Solidaritätsbananen

Solidarity bananas.

For years, so probably decades, European soccer hooligans have been throwing bananas on the pitch as a racist insult, though sometimes they can make it clear the insult is nonracist yet still highly insulting.

Recently, a Brazilian player picked up one of these fallen bananas and calmly ate it. Now, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said, people are posting photos of themselves eating bananas as an anti-racist gesture. Italy’s new prime minister Matteo Renzi joined the meme, for example.

Achtung: this article contains photos of very good-looking men eating bananas.

(Saw lee dah ree TATES bon on on.)

Robotrecht

Robot law, a research center at the University of Würzburg’s law school.

Jurists there are discussing the laws that will be needed for driverless cars, among other things.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said car manufacturers have come up with a plan to move us to fully automated driving:

“Step 0: Manual driving.”

“1. Assisted driving with distance measurement, parking aids, lane tracking systems.”

“2. Partially automated driving: Drivers will no longer have to steer in certain situations, such as on the Autobahn, but they will remain vigilent.”

“3. Highly automated driving: The vehicle will find its way alone, but a person will still sit behind the steering wheel.”

“4. Fully automated driving: For certain applications such as parking and rearranging cars in parking garages, a driver is no longer necessary.”

“5. Driverless driving: Human drivers will no longer sit behind the wheel in these ‘robot taxis.'”

German car manufacturers are currently working on fusioning all the aids and assists that are on the market now. We’ll be between steps 2 and 3 for about the next five years, an industry representative said.

The head of the robot law working group at Würzburg said if driverless cars are given the status of e.g. an “ePerson,” they can be criminally prosecuted after an injury occurs. This would limit the liability of the auto manufacturers.

(Roe bot RECHH t.)

Neuer Europäischer Fahrzyklus

“New European Driving Cycle.” Contains the rules that define how auto manufacturers must test how many miles/kilometers their vehicles drive per gallon/liter of gasoline consumed. The N.E.F.Z. came into effect in the 1970’s and its mileage testing rules are scheduled to be replaced by the Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedures (W.L.T.P.) in 2016, though the European auto manufacturers’ lobby A.C.E.A. is lobbying to delay the new rules until 2020.

Spiegel.de said the Financial Times (paywall) reported on the A.C.E.A.’s attempt to delay stricter mileage tests for four more years. Under the current rules, auto manufacturers can legally reduce gas consumption by hacking the mileage testing of their own products by using “light tires, special lubricants, taping off gaps on the hood or headlights for better aerodynamics. Some unclamp the battery to keep it from being charged, and they test at ideal environmental temperatures.”

The new mileage testing rules would require “more realistic” conditions, including faster accelerations, higher speeds and less idling time for the engines.

Meanwhile, two Spanish hackers who presented about a $26 tool they said they created that let them remotely access steering, speed controls, brakes and heating/cooling, in both a test car from a U.S. manufacturer and a test car from a Japanese manufacturer, said these mini-computers under the hood can improve mileage just by changing a few numbers.

“Would you like to spend less money on gas? Did you know that the difference between 100 horsepower and 130 horsepower version of your car is just some changes in the engine control unit firmware?”

Update on 30 Apr 2014: ZDF heute journal compared car owners’ reported mileage with the considerably better N.E.F.Z. mileage asserted in the manufacturer’s print and video ads for one model, then asked its manufacturer for an explanation. Ford drew their attention to a line in the fine print that said the mileage numbers printed in the offer were not part of the offer.

Then ZDF accompanied an automobile magazine’s consumer product testing of the mileage of several cars, driven along the same varied route during normal working hours by the same driver who is an expert in reducing gas consumption. “No one can get higher mileage out of a car than this guy.” In their test, the Ford model in question used 13% more gas than was advertized as its normal consumption, a Citroen deviated by 0%, a VW beat the value at -1%, an Opel beat the value at almost -2% and a Peugeot used >35% more gas than advertized.

(NOY ah   oy roe PÆ ish ah   FAH tsee clues.)

Die Spargelzeit

Asparagus time!

Asparagus season is a culinary celebration in Germany, between bärlauch and cherries. The long thick glowing white stalks of German asparagus have to be hand-cultivated under impressive mounds of dirt to keep the sun from turning them green. Once harvested, they are sold almost like truffles, except cheaper and there’s enough for everyone.

White asparagus is good alone with sauce hollandaise (made from scratch, it’s easy if only you can get the right ingredients), with fish, with fresh small spring potatoes. Save the peelings and trimmings to boil in water for asparagus soup (remove boiled peelings and trimmings then puree the broth with cream, some chicken bouillon, salt, pepper, garnish with fresh herbs at the last minute). Serve with chilled dry white German wine in those short round bottles.

Key words for white asparagus include “tender.” It gets woody if it’s too old or if it’s cooked too long, which is a bit counterintuitive. Asparagus marketed as “crisp” might already be woody.

(Dee    SHPOG ell tsight.)

Glimmstängel

The glowing (white) stalk. Another word for a cigarette.

(GLIM stengle.)

Nicht rauchen

“No smoking.”

The only sign I saw 20th-century Germans disobey.

The post-W.W.II history of how cigarettes were marketed to Germans might contain some answers. 20th-century German cigarette ads were a bit of a puzzle to this nonsmoking foreigner. I never grokked the feelings of rebellion and addiction that might be being felt by German smokers. After trying to understand their tobacco brands’ ubiquitous billboards for years, I decided the ads seemed to say somehow that smoking was the social equivalent of smiling and making friends, that it signified you were socially approachable. An extreme was the Gauloises ads, showing relaxed, bien-dans-sa-peau Frenchmen smoking outdoors in a tree-shaded piazza in good weather, while wearing pyjamas in public.

(Nichh t   r-r-r OW! chh en.)

Berliner Schnauze

Berlin lip, snout, mouth, mouthiness. Both the Berlin dialect and the cheeky irrepressible attitude.

(Beah LEAN ah   sh NOW tsah.)

Präsenzhandel, Parketthandel

“Open outcry,” criée trading, a century-old form of exchange in which brokers stand in a pit screaming and gesturing at each other.

Präsenzhandel means “presence trading,” and Parkett is the old-fashioned parquet floor.

(Pray ZENTS hond ell,   pah KETT hond ell.)

0.02 Prozent

In September 2013 Italy became the world’s first country to introduce a tax on high-frequency trading. Italy’s government now collects 0.02% on all trades that take place in less time than half a second.

(Nool comma nool tsvy   prote CENT.)

Den Markt mit Scheinaufträge bewegen, die im letzten Augenblick annuliert werden

“Moving the market with fake orders that are cancelled at the last moment,” one issue Germans have worried about with high-frequency trading.

In addition to worrying about H.F.T., Germans have also worried about hedge funds, since the Clinton White House. A German review of Michael Lewis’s new book said in jurisdictions where high-frequency traders aren’t required to register as such, they often call themselves hedge funds.

(Dane   MAWKED   mitt   SHINE ow! f tr ague en   bev AGUE en,   dee   im   lets ten   OW! g en blick   on newell EARED   vair den.)

Blitzjungs

Lightning boys, in Süddeutsche Zeitung’s review of Michael Lewis’s new book on high-frequency trading.

(BLITS yoongs.)

Auferstanden aus Ruinen

“Risen from Ruins,” the national anthem of East Germany.

Risen from ruins
And facing the future,
Let us serve you for the good,
Germany, united fatherland.
Old woes are to be overcome
And we overcome them united
Because we so must succeed,
So that the sun beautiful as never before
Over Germany shines,
Over Germany shines.
Auferstanden aus Ruinen
Und der Zukunft zugewandt,
Lass uns dir zum Guten dienen,
Deutschland, einig Vaterland.
Alte Not gilt es zu zwingen,
Und wir zwingen sie vereint,
Denn es muss uns doch gelingen,
Dass die Sonne schön wie nie
Über Deutschland scheint,
Über Deutschland scheint.
Happiness and peace be granted
To Germany, our fatherland.
All the world longs for peace,
Reach your hand out to the peoples.
If brotherly we unite ourselves,
We shall defeat the people’s enemy.
Let the light of peace shine
So that a mother never more
Mourns her son,
Mourns her son.
Glück und Friede sei beschieden
Deutschland, unserm Vaterland.
Alle Welt sehnt sich nach Frieden,
Reicht den Völkern eure Hand.
Wenn wir brüderlich uns einen,
Schlagen wir des Volkes Feind.
Lasst das Licht des Friedens scheinen,
Dass nie eine Mutter mehr
Ihren Sohn beweint,
Ihren Sohn beweint.
Let us plough, let us build,
Learn and create like never before,
And, confident in immanent strength,
A free generation rises up.
German youth, best efforts
Of our people united in you,
You will become Germany’s new life.
And the sun beautiful as never,
Over Germany shines,
Over Germany shines.
Lasst uns pflügen, lasst uns bauen,
Lernt und schafft wie nie zuvor,
Und der eignen Kraft vertrauend,
Steigt ein frei Geschlecht empor.
Deutsche Jugend, bestes Streben
Unsres Volks in dir vereint,
Wirst du Deutschlands neues Leben,
Und die Sonne schön wie nie
Über Deutschland scheint,
Über Deutschland scheint.

SORM, Roskomnadzor, &c.

SORM, which apparently stands for “System for Operative Investigative Activities,” is a mass surveillance system in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. Roskomnadzor is Russia’s “Federal Service for Supervision of Communications, Information Technology and Mass Media” according to English wikipedia.

The following is from an October 2013 article describing Russia’s domestic surveillance system prior to the winter Olympics in Sochi.

“In Russia, the FSB [Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, successor to the Soviet KGB] must also obtain a court order to eavesdrop, but once they have it, they are not obliged to show it to anybody except FSB superiors. Telecoms providers have no right to demand to see the warrant; they must pay for Sorm equipment and installation, but are denied access to the boxes. The FSB does not even need to contact ISP staff; instead it calls the FSB controller, who is linked by a protected cable to the Sorm device installed on the ISP network.”

Datenjournalismus

Data journalism.

Germany has thousands of gas stations that tend to be owned by only a handful of chains affiliated with the world’s major oil companies. For years, people accused German gas stations of raising fuel prices right before weekends and holidays and especially holiday weekends, in concert, yet no one could prove collusion. So the government created the Market Transparency Office for Fuel. In 2013, the Markttransparenzstelle began requiring German gas stations to communicate their fuel price changes in real time, and then it broadcast the data to companies whose phone apps let consumers quickly and easily compare gas prices at the closest gas stations.

Süddeutsche Zeitung has now taken four weeks of gas price data from one of the larger phone apps and combed through the information looking for patterns in what they’re calling a “data journalism” investigation. They’ll be publishing their findings in a series of articles.

Update on 16 Apr 2014: Some immediately obvious outliers turned out to be caused by gas stations that were sending in prices without decimal points, or e.g. one was submitting the price “9999.” S.Z. said the system still doesn’t have a way to check whether the numbers submitted by gas stations are truthful. Currently consumers are to send complaints about incorrect price data to the phone app companies.

S.Z. said they too can’t prove collusion. But some gas station chains are more expensive (the chain with the highest fuel prices said it’s because their fuel is such high quality). Some chains are big enough that their price changes move the market, with smaller chains changing their prices after a bigger chain does so.

The lowest fuel prices tended to be in areas with dense populations.

One gas station chain tends to change its fuel prices >13 times a day, another only 9 times a day. Both are very likely to change fuel prices between 7 and 8 p.m., while several other chains are very likely to change prices between 9 p.m. and midnight. Apparently until this report was published the cheapest time to refuel was between 5 and 7 p.m., with fuel prices rising steeply after 8 p.m.

Update on 17 Apr 2014: The chain with the most gas stations in Germany has the highest fuel prices in Germany, in the data set the Süddeutsche Zeitung examined. The chain with the second-highest number of gas stations has the second-highest fuel prices. S.Z. said the ratio holds true for four other large “A brand” chains.

“B brand,” cheaper and smaller, gas station chains tend to use a strategy of selling fuel at prices only perhaps two eurocents below the prices of the closest “A brand” gas stations but the new pricing data shows that their prices average four to five eurocents below the A brands’ when looking at Germany as a whole. The C.E.O. of one of the fuel price phone apps said, “The strategy of the B brands is actually: one or two cents cheaper is okay, that won’t start a price war.”

Germany also has many gas stations not affiliated with the large oil-company chains, but the current database groups independent gas stations in the same category as ones that belong to a large non-oil company such as a chain of car washes or supermarkets. The larger category of independent gas stations plus gas stations belonging to non-oil-company chains had higher average fuel prices than the B brand gas stations, yet S.Z. said “a look at the data” showed that in fact car wash and supermarket chains sell the cheapest fuel, because they’re hoping customers who arrive to buy gas will stay to wash cars or buy groceries.

Austria is trying to regulate gas stations’ pricing to benefit consumers more by mandating that gas stations there can only change fuel prices once per day, at noon. It’s not known whether the advantages of this model will outweigh the disadvantages: German and other officials are watching to see how the experiment works out.

(DOT en jure nah LIZ moose.)

Big-Brother-Awards 2014

The Verein Digitalcourage has announced its 2014 Big Brother awards for the best violations of consumer data protection in the past year. The association posted English translations of each award announcement online, which is awesome.

Politics category
“The German BigBrotherAward in the Politics Category goes to the Federal Chancellery (Bundeskanzleramt) for their involvement in the NSA surveillance scandal and for their lack of defensive and protective action. One of the Chancellery’s roles is top-level supervision over the foreign agency, Federal Intelligence Service (Bundesnachrichtendienst, BND) and over the three federal secret services’ cooperations between each other and with other agencies in Germany and abroad. German secret services work closely with the US intelligence agency NSA, whose actions have violated international and human rights law, and with other secret services. The Federal Intelligence Service and their interior counterpart, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz), have participated with NSA surveillance measures, spying programmes and infrastructures. German governments, past and present, have failed to defend against crimes and violations of civil rights linked to mass eavesdropping and digital espionage. They have recklessly neglected to protect German citizens and companies subjected to industrial espionage from further hostile attacks.”

Transportation
“The Big Brother Award 2014 in the category Economy goes to MeinFernbus GmbH (approx.: My Long-Distance Bus, Ltd.) for obliging passengers to always show an official ID along with the travel ticket they booked online. This makes anonymous bus journeys impossible. MeinFernbus GmbH does not give any legal or other reasons why producing an ID should be necessary. There is the option to try buying a ticket in cash when boarding, but this entails the risk that the bus is fully booked and one cannot travel. Additionally, buying tickets on board is more expensive than booking them in advance via the Internet.”

Technology
“The BigBrotherAward in the ‘Technology’ category goes to the ‘Spies in our Cars’, which look over our shoulders wherever we drive, collecting data, and sometimes even uploading it to the ‘cloud’. It is difficult to name a culprit: car manufacturers cite legal requirements on the one hand, and on the other hand they point to third-party providers that offer services such as localisation and navigation to the driver. This BigBrotherAward also looks to the future: the planned European distress call system ‘e-Call’ will have to prove in practice that it really has been implemented in a way that respects privacy.”

Business
“The BigBrotherAward 2014 in the ‘Business’ Category goes to CSC Corp. (Computer Sciences Corporation). The company is currently working on commissions by 10 Federal German Ministries on security-related projects, such as the electronic identity card, the De-Mail project for exchanging legal electronic documents, and the nation-wide firearms registry. At the same time, the parent company functions as the external IT department of US secret services, and it has organised rendition flights to torture prisons for the CIA.”

Consumer protection
“The South Korean electronics manufacturer LG receives the Big Brother Award in the Consumer Protection category because the ‘smart’ TV sets they sell transmitted detailed information about what people were watching to the firm’s HQ in South Korea, via the Internet. With the help of such information, so-called metadata, one can find out the most intimate details about individual people. The LG devices thus invaded the private lives of unsuspecting people.”

The world of work
And the winner is: the utility RWE, for using surveillance software to measure the performance of its subcontractors’ call center employees. “This software can, without the employees’ knowledge, do complete, continuous recording of phone calls and onscreen actions.” [Spiegel.de]

Neowordisms prize: “Metadata”

Blame category honorable mentions
Honorable mentions in the blame category go to: Debeka; Contipark; the Wiesbaden spa’s parking garage operator/s [?]; church tax [on? to? into?] flat-rate withholding tax [?]; WhatsApp; Talents4Good; and recordings of phone conversations and the public perception thereof.

Julia and Winston Award (the Positive Prize)
“For the first time, we introduce a positive award this year. The ‘Julia and Winston Award’ was named after the ‘rebellious’ main characters in George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘1984’, from which the ‘Big Brother’ is also taken. The award is to honour persons who have taken an extraordinary stand against surveillance and data collection mania. The award comes with an endowment of one million – not one million Euro, though.

“The award speech for the first Julia and Winston award is held by Heribert Prantl, senior editor and head of the interior politics section of Süddeutsche Zeitung.”

Heribert Prantl’s speech:

“The winner of the first Julia and Winston Award is Edward Snowden.

“In Berlin, the German parliament (Bundestag) has established a committee of inquiry to investigate the NSA scandal. It is strange that the majority of the committee do not want to invite the person who uncovered this scandal. The committe’s CDU/CSU¹ members talk about Snowden as if he had an infectious disease. And there is hardly any objection from SPD members. That is gross ingratitude.

“The man has already said all he has to say, the argument goes; so there is no need to question him again. That is premature consideration of evidence, which is forbidden in all areas of law and in the German parliament as well. Snowden offers critical evidence, as everyone knows. The real reason why nobody wants to invite him is this: Chancellor Angela Merkel fears a peeved and harsh reaction from her hosts during her US visit in May. That is more than just fainthearted. The Chancellor has sworn in her oath of office to protect the German people from harm. Protecting from harm – that entails taking action against the harm inflicted by the NSA. Instead, the German government acts as if that Snowden, not the US, was the injuring party.

“Edward Snowden is an enlightener. He uncovered the global US inquisition and had to take refuge from the Grand Inquisitor. Personally, he has gained no benefits from his whistleblowing, only disadvantages. The only benefit is for the integrity of the rule of law in Western democracies – well, it could be a benefit if those democracies used the scandal as an incentive to reign in their secret services.

“So Snowden is not just an enlightener, he is also a motivator. He deserves better than a shaky and temporary asylum in Russia. The Americans are pursuing him as if he was the reincarnated Bin Laden. But he is just a single refugee, a textbook case of a refugee. So how should, how must Germany act towards Edward Snowden? Most of all, with gratitude! Snowden deserves protection and support. He is a classic case of a refugee.

“We should, indeed we must give Edward Snowden a stable permit of residence in Germany. We should and must offer him safe passage. All this is legally possible. Instead, the politicians of our ‘grand coalition’ act as if the United States’ power were a legislative force. Germany needs enlightenment about the comprehensive US eavesdropping. Enlightenment is the way out of self-inflicted immaturity.

“Snowden’s actions may be punishable in the US, due to violations of US law; but what is truly criminal are the circumstances and the machinations that he is denouncing. Snowden has acted against US secrecy regulations. Does that make him a traitor? No. The people who call him a traitor have betrayed basic rights themselves. Snowden has given emergency aid to the democratic state under the rule of law.

“His actions deserve recognition from the judiciary and the state, in Germany as well as the United States. He has kickstarted a debate that will hopefully lead to the democratic state protecting itself from the threat constituted by the NSA attacks. He may not really need a German medal; that would not sustain him. But he needs protection and support.

“‘Unhappy the land that has no heroes!’ says Galileo’s scholar Andrea Sarti in Bertolt Brecht’s play. So America can consider itself lucky to have someone like Snowden. But Galilei’s response to Sarti is this: ‘No. Unhappy the land that needs a hero’. That is true as well.

“Snowden is a symbol for courageous resistance by an individual against a powerful state system. He is a tiny David that stood up against a super Goliath. Snowden has resisted, and he continues to do so until today.

“Resistance is a word that people associate with rebellion against a dictatorial regime. But resistance is also a necessity in a democracy, even under the rule of law. Resistance only has a different name in a democracy: it is called dissent, civil courage, standing upright – or simply, Edward Snowden.

“If dissent is penalised: dissidents hazard the consequences. They do so to instigate change, to eliminate deficits and injustice. Arthur Kaufmann, the late Philosopher of Law, once called resistance in a democracy ‘the small resistance’. This small resistance had to be offered ‘to make the large resistance unnecessary’. But sometimes this so-called small resistance is in fact a very large one. That is the case with Edward Snowden. His resistance fully involves the physical and psychological existence.

“Thank you, Edward Snowden.”

“¹ The CDU and CSU (Christian Democratic Union and Christian Social Union) are Germany’s major conservative parties. They are ‘sister’ parties, with the CSU operating in the Federal State of Bavaria and the CDU in the other 15 Federal States.”

(Beak   BRUZZ ah   ah vorts   tsvoat ow! zanned FIAT seine.)

Brennelementesteuer

A tax on the radioactive fuel elements used in nuclear reactors. Germany’s federal government created this tax in 2011 (the relevant law is called the, ahem, Kernbrennstoffsteuergesetz). Apparently the fuel rods tax has had a deterrent effect on the operation of nuclear power plants, while bringing in billions in revenue. Some utilities have challenged the tax in court.

Two lawsuits are pending before the Munich Financial Court. A court in Baden-Württemberg found that the fuel rods tax was okay. Relevant cases are also going to be heard by the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.

The Hamburg Financial Court referred the question of whether the fuel rods tax is “even permissible” to the European Court of Justice in November 2013. That court could take more than a year to issue a decision.

After the Hamburg Financial Court had referred the larger question to the higher instance, it then decided this week, in response to accelerated petitions from the utilities, that the utilities could be temporarily freed from paying the fuel rod tax and that the German treasury should temporarily return 2.2 billion euros of paid tax to the utilities pending the higher courts’ decisions. The court said the government could appeal though, and if the government appeals within one month they would be temporarily freed from having to make the return payment.

(Bren ell em EN tah shtoy ah.)

(CAIRN bren shtoff SHTOY ah gez ETTS.)

Söldner- und Rüstungslobbyisten

Lobbying groups advocating for European military service providers and arms manufacturers include:

International Peace Operations Association, a lobbying group founded in 2001 in Washington, D.C., that represents the interests of mercenary companies around the world. G4S’s Defence Systems Limited was a cofounder, with five? other companies.

I.P.O.A. said they changed their name to International Stability Operations Association in 2010.

United Kingdom:

British Association of Private Security Companies.

Germany:

Förderkreis Deutsches Heer, a German lobbying group. Founded in 1995, its members are politicians, soldiers and weapons manufacturers. A vice-president was apparently found guilty of corruption in a French-German tanks deal.

In 2009, some members of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee [Verteidigungsausschuss] were found to have not reported their involvement with the Förderkreis Deutsches Heer, including seats on its Präsidium board, though they were required to do so by the Bundestag’s rules of procedure. The Bundestag members said they didn’t have to because the association is a nonprofit organization and they were volunteering.

Gesellschaft für Wehr- und Sicherheitspolitik, a German association of military interests and government founded after World War II as a forum for discussion that would help safely re-arm Germany, something many people objected to. GfW says it does public relations work, via speakers and conferences. In 1999 it was accused of being a lobbying group for arms manufacturers and using taxpayer money to pay right-wing extremist speakers, and in 2007 it was accused of working with a French group founded by a former Nazi. In 2009, Lobbycontrol criticized that multiple Bundestag members had not sufficiently disclosed their side income from GfW. The GfW is also fragmented, into subgroups.

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Wehrtechnik, founded shortly after the GfW in 1957 apparently also as part of the move to re-arm Germany because it was created as an initiative of the procurement division of the Bundeswehr. Its members appear to be politicians and soldiers. This association says it is a neutral discussion and information platform to promote German security, military technology and military technology business, and knowledge about them.

In 2009, some members of the Bundestag’s Defense Committee [Verteidigungsausschuss] were found to have not reported that they were simultaneously on the Präsidium board of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Wehrtechnik, though they were required to do so by the Bundestag’s rules of procedure. The Bundestag members said they forgot because the association is a nonprofit organization and they weren’t paid for being on its board.

Deutsche Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie, or Federation of German Security & Defence Industries (B.D.S.V.), was founded in 2009 and has the goals of improving the weapons industry’s image and awakening understanding for German arms manufacturers’ situation. In an article that mentioned this group, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung said German weapons manufacturers are currently exporting nearly half their output, and that the Deutsche Sicherheits- und Verteidigungsindustrie estimated about 100,000 people were employed in this sector.

(ZILLED nah   oont   RISS toongs lobby ISSED en.)

Söldnerfirmen

Mercenary companies. Private military contractors in Europe include:

United Kingdom:

G4S, formerly Group 4 Securicor, is based in London and is one of the world’s largest employers, employing ~620,000 worldwide. Created in 2004 when the U.K.’s Securicor merged with the British-Danish Group 4 Falck.

G4S acquired a large U.K.-U.S. competitor and Iraq & Afghanistan contractor, Armorgroup, in 2008 (cf. Defence Systems Ltd below).

Other interesting G4S acquisitions:

Wackenhut (U.S.A., 2002), Progard Securitas (Serbia, 2008), ArmorGroup (see Defence Systems Limited below; U.S.A./U.K., 2008), Touchcom which “installs and maintains web-based electronic security systems and facility management software” (U.S.A., 2008) and GLS, “a provider of outsourced justice services,” i.e. a prisons contractor (U.K., 2008). English Wikipedia listed, among the 2009 acquisitions, “Secura Monde International Limited and Shiremoor International Engineering Limited, together, the UK’s leading specialist banknote and high security technical and commercial advisory companies; All Star International for $60M, one of the premier facilities management and base operations support companies providing services to the US Government; Adesta, US-based provider of integrated security systems and communication systems; and Hill & Associates Consultants Limited, Asia’s leading provider of specialist risk-mitigation consulting services.” In 2010 they bought a large South African security firm. In 2011, they bought an electronic monitoring device manufacturer and what looks like a U.K. alarm system company.

Clients include Israel.

Complaints were made about Wackenhut’s guarding of U.S. nuclear facilities and military bases due to employee behavior that didn’t meet requirements. In 2013 G4S said they would be divesting themselves of their U.S. government services contractors.

Defence Systems Limited, an early private military contractor (est. 1981) that the founder of Hart Group managed before he left and founded Hart in 1999. DSL was run by Hart’s Richard Bethell, now Lord Westbury, and Sir Alistair Morrison. The company was bought in 1997 by a Florida manufacturer of body armor, riot-control equipment and armored vehicles, merged into a company headquartered in Wyoming, then became ArmorGroup, which was bought by the British giant G4S in 2008, bringing in about 9000 employees. It appears they also merged with an offshoot of the Soviet K.G.B., called Alpha-A (est. 1991), in 1997—the K.G.B.’s Alpha group is said to have helped with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and suppressing protests in Lithuania. Before G4S acquired them, DSL’s clients included oil companies, mining companies, government embassies, international organizations hiring them for post-conflict humanitarian missions and groups around the world hiring them for counterinsurgency training. ArmorGroup still existed after G4S’s 2008 buyout and removal from the London Stock Exchange, because in 2009 they lost the contract to supply the security for the U.S. embassy in Kabul due to employee behavior that didn’t meet requirements.

Hart Group, established in 1999 by former British military officer Richard Bethell, now Lord Westbury, the group’s headquarters are in Bermuda. A website said their website once said, “Hart specialises in mitigating security risk globally, across land, sea and air.” That is essentially what their website still says today, only bigger.

The originally-British Hart Group’s companies include: CTG Global, Erinys International, Hart, Longport Aviation, Symbion Power and Hart Maritime Hubs:

CTG Global: part of Hart Group, which says CTG does “human resource management and consultancy services.” Their website says they specialize in post-conflict humanitarian work.

Erinys International, a British private security company headquartered in the Virgin Islands. Founded in 2001 by a former British military officer, it grew big in 2004 fulfilling contracts in Iraq. A subsidiary of Hart Group, which says Erinys does “risk mitigation across Africa primarily in the Oil and Gas sector.”

Longport Security‘s website says, “Prevent acts of unlawful inteference with Civil Aviation.” This is another subsidiary of Hart Group.

Symbion Power is a U.S. engineering firm that has been awarded massive contracts for rebuilding Iraq’s electricity infrastructure. A member of Hart Group.

Aegis, a British firm hired by the U.S. to oversee U.S. contractors in Iraq. Aegis employees were allegedly the ones shooting at Iraqi civilians in video that surfaced in 2005.

Rubicon International, a British firm that e.g. recruited for Erinys and merged with Aegis in 2005.

AKE Group, a U.K. firm (est. 1991) with offices around the world that provides security and intelligence services.

Babylon Gates Ltd provides patrol and detection dogs, de-mining and security services.

Control Risks Group, a British firm that provided guard services in Iraq. Apparently originally founded in 1974 to provide risk analysis to Lloyd’s of London? Now a major private military contractor.

Edinburgh International, based in London and Dubai, provides “risk management and security.”

FSI Worldwide might be a British company that provides military services. Their website says they got their start in 2006 providing Gurkha contracting and they have a British charity.

Genric Security, a British firm that provided security services in Iraq in partnership with the Kuwait-based Arab Orient Group.

Global Risk, a British firm that provided security in Iraq.

Henderson Risk, a British firm that worked in Iraq. Today their website says they provide “Business Intelligence, Asset Protection and Crisis Management services.”

Infinite Security Solutions, a company registered in Anguilla, the Virgin Islands, Ghana, Hong Kong, Singapore and the U.K. that provides risk management services on land and sea. Affiliated with London insurance companies.

International Defence Systems UK Ltd, a company that provides air support parts and services.

Risk Advisory Group, a British umbrella group for private military contractors.

Janusian, a risk management subsidiary of the British Risk Advisory Group.

New Century consulting, founded by a Belfast-born top British officer in Iraq. Provides police and military services and training.

Olive Group is a for-hire security services company headquartered in Dubai who are apparently helping write some of the U.K.’s standards and codes of conduct for private military companies. During the second Iraq war they had an office in Mayfair, London, U.K.

Restrata was an Olive Group company guarding a large housing development construction project outside Baghdad.

Pilgrims Group, a British firm that provides security and intelligence support and training, as well as security, surveillance and communications equipment.

Saladin Security, Ltd, previously known as KMS, Ltd, is a London-based company established in 1975 that provides security services, equipment and training. And kidnap & extortion mitigation.

Security Support Solutions, 3S, a London company founded in 2003. Bloomberg Businessweek’s profile said 3S “provides armoured vehicles; helicopter solutions; aviation security; maritime security; and security consulting, including risk assessment, threat analysis, and vulnerability assessment. It serves governments, NGO’s, private security companies, news agencies, and the military sector.”

Malta:

Tangiers Group, an organization based in Malta and affiliated with Lloyd’s of London that has the following subsidiaries:

Tangiers International, “the high touch, frontline medical and emergency services division of the group.”

Tangiers Global, “the insurance underwriting and brokerage arm of the organisation.”

The Organisation for Better Security or OBS, “a membership community for Tangiers’ clients that provides actionable intelligence about conditions in conflict zones.”

Ireland:

Reconnaissance Group, based in Dublin. Their website says they enable business to be done in hostile environments, providing services under the categories of “Reconnaissance Market Entry, Security & Risk Management, Executive Protection, Project Support, Crisis Management, Intelligence & Investigations, TSCM (de-bugging), Cultural Awareness Training.”

Reconnaissance Trace Management Security Services & Key Holding, a subsidiary of Reconnaissance Group, says their name stands for Tracking, Reconnaissance Intelligence Management Solutions (RIMS), Alarms, CCTV and Electronic Surveillance Counter Measures.

Sweden:

Securitas AB, in Sweden. Owns the Pinkerton detective agency now. In 2012, they had about 300,000 employees around the world.

The company that became Group 4 was formed as a division of Securitas AB in 1968. In 1981 it was it was separated from Securitas AB when the owner’s sons divided the company’s Swedish and international operations after buying out their father. The international entity became known as Group 4 because it combined four British security companies. They merged with the Danish Falck in 2000 to form Group 4 Falck, which merged with the British Securicor in 2004 to form the world’s biggest security firm by revenue and the world’s second or third-largest employer by employees, G4S.

 The Securitas founder’s sons bought the company from him in 1976 and reorganized it in 1981. The Securitas remainder was sold in 1983. The company’s enormous expansion began in 1989.

Security firms acquired by Securitas include, in addition to the famous Pinkertons,

Protectas SA, a Swiss security company.

Update on 08 Jul 2014: Munich police searched 13 Securitas “objects,” including offices and a suspect’s villa, because the company is suspected of subcontracting work in exchange for bribes. The company informed police themselves after receiving a tip. Securitas’s Munich branch has about 1400 employees and is subordinated to a holding company in Düsseldorf.

Denmark:

Falck, which merged into Securitas AB and then G4S, was a Danish security company.

France:

Secopex, based in Carcassone and founded in 2003, with a structure “based on the large Anglo-American companies that dominate this sector,” according to a 2011 newspaper article written because one of their top officers was killed in Benghazi.

Germany:

Ecolog International provides services to the German Bundeswehr and clients from other N.A.T.O. countries and was able to grow as a company via contracts in the post-9/11 interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. German media said Ecolog has created a complicated Geflecht of subsidiaries around the world that are legally independent entities, making the enterprise less transparent. Employees of the company have been investigated in several countries for money laundering and drug smuggling.

Interesting story in the Frankfurter Rundschau: During the Bundeswehr’s deployment in Afghanistan, they had problems in 2006 with camouflage uniforms coming back from Ecolog’s laundry services slightly pink in color, which could make the soldiers more visible on night patrols, “with appropriate viewing devices,” F.R. said. It was attributed to using the wrong soap, and contracts were changed twice to prescribe which soap should be used. But it sounds like someone just threw in a red sock at the laundry.

Spain:

Ge2b Seguridad Internacional, a Spanish company that provides security-related manpower and services to governments and industry.

(ZILLED nah FEAH men.)

Der sogenannte Chatham-House-Rule

The so-called Chatham House Rule is, apparently, that after meetings at Chatham House attendees may say things that were said but not who said them or who attended the meeting.

(Dare   zoh gah n’awned ah   CHOTTUM   haus   rool.)

“Wer Grundrechte einschränkt, ist beweispflichtig.”

“Anyone limiting fundamental rights must provide proof.”

From former federal data protection officer Peter Schaar’s blog post just before the European Court of Justice announced its groundbreaking, wonderful and “remarkably clear” decision on 08 Apr 2014 overturning mandatory dragnet data surveillance because it violates fundamental human rights [Grundrechte].

“Anyone limiting fundamental rights must provide proof. They must provide evidence that the limitations to personal freedom are necessary in the predominant interest of the general public—that’s what our constitution requires. This principle also applies in the European Union, at the latest since 2009 when the E.U. Charter of Fundamental Rights became enforceable law of the Member States with the Treaty of Lisbon. This guideline’s origins go back before Lisbon. In December 2013, the attorney general at the European Court of Justice said in his vote that he was of the opinion that the guideline violated the protection of the private sphere guaranteed in Article 8 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights.

“The authors and proponents of the mandatory retention of communications traffic data [Vorratsdatenspeicherung] have not yet provided proof of the necessity and efficacy, to this day. But surely it would have been easy for them to provide the evidence, after eight years—if their arguments were accurate ones. It ought to have been easy to show that law enforcement had been harmed by the German Constitutional Court’s finding in 2010 that the Vorratsdatenspeicherung law was unconstitutional. Did conviction rates fall in Germany? Is Germany worse off than its neighbors who implemented Vorratsdatenspeicherung? No. Furthermore, neither the governments of the Member States nor the European Commission were able to provide conclusive proof in any other way for the necessity of Vorratsdatenspeicherung.”

(Vair   GROONED rechh tah   eye n shrenked,   issed   bev ICE flichh tichh.)

Wetterbedingte Produktionslastverschiebungen kommunizieren

To communicate production time shifts in response to weather conditions.

At least one company in Germany is offering a service that communicates to its clients’ high-electricity-consuming factories when local electricity networks are running low on power. This would be in times of low sunlight and low wind, or possibly even artificially high demand caused by the opportunity to export electricity to a neighbor. The client factories then check whether their present processes would permit a production rearrangement to switch to less electricity-consuming manufacturing or even a delay, and in return they receive cash from the utilities for the timely power use reduction.

A “smart” factory profiled in Der Spiegel that needs a lot of energy to run its silicon-melting ovens can reduce its power consumption by up to one-third within minutes after receiving notification. For this, it can get up to 15,000 euros per month from the electricity network operator.

The electricity consumption management company profiled in Der Spiegel has about 100 clients for this service, including paper factories, water treatment facilities, public buildings and a brewery, adding up to about 650 megawatts. The service said their timely communication can replace coal-burning power plants that are only used during demand peaks and replace capacity markets used to hedge utilities’ overproduction safety margins.

The necessary framework of laws is not yet complete, said a representative of the service: the big utilities now are the ones to decide which companies can join such paid time-shifting arrangements in power-intensive manufacturing. They frequently take a very long time to permit new factories into the fold. There’s also a regulatory problem that needs to be ironed out in that factories that increase production when there’s a surplus of electricity in the wires are fined heavily by the utilities right now, even though they’re doing the utilities a favor.

(VET ah bed INKED ah   proad ooked see OWNS lost fair SHE boong en   com moon it’s EAR en.)

Schimpfwort-Erkennungsscheisssoftware

Swearword recognition software.

The U.S.’s putatively public putatively ad-free National Public Radio is using voice recognition software to target its marketing, including after news items.

In addition to passively collecting information on the news listeners, allowing the public broadcaster and its partners to send related or unrelated ads to individual consumers, mobile phones and radios in certain U.S. and Japanese cars will now extend and prolong the ads if they hear certain exclamations, exhortations, ejaculations and/or requests for more information.

(SHIMPF vort   air KEN noongs shice soft vair.)

Besonnenheit

Prudence, the opposite of scatterbrained, having the details and disparate items of a situation understood and ordered.

German Wikipedia defines this so nicely: “the well-thought-out, self-possessed calmness that enables reason to retain the upper hand even in difficult or dodgy situations, to avoid over-hasty and unconsidered decisions or deeds. While Besonnenheit makes reference to the rational aspect, calmness emphasizes the emotional aspects of inner quietness.” This goes beyond the prudence imparted to me in the 1990’s, when it appeared the word was mostly used to tell others not to take action and/or to hide the fact that the teller lacked information that would have enabled better advice.

(Bə ZONN en height.)

Die „Sonne“

The Sun, a new climate-change and deep-sea research vessel that left its construction shipyard this week for a year of testing. In 2015, she’s scheduled to replace an eponymous predecessor built in 1969. The newest Sonne is praised for her high mileage and low pollutant emissions.

(Dee   ZONN ah.)

Lebenslüge

“Life lie,” somehow worse than a regular lie.

Online translator discussions have proposed English equivalents such as grand illusion, sustained delusion or “a self-deception on which your life is based,” as in Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman. A sham existence, living a lie.

German media descriptions of the C.I.A. malfeasance documented in a classified 6300-page Senate report investigating post-9/11 torture by the U.S.A. said, among other things, that the Bush administration’s assertion that their torture prevented attacks on the U.S. was a Lebenslüge.

Other items in the suppressed report, as described in German media:

  • Some of the worst lying the agency or agencies did was to Congress.
  • Often people told interrogators what they knew, and then they were tortured.
  • The C.I.A. did not even follow its own, light, regulations about maltreating prisoners.

(LAY bens LOO gah.)

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss

N.S.A. investigative committee of the Bundestag, which began meeting on 03 Apr 2014.

The committee’s chair is Clemens Binninger (C.D.U.), a former policeman.

It is tasking itself with investigating the involvement of German police and intelligence agencies—domestic, foreign and military—in the massive spying on people and companies that is now known to have been done by the U.S. and U.K. governments and their contractors.

Also it will now be investigating Germany’s culpability in the U.S.’s drone wars. Since the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) reported that the U.S. is using its Ramstein airbase inside Germany to support drone attacks in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, violating international law while killing hundreds of civilians, Germany’s government (C.D.U./C.S.U. + S.P.D.) can no longer pretend they don’t know this is happening.

The committee repeated that they would like Edward Snowden and other informed whistleblowers to give statements and answer questions for these Bundestag inquiries. Journalists repeated that the whole world will be watching this inquiry to see what the committee discovers and which stones they leave unturned.

Update on 09 Apr 2014: Clemens Binninger stepped down as chair of the N.S.A. investigative committee after only six days. He said he was resigning from the position because he felt people from the opposition parties were too interested in hearing from N.S.A. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Update on 10 Jul 2014: A Spiegel article about Germans’ angry responses to spying by the U.S. mentioned that Clemens Binninger is chairing the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, the secret Bundestag committee supposed to monitor Germany’s intelligence agencies.

(Enn ess ah   oon tah ZOO chh oongs OW! ss shoes.)

„Es gibt ein paar tausend Banken in Europa, da kann man nicht alle kennen“

“There’s thousands of banks in Europe and you can’t know all of them”

is how BayernLB supervisory board member and former Bavarian state Economy Minister Erwin Huber (C.S.U.) supposedly explained in his April Fools Day testimony why he gave his approval to purchase the Hypo Alpe Adria yet knew nothing about the Carinthian bank. An S.P.D. politician responded, “Anyone who publicly documents their political inadequacy so authentically is, as the chair of the Economy Committee, a problem.” Mr. Huber has been chairing the Bavarian state parliament’s Economy Committee since October 2013.

Munich prosecutors had said they did not want to prosecute BayernLB’s supervisory board members for approving overpayment of >500 million euros in the purchase deal—plus some bribes that might be easier to prosecute, in separate trials—because the supervisory board was fooled by the dishonest representations of the bank’s management board, the defendants in the current trial. Three high-ranking C.S.U. politicians from the supervisory board have now testified at the management board’s criminal trial and stated that they were satisfied with the information presented to them by the management board in its argument for purchasing the HGAA.

Defendants in the trial of the BayernLB management board include Michael Kemmer, who moved on to become “managing director of the German Bankers’ Association” [Hauptgeschäftsführer des Bankenverbands], “an influential lobbyist.”

At the time BayernLB bought Hypo Alpe Adria, C.S.U. politicians on BayernLB’s supervisory board [Kontrollgremium] such as Bavarian finance minister Kurt Faltlhauser, interior minister Günther Beckstein and economics minister Erwin Huber wanted the Bavarian state bank to expand, into the Balkans. Bavaria’s then-governor Edmund Stoiber (C.S.U.) made a similar statement to journalists while on a visit to Croatia about then, ZDF heute journal reported.

Apparently BayernLB also bought a loss-plagued Hungarian bank that they want to sell.

(Ess   kipped   eye n   pah   t OW! zenned   BONK en   inn   oy ROPE ah,   dah   cannes   mon   nichh t   OLL ah   ken en.)

„Zum Schutz des Kundenerlebnisses“

“To protect your customers’ experience.”

Süddeutsche Zeitung’s translation of part of the C.E.O. of Netflix’s carefully formulated blog post carefully indicating that Netflix now has to secretly pay off countless intermediaries in the U.S.A. between its streamed content and its paying customers. If Netflix has to do this, presumably the other content providers do too, including companies too small to afford it. Netflix’s customers are also paying off some of the same intermediaries—a very small number of them—in order to get internet access.

The squeeze on content-providing companies apparently includes use of the following loophole: U.S. internet providers are claiming network neutrality while selling content providers more-direct inputs into their pipeline. It appears from the S.Z. article that U.S. internet providers are saying everything leaves their boxes at the same speed; they merely receive some folks’ data more indirectly than other folks’ data. Pay them off and your content won’t bounce through as many service providers [Dienstleister] before it has been officially received.

The squeeze on internet content consumers: One third of all American consumers have only one internet provider to choose from, the Süddeutsche informed its readers, and another 37% have only two providers. In the technology Hochburg known as Seattle: perhaps 2.3. Earlier this year Seattle’s new mayor canceled the city’s plans to build municipal broadband, and my I.S.P. almost doubled my bill shortly afterward.

Apparently groups who are partially responsible for the inadequacy of broadband infrastructure construction in the U.S. can use this dearth to extract more money which they use to further impede broadband construction. And the agency nominally in charge, the F.C.C., seems to keep restricting its own ability to regulate.

(Tsoom   SHITZ   dess   CUNNED en eah LABE niss ess.)

„Bad Pharma“ wird besser!

“Bad Pharma” is getting better!

After much debate, Brussels agreed on European drug law changes, effective in 2016. To improve transparency and safety, pharma studies in humans will have to publish all results, including negative findings.

As Ben Goldacre explained so lucidly in Bad Pharma: How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors and Harm Patients, scientists’ and study sponsors’ tendencies to only publish findings that are interesting and/or support certain types of conclusions have skewed drug licensing and killed people.

(Bod   FAW mah   vee awed   BESS ah.)

Transportmonopolstellung

Transport monopoly.

ProPublica.org puzzled out more information on how a company named Chesapeake Energy managed to reduce its payments to rural landowners from whom it was leasing fracking rights. One Pennsylvanian farmer saw his monthly check go down from ~$5000 to ~$500 for the same volume of gas, for example.

While there are federal laws to prevent gouging on interstate gas pipelines, this did not apply to the small feed lines Chesapeake built in rural areas which were the only ways for many landowners’ fracked gas to get to market.

In 2011, when Chesapeake Energy needed cash, they essentially created a pipeline company with those rural gas pipelines and sold it to a competitor oil firm for ~$5 billion, with the promise that Chesapeake would continue to hire its old pipelines to transport a lot of gas for the next decade and would pay the new company, Access Midstream, enough in fees to cover the ~$5 billion sale price plus 15% for their pains.

“That much profit was possible only if Access charged Chesapeake significantly more for its services,” said ProPublica. The extra costs were billed to the landowners as expenses.

“An executive at a rival company who reviewed the deal at ProPublica’s request said it looked like Chesapeake had found a way to make the landowners pay the principal and interest on what amounts to a multi-billion loan to the company from Access Midstream.”

(Tronz POAH t mon oh POLE shtell oong.)

Kommunalverbände

Paris has ~2.3 million inhabitants and the surrounding Île de France region nearly 12 million inhabitants, said FAZ.net. For years France’s capital city has outsourced problems to its periphery, yet Paris’s mayor is only one among many mayors in the region, of communities that have to work together. All large French cities except Paris have communal associations [Kommunalverbände] where politics for neighboring communities can be worked out and some competencies shared; Paris and its neighbors are finally going to create one in 2016, called “Métropole du Grand Paris.”

“The national government will have a say as will the Île de France region, seven surrounding départements, 400 municipalities and numerous associations of municipalities. The planned local government reform is supposed to bring simpler structures, more efficiency and thus savings. In the past, the old administrative structures and their many bureaucrats always managed to live on, however, after a new agency was created. Because of that experience, the French talk about the ‘mille-feuille‘ of their administrative apparatus—thousand papers, thousand doors, as in Kafka.”

(Com yune AWL fair BEND ah.)

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