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Germany’s golden age is over, most Europeans think, as Merkel leaves

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Chancellor Angela Merkel, a popular leader, shakes hands with the crowd alongside former U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to the U.S.

JIM WATSON | AFP | Getty Images

Under the leadership of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany’s power and influence in European — and global — affairs has been indisputable.

Now she’s leaving office after 16 years, many Europeans believe the country’s “golden age” is over — including a majority of Germans, according to a recent poll.

The survey, conducted by the European Council on Foreign Relations think tank in 12 EU countries in early summer with the results published this week, found that Europeans still regard Merkel as a unifying force, and expect Germany to continue to provide leadership within the EU. Nonetheless, there is pessimism at home and abroad about Germany’s post-Merkel future.

The poll found that many Europeans view Germany as a declining power — no more so than in Germany, where a majority (52%) hold the view that their country is past its “golden age.” Only 15% of respondents in Germany said they believe their country is still in its “golden age” today, with 9% of respondents believing that it is still to come.

Across Europe more broadly, a third of Europeans (34%) surveyed said that Germany’s star is fading, 21% said it is in its “golden age” today, and just 10% believed this period is in the future.

The data highlights uncertainty in both Germany and its neighbors over the future of the country, and its de facto leadership of the EU, once Merkel leaves office after the federal election on Sept. 26.

Merkel Vs. Macron

Despite some controversial policies, Merkel, age 67, is leaving office on her terms. She remains a popular figurehead in Europe, and far more so than her French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, although analysts expect Macron to try to fill something of a leadership vacuum left by Merkel.

When the ECFR asked respondents who they would vote for in a hypothetical contest between Germany’s Merkel and France’s Macron for an EU president role, the think tank found a majority of Europeans (41%) would vote for Merkel, and just 14% would vote for Macron (the remaining 45% said they didn’t know, or wouldn’t vote).

The highest support for Merkel in this hypothetical election was found in the Netherlands (58%), Spain (57%) and Portugal (52%). Even among the French, 32% would vote for Merkel and 20% for Macron.

It is perhaps not surprising that there is such an enduring fondness for Merkel. She is seen as a stable pair of hands, pragmatic and cool-headed in a crisis — and she’s had a few of those to deal with in her time in office.

Merkel has guided Germany, the euro zone and wider EU through several traumas including the financial crisis of 2008-2009, the subsequent sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone that peaked around 2012 and the migration crisis of 2015-2016. Most recently, she has played a prominent role in Europe’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and along with Macron oversaw the EU recovery plan.

France’s President Emmanuel Macron (2nd L) and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) look at US President Donald Trump (front L) and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (front R) walking past them during a family photo as part of the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019.

Christian Hartman | AFP | Getty Images

Merkel’s policies during periods of crisis have not always won her friends, however. She became something of a hate figure in Greece during its debt crisis as Germany advocated that strict austerity measures should be imposed on Athens as a condition of international bailouts.

Meanwhile, her decision to allow hundreds of thousands of migrants, mainly from Syria, to enter Germany during the migration crisis also caused consternation in the country, and was largely seen as boosting public support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany party.

Future leadership

How Germany’s relationship with the rest of the EU, and de facto leadership of the bloc, might change once Merkel leaves office is one of the great unknowns of her departure.

In the ECFR’s latest report entitled “Beyond Merkelism: What Europeans expect from post-election Germany,” published Tuesday, authors Piotr Buras and Jana Puglierin note that the post-Merkel political leadership in Germany will have no choice but to change its role in, and relationship with, the EU.

“‘Merkelism’ is no longer sustainable, and Germany’s next chancellor will have to find another way forward,” Piotr Buras, co-author and head of ECFR’s Warsaw office, commented.

“Merkel may have adroitly maintained the status quo across the continent over the past 15 years, but the challenges that Europe faces now – the pandemic, climate change, and geopolitical competition – require radical solutions, not cosmetic changes. What the EU needs now is a visionary Germany that will stand up for the bloc’s values and defend its place in the world.”

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Xpeng launches flying car that can also operate on roads

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HT Aero, an affiliate of Chinese electric carmaker Xpeng Inc., launched a new vehicle capable of flying in the air and driving on roads. The launch of HT Aero’s 6th–generation model happened at the Xpeng Tech Day on Sunday, October 24, 2021.

Xpeng

GUANGZHOU, China — HT Aero, an affiliate of Chinese electric vehicle maker Xpeng Inc., launched a new flying car on Sunday that it says can also drive on roads.

The company says it plans for a rollout in 2024.

HT Aero’s vehicle will have a lightweight design and a rotor that folds away, the company said. That will allow the car to drive on roads and then fly once the rotors are expanded.

The vehicle will have a number of safety features including parachutes, the company said.

HT Aero is backed by Xpeng and its founder He Xiaopeng. The company raised $500 million last week from a number of outside investors including high-profile venture capital firms.

Flying cars — also called electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles — have garnered a lot of interest from automakers and start-ups.

However, there are a number of challenges for these vehicles to become wide-scale including regulation and safety issues.

HT Aero’s new land and air vehicle was launched at Xpeng’s Tech Day where the company also took the wraps of the latest version of its advanced driver assistance system called XPILOT 4.0.

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Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey says ‘hyperinflation’ will happen soon in the U.S. and the world

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Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter and co-founder & CEO of Square, speaks during the crypto-currency conference Bitcoin 2021 Convention at the Mana Convention Center in Miami, Florida, on June 4, 2021.

Marco Bello | AFP | Getty Images

Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey weighed in on escalating inflation in the U.S., saying things are going to get considerably worse.

“Hyperinflation is going to change everything,” Dorsey tweeted Friday night. “It’s happening.”

The tweet comes with consumer price inflation running near a 30-year high in the U.S. and growing concern that the problem could be worse that policymakers have anticipated.

On Friday, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged that inflation pressures “are likely to last longer than previously expected,” noting that they could run “well into next year.” The central bank leader added that he expects the Fed soon to begin pulling back on the extraordinary measures it has provided to help the economy that critics say have stoked the inflation run.

In addition to overseeing a social media platform that has 206 million active daily users, Dorsey is a strong bitcoin advocate. He has said that Square, the debit and credit card processing platform that Dorsey co-founded, is looking at getting into mining the cryptocurrency. Square also owns some bitcoin and facilitates trading in it.

Responding to user comments, Dorsey added Friday that he sees the inflation problem escalating around the globe. “It will happen in the US soon, and so the world,” he tweeted. Dorsey is currently both the CEO of Twitter and Square.

It’s one thing to call for faster inflation, but it may be surprising to some that Dorsey used the word hyperinflation, a condition of rapidly rising prices that can ruin currencies and bring down whole economies.

Billionaire investor Paul Tudor Jones and others have called for a period of rising inflation. Jones told CNBC earlier in the week that he owns some bitcoin and sees it as a good inflation hedge.

“Clearly, there’s a place for crypto. Clearly, it’s winning the race against gold at the moment,” Jones said Wednesday.

But most of the major investors have not gone so far as to call for hyperinflation like Dorsey.

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Alec Baldwin fatal prop gun shooting raises questions about working conditions

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While injuries or death from prop firearms are extremely rare, the accidental killing of Halyna Hutchins on a Sante Fe movie set Thursday has sparked inquiries about working conditions for Hollywood crew members.

“I’ve been in the industry 21 years,” said Kevin Williams, the prop department supervisor at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. “I have not heard of any circumstances like this. So, this is definitely one of these things, and it sounds like a cliche to say, but it really sounds like a freak accident.”

The circumstances of the shooting are under investigation. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office confirmed that actor Alec Baldwin fired a prop gun on the set of “Rust,” a Western being filmed at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, killing the film’s director of photography and injuring its director, Joel Souza.

Security guards and a compliance officer at New Mexico’s Bonanza Creek Ranch on Oct. 22, 2021, the film set where actor Alec Baldwin fatally shot cinematographer Halyna Hutchins and wounded a director when he discharged a prop gun.

Adria Malcolm | Reuters

Souza has since been discharged from the hospital. No charges have been filed. The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

While it’s unclear at this point what exactly transpired Thursday, many in the industry have begun to inquire about working conditions on set. These queries come as the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees works to finalize a new three-year contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers that addresses the union’s calls for better working hours, safer workplace conditions and improved benefits.

“There have been times that I have been on projects for 18 to 20 hours and then been asked to return in six,” Williams said.

Crew protested working conditions

The IATSE issued a statement Friday addressing Hutchins’ death and encouraging its members to contact the union’s safety hotline if they feel unsafe on set.

“Our entire alliance mourns this unspeakable loss with Halyna’s family, friends, and the ‘Rust’ crew,” the statement read. “Creating a culture of safety requires relentless vigilance from every one of us, day in and day out. Please, if you see something, say something.”

The union declined to comment further.

A person familiar with the matter told NBC News that half a dozen camera crew workers walked off the “Rust” set in protest of working conditions just hours before the shooting took place. Among their concerns were multiple misfires of the prop gun.

Earlier Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing three unnamed people involved with the production, that the crew was frustrated with the production’s long hours. It also alleged that there were two previous prop gun misfires on set, one the previous week and one on Saturday.

​”The safety of our cast and crew is the top priority of Rust Productions and everyone associated with the company,” Rust Movie Productions said in a statement provided to CNBC. “Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down.”

Rust Productions is cooperating with the Santa Fe authorities in their investigation.

A ‘potential failure in the system’

Hollywood productions typically adhere to strict safety measures for stunt work, particularly when it comes to weapon and prop safety. The Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee has written and distributed safety bulletins on best practices for television and movie productions.

“Blanks can kill,” the first bulletin reads. “Treat all firearms as though they are loaded. ‘Live ammunition’ is never to be used nor brought onto any studio lot or stage.”

These guidelines are recommendations and may not apply to reality shows such as “Mythbusters” or “Top Shot” where live rounds are used to test scientific theories or for marksmanship competition.

“I can say unequivocally that a blank round versus a live round is really easy to identify in the hands of an experienced armorer or prop master,” Williams said. “I can’t imagine anybody would say ‘whoops’ and just put that in there.”

He also noted that safety demonstrations are done with all cast and crew involved in firearm stunts who are instructed that prop weapons should never be pointed at another actor or crew member. In cases where a director wants to film a weapon being pointed at the camera and discharged, ballistic shields are used, he said.

“There are a lot of safety measures put in place,” he said. “If it turns out that a live round was loaded into a vintage weapon and it turns out that that is how this happened, then we need to figure out why.”

That’s a “potential failure in the system,” Williams said.

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