Oct 17, 2021
German Greens agree to start formal talks on new government
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BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s Green party gave its blessing Sunday to opening formal coalition talks on a new government that would speed up the country’s exit from coal-fueled power and the expansion of renewable energy.
A congress of the environmentalist party signed off on negotiators’ recommendation to open full-fledged talks on a government led by center-left Social Democrat Olaf Scholz.The pro-business Free Democrats, who usually ally with the center-right, would be the coalition’s third partner. Their leadership is expected to give its approval on Monday.
The proposed coalition could be “a big win for the Greens, for Germany,” co-leader Robert Habeck told delegates. He added that “in the coming government, the Greens can take on more responsibility for our country than ever — we will be drivers of major transformations.”
A preliminary agreement after initial exploratory talks calls for Germany to accelerate its exit from coal-fueled power, currently due by 2038, so it “ideally” happens by 2030. That is a key Green demand. It also pledges to speed up “drastically” Germany’s expansion of renewable energy generation, but says there will be no overall speed limit on Germany’s highways, which the Free Democrats opposed.
There has been some criticism from climate activists that the plans so far don’t go far enough, but little of that was heard at Sunday’s meeting.
The prospective partners say they won’t raise taxes, something the Social Democrats and Greens had wanted for top earners and the Free Democrats opposed, but will step up and facilitate investment in combating climate change and promoting digitization. Details of how the coalition would finance its plans are expected to be a central question in the upcoming talks.
Scholz hopes that his new government, which would send outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Union bloc into opposition, will be in place by Christmas. Scholz’s Social Democrats finished narrowly ahead of the Union to win Germany’s Sept. 26 election, with the Greens third and the Free Democrats fourth.
The Greens are the only prospective partner that so far has pledged to put a possible coalition agreement to a ballot of its entire membership.
This would be the Greens’ second time as part of a German government. They were the junior partners from 1998-2005 in a two-party center-left coalition under then-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
Follow AP’s coverage of Germany’s transition to a new government at https://apnews.com/hub/germany-election
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Maddening: White House dismisses idea of mailing out free COVID tests like other nations
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Monday rejected the idea of having the federal government mail free Covid-19 tests to households across the United States, a solution that has long been part of other nations' efforts to combat the pandemic.
During a press briefing, a reporter asked Psaki why the U.S. continues to lag behind the United Kingdom, Germany, South Korea, and other countries in making rapid Covid-19 tests easily affordable and accessible to all who want or need one—an objective that has gained importance amid fears of another winter surge fueled by the Omicron variant, which has been detected in at least 15 U.S. states.
Psaki responded by outlining a new White House plan under which Americans will be able to seek reimbursement from their private health insurers to cover the costs of rapid, over-the-counter coronavirus tests.
The plan—which likely won't take effect until mid-January—sparked immediate criticism when it was released last week, given that it will force people to navigate the byzantine private insurance system to get a refund on tests that remain expensive in the U.S. more than a year and a half into the pandemic.
"That's kind of complicated though," the reporter told Psaki on Tuesday. "Why not just make them free and give them out to—and have them available everywhere?"
To which Psaki replied, "Should we just send one to every American?"—seeming to dismiss the idea as ludicrous.
"Then what happens if you, if every American, has one test?" Psaki added. "How much does that cost, and then what happens after that?... I think we share the same objective, which is to make them less expensive and more accessible. Right? Every country is going to do that differently."
Watch:Jen Psaki somewhat mockingly asks reporter at the White House Daily Press Briefing if the US should be sending out rapid #COVID19 tests to every household.\n\nIn the UK you can order 1 pack (containing 7 tests) everyday. https://www.gov.uk/order-coronavirus-rapid-lateral-flow-tests\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/L7ruKWdy5n — Matt Karolian (@Matt Karolian) 1638823911
The exchange angered public health experts who have long argued that the U.S. approach to testing is badly inadequate, hindering the nation's ability to detect and limit outbreaks of the virus. It is unconscionable, experts say, for a country as rich as the U.S. not to make rapid Covid-19 testing free and universally available.
"This answer was terrible, flippant, wrong," Yale epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves wrote in a tweet directed at Psaki. "Rapid tests are hard to get, expensive, and could be a key intervention in fighting Covid-19. Other countries have figured out better ways to get these tools into the hands of their citizens. Do better."
Natalie Shure, a healthcare writer and columnist for The New Republic, called Psaki's comments "maddening."
"Of course the tests should be free, and all over the place!" Shure argued. "This is already happening elsewhere! It's gobsmacking how ill-prepared she was for this question, which suggests this isn't the urgent and overarching concern it ought to be in Bidenland right now."
In a report published last month, the Kaiser Family Foundation noted that several peer countries of the U.S. "have made rapid home tests widely available and at little or no cost."
"The U.K. government, for example, provides up to seven tests per day to those who cannot get tests from work or school and recommends each individual screen themselves twice weekly," KFF observed. "Providing up to seven tests per person allow one individual to collect tests for a whole household. Germany, until recently, made rapid antigen tests freely available as well (and tests can still be purchased for a few dollars in grocery stores)."
Last month, Germany moved to reintroduce free testing as coronavirus infections surged across the nation.
In the U.S., by contrast, "tests range from $9 each to $24 for a box of two (which are more commonly available)," Annalisa Merelli of Quartz reported last week.
"They are only sold in pharmacies," she added, "and hardly an everyday tool at the level of a mask, or hand sanitizer."From Your Site Articles