Fluorwasserstoff, Ammoniumhydrogendifluorid, Natriumfluorid

Hydrogen fluoride, ammonium hydrogen difluoride, sodium fluoride.

What did your country’s companies export to the Assads’ Syria that could have been used to hurt civilians?

These are three of the chemicals German companies exported tons of to Syria between 2002 and 2006 that could have been used to make chemical weapons, at a time when the Assad regime was known to have a chemical weapons program.

The German government’s Ministry for the Economy [Bundeswirtschaftsministerium] drew up and published a list of such chemicals, including quantities, dates and prices, that could have been used to manufacture chemical weapons and for which the government issued export permits, in response to a question submitted by the Leftists party (Die Linken) and by Bundestag member and former U.N. weapons inspector Jan van Aken (Leftists) in particular. The government supplied this information one week before a national election.

Update on 30 Sep 2013: After the national election the government supplied more information. German companies were issued export permits for “dual-use” chemicals even until 2011, after the Assads were killing peaceful Syrian protestors. From 1998 to 2011, ~300 tons of such chemicals, which could be used for civilian or military purposes, were delivered from Germany to Syria. Klaus Barthel (S.P.D.) criticized the Bundeswirtschaftsministerium for, among other things, phased provision of the truth. The Bundeswirtschaftsministerium said they reviewed the investigation and remain convinced of the plausibility of the civilian uses cited, but the C.D.U. said plausibility is not enough when dealing with regimes like the Assads’. Reporter Arnd Henze said Germany has to be especially careful in these matters because the world knows that chemical weapons were produced in Libya and Iraq “with German support.”

On 01 Sep 2013 it was announced that Britain had issued licenses to export sarin gas precursors potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride to Syria in January 2012, ten months into the uprising against the Assad family. The export licenses were revoked in July 2012 after the European Union agreed to sanctions against the Assad regime. Prime Minister David Cameron (Tory)’s office initially responded by saying the U.K. has the the most rigorous export control regime, with a computer system called C.H.I.E.F., which is how they know that though the export permits were issued at that unfortunate time no chemicals were exported under the permits. Later it was indicated this was not so. Following up, Business Secretary Vince Cable (LibDem) subsequently reported that other licenses to export sarin precursor chemicals to Syria were issued by previous U.K. governments between 2004 and 2010 (the year Mr. Cameron’s Conservative-LibDem government came to power).

Update on 09 Jul 2014: U.K. foreign minister William Hague sent a written statement to the British parliament announcing that British companies had probably exported hundreds of tons of chemicals to Syria in the 1980’s that could have been used to make chemical weapons such as sarin and VX.

(FLEW or voss ah SHTOFF,   a MOAN ee oom hee dro GAIN dee FLEW oar EAT,   NOT ree oom FLEW oar EAT.)

Ist es besser etwas zu wissen oder etwas nicht zu wissen?

“Is it better to know something or not to know something, Mr. Loest?” Question in a ZDF interview with the 87-year-old Leipzig writer Erich Loest, two weeks before he died recently.

Q: What condition is better, Mr. Loest? Knowing something or not knowing something?

Erich Loest: Knowing is always better. Because sometimes some other people know, and then things can get unpleasant. So knowing is always good.

Mr. Loest wrote over 50 books, including Nikolaikirche and the 1977 autobiography Es geht seinen Gang, which was censored by the East German S.E.D. regime. He asked that at his funeral celebration [Trauerfeier] there be no speeches and no lies, just champagne.

(Isst   ess   bess ah   ett voss   tsoo   VISS en   oh dear   ett voss   NICHH t   tsoo   viss en.)

Abwicklung von Hypo Alpe Adria

Winding up, closing down, resolution, clearing, of Austrian bank Hypo Alpe Adria. The E.U. Commission appeared to give its permission to break up the struggling bank on 02 Sep 2013. The European competition authority still had to give its approval.

In 2009 the country of Austria took back HGAA from the BayernLB, Bavarian Landesbank, and nationalized it. Hypo continued losing money. By 2012 Austrian taxpayers had given the bank 3 billion euros bailout, but still it needed ~800 million euros in the first half of 2013 and a projected 700 million in the second half, with expectations of ~5 billion euros more required by 2017. The plan is now to sell the Austrian branch to a British investor in Q4 2013, close the Italian branch and sell off the other southern European banks (250 branch offices employing 4300 workers) by 2015.

The reporting repeating the numbers cited by the Austrian finance ministry varies, and it’s hard to match up the cited numbers with the years given. Austrian finance minister Maria Fekter (Ö.V.P.) said the numerical uncertainty is partially because they don’t know how much they’ll get in the sale of the southern European branches. They also want to move HGAA’s failed loans, worst paper and unsellable divisions “away” into a “separate Abwicklungseinheit,” a separate clearing unit, also called an “Abbaubank,” literally breakdown or decomposition bank but apparently called in English a “restructuring unit,” “separate from the core bank.” Without the Abbaubank device, Austrian taxpayers might be on the hook for 16 billion euros, another Austrian finance ministry number, to wind down the HGAA.

We know a bit about what happened under Carinthian and Bavarian management of HGAA. What happened in Italy?

Austria will be holding a parliamentary election on 29 Sep 2013.

Update on 14 Mar 2014: It’s been decided that the Hypo Alpe Adria group will be wound down as a “bad bank,” into a “deregulated, private-economy-organized company” said Austrian finance minister Michael Spindelegger. About 18 billion euros in bad paper will be moved into this vehicle. The decision will increase Austria’s national debt >5%, from ~75% to >80% of the country’s gross national product. HGAA’s subsidiary banks in Italy and the Balkans are to be sold as quickly as possible. It should take the bad bank about a decade to finish closing down the organization, only after which the true costs will be known, said a social minister who will no longer be social minister a decade from now.

Update on 17 Jun 2014: The Austrian state of Carinthia owes ~12 billion euros because of guarantees it made for Hypo Alpe Adria. Carinthia’s annual budget is apparently ~1 billion euros.

A week ago Austria’s cabinet passed a special law that said Carinthia will no longer be responsible for all the bank’s debt that it has guaranteed. This should save the state ~800 million euros while stirring up a lot of trouble for Austria.

Austria’s federal government is deliberately avoiding bankruptcy for the troubled bank because they fear it would pull the state of Carinthia into bankruptcy. The cabinet passed this “special law” haircutting non-first-tranche holders of HAA debt, whose riskier tranche under normal circumstances would only come into play after a bankruptcy. The Green party said they should just declare the bank bankrupt and work out fair haircuts for all. Carinthia’s most important services such as day care centers and hospitals are mandated by law, said the Greens, so the bank’s creditors wouldn’t be able to pull much money out of the state government. “These investors have not earned the protection of the taxpayers.”

(OB vick loong   fon    HIPPO   I’ll pay   ODD ree ah.)

“Völlig achtlos kann sich der Verbraucher nicht verhalten.”

“Consumers cannot behave entirely heedlessly,” said a representative of Germany’s federal-level consumer protection agency, reminding Vodafone customers to keep an eye on their bank accounts for any strange activity.

The data of two million German Vodafone customers, including direct-debit banking data, have been stolen. Düsseldorf prosecutors are investigating. Vodafone discovered the theft on 05 Sep 2013 and announced it to the public a week later. They said they thought it was an employee at an external service provider.

The company set up a F.A.Q. website for the issue here.

Spiegel.de reminds us that last year Vodafone learned in December 2012 that its hardware had made its customers’ private data vulnerable, but the company only informed its customers after the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik [Federal Office for Safety in Information Technology, BSI] in Hamburg publicly announced a safety warning in August 2013.

(FULL ichh   OCHH t loh ss   con   zichh   dare   fair BROW chh ah   nichh t   fair HALT en.)

 

Marcel Reich-Ranicki

Marcel Reich-Ranicki met his wife Theophila in the Warsaw ghetto. They escaped together, walking away from a freight train, and were hidden for years by friends and strangers. But the rest of his family was killed by Nazis in World War II. Yet after the war and, as tagesschau.de said, after having witnessed the complete breakdown of the ethics of the German people, Mr. Reich-Ranicki decided to live in Germany and pursue a life devoted to literature there. He was a literary editor at Die Zeit and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, among others, and discovered television late in life where he contributed wonderfully to, as many have said after his death this month at the age of 93, the education of the German people, “Volksbildung.” His television show “The Literary Quartett” was watched by millions each week. His polite public refusal of the German Television Award in 2008 is popular YouTube viewing to this day:

“Ladies and gentlemen. In my life, and in the fifty years I’ve spent in Germany—a bit more than fifty all told, I spent my youth in Germany as well, in Berlin. In those many years I have received many literary prizes. Very many. They included the highest ones, such as the Goethe prize, the Thomas Mann prize, and some others. And I always said thank you for these prizes, as you should, and, please forgive me when I speak openly: it didn’t present any difficulties to me! To say thank you for these prizes! But today I’m in a very bad situation. I must react somehow to this prize I have received. And [?] said to me, please, please, please, don’t say anything too rough! Yes. (Laughter.) Truthfully. I don’t want to aggrieve anyone, insult or hurt anyone, no. I don’t want to do that. But I would also like to say very openly that I will not accept this prize.”

Apparently he concluded each Literary Quartett episode with a quote from Bertold Brecht: “Und so sehen wir betroffen den Vorhang zu und alle Fragen offen.” This can be translated as “and so we see, deeply moved, the curtain closed and all questions open,” yet if Fragen were not capitalized it would completely change the meaning of the sentence, turning it into the preface “and everyone openly questioning” anything that followed his show. ZDF heute journal’s Marietta Slomka said Mr. Reich-Ranicki is also said to have said, “I don’t want to bore myself.”

Update on 01 Jun 2014: The city of Frankfurt/Main held a celebration in the Paulskirche commemorating what would have been Marcel Reich-Ranicki’s 94th birthday. Some of the speeches will be printed in the Feuilleton of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on 02 Jun 2014.

Nur mit Bolzen genietet und nicht geschweißt

“Only riveted together and not welded,” reporter Johannes Hano’s description of many of the ~1000 containers in the leaky tank farm behind the “nuclear ruin” of Fukushima out of which tons of radioactive water have been seeping every day. On 01 Sep 2013 the Guardian.co.uk reported remeasuring had found the water in at least one of these tanks was radioactive enough to kill you within four hours. Also, employees helping clean up the mess for the past two and a half years have not been equipped with dosimetric gear showing them this danger.

A local fisherman based 40 kilometers south of the plant said, “We were just getting ready to steam out when suddenly the news was announced that the ocean had been poisoned with radioactivity, again. First they tried to verarsch us about it. They said only 120 liters had leaked out! Then suddenly it was 300,000 liters. I want to puke.”

On 02 Sep 2013 Tepco was forced to admit they’ve been actively piping some radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean rather than capturing all of it and passively letting some leak out into the sea (or capturing all of it and storing it securely, which is what they were claiming to do). They don’t have enough holding capacity for the site’s contaminated water.

Spiegel.de reported Tepco has been producing ~400 tons of new radioactive water daily that’s pumped each day through the still-seething three reactors that experienced partial meltdowns. A lot of that water just flows down through the buildings, becoming contaminated with cesium, strontium and tritium. They reuse some of it after running it through “ion exchangers” that remove some cesium, but still an extra 400 new tons of water are contaminated each day that way. There’s also an “underground river” flowing beneath the plant from the inland mountains to the sea, exposing about a thousand new metric tons of groundwater to radiation each day. Tepco wants to artificially freeze the earth around the plant into an underground ice wall but doubts have been expressed about that plan, especially after one rat was said to have caused a power outage at Fukushima Daiichi this summer.

As we searched the media for relevant science information immediately after the tsunami and explosions at Fukushima Daiichi, the Rachel Maddow Show’s reporting seemed relatively good in the first fortnight after the disaster. TRMS interviewees said the partial meltdowns at the reactor cores could create a caustic and radioactive chemical brew that could eat through the reactor and building floors and on down into the ground an unknown distance, pulled by gravity and presumably whatever more easily dissolved or traversed materials the soup encounters.

(Noor   mitt   BOLTS en   gen EE tet   oont   nichh t   gesh VICE t.)

Brutto nicht netto

“Gross not nett,” what rural U.S. landowners should try to take their ~12.5% royalty from if signing an agreement to let oil and gas companies frack their land. Previously, landowners had to worry about drillers’ resistance to the ethical challenges arising from the fact that it’s the driller who measures and reports the yields produced. Technology is also presenting drillers with ethical challenges: it’s now possible to drill sideways underground much farther than you’d think, for example.

Now ProPublica.org has reported drillers and/or pipeline owners have been using “creative accounting” in the office to reduce how much they say they owe farmers and other rural people whose land they are fracking, from Pennsylvania to North Dakota.

For example, “But some companies deduct expenses for transporting and processing natural gas, even when leases contain clauses explicitly prohibiting such deductions. In other cases, according to court files and documents obtained by ProPublica, they withhold money without explanation for other, unauthorized expenses, and without telling landowners that the money is being withheld. … In Oklahoma, Chesapeake deducted marketing fees from payments to a landowner – a joint owner in the well – even though the fees went to its own subsidiary[.]” The companies have also sold the product to subsidiaries at artificially low prices on which they paid farmers’ royalties, then resold at the higher market value.

Natural gas is apparently priced by volume, yet in pipelines it can be compressed and subjected to other processes the drillers and transporters call “proprietary” and won’t describe. Ownership of pipelines is not only becoming obscure, it’s a new field for innovative financial trading: Transport pipelines are being sold off to multiple third parties. Fracking rights purchased from farmers are being divided up and sold off to other companies in dribs, drabs and perhaps even tranches. One of the more “cutthroat” drillers has also been found to consistently report getting lower sale prices for its harvested gas on the market than e.g. the Norwegian partner firm Statoil selling similar products in the same markets at the same time.

A fierce debate is raging in Germany about whether to allow fracking to harvest its “Schiefergas,” shale gas or slate gas.

(BRUTE oh   nichh t   NET oh.)

“Für viel Geld, die Filet-Stücke des Internets erhalten”

“For a lot of money, receiving in return the prime cuts of the internet,” said European Parliament member Jan Philipp Albrecht (Green party).

E.U. commissioner Neelie Kroes announced a proposal that she said would guarantee net neutrality in the European Union while allowing companies to purchase advantages in the tubes. Critics said her doublespeaked plan is the opposite of net neutrality and would create the dreaded “two-class internet,” although as Spiegel.de pointed out it would fragment internet access into many more than two classes. Dozens if not hundreds of access classes would spawn, with opaqueness for consumers and many new sources of income for middlemen. Ms. Kroes introduced her plan on Thursday, 12 Sep 2013, saying she hoped to implement it rapidly. She praised her plan as the first time net neutrality would be protected throughout the entire European Union.

The proposal must be approved by the E.U. Council and the E.U. Parliament. There will be an E.U. parliamentary election in April 2014.

(Foor   FEEL   GELD   dee   fee LAY SHTOOK eh   dess   IN ta nets   err HALT en.)

Altweibersommer

“Old ladies’ summer,” the German Indian summer of good weather after the first cooling of autumn. Characterized by warm sunny days, cool nights, fog in the river valleys and spiders’ webs spun over the farmers’ fields, glinting with dew in the sideways light of morning.

(All t VIBE ah zom ah.)

Themenklau

“Issues thievery.” Opposition parties propose new laws and reforms that are helpful good ideas, the ruling coalition steals the ideas and writes the legislation, the opposition criticizes that it doesn’t go far enough, everyone votes to pass the bill and voters benefit. It appears ruling parliamentary coalitions especially like to steal opposition parties’ best ideas during election years.

(TÆ men cl ow!)

Gitarrengeplätscher und Wackelkamera

“Rippling guitar music and shaky cameras,” a critique of one party’s advisors’ decisions for their Bundestag campaign ads this year. First their attempt to make a celebrity “personality” more important than a party’s program, and now that: sentimental background music and silly shots to obscure the lack of content.

(Git ARR en geh PLETSCH ah   oont   VOCK ell com eh RAH.)

Beispiellose Bergungsaktion

Parbuckling sans pareil, the clever, steady project to recover the Costa Concordia cruise ship from the rocks before the coast of the Italian island of Giglio.

(By shpeel LOZE eh   BERG oongs octs yo n.)

Ellenbogen und Solidarität

 

“Elbows and solidarity,” this year’s Hessian S.P.D. candidate’s description of how his party will fight to win the Hessian state election occurring simultaneously with the federal Bundestag parliamentary election on 22 Sep 2013. The C.D.U. manages to win the state of Hesse rather consistently.

(Ellen BO gen   oont    zoh lee dar ee TATE.)

Unausgegorenes Sammelsaurium

Half-cocked collectionoctopus, great mild pejorative for some political parties’ last minute policy proposal dumps these past few months. News reports about which could all start with the ultimately disparaging “# weeks before the September 22 election…”, which has the potential to discredit almost any statement following it.

(Oo now ss geh GORE en ess   zom mel z OW! ree oom.)

Unionsrecht

“Union law” in Germany apparently means European Union law and not the rules of the conservative Christian Democratic union consisting of the national-level C.D.U. + the Bavarian state C.S.U. This distinction became clear during a television news discussion about the legality of C.S.U. head Horst Seehofer’s strange and very unsettling* campaign promise to create a toll for foreigners driving on Bavarian roads. Mr. Seehofer’s political party, which has ruled Bavaria since 1946, claimed they did a survey that found 88% of Bavarians disliked foreigners enough to support the C.S.U.’s proposed toll or “Ausländer-Maut.” C.S.U. proponents also said the country of Austria introduced a similar foreigners fee and why wasn’t that illegal but their state-level proposal is.

The Bavarian state election (for the Landestag, state parliament) was Sunday, 15 Sep 2013, one week before Germany’s Bundestag election.

During the campaign—mercifully short by U.S. standards—the C.S.U. party promised Bavarian voters it would refuse to join a German federal government coalition after the 22 Sep 2013 federal election if their federal partners said they couldn’t tax foreigners. But it’s hard to believe the C.S.U. could afford to exit that coalition. Bavaria is said to have the best schools in Germany, so it’s hard to believe Bavarian voters would believe the C.S.U. when they promised to exit that coalition, either. The threat didn’t work on Chancellor Merkel (C.D.U.), on the surface at least. During what was apparently the only formal evening debate between the two largest parties’ candidates, she said on national television that the C.S.U.’s proposed foreigner-specific state road toll was not going to happen.

But the whole point appears to have been to talk about taxing foreigners in Bavarian beer tents, because Horst Seehofer persisted in doing that even after Angela Merkel’s quiet and very public “no.” Mr. Seehofer’s challenger, Munich mayor Christian Ude (S.P.D.), called it “eine bewusste Irreführung der Bevölkerung,” a deliberate confusion or leading-into-crazy-country of the people.

* Not only do proposals like this sound like they could grow racism, but as we now know since the Snowden trove revelations there are several ways the new toll could be used to spy on foreigners.

(Oo n YO nz wrecked.)

Incendies vs. départs de feu

ASN.fr published a French nuclear safety agency report saying approximately 100 fires broke out in electricity-generating French nuclear power stations last year, mostly caused by electrical problems. The report carefully differentiated between incendies, major fires, and départs de feu, mere fire outbreaks, at French nuclear power plants.

Glücklich

1) Happy, and 2) having good luck. The U.S. family name “Glick” probably was originally Glück or Glueck, meaning happiness or good luck.

(GLICK lichh.)

Primum non nocere

“First, do no harm.” If you have no access to good things, then strive for the absence of bad ones. A logical short-term choice but no permanent way to live. Good things have to be too. If they’re not present eventually you’ll have to make them, somehow.

In cultures that brew bad beer or e.g. confuse sediment and microbial contamination with personality you might be able to get by for a while by drinking beer that’s as watery as possible. But that’s no way to live. You can’t not talk about religion and politics forever, especially when people are taking advantage of the vacuum to make culture war. Another example: women readers probably can’t enjoy science fiction from fun thinkers such as Robert Heinlein unless it’s a work with no female characters, just humans and aliens. But as tempting as a modern moratorium on female characters sounds, it would create more generations of… uninformed writing about women.

Fortunately, the world’s goodnesses are multiplied by good discussions. Useful ideas shared are solutions doubled and time/effort halved. As we get older the problems we haven’t solved yet seem impossible, and yet one entertaining lunch with a curious friend can save you five years of frustration.

Trennungsjournalismus vs. Journalismus der richtigen Zusammenhänge

“Separation journalism vs. journalism of correct connections.” A NiemanLab.org book review said Jay Rosen wrote that U.S. journalist ethics have been about getting the separations right and should move on to getting the connections right.

Bob Garfield made a seemingly related comment about journalistic problems with lack of context in the 02 Aug 2013 episode of National Public Radio’s “On the Media” when he said, “Journalism is pretty terrible at covering ongoing conditions. It tends to be very good covering the acute. Poverty and de-industrialization, they’re just hard to cover because they require constantly paying attention to things that are changing only very incrementally, right?” I think he went on to indicate the longer term was only two weeks though.

The wonderful Seymour Hersh mentioned the recognizing relevance problem—after substance’s having been neglected too long in favor of style—in a talk at Boston University from what may have been the first year of President Obama’s first term because health reform hadn’t passed yet.

“[T]here’s no knowledge. I can’t tell you how many times… just last weekend, a senior official was interviewed live, maybe to camera, but the interview was broadcast live on a major show by somebody who didn’t really understand what he had said. He gave away something, and the person wasn’t smart enough, though a very eminent person, wasn’t smart enough to jump on it. So you have a lack of acumen too, because it’s all gone stylish. And so there you are.”

Lacking the information you need doesn’t mean you’re not smart. But it’s everyone’s tragedy if it’s not remedied.

Speaking of style/substance and context’s deep undercurrents: In the 1990’s my fellow German history majors and I were instantly suspicious of German television news anchors who smiled. In addition to exceeding what was necessary in the exquisitely minimalist atmosphere of the time, and implicitly giving permission to models that ultimately drove news into entertainment, they appeared to be knowingly or unknowingly siding with encroaching private media empires that were trying then to undermine the decent public television channels you could still find in Germany. Some of those entrepreneurial, debt-fueled private channels have since gone broke while others resemble empires. There have been changes at the top as well: British media mogul Robert Maxwell was found floating dead next to his yacht, and Bavarian media mogul Leo Kirch died of old age after suing Deutsche Bank for accidentally bankrupting his company by managerial loose talk. For a time, Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s interest in purchasing German media scared people so much they hoped Italian media mogul Silvio Berlusconi would get them instead. Today I think the smiling-news-anchors “tell” no longer applies—you can be a very good German news anchor now and occasionally smile on television!—but persistently mugging for the camera might remain a bad indicator. Sounds terrible in the context of 2013 U.S.A., criticizing someone for smiling!

F.y.i., here is NiemandLab.org’s interesting Rosen-brainstormed collection of ideas about contemporary deliberate U.S. journalistic separations:

  • Editorial functions are separated from the business side.
  • The news pages are separated from the opinion pages.
  • Facts are separated from values.
  • Those who make the news are separated from those who cover the news.
  • Truth-telling must be separated from its consequences so that journalists can “tell it like it is.”
  • The newspaper is separated from other institutions by its duty to report on them.
  • One day is separated from another because news is what’s “new” today.
  • A good journalist separates reality from rhetoric.
  • One’s professional identity must be separated from one’s personal identity as a citizen.
  • How one “feels” about something is separate from how one reports on it.
  • The journalist’s mind is separate from the journalist’s soul.

(TRENN oongz joor nah LEEZ moose   VAIR seuss   joor nah LEEZ moose   dare   tsoo ZOM en heng eh.)

Schwachstellen in Sicherheitsprodukte einbauen

“Building in vulnerabilities in security products,” one of several methods the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q. used to unlock encryption methods previously thought secure, according to the Guardian.co.uk, NYTimes.com and ProPublica.org. When the Canadian company BlackBerry updated its encryption in 2009, for example, the N.S.A. cracked it in mere months, according to a Spiegel.de article headlined “Champagne!

These two large agencies and their partners in e.g. the Five Eyes alliance have also been benefiting from encryption cracking via supercomputers, targeted hacking committees, strange U.S. letters and court orders that forbid the ordered from ever mentioning the order, an N.S.A. Computer Solutions Center that “provided security testing” for tech products, subversion of international security standards used by developers but especially persuasion of tech companies, whose names remain most secret.

Tagesschau.de reported on 06 Sep 2013 that the “Bankenverband“—the name indicates an association of banks but the reporter did not define it more specifically—announced that N.S.A. employees and contractors can only view Germans’ online banking but cannot transfer money out of (“plunder”) their accounts. German consumers will not be reassured by this.

Brazil’s TV Globo on 08 Sep 2013 added to the list of snooped targets the international S.W.I.F.T. bank transfer network, the closed computer networks of “airlines, foreign governments, power companies and financial institutions” and the state-owned Brazilian oil company Petrobras, increasing fears of industrial espionage by the U.S.A. and its allies.

The Guardian.co.uk article on the targeted placement of back doors into encryption software was very angry about how vulnerable to criminals this makes everyone (called “the consumer and other adversaries” in one Snowden trove document). Weakening software causes people to commit crimes who wouldn’t normally have done so.

(Sh VOCHH shtell en   in   ZICHH ah heights prod OOK teh   EYE n bough en.)

Die Verharmloser

“The harmlessers.” Pejorative hurled in June 2013 at ruling-coalition German politicians who said the U.S.A.’s spying on domestic and international emails, phone calls, video chats, text chats and search histories, in addition to snail mail, in-house company computer networks, the ubiquitous traffic and security cameras in public spaces, and even medical, financial and toll records, is okay with them. Even if this data was used to track and kill people via extralegal drone assassination.

German media have also said the ruling coalition is “talking the N.S.A. problem small,” “veiling” and “down-moderating” it, using “placating” and “appeasing” language to angry voters, especially but not exclusively before the Bundestag election on 22 Sep 2013. Data protection officers remain unappeased, vociferously warning about these issues at their national meetings. Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck invited federal data protection officer Peter Schaar to discuss the problem and its implications at the presidential palace of Bellevue on 06 Sep 2013.

Spiegel.de reminds us the imbroglio includes tapping international fiber optic cables, forcing companies to give up their customers’ data, commissioning back doors in software and hardware advertised as secure and the N.S.A. and G.C.H.Q.’s ability to use brute computing force to break encryption. Presumably satellite communications aren’t immune either.

U.S. government intelligence agencies are also spreading this behavior around the world like an antidemocratic virus to friends, neutrals and foes alike as they share technology and illicitly-gathered information with allied intelligence agencies, pay telecoms and cable companies to codevelop snoop technology and render services and outsource much of their own sensitive work to private-sector companies. Non-allied countries will feel forced to invest in similar strategies as well. Companies are being perfectly reasonable if they decide to sell to everybody. Ignoring even light regulation sets a poor example and paves the way for disaster under bad leadership, anywhere in the world.

(Dee   feh HOM loze ah.)

“Gewährung von Befreiungen und Vergünstigungen an Unternehmen, die mit Dienstleistungen auf dem Gebiet analytischer Tätigkeiten für die in der Bundesrepublik Deutschland stationierten Truppen der Vereinigten Staaten beauftragt sind”

Frontal 21 investigative reporters discovered that Germany’s governments issued permits to private-sector U.S. firms to spy on German soil at least as far back as August 2003, when the Foreign Office under Joschka Fischer (Green party) happened to create the earliest documentation found for this so far by publishing in the German Federal Gazette [Bundesgesetzblatt, BGB] some proposed amendments to what looks like a 2001 permit issued to the U.S.A.:

“Granting of exemptions and advantages to companies commissioned with services in the field of analytical activities for United States troops stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany” [Translation of the German BGB version.]

This English text from another news program might be a less-translated version closer to the original:

“Granting of exemptions and benefits to enterprises charged with providing services in the field of analytical activities to the United States Forces stationed in the Federal Republic of Germany”

The show’s reporters said they found a 2011 document saying the German government had issued spying licenses to 207 intelligence private-contractor companies that apparently have included, to name just a few, Booz Allen Hamilton, L3 Services Inc., Military Professional Resources Inc. (M.P.R.I.), Galaxy Scientific, The Analytic Sciences Corp. (T.A.S.C.), Science Applications International Corporation (S.A.I.C.), R4, Pluribus International, Bevilacqua Research Corp., Silverback, Information and Infrastructure Technologies (I.I.T.), Electronic Warfare Associates (?? E.W.A.), D.S.R. (?), General Dynamics, D.P.R.A. (?), Computer Sciences Corporation, CACI, GeoEye Analytics, Lockheed Martin. The 2011 document was mentioned because Germans were incensed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s C.D.U./C.S.U. + F.D.P. coalition government’s claim that it only found out about Prism via the newspapers.

The Frontal 21 report opens with a local mayor’s delightful driving tour around an area called the Dagger Complex in the Hessian town of Griesheim, only 30 km from Frankfurt/Main. Frankfurt apparently has the world’s largest node for internet traffic, operated by a German company called De-Cix. A representative from De-Cix reminded the reporters that any U.S. companies involved with manufacture or operation of the Frankfurt node’s cables or computers could have been forced by U.S. law to violate German law and grant access to the data flowing through them, and ditto for Chinese companies and Chinese law, et cetera. The U.S. firm Level 3 Communications, apparently the world’s biggest data network operator, runs an important computer center for the Frankfurt node. (It said it runs five Germany data centers actually, in Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt/Main and Munich.) Frontal21 narrator: “Like all U.S. network operators, [Level 3] had to agree to let its data be saved off to America and to give American intelligence agencies access to it.” Commentary from pundit historian Josef Foschepoth concluded the report by saying post-W.W.II German law still provides some outdated protections to allied countries spying on German citizens in violation of German law. He said they used to call it the Alliertes Vorbehaltsrecht and now they’re calling it “legal obligations of the German government.”

(Geh VARE oong   fon   beh FRYE oong en   oont   ferg IN stig oong en   on   oon ta NAME en,   dee   mitt   DEENST lye stoong en   ow! f   dame   geh BEET   on oll it ish ah   TATE ichh kite en   foor   dee   in   dare   BOOND ess ray poob leek   DEUTSCHLAND   shtah tee own EAR ten   TROOP en   dare   fare EYE nichh ten   SHTOT en   beh OW! f trog t   zint.)

Der lange langsame Marsch durch die Institutionen

“The long slow march through institutions.”

In an Australian radio discussion about democracy, Francis Fukuyama said that is how Antonio Gramsci might have described the history of the “1968” generation of German students who did things like created the Green party in 1980 and then gradually got elected into local, state and federal office, cogoverning the country from 1998 to 2005.

The 1968 students also insisted on discussing previously taboo topics that shouldn’t have been taboo, especially aspects of World War II and its aftermath which some of their parents had demonstrated by their behavior they would have preferred to continue hiding and abetting.

(Dare   LONG eh   LONG zom eh   mahsh   doer chh   dee   in stee toot Y’OWN en.)

Aufsichtsrat für Privatsphäre und Freiheitsrechte

“Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board,” oversight in this case meaning not overlooking but supervising, or at least providing their boss with advice. The White House has had one of these since 2004 when Congress established it in response to a recommendation in the 9/11 Commission Report. The advisory board has five members, nominated by the President and approved by Congress. They “serve at the President’s pleasure.”

FederalRegister.gov lists some of the board’s history and the following responsibilities.

“The Board advises the President and other senior executive branch officials to ensure that concerns with respect to privacy and civil liberties are appropriately considered in the implementation of all laws, regulations, and executive branch policies related to efforts to protect the Nation against terrorism. This includes advising on whether adequate guidelines, supervision, and oversight exist to protect these important legal rights of all Americans. In addition, the Board is specifically charged with responsibility for reviewing the terrorism information sharing practices of executive branch departments and agencies to determine whether guidelines designed to appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties are being followed[.]”

What changes could have been made to this board or other institutions that might have prevented the last decade’s vast growth in U.S.-led collection—by U.S. government agencies, international private-sector companies and friendly foreign governments’ agencies—of domestic and foreign communications? What would have kept our intelligence industry manageable and monitored and transparent enough for a democracy?

(OW! f zichh ts rot   foor   pree VOT s fare eh   oont   FRYE heights rect eh.)

Freiheitsrechte

Germans are world-famous for being protective of personal privacy. Their constitutionally protected civil liberties are slightly different as well; here are the basic Freiheitsrechte, or “personal liberty rights,” according to de.Wikipedia:

Allgemeine Handlungsfreiheit: “General freedom of action” Art. 2 of the German Constitution [Grundgesetz, GG]. Art. 2 No. 1 appears to be the basis for what are known as the “Persönlichkeitsrechte,” “personality rights” protecting the “free unfolding” of the personality against interventions in a person’s life and freedom, even after death.

Recht auf Leben: “Right to life” Art. 2 No. 2 GG

Recht auf Freiheit: “Right to freedom” Art. 2 No. 2 GG

Recht auf körperliche Unversehrtheit: “Right to bodily integrity” Art. 2 No. 2 GG

Gewissensfreiheit: “Freedom of conscience” Art. 4 No. 1 GG

Religionsfreiheit: “Freedom of religion” Art. 4 No. 2 GG

Meinungsfreiheit: “Freedom of opinion” Art. 5 No. 1 GG

Versammlungsfreiheit: “Right to assemble” Art. 8 No. 1 GG

Vereinigungsfreiheit: “Freedom of association” Art. 9 No. 1 GG

Koalitionsfreiheit: “Freedom of coalition,” for employees and employers to form groups to promote their interests. Art. 9 No. 3 GG

Freizügigkeit: “Right of abode” to choose where you will live. Art. 11 No. 1 GG

Berufsfreiheit: “Freedom of profession” to choose your own jobs and the training for them. Art. 12 No. 1 GG

(FRYE heights rect eh.)

Monitorische Demokratie vs. monetäre Demokratie

Monitory democracy vs. monetary democracy.

In an online discussion, political theorist John Keane said he considered our form of government to have gone through three stages: the ancient world’s assembly democracy, in which groups of landowning men would vote on some topics; late-18th-century representative electoral democracy; and, now, added to that, an emerging “monitory democracy” in which many varied groups are monitoring governments’ performance, adherence to democratic principles, protection of humans, protection of human rights, etc.

Monetary democracy: perhaps codified by the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, which appeared to define one dollar as one vote.

(Mon ih TOR ish eh   dame oh cra TEE   vair seuss   mon eh TARE eh   dame oh cra TEE.)

Gemeinsames Terrorabwehrzentrum, G.T.A.Z.

“Joint Terrorism Defense Center.” Apparently the German police and secret services have been working together at this institution since its founding in 2004 under poor Otto Schily. Many Germans are terrified by the idea of police and spies working together.

If the reasonable, brave, intelligent, energetic and left-leaning defense attorney Otto Schily, cofounder of the German Green party in 1980, could as interior minister in an S.P.D. + Green party coalition federal government help set up the “antiterrorism” cooperations that Otto Schily apparently did, then institutions in governments around the world could use a good hard review by politicians who don’t want to see themselves forced into similar stances in the very near future.

A recent review of Germany’s antiterror laws by the interior ministry and the justice ministry, examining in particular who has what authorities and who checks their work, has concluded and published its nonbinding report. Interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (C.S.U.) was satisfied with the current laws but justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Scharrenberger (F.D.P.) is not: she is calling for a new law providing uniform and limiting rules for antiterror centers where police and intelligence services exchange information.

“When we’re talking about intervention authorizations that go deep, precisely the ones that penetrate into the privacy and personality spheres of individual people, then there have to be definitive rule-of-law procedures, mandatory notifications, inspection and controls, transparency.”

(Geh MINE zom ess   TARE or OB vare tsent room.)

Unabhängiger Revisor für die Terrorismusgesetzgebung

The U.K.’s “independent reviewer of terrorism legislation,” who is looking into the police’s invocation of Britain’s “antiterror” laws when they interrogated David Miranda for nine hours without a lawyer after he tried to change planes at Heathrow—a difficult connection airport even when you’re not terrorized by authorities. They confiscated Mr. Miranda’s computer, phone and all other electronic gear.

David Anderson, Q.C., has also been called “U.K. Terror Law Watchdog” in English-language headlines.

(OON ob HENG iggah   reVISor   foor   dee   tare or IZ moose geh ZETZ gay boong.)

Werkverträge

“Work contracts” or “service contracts” that pay workers per item or opus rather than per hour, month or annum. Piecework contracts paying per product or service.

In the Bundesrat, Lower Saxony (S.P.D. + Green party), North Rhine-Westphalia (S.P.D. + Green party) and the Saarland (C.D.U. + S.P.D.) announced an initiative to investigate what they said is growing misuse of this type of labor contract, particularly in the meat packing industry. Such workers, estimated at >10,000 in Germany reported tagesschau.de, are said to be being lured in from less prosperous Eastern European countries, treated badly and paid “hunger wages” by German standards. Apparently current German regulations do not provide workers with this type of contract the same protections given to temp workers [Leiharbeiter], such as a guaranteed minimum wage for each hour worked.

Investigators’ complaints about poor treatment include “piecework at hunger wages [instead of the usual higher wages to compensate for piecework’s lack of benefits], inadequate health protection and opaque Werkvertrag contracts given to low-wage foreign workers.”

The governor of Lower Saxony, Stephan Weil (S.P.D.), deemed these contracts “an ulcer on the entire German labor market” and called for them to be banned, saying Werkvertrag workers also need representation in a company’s Betriebsrat, a workers’ committee involved in management. The proposed Bundesrat initiative would mandate that Betriebsrat worker committees must give their approval before Werkvertrag labor can be used in any German company.

Lower Saxony’s government said their state has already passed new rules about shared apartments the companies with questionable Werkvertrag conditions are also renting out to foreign pieceworkers. They now must provide at least 8 square meters per employee-tenant.

(VEH ACK feh TRAY geh.)

Diskutierbare Leitungsstrukturen

“Discussable management structures.” Shortly after the Offshore Leaks trove went public, in April 2013, Spiegel let go its two co-editors-in-chief, one for the excellent hourly-updated internet presence Spiegel-Online (who had started out as a journalist for the print edition) & one for the excellent weekly print edition (who started as a journalist at Spiegel TV), citing “differences of opinion on strategic orientation” and “effective immediately.” The new sole editor-in-chief is a former Spiegel-Online guy. Spiegel.de’s blog post about the shuffle indicated that the magazine’s top management structures are flexible when it mentioned that the duarchical online-and-print editorship eliminated in 2013 was established in a 2011 reorg.

Update on 26 Aug 2013: Complaints at der Spiegel because the tabloid Bild Zeitung’s deputy editor is going to become the new deputy editor at Spiegel, under new editor-in-chief Wolfgang Büchner. Büchner said the title is just a shoulder pat, that Nikolaus Blome won’t have as much influence on the news magazine as previous deputy editors, that he will in fact just run the Berlin branch office where Büchner is and not be at Hamburg headquarters, that he won’t be able to give instructions to department heads.

50.5% of Spiegel stock is owned by its journalists via Mitarbeiter KG [“Employees Inc.”], which read a statement at the (tough) meeting repeating its strong objections to Blome and to hiring Blome anyway after Mitarbeiter KG’s objection.

Süddeutsche.de wrote that the Mitarbeiter KG consortium of shareholder journalist employees’ co-management at Spiegel is based on arrangements made at the print half, which has falling circulation. The online half is apparently doing better, though it’s unclear whether SZ means that as measured by unique hits or by net profits, but its journalists find themselves in a “weaker position” than the print side’s journalists.

(Diss coo TEA ah bah rah   LIGHT oongs strrrooc TOUR en.)

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