Saturday, July 2, 2016
US auto sales improve; Berlin school turns teaching upside down; Nobel laureate, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel passes away
1 US auto sales improve (Gulf News) US factory activity expanded at a healthy pace in June as new orders, output and exports rose, new industry data showed, providing another sign that US economic growth was regaining its footing after weakness early this year.
Automakers reported higher June sales amid strong demand for pickup trucks and sport utility vehicles, but on an annualised basis, the June industry selling rate came in at 16.66 million units, well below May’s sales pace of 17.45 million.
Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler reported June sales gains of 6.4 per cent and 6.5 per cent, but General Motors, Toyota Motor Corp and Volkswagen all sold fewer vehicles. Some analysts say that industry sales may have peaked in 2015 at 17.45 million units, but GM chief economist Mustafa Mohatarem still held out hope for another record year.
“Positive economic indicators like historically low interest rates, stable fuel prices, rising wages and near-full employment provide the environment for strong auto sales to continue in the second half of the year,” Mohatarem said in a statement.
2 Berlin school turns teaching upside down (Philip Oltermann in The Guardian) Anton Oberländer is a persuasive speaker. Last year, when he and a group of friends were short of cash for a camping trip to Cornwall, he managed to talk Germany’s national rail operator into handing them some free tickets. So impressed was the management with his chutzpah that they invited him back to give a motivational speech to 200 of their employees.
Anton, it should be pointed out, is 14 years old. The Berlin teenager’s self-confidence is largely the product of a unique educational institution that has turned the conventions of traditional teaching radically upside down. At Oberländer’s school, there are no grades until students turn 15, no timetables and no lecture-style instructions. The pupils decide which subjects they want to study for each lesson and when they want to take an exam.
The school’s syllabus reads like any helicopter parent’s nightmare. Set subjects are limited to math, German, English and social studies, supplemented by more abstract courses such as “responsibility” and “challenge”. For challenge, students aged 12 to 14 are given €150 (£115) and sent on an adventure that they have to plan entirely by themselves. Some go kayaking; others work on a farm. Anton went trekking along England’s south coast.
The philosophy behind these innovations is simple: as the requirements of the labour market are changing, and smartphones and the internet are transforming the ways in which young people process information, the school’s headteacher, Margret Rasfeld, argues, the most important skill a school can pass down to its students is the ability to motivate themselves.
The Evangelical School Berlin Centre (ESBC) is trying to do nothing less than “reinvent what a school is”, she says. “The mission of a progressive school should be to prepare young people to cope with change, or better still, to make them look forward to change. In the 21st century, schools should see it as their job to develop strong personalities.”
Oberländer, who had never been away from home for three weeks until he embarked on his challenge in Cornwall, said he learned more English on his trip than he had in several years of learning the language at school. Germany’s federalised education structure, in which each of the 16 states plans its own education system, has traditionally allowed “free learning” models to flourish.
3 Nobel winner, holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel no more (San Francisco Chronicle) Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, the Romanian-born Holocaust survivor whose classic "Night" became a landmark testament to the Nazis' crimes and launched Wiesel's long career as one of the world's foremost witnesses and humanitarians, has died at age 87.
The short, sad-eyed Wiesel, his face an ongoing reminder of one man's endurance of a shattering past, summed up his mission in 1986 when accepting the Nobel Peace Prize: "Whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation, take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
Wiesel's wife, Marion, described her husband as "a fighter". "He fought for the memory of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust, and he fought for Israel," she said. "He waged countless battles for innocent victims regardless of ethnicity or creed."
"'Night' is the most devastating account of the Holocaust that I have ever read," wrote Ruth Franklin, a literary critic and author of "A Thousand Darknesses," a study of Holocaust literature that was published in 2010.
"There are no epiphanies in 'Night. There is no extraneous detail, no analysis, no speculation. There is only a story: Eliezer's account of what happened, spoken in his voice." In one especially haunting passage, Wiesel sums up his feelings upon arrival in Auschwitz:
"Never shall I forget that night, the first night in camp, which has turned my life into one long night, seven times cursed and seven times sealed. Never shall I forget that smoke. Never shall I forget the little faces of the children, whose bodies I saw turned into wreaths of smoke beneath a silent blue sky. ... Never shall I forget these things, even if I am condemned to live as long as God Himself. Never."
His more than 40 books overall of fiction and nonfiction, emerged from the helplessness of a teenager deported from Hungary, which had annexed his native Romanian town of Sighet, to Auschwitz. Tattooed with the number A-7713, he was freed in 1945 — but only after his mother, father and one sister had all died in Nazi camps. Two other sisters survived.
Wiesel became a US citizen in 1963. Six years later, he married Marion Rose, a fellow Holocaust survivor who translated some of his books into English. They had a son, Shlomo.