds that the kind of government that they hate would, in fact, actually come to pass…”

“Eric and I had been talking for a long time about what we saw as a central irony in the story of ‘Merchants of Doubt,’” Oreskes says. “And that was that the people we were studying, the people we refer to as merchants of doubt, [believed they] were fighting to protect freedom, that they were defending American democracy, American freedom, and individual liberty, against the encroachment of big government. But the irony, we believed, was that by delaying action on climate change, they actually made the problem worse and they increased the odds that the kind of government that they hate would, in fact, actually come to pass, as we had to deal with the unfolding crisis. So, the idea was to write a story that would make that point.”

Related: Mutual aid groups respond to double threat of coronavirus and climate change

When countries experience a large-scale problem like a pandemic that doesn’t respect borders, a political system that centralizes power is better able to respond quickly than one in which power is more distributed, Oreskes says. “So, even though we might dislike centralized power in certain ways, there are certain kinds of problems for which centralized power is really important and may, in fact, be the only way to address the issue.”

Until fairly recently, Trump was unwilling to use the authority that he has, Oreskes notes. When the seriousness of the virus first became identified, back in January, he didn’t empower the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institutes of Health to mount a strong response. He also chose early on not to use such powers as the Defense Production Act to compel the private sector to manufacture ventilators, face masks or other necessary medical equipment.

“Now, three months in, he is finally doing that, and suddenly we see the private sector — GM, Ford — being enlisted to do this sort of work,” Oreskes says.

Oreskes believes Trump’s hesitancy stemmed, in part, from a basic conservative reluctance to enlarge the size and role of the federal government.

“Tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans will die — Americans whose lives could have been saved if we had acted more quickly and with more organization in the early stages of this disease.”

“In this case, the consequence of that reluctance is that the virus essentially went out of control,” Oreskes notes. “And now, tens of thousands and possibly hundreds of thousands of Americans will die — Americans whose lives could have been saved if we had acted more quickly and with more organization in the early stages of this disease.”

Conservatives have for 30 years been promoting the myth that there’s no way to solve problems like climate change without succumbing to totalitarianism, Oreskes maintains. But, “you don’t have to be a communist country to have an organized coherent response to a challenge,” she says.

Related: Coronavirus is changing how people think about fighting climate change

“The experience of South Korea, and to some extent Germany, as well, shows it’s not about being totalitarian,” she says. “It’s about paying attention to evidence, respecting facts, respecting expertise, and then mobilizing the resources that you have in line with what the expertise is telling you.”

What we’re seeing now in the US validates what she and Eric Conway predicted in “The Collapse of Western Civilization.”

“The idea that we were somehow protecting our freedom by disrespecting science — we’ve now seen how bankrupt that idea is.”

“Look at what’s happening now: We’ve lost huge amounts of freedom,” she points out. “The idea that we were somehow protecting our freedom by disrespecting science — we’ve now seen how bankrupt that idea is. I’m stuck at home and so are 200 million Americans. We’ve lost tremendous amounts of personal liberty, and we don’t know how long this is going to go on. We’ve also lost income. We’re seeing endless amounts of damage that could have been avoided if we had been willing to listen to and act upon the advice of experts.”

South Korea acted on the advice of scientific experts early on, whereas in the United States, “we have a president who has shown his utter disdain for and disrespect for science,” Oreskes points out. “He has been disdainful of the scientific evidence regarding climate change, he has been disdainful of the evidence regarding the safety of vaccinations against diseases like measles. And he is hostile to science.”

Related: What can COVID-19 teach us about the global climate crisis?

“Many of us … who do science, have been warning for a long time that if you undermine scientific agencies and the federal government, this will have consequences,” she says. “And now I think we are seeing those consequences in a very, very vivid way.”

In the 1950s and 60s, Oreskes notes, the federal government was not only putting a lot of money into science, but it was also “telling us a story about why science mattered.”

“Why did the American people believe in the importance of the Apollo program? It’s because we were told a story, a good story, a true story, about how science could help build America, how it could build our economy, how it could help build our educational systems and how we could do cool things like put men on the moon,” she says. “So, I think we need to recapture that commitment to science and to scientific institutions and to scientists.”

Equally important, Oreskes says, is to rebuild trust in government, Oreskes says. Science bashing has been linked in a direct way to a more general argument against the so-called “big government.” She believes Ronald Reagan’s slogan that “government is not the solution to our problem, the government is the problem,” has been “deeply, deeply damaging.”

“For 40 years, we have heard that argument made by political leaders on the conservative side of the spectrum, so much so that a lot of ordinary people don’t understand why we even have a Centers for Disease Control, much less why we really need to count on them now in this current moment,” Oreskes says. If the public is constantly hearing that government is bad or corrupt or inefficient, she adds, chances are they will begin to believe it.

“And the irony is that this can become true because, of course, if you put people in control of the government who don’t actually believe in governance, then they’re not going to do a good job in building the institutions that we need,” Oreskes adds.

“We have a lot of dysfunction in Washington, DC right now, and so people aren’t wrong,” she says. “People correctly perceive that Congress is dysfunctional, but that dysfunction is a product of 40 years of essentially anti-government policies.”

The coronavirus pandemic shows us why the country can’t wait until a crisis is upon us to mobilize the necessary resources, Oreskes insists. She uses military readiness as an analogy. Almost all Americans, she points out, accept the need for an army because we know that if we were to be attacked, we would be unable to mobilize an army overnight. “And we certainly wouldn’t be able to build battleships and airplanes and aircraft carriers,” she says. “We know that we have to do that in advance.”

“We have a notion of readiness when it comes to military matters, but many of us don’t have a similar notion of readiness when it comes to public health and medicine,” she maintains. “And yet, it’s exactly the same. If we’re not ready in advance, we will not be able to protect ourselves from a viral attack.”

If Oreskes were to write a story about how this particular crisis plays out, it would be a happy story about how it became a turning point and how, “because these issues became truly matters of life and death in front of our eyes, the American people began to wake up, and they began to realize that there’s a reason we have government and there’s a reason we have scientific institutions and there’s a reason why we spend money preparing for crises that may not happen.”

“[Similarly], nobody knows absolutely, positively for sure exactly how climate change will play out, but we know that climate change will play out and it will be very damaging,” she says. “And many of the kinds of damage that will occur, we can predict, even if we can’t predict exactly when or exactly where.”

This article is based on an interview with Steve Curwood that aired on Living on Earth from PRX.

Gunna – Order Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Don’t put me on no time, I ain’t late
Still rocking Balmain and Bape
Sit back and roll a whole eighth
Smoking that shit to the face
All colour coupes, different race
Skrt on a car, hit a gate
And seeing no slime with the day
Gon’ tell her we come from the eight
Stripper getting off, it ain’t waiting
Skrting off in the fast lane
Smoke a whole pack to the brain
Slide in that Bentley Mulsanne
2018 a new Range
Thumb through the check, ease the pain
Crack you a seal, pour a pint
He goin’ psycho, insane
Doing the shit that you can’t
Drip on your bitch like a saint
I dropped a stack on my ring
I’m ’bout to blow like a tank
Wire that shit to the bank
How much you want for that Wraith?
24 inches, and I’m finna skate
Rollie, Sky-Dweller the face
Getting them racks out of state
Put that lil’ bitch in her place

[Chorus]
I put them hoes in order
I put them hoes in order
I’m with them, blow a whole quarter
Diamonds is cold as water
Diamonds is cold as water
We’re tryna own the border
Already sold her off

[Verse 2]
Been got them racks in my Bentley
Stick shooting dice at the palace
All kind of coupes, came with gadgets
Young Gunna, he still living lavish
I treat these lil’ hoes like semantics
They stick to the king like a magnet
And suck up on me, call me daddy
Slept first, I’ll never forget it
You prolly’ didn’t know she was with it
She drip from her mouth to the titties
Had to move, ’cause you fucked that hoe silly
Designer, that shit gon’ be litty
You a hater, why won’t you admit it
I was (?) with percs in the business
With a verse, it gon’ cost you some bandies
I put them hoes in Germany
They tryna mow the milli’
My moms, she was old and stingy
Young nigga, I had to go get it
They wouldn’t let me hold the fifty
The clip put a hole in your kidney
She play with that nose, look like Whitney
And she hopeful for more than a penny

[Chorus]
I put them hoes in order
I put them hoes in order
I’m with them, blow a whole quarter
Diamonds is cold as water
Diamonds is cold as water
We’re tryna own the border
Already sold her off
I put them hoes in order
I put them hoes in order
I’m with them, blow a whole quarter
Diamonds is cold as water
Diamonds is cold as water
We’re tryna own the border
Already sold her off
I put them hoes in order
I put them hoes in order
I’m with them, blow a whole quarter
Diamonds is cold as water
Diamonds is cold as water
We’re tryna own the border
Already sold her off

Juice WRLD – Plug Lyrics

[Intro]
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug

[Hook]
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Yeah I met her right in the club
Like a [?], love
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Put my heart under the rug
Noone got to know
Noone got to know
Heartbreak, heartbreak, just another hole
Cupid keep on knockin’ at my door

[Verse 1]
I’m a let em in
Bad hoes, I’ma let em in, too
Ballin’ hard, like a letterman
You got me intoxicated, all the things that you do
Always had these complications when I’m lovin’ on you
Yeah, I care about your heart, you should to
You be tearin’ me apart, like you do
And I told you from the start, I love you

[Hook]
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Yeah I met her right in the club
Like a [?], love
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Put my heart under the rug
Noone got to know
Everybody knows, bitch you gotta go
Cause I said, so
Said, so

[Verse 2]
Laid up in the casket, thought it was your mattress
First we made love, then you made me die
You gave me your heart, and I know that it was plastic. Fake!
Everything comes back to Lucid Dreams
Next thing you know, you hurt me
I’m just tryna keep it on the lowkey
Pour a cup of Hennessy, my stomach turnin’
Feel it in my chest, straight working
Mix it with a perky, now I’m slurring
I’ma fuck a bad bitch, come from Germany
She be tryna judge a nigga, can’t [?]

[Hook]
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Yeah I met her right in the club
Like a [?], love
I found out that love was a drug
Now I need to look for a plug
Put my heart under the rug
Noone got to know

mishlawi – ignore lyrics

[Chorus]
Lord, when they call my phone I just press ignore
Couple A&Rs live on my front porch
They say that I’m almost on I tell them I know
Know oh oh oh oh

Lord, when they call my phone I just press ignore
Couple A&Rs live on my front porch
They say that I’m almost on I tell them I know
Know oh oh oh oh

[Verse 1]
My circle full
They thought that I need them but I’m cool
Taking my space up they better move
‘Cause if it ain’t this shit what would I do
Probably give it to her like she wanna
Hands up on her make her jaw drop
And the only time she running to me now
When she run and come and give me nana
I’m into getting my funds up
I got a bitch out in London
They don’t know just how much shit be ringing on me

[Chorus 2x]
Lord, when they call my phone I just press ignore
Couple A&Rs live on my front porch
They say that I’m almost on I tell them I know
Know oh oh oh oh

[Verse 2]
My circle full
Thought that they was special they confused
The truth is I don’t think I’m much like you yeah yeah
I ain’t no fool yeah yeah
I paid my dues on dues now they can kiss my ass
Remember when they would talk down its like now they be lucky if talking to me
Just came from Germany fresh off the flight after signing the deal of your dreams
I just don’t think you’d know
Quite how much they would call

[Chorus 2x]
Lord, when they call my phone I just press ignore
Couple A&Rs live on my front porch
They say that I’m almost on I tell them I know
Know oh oh oh oh

[Middle 8 2x]
Change, how could I change I’m used to me
Way, there is no way to cut these strings

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Brad Pitt’s Cousin lyrics

(feat. Xperience)

[Verse 1: Macklemore]
Slick shit man, that’s all we do
Hold up, little homie, let me talk my truth
Made an Instagram for my cat
And my cat doesn’t even rap
And got more followers than you
Hold up, let me get my cat a bar
She’s filthy, hey Cairo come here baby
(Meow) Now my cat’s more famous than you ever will be
I been hustling, you can’t tell me nothing
I’m Brad Pitt’s ugly cousin
But when you’re drunk at the wedding, still gon’ fuck him

[Hook: Xperience]
When you see me in the club
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Angelina show me love
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
You got me fucked up
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Like you don’t know what’s up
Bradley, he’s cuzo

[Post-Hook: Xperience]
All my Angelinas, if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas, if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas, if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas, if you got it let me see it

[Verse 2: Macklemore]
You’re embarrassed huh?
I’m in Paris, bruh
You brought your whole crew
I’m with my parents, bruh
Every white dude in America went to the barber shop
“Give me the Macklemore haircut”
Australia, they heard of me
Germany, they heard of me
Japan, they heard of me
It’s a murder scene, you gon’ learn some things
My dick named Ron Burgundy
I’m bad news with a pan flute
In a plaid suit, no can do
No, uh uh, I don’t work for free
I used to smoke that purple weed
Sip a bunch of purple drink
That shit did not work for me
And now I just sip herbal tea
I’m posted at the swapmeet in a robe eating Church’s wings
So cold, so cold, no emergen-C

[Hook: Xperience]
When you see me in the club
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Angelina show me love
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
You got me fucked up
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Like you don’t know what’s up
Brad, Brad, Pitt

[Post-Hook: Xperience]
All my Angelinas if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas if you got it let me see it
All my Angelinas if you got it let me see it

[Verse 3: Macklemore]
Did it by myself, not a little bit of help
Nobody, nobody did nothing, I knelt
On my knees, said “God, please give me a deal”
And God texted me back
“Don’t be dumb, young man, gotta do it yourself”
It’s up to you to turn the pen into a machete
And make sure that every beat that you meet gets killed
I treat the beat just like a pussy
And I eat it up and beat it up and leave it fucked
So you cannot compete with us
I’m weaving in and out of traffic
In the Cadillac, oh wait, is that us on the radio?
Wait, is that us on the radio?
It’s what I always dreamed of
Back when I had peach fuzz
Shoutout to the homie D
Who’s D? Deez nuts
I’m eating chicken wings and onions rings
If you’re wondering, yes, I does my thing
And another thing, no puppet strings
On the company, we sucker free
I ain’t trippin’ on what the public think
Ten thousand, we hustling
This shit didn’t happen overnight
This shit didn’t happen suddenly

[Hook: Xperience]
When you see me in the club
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Angelina show me love
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
You got me fucked up
Brad Pitt, that’s my cousin
Like you don’t know what’s up
Brad Pitt, Brad, Pitt

Young Thug – Me Or Us 2.0 Lyrics

[Intro]
…text anymore… so what’re you recording?
It’s a new song, I’ma let you hear a little bit
Play it

[Refrain: Young Thug]
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why

[Chorus: Young Thug]
Who you loyal to? Me or us?
Who you trust the most? Me or us?
Who you wanna fuck every night? Me or us?
Who you wanna take on your flight? Me or us?
Ow!

[Verse 1: Young Thug & Travis Scott]
You the one that said you were doin’ it
And you said you were doin’ it, you’re doin’ it, you’re doin’ it
You say that what you’re doin’, you’re doin’, you’re doin’
You told me that what, what you’re doin’, you’re doin’, you’re doin’
What you do?
If your brother left you, what would you do?
If them niggas came for you, you better pursue (watch out)
I just spent 10 racks on a dog from Germany, no Purdue
Oops, I meant Dupree, Jewelry sitting on a/c
Yeah, yeah, yeah
I wanna know, tell me lil’ baby, I wanna know
I wanna know
I got the show, fuck my show, be my show (what)
I got them loafs, I’m with Metro, he got some more (yeah, he got some more)
I don’t gotta talk, look at my jewelry, it can say more, hey (say more)
You smoke that kushy, man I’m so goody, I want some cookies
Fuck on your daughter, fuck on my brother, now she gon’ diss you
I got them racks, I was just buyin’, you was just lookin’
I bought her diamonds and she just smilin’, she think she’s tooken
But, this for the love of my fans
I’m smokin’ pot while in Japan
Blacker the berry, drink my cran
Bae you dig it and I’m the sand (dig)

[Bridge: Travis Scott]
Spotlights, it’s ’bout time
[?]
Some of the time, I try
Spotlights, spotlights
[?] of the time, I try
[?] of the time, I try

[Refrain: Young Thug]
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why

[Pre-Verse: Travis Scott & Young Thug]
Diamonds on me
[?]
Sometimes in plastic
I live life in plastic
I live life in plastic
So drastic, live life in plastic
Live life in plastic, plastic
Yeah
[?]
Ow!

[Verse 2: Travis Scott & Young Thug]
Coated, leather, tatted, trashed
Savage, bastard, and it’s, magic
Masses, gonna, [?], brightest
Fattest, [?] somehow it ended
Drastic, fuck it, red-light, [?] whip it
Dramatic forty
Drastic, fuck it
Oh, drastic, fuck me
She know she give me what she [?]
I push that button an’ she go
She said to work lil’ nigga nose
With that big-body Benz, I need [?] friends
I learned [?], I put ice in my rims
I got a brown girl, I’m ’bout to call her Timbs
She went from lesbian to me ’cause she know I got Ms (ow)
I had some [?], I gave that to my partner ‘n ’em

[Refrain: Young Thug]
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why
Well this is why-a-why-a-why

Gucci Mane – Members Only

[Intro]
Honorable C-Note
Wizop

[Verse 1]
Fresher than a bitch
Hit the mall for the fit
And we fucking standing up
I’m standing tall in you bitch
I send them bullets at you nigga
I jump wall at you clique
When them shooters get them (pew pew)
Niggas calling the quits
Niggas running ducking falling and shit
Dont get involved with this shit
Because we all with this shit
Well I’m ballin’ I’m super lit
My net worth, I quadrupled it
This groupie chick so super thick
I might buy her new Louboutins
Ludacris, never sold dope I did it was lucrative
All these P’s, I’m cooking in
I never be broke again
I’ts a lot of yankees tryna live the life that Gucci live
They ain’t beat a murder charge or killed them folks that Gucci killed

[Hook]
This for killers only, yeah this for the homies
Drug dealers only, yeah this members only
Trap niggas only yeah rich niggas only
This for killers only, yeah this for the homies
Drug dealers only, yeah this members only
Trap niggas only yeah rich niggas only
Bad bitches only yeah this for the homies

[Verse 2]
Pulled up on Peter street the box, that’s where my heater be
My car was shipped from Germany
My clothes was shipped from Italy
Niggas envious they ridicule and belittle me
I was too generous, now I have no sympathy
I just built a mansion, solid gold on my amenities
Holmes he not no street nigga get him out the vicinity
I just bought a Phantom and put wood on the extremities
Man that bitch ain’t bad enough get her out this facility
Wake up every morning grinding like I’m hungry
Homeless and lonely coz I really want it
Hold up Gucci Mane run them bands up
But fuck that, this a stick up put your hands up

[Hook]
This for killers only, yeah this for the homies
Drug dealers only, yeah this members only
Trap niggas only, yeah rich niggas only
Bad bitches only, yeah this for the homies
This for killers only, yeah this for the homies
Drug dealers only, yeah this members only
Trap niggas only, yeah rich niggas only
Bad bitches only, yeah this for the homies

Alphaville – To Germany With Love lyrics

(Gold/Mertens/Lloyd)

I am an emigre, I write to Germany
In foreign words
A tongue of actuality
Coated in grey gloves
To Germany with love
A war between the wars
To Germany with love

I am an emigre, I write to Germany
In foreign words
A tongue of actuality
Coated in grey gloves…
To Germany with love
A war between the wars
A war between the wars

Triumph over by-gone sorrow
Can in unity be won
Let them all persue this purpose
’till reality is gone
I am an unexpected spy…
>From the outside of my eye
Translate it first then comprehend
I’m here indeed but there I stand…

I write to Germany, I write to Germany
To Germany with love… Germany with love

This is the turn of colours
All real but still unseen
There is no more decision
’cause there’s too much in between
Let us build a nightmare-nation
Learn and work as never yet
That this cold new generation
Faith in it’s own fears beget

Here comes the modern rat
Here comes the terror-squad
Ours is the salt of wisdom,
Here we come all dressed in black
Form the ruins risen slowly
To the future turned we stand
Flourish in the blessing glory
Flourish German fatherland…

I write to Germany, I write to Germany
To Germany with love… Germany with love
All quiet in Germany, all quiet in Germany

(March 1: Departure — March 2: Arrival —
March 3: still)

Stu Larsen – Aeroplanes (Resolute Album)

You said we’d meet in Amsterdam
Is that still the plan?
‘Cause I’ve been working all the time

Just trying to find the line

You take time your time for making up your mind
Just tell me, are you still mine?
You don’t believe in aeroplanes
You probably never will

You’re on my mind
All of the time
When I’m working from Glasgow
You’re on the train to Germany

Barcelona in the summer sun
We got lost with everyone
Now the sun is gone and disappeared
It only rains when you’re not here

And you’re on my mind
All of the time
When I’m working from Glasgow
You’re on the train to Germany

So far away from me
In Germany
So far away from me
So far away

You’re on my mind
All of the time
When I’m working from Glasgow
You’re on the train to Germany
You’re on the train to Germany

Kodak Black – Patty Cake

Sniper Gang
Eh, I like this lil’ beat right here
Yeah, this a nice little beat
I’m sippin’ on Belaire
Yeah, I’m finna paint a picture
Finna paint me a lil’ picture
What this called? Oh this the new Belaire too
This the white wine, I like the white wine

I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I’m swaggin’, I got flavor, I got sauce, call me Ragu
I love my baby girl pussy bald, call her Caillou
I clap a nigga like patty cake

Yeah, that a way
I’m ’bout to grab the Wraith, I’m ’bout to grab the key
I’m ’bout to snatch your baby girl and skeet all on her face
I got a feelin’ that today gon’ be a fantastic day
I’m gettin’ tired of the Rollie, I think I want Patek Philippe
It’s either I win or you lose, ’cause I won’t accept defeat
And everybody wanna have the sauce, well I got the recipe
I’m sippin’ on Belaire ’cause it make me feel like I’m on ecstasy
I love my baby, when I come home, I be rubbin’ on her feet
And she be always in my chair, she hate when I be in the streets
My rims taller than my son, I’m ’bout to drop another one
You think a nigga in a band the way I hit ’em with that drum, ayy

I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I’m swaggin’, I got flavor, I got sauce, call me Ragu
I love my baby girl pussy bald, call her Caillou
I clap a nigga like patty cake

My chain VVS
I’m booted up, I got more pills than a CVS
I’m the shit, baby girl, so I got stains in my drawers
All this money like a nigga hit the fuckin’ Power Ball
Sippin’ on champagne, my whip on Dana Dane
No time for you lames, I’m flyer than a plane
I’m ridin’ like a train, she love to give me brain
You shootin’ with your eyes closed, you ain’t Sniper Gang
She held me down when I was gone, I bought her Audemars Piguet
I love her like I love my brother, so I let her meet my connect
I put her thick ass in the ‘Vette, ten bracelets on her neck
You know lil’ Kodak love to flex, I got my momma out the ‘jects

I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I’m sippin’ on Belaire, my chick from Bel-Air
My whip from Germany, I’m cooler that LL
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I clap a nigga like patty cake
I’m swaggin’, I got flavor, I got sauce, call me Ragu
I love my baby girl pussy bald, call her Caillou
I clap a nigga like patty cake

Ice Cube – Dominate The Weak (Death Certificate 25Th Anniversary Edition Album)

[Intro]
Wake up homie
Hey
They people they coming
Listen
Wake up
Ay homie
You got get up
Them folks is at the door man
Get up
Get up

[Hook]
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak

[Verse 1]
This ain’t paranoia
This is California
Best believe mothafucka that
They coming for ya
Got the place surrounded
Don’t know how they found it
Man fuck that money
Ain’t no time to count it
Got to get to movin
Only god can save us
This is the day
They try to re enslave us
Grow my hair long
Angela davis
So I can get recognized
By the space invaders
Storm troopers
Have you heard the latest
They’ll treat your living room
Like the oakland raiders
Take all your books
You ain’t patriotic
You psychotic
Your neighbors call you neurotic
Put you on the news
And tweet bout ya
These bitches won’t say
Nothin sweet about ya
Can I get a witness [now]
Can’t get a witness [now]
Just brainwashing motha fuckas
Is a dirty business

[Hook]
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak

[Bridge]
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up

[Verse 2]
Why you on that Xbox?
They closing in
You’ll believe me when that
Front door is blowing in
They going in
And they’ll tackle everybody
Grandmama, grandbaby
Shackle everybody
Interrupt your party
Put down your drinks
And they’ll blow your nose off
Like the fucking sphinx
Catch you by surprise
Around sunrise
When i go to sleep
I sleep with one eye
I sleep with one nine
I sleep with booby traps
And my dogs don’t fuck with
No Scooby snacks
I’m die hard
I brought the movie back
Some of y’all try hards
Some of y’all don’t do that
Some of y’all dumb as rocks
Some of y’all sharp as a tack
Some of y’all clowns
Some serious as a heart attack
Ima fuck the police
Nigga yea I started that
Some of y’all scary niggas
Come and be apart of that

[Hook]
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak

[Bridge]
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up

[Verse 3]
Underwater flow
Shit is getting deep
Them fuckas tried to down
The aqua boogie freak
But I’m an octopus
Especially when I got to push
When shit is fishy
My trigger finger get itchy
All you sissies
I’m a general like Ulysses
Fuck with me
I’m incredible like Bill Bixby
I never sleep
Cut off my eyelids
Insomniac, maniac
I’m a hybrid
Bitch I’m a pirate
They call me black beard
I sail the seven seas
Hoe I’m off the grid
It’s the ultimate
Baby I’m the bulk of it
The whole package
A nigga with no baggage
It’s kinda tragic
When you driving through Irvine
Is this Germany 1939
I’m a gangsta boy
Not the nerdy kind
They gotta dirty mind
All about the dolla sign

[Hook]
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak
They put the sheep to sleep
And dominate the weak

[Bridge]
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up
Wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up
Get up get up get up get up get up