Morning Briefing Global Edition

Saarland vs Silicon Valley

Saarland may be one of Germany’s smallest states, but it can rock the nation’s political agenda. A former premier, Oskar Lafontaine, walked away from the Social Democrats in the 1990s to help found the Left Party, a leading opposition force. Now another native son, justice minister Heiko Maas, is taking on Silicon Valley giants Google, Facebook and Apple, for their market dominance. “It’s overdue,” he said in a Handelsblatt interview, to challenge this state of affairs. Berlin, are you listening?


The view from Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, is very different: From there, the world is a collection of algorithms and tiny Saarland is drop in the digital ocean. Untroubled by the flak from Maas & Co., Google is making its biggest hardware launch ever — two new branded smartphones called “Pixel,” which very much want to be your personal assistant, if you just share everything with them. The only way to withstand such artificial intelligence is with political intelligence.


The current whipping boy of the global markets is the British pound, which sank to its lowest level since 1985 after Prime Minister Theresa May pointed her nation this week toward the Brexit exit. May wants to stem immigration even if it means losing favored access to the E.U. market. Her fans are applauding, her opponents fear a hard economic landing and theater fans evoke Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage.”


Months after TV satirist Jan Böhmermann intentionally insulted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a very nasty limerick, Germany’s highest court has decided: Böhmermann is not guilty of slandering the Ankara autocrat; his words were ironic, not literally, intended. This verdict doesn’t reflect well on Angela Merkel, who under pressure from Erdogan allowed the show trial to proceed, criticizing the actor for “intentionally” hurting Europe’s doorman against the refugee tide. It may be her words, not the satirist’s, that voters remember in next fall’s federal election.


Have you heard of “orphan drugs?” They are exotic medications used to combat rare diseases — and a source of uncommonly gigantic profit for the pharmaceutical industry. But as research from the show “Plus Minus” on state broadcaster ARD shows, the necessity for these expensive drugs is hotly debated. According to the report, the German government pays out €200 million each year on preparations that deliver the same benefits as cheap generics. Time for a second opinion.


Image of the Day

big pumpkins in London dpa
Smashing pumpkins: The RHS London Harvest Festival Show celebrates produce and the highlight this year is the Heaviest Pumpkin Competition. The winner weighed in at 566 kilos or 12,478 pounds. Source: DPA
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