New York – Berlin: A Tale of Two Unequal Cities

May 1, 2012 § Leave a comment

Here’s a link to my latest blog post on NPRBerlin.

It’s about the vast differences between the two cities when it comes to handicap access to public transportation.


New Story on The World: Germans and Bike Helmets

April 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve always wondered about the lack of bike helmets in Germany — or in many other European countries for that matter. But in Germany it seemed especially odd to me since the country has tons of rules for everything else.

Here’s a piece on Germans and bike helmets that ran on The World on April 23:

Here’s what traffic in downtown Berlin looks like sometimes:

Radfahren Uber Alles

The First Berlin Seder

April 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

It was very pleasant and quite different. Held in the Kulturbrauerei — a fairly massive and complicated complex near the Eberswalder Ubahn station:

Seder was hosted by Keren of Keren’s Kitchen — it was a Veggie Seder/Israeli inspired and the languages in the room were mainly English and Hebrew.

When this happens it always makes me feel badly about hating Hebrew School and not paying attention.

Main course was peppers stuffed with rice (the Sephardim eat that on Pesach — a tradition I’ve adopted!), creamy scalloped potatoes and salmon. Yummm. No chicken and matzoh ball soup here — though there was a veggie broth with some kind of matzoh balls, though they were a bit different than what I’m used to.




Tonight it’s back to tradition at the Juedische Gemeinde Center on the Fasanenstrasse.

FYI — I desperately need some matzohs. The ones I brought from the States are stale, to say the least, though they are edible if you toast them. Toasting Matzoh is an art, though, because the pieces are so thin, they easily burn. Any folks in Berlin with an extra box of Matzoh they’d be willing to sell me until I can get to a store on Tuesday — give a holler. You’ll be doing a mitzvah!

Hag Sameach – Happy Passover

April 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

Tonight is the first night of Passover. It falls right in line this year with Easter. Here in Germany today is Karfreitag and of course everything is closed as it will be on Monday — Oster Montag. That’s what you get for having no separation between church and State.

I’m going to two very different seders here. Tonight is a more “alternative” one at the Kulturbrauerei in Prenzlauer Berg, which has become ultra trendy. It’s being put on by Keren’s Kitchen  a vegetarian, ergo kosher, catering service.

Tomorrow it’s Passover at the Jewish Community — a seder put on by the egalitarian Oranienburger Strasse synagogue. I rather like this congregation though the rabbi, Gesa Ederberg, is not for everyone. She’s a convert to Judaism, which rubs some people the wrong way, though it’s not supposed to. I suspect this seder will be more like the ones I know from my childhood.

For any of you who are not familiar with the Jewish holiday of Passover — the story is pretty well layed out in Charlton Heston’s Ten Commandments movie. Like many Jewish holidays, it centers around a group of people who are trying to wipe out the Jews. The Jews have few resources — in this story they are slaves in Egypt — but they manage to triumph (thanks to Moses). And of course eating is a big part of the holiday, as it is with most Jewish holidays, sans, of course, Yom Kippour.

Anyway…Happy Passover — or Easter — or Spring (for the heathens among us)

Germany’s view of US Healthcare – Part Two

March 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

So they put the audio up:

And for you tech savvy folks, it’s also up on Soundcloud:

This was one of the most important stories I’ve done in a fairly long career in journalism. It’s been pretty well received so far — it was played by 716 people on Soundcloud.

Let me know what you think!

Germany’s view of the U.S. healthcare debate

March 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

I did a piece for The World on the above topic. Here’s the print version:

They don’t have the audio up yet. I’ll post it when it’s there.

For those of you in Portland — listen in at 3:00 pm on 91.5 FM and let me know what you think.

Sorry it’s been ages since I’ve posted to this blog. Things have been busy.

A few thoughts on Christian Wulff

February 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The former president of Germany is off the front page and will likely stay there until something new comes up about his finances. Yesterday one of the local papers ran a picture with a caption about his family moving back to their home in Lower Saxony.

There was a lot of fuss here over the last months about what the president did — or allegedly did — with regards to his finances, loans from friends, peddling of influence. I have no idea what is true or not and state investigators are looking into it. If what he did was illegal, he should be prosecuted, just like anyone else. But it did seem to me that there was a  lot of fuss made for what I suspect many politicians (and a lot of journalists) do all the time — take advantage of their position. It was especially interesting since the president in Germany is a very ceremonial role — a lot like the vice president in the United States.

One of the best editorials I’ve read about this whole thing ran last Thursday in the Berliner Zeitung. It was the day the memorial service for the 10 people killed by neo-Nazis was held. Eight of them had Turkish backgrounds, one Greek and one was a policewoman. Wulff was instrumental in getting the service organized. He was to have spoken at the ceremony, but resigned before it took place. For German readers here’s a link to the whole story:,10808020,11696392.html

The key, for me, is the editorial’s final graph. It was written by Arno Widmann (no relation):  “Wir haben ein schlechtes Gedächtnis. Wir sind gut im Wegschauen, und wir haben eine große Routine darin, uns am nächsten Tag mit dem nächsten Thema zu beschäftigen. Aber vielleicht sähe es in unserem Land auch besser aus, wenn der investigative Journalismus sich mit eben der Energie und dem Elan auf die zahlreichen ungeklärten rechtsradikalen Übergriffe stürzen würde, wie er es gerade so bravourös tat, um die kleinen legalen und womöglich illegalen, jedenfalls meist ein wenig schmuddeligen Pfennigfuchsereien des Bundespräsidenten Christian Wulff aufzudecken.”

It basically says: Germans have a guilty conscience and are good at looking away. We’ve developed a strong routine about moving on to the next topic with the next day. But maybe it would look better in our country if investigative journalism would devote as much energy and effort to the numerous unsolved radical right assaults as it did to  bravely uncover the tiny legal and possibly illegal petty deeds of President Christian Wulff.

Well said. Be nice if the “investigative machines” moved on to the radical right, but I don’t think that will happen. The presidential “discussion” has now moved onto whether it’s okay or not for Joachim Gauck, the likely next president, to move into the Bellevue presidential palace with a girlfriend and not a wife. He’s been dating a journalist for more than a decade, but they aren’t legally married. Maybe she can get the discussion to move in a different direction?