Zivilisationsliterat

Thomas Mann describing his early-twentieth century idea of the “civilization littérateur,” from I think his 1918 essay “Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man”:

“Nothing, I said, was more indicative of the literary disposition than the twofold and basically only uniform activity of those humanitarian journalists of the time of the Enlightenment, who, in criminological-political writings, summoned society to the forum of humanity, who educated their contemporaries to despise the barbarisms in the administration of justice, to be against torture and capital punishment, and who paved the way for milder laws—and who characteristically made names for themselves at the same time by pedagogical writings on language and style and by treatises on the art of writing. Love of mankind and the art of writing as the dominant passions of one soul: this meant something; not by chance were these two passions found together. To write beautifully meant almost to think beautifully, and from there it was not far to beautiful deeds. All the moral improvement of the human race—this could be demonstrated—came from the spirit of literature, and even the popular teachers of antiquity considered the beautiful word to be the father of good deeds. What a sermon!”

(Tsee vee lee zah tsee OWNS lit tay rah t.)

Medienökonom

“Media economist,” a job title seen amongst the pundits discussing journalism’s future.

(Mae dee en ÖKO gnome.)

Finanzwissenschaftler

“Finance scientist,” a job title some German economics experts are using in lieu of “economist” in interviews on German television.

(Fee NONCE viss en shoft lah.)

Welterklärer, Weltenerklärer

Peter Scholl-Latour was considered one of the greatest foreign correspondents.

Some tributes to him in German media called him a “world explainer,” and some called him what might be a “worlds explainer.”

ARD tagesschau.de said he turned his kidnapping by the Viet Cong in America’s Vietnam war into an opportunity for amazing reporting.

ZDF heute journal said in addition to being known for the quality of his foreign reporting he became Germany’s most successful nonfiction author, writing at least one book a year, “with iron discipline.” In handwriting.

(VELDT eah CLAIRE ah,   VELDT en eah CLAIRE ah.)

Einbestellen

“Ordering in,” what you do to important diplomats after an affront by their country. They can try to explain what was meant. You can express displeasure and show voters you are responding to an event that is important.

German media regularly report that this or that ambassador has been “ordered in,” e.g. to the Foreign Office, in response to such-and-such an event. But I think U.S. reporting of these matters only begins when diplomats are expelled from a country, which may be why it made sense to so many Americans when George W. Bush announced we were no longer going to talk to regimes we had serious differences of opinion with.

(EYE n beh SHTELL en.)

Weggelobt

“Praised off.”

After Austria’s cabinet passed a special law creating an unusual haircut for some of the enormous debt incurred by the bank Hypo Alpe Adria, Austria’s finance minister appeared on an evening talk show to discuss the decision. The show’s host, said the Frankfurter Rundschau, is “loved and feared for his critical questions and his tendency to bring things precisely to the point.” The finance minister was not pleased with the broadcast.

Then an Austrian tabloid Österreich, said to have good connections to the chancellor’s office, reported that voices in government were pushing for the moderator’s removal. “It was supposed to happen in a typically Austrian style: Apparently he was to be ‘praised away’ into the post of a senior commentator or television director.”

The finance minister’s party, Ö.V.P., said the rumor was untrue. The ORF moderator responded to the wave of solidarity flowing in his direction by tweeting a Mark Twain quote.

Later, in a newspaper interview, the moderator said his questions weren’t that tough. The finance minister just reacted “unusually emotionally” to a “necessary interruption.”

“And when a guest doesn’t answer my questions, or answers with false facts, I have to interrupt. I know that bothers some spectators. But if I didn’t care whether my question got answered, I wouldn’t have asked it.”

(VECK geh LOBED.)

Künstlersozialkasse

“Artists’ Social Fund,” an institution that manages health insurance, pension and nursing insurance contributions for artists, musicians and writers, including journalists.

To be accepted into the K.S.K., applicants must show documentary evidence that they earn a significant portion of income from music, art or writing.

(KIN stlah zoh tsee ALL coss ah.)

Hintergründig

“Backgrounded,” simply providing background or written with knowledge of background to fit into the larger world outside the text; yet dictionaries say this translates into English as deep, profound, cryptic, enigmatic, ulterior. Also subtle.

(HIN tah GRIN dichh.)

Das Feuilleton fährt fort

The Feuilleton
Goes on and on.

In a charming discussion of the state of the section of German newspapers that falls somewhere “between the people’s education and corporate publishing,” Süddeutsche Zeitung said this traditionally has been understood as a part of the paper that contained “cultural interest, alert/awake/astute contemporary-ism*” and “literarily inspired writing that simultaneously has lightness and sharpness/focus.”

The principle of the feuilleton is spreading, said Süddeutsche, into diverse areas that include sportswriting and fashion reporting. “Only with special, original, witty, backgrounded texts will you make progress against the tempo of the internet.”

* German’s delatinized calque for contemporary is “time comrade,” and so the nouned Zeitgenossenschaft is a bit of a play that reads as a time association, time confraternity or time cooperative.

(Doss   fight ɔ̃   faired   FOTT.)

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.)

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.)

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.)

Verrechnungspreismissbrauch

Transfer pricing tax evasion.

Under international finance rules that allowed corporations to assign profits earned by subsidiaries in countries with taxes to subsidiaries in countries without taxes, an online documentary explained, commodities companies could avoid taxes in source countries by having their extracting subsidiary sell the commodity to subsidiaries abroad at prices that did not reflect market prices, moving around on-paper profits and on-paper losses. The tactic is called transfer pricing. Rules supposed to prevent it required among other things that divisions of the same organization deal with each other “at arm’s length,” as if they were not part of the same organization.

Profits from this and other paper shuffles can apparently show up decades later and inflict serious fiscal damage on countries, even countries with the resources to give government auditors enough training to stand up to international corporations’ negotiators. In 2013 Rupert Murdoch’s giant News Corp. appears to have received the “largest cash payout from the Australian Tax Office ever,” a rebate of US$800 million for some on-paper loans to itself made in 1989. The money showed up in News Corp’s U.S. subsidiary’s Q4 2013 accounts as a US$800 million payment from “a foreign tax authority.” The original deduction was estimated by the Australian Financial Review at AU$600 million, but it was decided that News Corp was owed additional interest on it of almost AU$300 million.

The huge payment is being described as a substantial inconvenience or “blowout” to the current Australian federal budget. Last summer then-Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd accused News Corp companies in Australia of running a “ferocious” media campaign against his government, including accusing the Labour government of overspending. Kevin Rudd lost the Australian election to Tony Abbott on 07 Sep 2013.

This is how the tax deduction happened, according to an online 17 Feb 2014 article from the Australian Financial Review:

“In a 1989 meeting, four News Corp Australia executives exchanged cheques and share transfers between local and overseas subsidiaries that moved through several currencies.

“They were paper transactions; no funds actually moved. In 2000 and 2001 the loans were unwound. With the Australian dollar riding high, News Corp’s Australian subsidiaries recorded a $2 billion loss, while other subsidiaries in tax havens recorded a $2 billion gain.

“By last July that paper “loss”, booked against News Corp’s Australian newspaper operations, had become an [A]$882 million cash payout.

“Under a legal arrangement when the company was spun off last June, News was forced to pass all of the tax payout to Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

“News Corp said it had retained $A81 million because it faced income tax charges on the interest payments by the Tax Office. However it seems unlikely to actually pay these funds: News Corp Australia carried another $1.5 billion in tax deductions from a separate paper shuffle that it made when News reincorporated in the US.”

(Fair ECHH noongs price mis BROW chh.)

Sondergerichte vs. Schwurgerichte

Special courts vs. jury courts (lit. “oath courts” because jurors are sworn in).

Apparently Turkey has been under international criticism for years for using special courts [Sondergerichte] to try serious political crimes. Now Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has announced they will be using normal Schwurgerichte [jury trials] for these crimes as well. However, the announcement comes after Mr. Erdoğan’s government made other, unhelpful changes to Turkey’s judicial system: Human Rights Watch asked Turkish President Abdullah Gül not to sign a new law passed in the second week of this month that reduced the autonomy of Turkey’s High Council of Judges and Prosecutors or H.S.Y.K., saying the law exclusively serves to increase the government’s control over that council.

The Sondergerichte/Schwurgerichte legislation package passed in the third week of this month did contain some mild improvements. In addition to eliminating special courts for trials of serious political crimes it also reduced the maximum time you can be held in Turkish prison while they’re investigating you for a crime, from 7.5 to 5 years. In future, arrest warrants and house razzias can only be executed on the basis of “concrete evidence.” Supposedly this legislation made tapping phones more difficult.

However, in the first week of this very busy February 2014, after having quickly replaced the head of Turkey’s telecommunications oversight authority, Telekomünikasyon İletişim Başkanlığı, Mr. Erdoğan passed Turkey’s now notorious new Internet surveillance and censorship law that expanded the agency’s powers to collect data about people’s internet surfing and to block web pages.

In the second week of this month, fistfighting is said to have broken out in the Turkish parliament during debate over Mr. Erdoğan’s bill to get more control over the national board of prosecutors and judges, H.S.Y.K. They passed the legislation anyway. One M.P. had to go to hospital for a broken nose.

In the third week of this very busy February, the government put forward draft legislation expanding the power of the country’s National Intelligence Organization (Milli İstihbarat Teşkilatı or M.İ.T.). It would define prison sentences of up to 12 years as punishment for publishing secret M.İ.T. documents, for example. Update on 17 Apr 2014: The parliament passed this. Prosecutors are no longer allowed to investigate M.İ.T. agents for crimes if the agents say they were on government business. M.İ.T. is to have access to all government data, to be able to listen without a court order to phone calls inside and outside Turkey, and to be given all businesses’ data about their customers if they request it.

The brief time span in which three terrible laws were created—the drastic Internet law on 06 Feb, the kneecapping of judges and prosecutors on 15 Feb, and now this latest proposal on 21 Feb announced as democratic reforms in response to outside criticism of the Ergenekon trials—cloaked the scope of these anti-democratic changes to the rest of the world.

Turkish protesters’ anger over all the bills and the trend they indicate was easily misinterpreted by outsiders as a response to the first, internet law. Attempts to mitigate or react to one of the new terrible laws interfered with attempts to prevent the next one. The winter Olympics in Russia and the historic events in Ukraine also diverted attention from Turkish politics.

Update on 11 Apr 2014: Turkey’s Constitutional Court found the reforms unconstitutional that gave Mr. Erdoğan’s justice minister sweeping powers over the H.S.Y.K. board that appoints and fires prosecutors and judges. The F.A.Z.’s article only said the court overturned parts of this reform, however.

The prime minister’s son’s foundation received donations of >72 million euros from outside Turkey and ~10 million euros from inside Turkey. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son and daughter Bilal Erdoğan and Esra Erdoğan are members of the Türgev foundation’s management board [Vorstand]. The organization is supposed to support Turkish youth and education; the opposition C.H.P. party said it’s a corruption center where businesspeople launder bribes they have to pay to get public contracts.

(ZONE dah gr-r-r ICHH tah   vair seuss   SHVOOR gr-r-r ICHH tah.)

Aufmerksamkeitslücke

“Attention gap,” a technique used in online headlines to pull in curious clicks by e.g. asking a question and promising answers.

Reforms proposed to increase transparency of organizational publishing have suggested bylines for a news article’s editors as well as its writers and investigators. Perhaps headline writers ought to start receiving credit for their work as well. Current technology makes it possible to attach movie-type credits to every online post without disturbing readability.

(Ow! f MEAHK some kites LICK ah.)

Nachrichtendienstlicher Schattenhaushalt

A non-native speaker’s attempt to translate
“intelligence agencies’ black budget”
into German, after the non-native German speaker was
very impressed by the clarity of WashingtonPost.com’s
succinct presentation showing where ~$50 billion goes that the U.S. government allocates annually to agencies in its National Intelligence Program.

One reason the C.I.A. is the top recipient (at ~$14 billion annually) is because e.g. they’ve been modding aircraft and G.P.S.-controlled 500-pound smart bombs and giving them to e.g. the government of Colombia. This is also from an excellently explained WashingtonPost.com article, with a well-designed timeline of the history, map of the area, blueprint of the missile and scaled drawings showing the relative sizes of the aircraft and bombs used in the four-step attacks on the F.A.R.C.

(NOCHH richh ten DEENST lichh ah   SHOTTEN house halt.)

Mezhyhirya

The name of Ukrainian President Viktor Janukovytsch’s “residential compound” along the Dnieper river, which apparently features 345 acres of park land, a golf course, fancy buildings, helipads, pet ostriches, a gold-plated “large barge,” other sports facilities, fruit and vegetable greenhouses and serious government security guarding both the property and a nearby village. Mr. Janukovytsch has been accused of illegally privatizing the manse via the two companies that were granted a 49-year lease on the park and have been tearing down Soviet-era C.P. buildings and doing a lot of new construction.

Journalist Tetyana Chernovil climbed the wall and wandered around the inside of the park taking photographs for about three hours in 2012 before getting caught by guards and dogs. She questioned how Mr. Janukoyvch was able to afford what she saw on his annual government salary of about $115,000.

Update on 22 Feb 2014: Unbelievable photos from inside Mezhyhirya after protesters stormed it today, despite warnings of booby traps and sharpshooters. Spiegel.de said Mr. Janukovytsch first built up the park and then privatized it by selling it off to companies based in London and Vienna, companies that he presumably controls.

Innenminister Vitaliy Zakharchenko

Minister of Internal Affairs Vitaliy Yuriyovych Zakharchenko, responsible for security forces in the Ukrainian government headed by President Viktor Janukovytsch (Independent Party) and Prime Minister Mikola Asarow (Party of Regions).

Journalist Tetyana Chernovil wrote about police brutality and corruption among government officials, including Mr. Zakharchenko, questioning among other things where the head of Ukraine’s police forces got the money to pay for his luxurious estate, a “country manor” in the village of Pidhirtsi. “Mr. Zakharchenko is the most senior government official with direct authority over the police units involved in the [violent crackdown on protesters in Maidan square on 30 Nov 2013], and there have been repeated calls by the opposition for his dismissal,” wrote NYTimes.com.

In the middle of the night on Christmas, several men in a black Porsche S.U.V. chased Ms. Chernovil down, rammed her car, pulled her from it and beat her terribly. The Guardian said she was in intensive care where doctors were going to try to rebuild her face. But it’s hard to get it bilateral again after the cheekbones get crunched.

Bloomberg.com said Mr. Zakharchenko has been tasked with investigating this beating that might have been carried out on behalf of Mr. Zakharchenko. On 27 Dec 2013, the FinancialTimes.com reported, Mr. Janukovytsch’s government said Mr. Zakharchenko’s police found “strong” evidence linking protest leaders to the suspects the police were investigating for the crime.

Eine abschreckende Wirkung

A chilling effect, what Chinese censorship has on news reporting and book publishing.

Australian media have reported that it looks like Chinese authorities will not renew the visas of foreign journalists working for the New York Times and Bloomberg, set to expire at the end of 2013. This will require those journalists and their families, including children in school, to leave the country very suddenly, while having a chilling effect on all other international writing about China because yet again the authorities have not named their reasons for this move, leaving people guessing and self-censoring while denying they’re self-censoring.

I feel a qualm now when typing the names of journalists whose work I’m citing. Will my attempt to credit their good work create search engine results that imperil their future efforts to help explain a country as important and interesting as China?

Writers talking about not writing about China oscillate between drawing conclusions about censorship causes that they then decide are obvious, and saying you can’t know. But it does seem some officials there dislike reporting about corruption and vast accumulations of family capital. Corruption would also not be a reason you’d want to cite for refusing to renew journalist visas.

Update on 30 Jan 2014: After ten years reporting in China, Austin Ramzy switched from Time Magazine to the NYTimes in April 2013 and was forced to leave the country this month when he was denied a new press card, meaning his journalist’s visa could not be renewed. Spiegel.de reported that NYTimes and Bloomberg are unable to fill empty posts in their China bureaus.

(Eye nah   OB shreck en dah   VEERK oong.)

“Daß die Pressefreiheit in Großbritannien nirgendwo rechtlich verbrieft ist, rächt sich jetzt.”

“The fact that freedom of the press is not guaranteed by law anywhere in Great Britain is now taking its revenge,” was a German reporter’s comment on a hearing held to determine whether the Guardian’s reporting on Snowden trove documents had put Britons in danger.

ARD tagesschau.de correspondent Annette Dittert went on to say, “In no other democratic country would such a campaign against a well-respected newspaper even be conceivable, and especially not a campaign ordered by that country’s government.” She said at the hearing Mr. Rusbridger “broke a lance” for freedom of the press, using good arguments and pretending to be unaffected by the enormous political pressure. Süddeutsche.de called him a stiller Stern, a quiet star.

(Doss   dee   PRESS ah fry height   inn   gross brit ON ee enn   near gen dvoh   wrecked lichh   fair BRIEFED   issed,   r-r-r-echh t   zichh   yetsst.)

“Schattenwissenschaft des Krieges”

“Shadow science of war,” headline to a Süddeutsche.de article about >$10 million the U.S. military has invested since 2000 in research projects at at least 22 German universities, careful curious institutions where $10 million can buy a lot of study. The Pentagon helped fund investigations into military explosive materials at Ludwig-Maximillians-Universität in Munich, for example; bulletproof glass [Panzerglas] and warheads [Sprengköpfe, exploding heads] at the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg; at Marburg, mini-drones and “nocturnal visual orientation in flying insects” useful for targeting munitions; at Saarland, $120,000 from the Army Research Laboratory for mathematical studies of linguistic structures, presumably useful in surveillance technology.

Süddeutsche.de and its investigation partner the Norddeutsche Rundfunk criticized the lack of transparency at the German universities and research institutes about having received the funding. Despite having “packs or prides of marketing experts,” the mostly-taxpayer-funded German schools’ reticence about U.S. military sponsorship meant journalists could only find them by going through lists in U.S. documents, including online searches of the database of the Federal Procurement Data System, which S.Z. said publishes all U.S. government purchases >$3000.

“And afterward strained excuses were even voiced, such as, the money was for basic research that surprised everyone when it turned out to have military applications. But the Pentagon would never have opened its cash register for pure love-of-neighbor, nor for scientific curiosity.”

Süddeutsche.de said 14 German universities have added “civil clauses” [Zivilklausel] to their by-laws stating that they will not accept research money from the German military, which also sponsors such projects. The University of Bremen did this, for example, and was then shocked to find its name in the U.S. database, having received $40,000 in 2011 and again in 2012 from the U.S. Air Force to study metal emissions in the upper atmosphere. Even if schools have such so-called civil clauses, the newspaper wrote, it is each individual German academic’s decision whether to accept military money for “dual-use” projects because academic freedom is guaranteed by Art. 5 of the German Constitution, section (3), which can be translated as “Art and science, research and teaching, are free. The freedom of teaching does not release instructors from their constitutional obligations” (to democracy and the human rights mandated elsewhere in the Grundgesetz, GG).

Update on 17 Dec 2013: The Swiss newspaper SontagsZeitung reported that in the past two years the Pentagon has provided “about a dozen” Swiss universities with “over a million dollars” in sponsoring for research projects in aerospace and computers. Schools included E.T.H. Lausanne and the universities of Zurich, Bern and Neuenburg.

(SHOTTEN vissen shoften   dess   CREE gess.)

Verjährungsfrist verlängern

Extending the statute of limitations period.

At the Fourth World Conference on Doping in Sport in Johannesburg in November 2013, the World Anti-Doping Agency (W.A.D.A.) agreed to increase the ban on athletes caught doping from two years to four years, increase the statute of limitations for using illegal performance-enhancing drugs from eight years to ten years, and increase the world anti-doping agency’s power versus sport associations and country-level athletics organizations. Athletics support staff, wrote MiamiHerald.com, such as trainers, coaches and officials, “were not subject to the same anti-doping rules as athletes” but that has now been changed. W.A.D.A. and the International Cycling Union said they will also be creating an inquiry commission to investigate bicycling’s lethally performance-enhanced history. These changes will go into effect 01 Jan 2015, in time for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

MiamiHerald.com reported drugs testing in sport is starting to focus more on intelligence gathering, “as a complement to” traditional urine and blood sampling, and that such “investigation” is how the evidence was acquired for the recent BALCO, Operation Puerto and Lance Armstrong discoveries. At least Bundesliga soccer has not been fully participating in effective anti-doping sampling regimens, taking few samples and discarding them early.

In October 2013, ARD tagesschau.de broadcast an interesting report on the assignation of guilts in a German cyclist’s doping trial. If the cycling team’s managers knew about doping on the team, the judges decided, then after cyclists get caught doping their managers can’t sue them for violation of the team’s official rules.

“This first criminal trial against a doping sinner shows that with the existing criminal laws it could be difficult in principle to achieve a deterrent effect on professional athletes. For a long time now people have been discussing the introduction of a specific paragraph about athletic cheating, making it a crime to ‘distort competition’ [Wettbewerbsverzerrung], as occurs during doping.”
–Frank Bräutigam, excellent legal correspondent for ARD tagesschau.de

A pundit complained that if the cyclist had been found guilty, the verdict would have had far-reaching negative effects such as not punishing team doctors for doping while punishing athletes caught doing it, even though the athletes probably aren’t aware of the full spectrum of harmful side effects and the team doctors are.

(Fair YAIR oongs frissed   fair LENG airn.)

Detekteien

Private detective agencies. A Spiegel.de article dated 2008 said this was an unregulated and unsupervised but burgeoning security industry in Germany, sometimes employing former Stasi cooperators. The authors estimated there were ~1500 private detective companies in Germany in 2008 and about a dozen key world players, including the New York-based Kroll and London-based Control Risks. Many of these companies earned game-changing amounts of money in Iraq after the second U.S. invasion. They could be hired via law firms protected by attorney-client privilege, and subcontract jobs to other firms, obscuring cause-and-effect. A new C.E.O. of Control Risks said they were also hiring journalists to spy on other journalists.

A Detektei called Network Deutschland was “involved” in the German rail company Deutsche Bahn’s data privacy scandal when it was caught spying on its employees in 2009, leading to the retirement of C.E.O. Hartmut Mehdorn. Network Deutschland was also involved in the former-monopoly phone company Deutsche Telekom’s so-called “Telekom data scandal,” which is confusing but included T-mobile’s years of archiving communications data of members of its own supervisory boards, such as the head of the German trade union association Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund. T-mobile was especially interested in any phone interactions with journalists. Deutsche Telekom was also accused of using private detectives to spy on journalists in other ways.

The 2013 Snowden revelations might provide some insight into the means private detective companies could have used to access these communications and banking data. Online ads and tech articles seem to be indicating that powerful N.S.A.-type tools are now trickling down into the regular economy, being sold to smaller and smaller entities.

N.B.: How early did the notoriously technophilic and well-funded U.S. National Football League know about some of these capabilities?

An English-language Spiegel.de article dated 2008 speculated about the separate huge data hoards controlled by the national rail (Deutsche Bahn), national airline (Lufthansa), post office (Deutsche Post) and phone company (Deutsche Telekom), all companies found to have made questionable investigations and hired detective agencies. The magazine couldn’t show that they had combined their data in 2008 though; they also only connected up e.g. that Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom hired the same detective agency but Lufthansa and (Telekom?) investigated the same journalist (Tasso Enzweiler from Financial Times Deutschland, which folded in 2012). The Spiegel article wanted to but could not show that the four big corporations also investigated each other, but it reminded us they were well positioned to investigate each other and anyone else in Germany. The Spiegel.de article didn’t want to feed conspiracy theorists but hoped the German government wasn’t asking these companies for access to their sensitive customer data. All four used to be state-owned and the German government still held large stakes in Deutsche Bahn and Deutsche Telekom.

(Day tect EYE en.)

Mögliche inspektionsziele in Iran

German reporting showed “possible inspection targets in Iran,” first on a map, then with satellite images and finally with ground-level photos taken in the plant or perhaps of similar equipment. This was part of ZDF heute journal’s 08 Nov 2013 coverage of the exciting meeting between Iranian diplomats and other countries’ diplomats in Geneva.

Reporter Luten Leinhos’s helpful map featured six areas of nuclear interest in central Iran and two on the coast. He described half of them for viewers:

Natans: biggest nuclear fuel plant, with centrifuges producing up to 3.5% enriched uranium for the Bushehr nuclear reactor but also uranium up to 20% enriched for research purposes; Teheran could offer to stop the 20% enrichment.

Arak: “a heavy-water reactor that produces plutonium as a byproduct, as it were.” Arak isn’t up and running yet. Iran said it may now allow 24-hour video monitoring in the Arak reactor.

Fordo: bunkered up, only satellite photos available; long kept secret. Teheran could offer to let in inspectors and video monitoring.

Parchin: military research complex, absolutely sealed off. Were nuclear tests simulated there?

Update on 11 Nov 2013: Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency agreed on a road map for inspecting Iranian nuclear sites.

Update on 24 Nov 2013: Küsschen, Umarmung und Schulterklopfen [ceremonious little kisses on the cheek, hugs and clapping one another on the shoulder]. An agreement was reached among foreign ministers from Iran and the U.N. veto-power countries to reduce some economic sanctions against Iran, reduce some nuclear development projects in Iran for now, and to pause Iran’s nuclear weapons program for six months while further arrangements and controls are negotiated and agreed on.

Update on 09 Feb 2014: The International Atomic Energy Agency quietly published a heartwarming announcement: “of the six initial practical measures that were agreed three months ago[,] Iran has taken the initial practical measures that were foreseen.

“Iran and the Agency reached agreement on seven practical measures to be implemented by Iran by 15 May 2014.

“The agreed measures are:

  • “Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Saghand mine in Yazd;
  • “Providing mutually agreed relevant information and managed access to the Ardakan concentration plant;
  • “Submission of an updated Design Information Questionnaire (DIQ) for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • “Taking steps to agree with the Agency on the conclusion of a Safeguards Approach for the IR-40 Reactor;
  • “Providing mutually agreed relevant information and arranging for a technical visit to Lashkar Ab’ad Laser Centre;
  • “Providing information on source material, which has not reached the composition and purity suitable for fuel fabrication or for being isotopically enriched, including imports of such material and on Iran’s extraction of uranium from phosphates; and
  • “Providing information and explanations for the Agency to assess Iran’s stated need or application for the development of Exploding Bridge Wire detonators.”

Update on 17 Apr 2014: Diplomats announced that according to a report by the I.A.E.A. Iran continues to “precisely follow” the agreement reached in November 2013. “Everything is proceeding as planned.” Iran has diluted or converted to uranium oxide 75% of its original 200 kg of highly enriched uranium. The other 50 kg are to be converted or diluted by 20 Jul 2014, and in return western countries will loosen economic sanctions against Iran.

Update on 20 May 2014: I.A.E.A. said they met with Iranian officials to confirm the “good progress made on the seven practical measures that were agreed three months ago.” Five new practical measures have now been agreed (to be done between now and 25 Aug 2014):

  • “Exchanging information with the Agency with respect to the allegations related to the initiation of high explosives, including the conduct of large scale high explosives experimentation in Iran.
  • “Providing mutually agreed relevant information and explanations related to studies made and/or papers published in Iran in relation to neutron transport and associated modelling and calculations and their alleged application to compressed materials.
  • “Providing mutually agreed information and arranging a technical visit to a centrifuge research and development centre.
  • “Providing mutually agreed information and managed access to centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities.
  • “Concluding the safeguards approach for the IR-40 reactor.”

(MIG lichh ah   inz peck tea OWNS TSEAL eh   inn   ee RON.)

Rundfunk-Staatsvertrag

“Broadcaster’s treaty,” also short for the name of a law, the Staatsvertrag für Rundfunk und Telemedien or German Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia.

The broadcasting treaty regulating one of Germany’s two big public broadcasters, ZDF, is being reviewed by the supreme Constitutional Court [Verfassungsgericht] in Karlsruhe after a political fight in 2009 about firing ZDF’s editor-in-chief. Germany’s other big public broadcaster, ARD, reported that the case’s core question is whether governments and political parties have too much influence in ZDF’s current setup. The states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Hamburg brought the lawsuit to the supreme Constitutional Court in the form of a complaint about who’s on two boards that control ZDF.

“I believe that we have, step by step, walked ourselves into too much dominance by the government-influenced members of the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] and Television Council [Fernsehrat].” –Kurt Beck (S.P.D.) former Rhineland-Palatinate governor and chair of the ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] who, after trying and failing to make legislative changes, co-brought the suit.

Former Hessian governor Roland Koch (C.D.U.) led the 2009 fight in the Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] to not renew ZDF editor-in-chief Nikolaus Brender’s contract.

The ZDF Administrative Council [Verwaltungsrat] has 14 members, of whom five represent German states and one represents the federal government. The remaining eight Administrative Council members are selected by the 77-member ZDF Television Council [Fernsehrat]. That board is supposed to “set guidelines for ZDF shows and advise directors about programming questions” and to consist of 77 people from societally important groups, namely

1 person from each of the German states signing the Staatsvertrag, 3 people sent by the federal government, 12 people sent by the political parties proportionate to their proportions in the Bundestag, 2 sent by the Protestant church, 2 sent by the Catholic church, 1 from the Central Council of Jews in Germany, 1 from the German association of unions [Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund], 1 from the association of service job unions ver.di [Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft e.V.], 1 from the bureaucrats’ union [Deutscher Beamtenbund], 2 from the federal association of employers’ unions [Bundesvereinigung Deutscher Arbeitgeberverbände], 1 from the national chambers of commerce association [Deutscher Industrie- und Handelskammertag], 1 from the German agriculture central committee [Zentralausschuss der Deutschen Landwirtschaft], 1 from the central association of German craftsmen [Zentralverband des Deutschen Handwerks], 2 from the association of German newspaper publishers [Bundesverbandes Deutscher Zeitungsverleger], 1 from the German journalists’ association [Deutschen Journalistenverbandes e.V.], 1 from the media section of the service jobs union ver.di, 4 from the Free Welfare Associations [Freie Wohlfahrtsverbände] (and that should be 1 from the German Protestant church’s Diakonie Werk, 1 from the German Catholic church’s Deutscher Caritasverband e.V. umbrella association of charities, 1 from the German Red Cross, 1 from the central committee of the German workers’ welfare group Deutsche Arbeiterwohlfahrt e.V.), 1 from the German cities’ council [Deutscher Städtetag], 1 from the German association of cities and communities [Deutscher Städte- und Gemeindebund], 1 from the German counties’ council [Deutscher Landkreistag], 1 from the German sports association [Deutscher Sportbund], 1 from Europaunion Deutschland e.V., 1 from the German association for the environment and protecting nature [Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland e.V.], 1 from the German nature protection association [Naturschutzbund Deutschland], 1 from the association of displaced persons [Bund der Vertriebenen], 1 from the coalition of victims of Stalinism [Vereinigung der Opfer des Stalinismus] and 16 from education, science, the arts, culture, the film economy, the free professions, family work, child protection, youth employment, consumer protection and animal protection.

Yet ARD tagesschau.de legal correspondent Frank Bräutigam’s chart broke these 77 members down into only three main groups: 45.4% board members from governments/political parties, 27.3% from unions, 20.8% from professional groups. The current judicial review will be casting a sharp eye on the complaint that the 27.3% unions and 20.8% professional groups are also nominated by the political parties. In fact, said ZDF heute journal, a considerable portion of them are selected by state governors, adding that informally the television council actually breaks down into two large groups: the C.D.U.’s allies and the S.P.D.’s allies. Usually, said people defending the current system, the duopoly controlling the ZDF television council is balanced enough to prevent the appearance of violation of the German Constitution, which guarantees freedom of reporting in broadcasting and film (Grundgesetz, Art. 5).

ZDF heute journal said the supreme court cannot change the Staatsvertrag but can define criteria limiting it.

ARD tagesschau.de calmly concluded their report by noting that the German supreme court in Karlsruhe has been issuing decisions that help define Germany’s media landscape for decades now. A verdict is expected in 2014.

Update on 25 Mar 2014: The court issued its verdict, invalidating the ZDF charter because it allows too much political influence to be taken. Germany’s public broadcasters must not become state broadcasters, said the judges. In future, the 44% of ZDF’s board members who are politicians or “part of government or close to government” must be reduced to 33%, and political parties must stop exerting “determining influence” on the naming of the other board members (who are supposed to be “far from government” but were in part being named by e.g. state governors).

Germany’s public broadcasters must also remain available to the public and not be allowed to wither by being restricted to obsolescing technology.

The judges demanded a cultural change at German public broadcasters, to become more of what they were always intended to be, said Süddeutsche.de: an institution for the entire society, reflecting diversity and variety in that society. Freedom of broadcasting as it is guaranteed in the German constitution is based on ensuring variety of content that cannot be achieved via a free market alone, the judges said. One judge’s minority opinion said these measures were too lenient, that 33% was still too high, and he called for emancipation of the public broadcasters from government entirely.

(ROOND FOONK shtots fair TROG.)

Schattenhaushalte vieler katholischen Bistümer

Shadow budgets of many Catholic bishoprics in Germany.

An incident made the news which in turn made people aware that Catholic bishops in Germany appear to have large discretionary funds, sometimes, whose contents and disposition are not transparent.

The incident happened to be the scandalous new bishop’s residence in Limburg, originally approved for 2.5 million euros but now at 31 million and possibly costing up to 40 million ultimately as the digging and draining that proved so unwieldy and expensive for the site itself may turn out to be endangering the stability of historical buildings around it. Limburg has been settled since at least the Stone Age and has Roman ruins dating back to before the Roman empire became Christian in 380 C.E.

In tumultuous economic times, especially when Germans see more reasons to worry about their traditional issue of inflation, moving cash into real estate may be a wise investment. But the Limburg bishop’s motivations appear not to have been entirely practical ones. He was also caught subsequently perjuring himself about church finances, according to procecutors in Hamburg.

An ecclesiastical friend gossiped to me that the Limburg bishop’s shadow budget or discretionary fund was about 90 million euros because his predecessor was a saver.

In addition to reporting details about the bishop’s construction projects, which were hidden behind an expensive high stone wall and included designer gardens, conference rooms, housing for nuns (as domestic servants?), a chapel, the bishop’s own apartment and an underground relics room, reporters have also used this opportunity to explain the history of how Germany got to its strange semi-separation of church and state whereby the states collect a “church tax” and distribute it to the dioceses (income tax is collected state-by-state in Germany). After Napoleon invaded some German principalities and enacted legal reforms, in 1803 the so-called Reichsdeputationshauptschluss or “German mediatization” according to Wikipedia stripped the officially recognized churches of their property but set up annual payments—almost pensions—to the churches to compensate for the loss. Now, two hundred years later, the government still pays compensation [Staatsleistungen] to the bishoprics—my ecclesiastical friend said these obligations were eliminated for dioceses smaller than bishoprics during the last decade or so—for the church property technically confiscated in 1803. The state also pays churches Staatsleistungen for the social services the churches provide, such as day care. Also, anyone who ticks a box marking themselves as Catholic or Protestant on their mandatory registration form with the local police will automatically owe church tax [Kirchensteuer]. People voluntarily do this because they feel religious, they want to get married in a church in addition to the standard civil marriage in the town hall, or, especially, they are desperate for preschooler day care which was mandated but not provided in Germany until 2013, when actual penalties went into effect for towns that didn’t provide enough day care. Money for saving and maintaining wonderful old church buildings, bells and organs also comes from the state in these forms. Such income streams are how German cathedrals are kept heated in winter despite being giant stone piles with ceilings 20 meters above the floor ducts.

German news reported that the transparent public budget of German Catholic bishoprics includes taxpayers’ voluntary church tax [Kirchensteuer], collected and handed over by the government, for free, and the government’s own payments [Staatsleistungen, several hundred million euros annually] as rent on the property seized in 1803. Bishoprics’ untransparent private budget includes income from e.g. real estate, stocks, bonds, legacies willed to the church and interest income. ARD’s tagesschau.de reported e.g. that the Catholic bishopric of Würzburg said its private property was 271 million euros, and Cologne said it had 166 million euros. A political scientist and journalist disagreed with these numbers however, telling tagesschau.de that the Cologne diocese had three billion euros in cash and property, including an investment in a company that owned ~23,000 apartments, he told ZDF heute journal. The researcher, Carsten Frerk, published a 2010 book estimating annual subsidies of German churches at 19 billion euros and accusing churches of “false labeling” because, he said, nearly all the religious business they carried out was subsidized by government funds, taxpayers’ direct church tax and even N.G.O.’s such as Germany’s health insurance schemes. Mr. Frerk also noted that churches in Germany are exempted from paying property tax or tax on interest income and from many fees as well, while taxpayers can take church tax as a 100% deduction for which the government also receives no compensation.

Tagesschau.de reported that Hildesheim is the only Catholic bishopric that is fully financially transparent. Their books are published in their entirety, and kept according to the German Commercial Code [Handelsgesetzbuch]. ZDF heute journal reported that in the wake of the Limburg scandal 14 of Germany’s 27 Catholic bishoprics started publishing financial statistics about themselves that they hadn’t disclosed before.

To finally financially separate church and state in Germany, governments would have to make large 1803-concluding lump payments to the bishoprics which they feel they can ill-afford right now. Thus the situation continues.

Update on 09 Feb 2014: A report is expected soon from the Catholic church’s five-member commission investigating the financial scandal in Limburg. It doesn’t look good, said Spiegel.de. Construction costs of the bishop’s 2.5-million-euro residence will exceed the most recent estimate of 31 million euros. Some church foundation money [Stiftungsgelder] was diverted into the project; apparently this is mentioned because it was done improperly. Spiegel.de’s source used interestingly arcane words: The investigators managed to document possibly prosecutable [justitiabel] offenses, based among other things on information found in a “secret registry” [Geheimregistratur] found in a “conspiratorial apartment” [konspirative Wohnung] rented separately in Limburg, where the “most important documents” on the church construction project were found together with financial papers bearing the bishop’s signature which could be used as evidence. The commission’s report is supposed to go to the catholic bishops’ conference and the Vatican, but it would be nice if it were shared with the general public as well.

(SHOTTEN house halt ah   FEEL ah   cot OLE ish en   BISS toom ah.)

“Gerüchte verbreitend”

“Rumormongering,” for which Chinese bloggers are being sent to prison in new ways. China’s new internet rules permit the arrest of people who use blogs or Weibo microblogging (Twitter has been blocked in China) to e.g. comment on the obvious and deadly air pollution or support Bürger-Bewegungen, burgher movements, such as the one that dared to demand party functionaries publish how rich they are.

Tagesschau.de reporter Christine Adelhardt said,

“What’s a rumor is of course defined by the Party. And thus the new rules are becoming a free pass to gag critics. The Communist Party is worried about its opinion superiority [Meinungshoheit] in the internet and its power monopoly in the country.”

Her report is so well-written that it’s difficult-in-a-good-way to translate:

Was ein Gerücht ist, das bestimmt selbstverständlich die Partei. So werden die neuen Regeln zu einem Freibrief1, um Kritiker mundtot2 zu machen. Die Kommunistische Partei furchtet um ihre Meinungshoheit3 im Netz und ihre Machtmonopol im Land.”

(Geh R-R-R-Ü chh teh   furb RYE tend. )

1  Charter, get-out-of-jail-free card, free pass, but not a letter of marque which is a Kaperbrief or ship-capturing permit

2  “Mouth-dead”; gagged, muzzled

3  Opinion superiority, high ground that allows those controlling it to be the ones who define opinion

Der schlimmste Feind im ganzen Land, das ist und bleibt der Denunziant.

“The worst enemy/biggest rascal in the whole damn country is and remains: a snitch.” Handy mnemonic reminding Germans not to squeal on their neighbors, even when the stress of dense living conditions can get overwhelming. Left-leaning German students will repeat this to you as a meme joke that’s crept firmly into their consciousness, while they diligently study education, journalism or history, enjoy detective shows on television and meet up in meatspace for ferocious protracted information-sharing discussions in the interest of bettering democracy. Perhaps it’s now understood that snitching on your fellow citizens will murder Anne Frank but finding out what governments and other large actors are up to and talking about it might save lives.

Bruce Sterling: “What’s a historian but a fancy kind of snitch?” is a deeply unsettling offhand remark.

Australian radio’s charming Phillip Adams asked a Mossad expert a chiming question in a recent discussion of the information asymmetry enabled by drones and other surveillance: “Are you allowed to spill all the beans?” Mr. Adams was bean facetious.

Now that I’m olderly, I can think of more specific examples of situations in which professional information-sharers might *not* share the relevant useful context they know:

Schoolteachers: the topic of censorship in schools is ancient, but people will still surprise you. My grandfather used to show kids how to carefully mix up explosives within the safety rules of his high school chemistry class because he knew a certain book was available in the local library.

Historians: the majority would probably object strongly to showing people who make fake reference books how to make more convincing fake reference books. Though there could be tempting exceptions. Pacifist historians for example might not mind hearing that widely available gunsmithing research had been used to glut an overfunded, underinformed collectors’ market fetishizing blunderbusses like baseball cards (but pacifist historians would care very much if they heard the shoddy cast iron was shattering and injuring people). Historians are disturbed by the introduction of fake evidence, a crime against future generations that might someday be correctable, and absolutely infuriated by destruction of genuine evidence, a crime against future generations that can never be made right. It is so easy to accidentally destroy genuine evidence; it is casually shown over and over in archeology adventure films.

Introducing something that is beautiful, but not real, but not falsely presented as something other than it is (or encouraging destruction of genuine evidence!) almost seems okay. A gorgeous art book that riffs on designs and pictures from old reference books without being disguised as one could be a beautiful gift to the world. With proper source citation.

Journalists: probably must deal with the problem of when to withhold information most often, being confronted by these dilemmas accidentally because it goes with the job and on purpose, by interested parties familiar with the job. Journalism’s evolving ethics, rules and procedures are thus very valuable and interesting.

Priests: have the chance to learn a lot about contexts and reasons in local communities but might be highly susceptible to targeted “for the better good” arguments not to supply the most honest why’s and how’s, especially when the unusual levers within their particular religion are applied.

Scientists: probably have the clearest rules about information sharing, while handling some of the most useful information. Publish everything that seems reliably true according to defined test methods, unless the government swoops in. Archive non-seized published information and its underlying data so they can be found again, forever.

Librarians: seem to stand back and let people discover their own answers, though some jewels of librarianship can and will provide wonderful succinct context when asked. That can go the other way too—there were stories about history students in Germany returning to hometown libraries and discovering systematic long-term local obfuscation of local people’s colorful Nazi pasts. As the decades passed, the cover-ups necessarily got more and more complicated, the information in the town got more out of synch with the information widely known outside the town, and the aging perpetrators in the institutions were more likely to err and get caught.

Universities: one of the most fun and possibly most expensive hobbies you can pursue in the U.S.A. (A more expensive hobby might be something else + a university education, such as raising a child.) Professors and, these days, untenured adjunct instructors give highly efficient shortcut answers that tesseract you to the most useful synopses, unless they’re lying. Figure out how to study more than the inadequate standard four years and you might get an education. Figure out how to return to college from time to time and you might keep it.

After I studied history in a country that wasn’t either Cold War superpower, it seemed to me that one of many things the U.S.A. had in common with the Soviet Union but not with other countries was that the U.S. allowed propagandistic tendencies in important national history professors. This only became apparent after exposure to its absence. Once “allowed” it seems hard to eradicate—I noticed the U.S. tendency in the late 1990’s and it’s still going on in 2013. Presumably, sponsors’ and university administrators’ ethical barriers to installing such “chairs” must be deliberately reconstructed and haven’t been; also it’s hard to muster the data and arguments to effectively criticize a history professor. The latter was true of nearly all professors in Germany, professional experts who enjoyed a certain god-like status that was susceptible to abuse, but might especially pertain to history professors in the U.S.A.

Novelists: Fiction writers lie, wrote Margaret Atwood, and they use lying as a devious form of truth-telling. Along those lines, Terry Pratchett’s Y.A. books’ relatively direct overgeneralizations about people and institutions seem to have stood the test of time well, providing some rare explanations twenty years ago that appear not inaccurate today, two decades and half a world away.

Older relatives, like me now: will explain a lot, especially via wandering anecdotes, like this blog post; but they won’t tell you why and how if the reason is that someone in your family screwed up. When they’re feeling bad because they think they screwed up themselves, they often won’t talk about that either.

Government watchdogs, auditors, rapporteurs, monitors, inspectors general; departmental offices of internal affairs, ethics, professional responsibility: in addition to systemic inbuilt ways these inspectors may accidentally or deliberately fail to find and report, or be prevented by inspectees from finding and reporting, important cases of waste, fraud & abuse, how their reports are packaged for the press can also hide their key discoveries. The surrounding context we would like to know more about is so difficult to communicate that perhaps it’s no wonder we would like to know more about it. During the Reagan administration, it made little economic sense that the president’s stories about a “welfare queen”—which turned out to be a fairy tale—found more resonance than the real e.g. $500 hammers, nuts and toilet seats the Pentagon was caught buying at the same time. Which was the bigger economic threat? Yet one fairy tale was easier to remember than two overpriced hardware items.

Bureaucracies that don’t include functioning, safe systems for reporting and fixing in-house errors are what create a WikiLeaks.

WikiLeaks and other disseminators and investigators of huge data troves: are flummoxed by too much data, where vast volumes can hide relevant answers, especially after misinformation was introduced. But software has now been developed and distributed that helps map these infinitely complex connections. Insignificance and the ephemeral nature of human memory will no longer shield nonhackers.

(Dare   SHLIMM sta   FIE nd   im   GONTS en   LOND,   doss   ISST   oont   BLY bt   dare   den OONTS ee aunt.)

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.)

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.)

“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.)

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.)

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.)

Wabern

Billow, waft, swirl. Onomatopoeiatically, this word sounds like how waves might propagate through a swimming pool filled with jello, suspended cornstarch or Amish apple butter, but apparently it’s used more for the lighter ethers, airs and vapors, tendrils of fog or smoke. Süddeutsche.de talked charmingly about rumors that wabern durch Bayern, waft through Bavaria.

(VOB urn   do rrchh   BUY urn.)

Bettgeflüster

“Bed whispers,” German title of the old movie “Pillow Talk” starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson. Ezra Klein’s blog on the Washington Post recently posted about different types of public and private employees who have been caught or might be caught inappropriately making use of the vast phone and internet databases being collected and shared by e.g. the N.S.A.; one of the the least problematic bad uses so far has been to laugh about people’s private pillow talk.

Policemen: Police officers around the U.S.A. were caught using the F.B.I.’s huge N.C.I.C. database to snoop on each other, their significant others or, in one case, women a policeman wanted to cook and eat.

Military: The N.S.A. is part of the military. Fwiw, they said only a small number of people can search their phone records database (Edward Snowden?). A former N.S.A. employee told ABC in 2008 that N.S.A. employees used to listen to overseas soldiers’ phone sex.

Spies: There are fears inside and outside the U.S.A. that intelligence agencies around the world are spying on each other’s domestic populations as a favor to help local agencies circumvent laws protecting their citizens against domestic surveillance by their own governments. As a favor then your country’s communications data would be bulk-hoovered by at least one other country’s intelligence agencies and stored there before being shared with your country’s intelligence agencies…

Mercenaries: If 70% of the U.S.’s intelligence budget has been spent on private contractors in recent years, including on Edward Snowden’s former employer, then tens of thousands of guys must have worked these jobs by now with access to databases and powerful tools.

Telecommunications companies: Ars Technica posted that U.S. intelligence agencies partner with a U.S. telecom company to (somehow) collect phone and internet data from local telecom companies in foreign countries. Providing historical perspective, WaPo wrote that when giant fiber optics network operator Global Crossing went bankrupt in 2002 and was being bid on by firms from Hong Kong and Singapore, the U.S.A.’s F.C.C. held up approval of the deal until systems for U.S. government access to those networks had been agreed to. That model, worked out by reps from Defense, Justice and Homeland Security departments, has now been used by the F.C.C.’s “Team Telecom” for other telecom companies too. Phone companies, phone companies that provide internet connections, cable television companies that provide internet connections and companies that run, maintain or manage copper, fiber optic, satellite and other networks: all have employees and consultants that might also be able to access such data.

Software and content providers: “nine major” U.S. companies including Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and AOL have been sharing customer communication data with U.S. intelligence agencies; their employees and consultants might also be able to access these data.

News agencies and newspapers: Rupert Murdoch’s phone-hacking scandal in London indicates at least U.K. journalists have succeeded in paying police to acquire the kind of private information stored in these big databases. Such news companies’ employees and consultants, and their subsidiaries’ and parent corporations’ employees and consultants, and anyone capable of tapping journalists’ insecure computers and phones, might access all journalists’ data including those data obtained from police.

(BETT geh FLÜÜ stah.)

MISO-Süppchen

“A little MISO soup.” The US Defense Department has changed the name of Psy-Ops, psychological operations, to the more pleasant-sounding MISO, military information support operations. Private contractors such as Navanti Group provide MISO to e.g. the vastly grown Special Operations Command, SOC, in Tampa, Florida, according to the Washington Post.

In a 07 Jul 2013 article about how Navanti created a dossier on a US citizen living in Minnesota, WaPo wrote:

“The Pentagon is legally prohibited from conducting psychological operations at home or targeting U.S. audiences with propaganda, except during ‘domestic emergencies.’ Defense Department rules also forbid the military from using psychological operations to ‘target U.S. citizens at any time, in any location globally, or under any circumstances.’

“Last year, however, two USA Today journalists were targeted in an online propaganda campaign after they revealed that the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan owed millions of dollars in back taxes. A co-owner of the firm later admitted that he established fake Web sites and used social media to attack the journalists anonymously.”

(Me zo ZIPP chhen.)

Sich selbst als Geisel nehmen

“Taking yourself hostage.” Investigative journalism nonprofit ProPublica.org interviewed financial journalist Jesse Eislinger about bank regulation reform and the USA’s too-big-to-fail banks on 04 June 2013. Eislinger talked about the few oversized banks in the USA that get saved with taxpayer funds, and the smaller banks that don’t, and he interestingly compared the huge banks’ behavior to a scene in Mel Brooks’s Blazing Saddles when a man successfully takes himself hostage. US banks are allowed to grow too big, Eislinger said, because they claim it strengthens them to diversify into many sectors. In fact, they became and remain to this day unmanageable, as shown by the recent “London Whale” failure in 2012. When the “diversified” giant banks topple they essentially copy Mel Brooks’s autohostage joke by threatening to take out wide swathes of the US/world economy if not rescued by taxpayers. The situation is self-perpetuating as it now stands.

(Zichh   ZELBST   olls   GUY zel   nay men.)

Sommerloch-SuperGAU

GAU means grösster anzunehmender Unfall, “greatest assumable accident.” The redundant “Super-GAU” still finds use, wandering into explanations of e.g. climate-change storms or worst-case nuclear accidents. Sommerloch, the summer hole, is the summertime’s slow or silly news season. The summer of 2013 may be a perfect storm for slow if not silly news after the whistleblowing revelations of massive phone and internet data hoovering by the US, UK and French secret services and the US’s bugging of at least offices and computer systems of at least the EU government. Looking forward, investigative journalists should be wondering how they can safely do their jobs this summer. Politicians should be wondering how they can prepare for any negotiations.

(ZOMM ah lochh   ZOO pah g ow!.)

Sehr beeindruckend

“Very impressive.” The excellent foreign correspondent Dietmar Ossenberg reporting from Tahrir Square on the night of July 1, only a few hours after the Egyptian military issued its 48-hour ultimatum for anti-Morsi and pro-Morsi protesters to find a compromise.

When asked what would happen Monday night, Ossenberg said he didn’t know.

“I don’t know. Peacefully, I hope. It is enormously impressive to see how once more hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in this square before the [?] palace, and really very peacefully. Despite the images we just saw of the Muslim Brotherhoods’ main headquarters. The people here are not letting themselves be provoked. They talked beforehand with young people, they practically did training for this, to make sure these mass demonstrations would happen peacefully. So it is really very impressive… We have experienced many historical moments here, but this is really very moving. A speaker for the Egyptian military said today that these are the biggest demonstrations, and peaceful demonstrations, that Egypt has ever seen. That is true in fact, and simultaneously an indication of what side the military will put itself on. I think the erosion process of the power of the Muslim Brotherhood has started. Today we had eleven resignations of ministers, which Morsi refused. But that doesn’t mean anything because these ministers will no longer be carrying out their official business. From the provinces, five provinces, there were reports that the governors’ offices are closed. So people are refusing to follow the central government. So I think the Muslim Brotherhood will have to pivot. They will have to try to approach the people with a compromise. That could be a referendum, for example, which was under discussion tonight in the Muslim Brotherhood, a referendum about whether or not Morsi should stay in office. But I can’t imagine that would impress the people demonstrating in any way, shape or form. So I think that within 48 hours we will not have an agreement, that the military will take over power in a soft coup d’état, perhaps for a transition period, to then together with all the parties, as the Minister of Defense said today, form a type of round table to define a road map for the future. I can’t imagine after the last 48 hours that Egypt’s history is not about to be rewritten again. The sole hope remaining for us, however, is that this happens relatively peacefully. But this year the army promised they would try to prevent violent conflicts. However, one must respond to that by saying that the people here relied once before on promises made by the military and were bitterly disappointed.”

(Z air   beh EYE n drook end.)

Reiseberichte, Reisebeschreibungen

“Travel reports,” “travel descriptions.” Travelogues, books and stories that share a wanderer’s experiences, discoveries, places and times.

From a recent travel article in Spiegel-Online:

“Iran has sensational sights to go and see. The monuments to the poets, the gardens in Shiraz, the oasis idylls of Yazd, the mosques in Isfahan, all were on my itinerary. But then I kept meeting so many wonderful people, whose stories were much more interesting than those narrated by historic stone walls.”

(WRY zeh beh RICK teh,   WRY zeh beh SHRY boong en.)

Alltagsgeschichte

“History of everyday life,” history of ordinary people and ordinary things they did and made. Alltag in the present is considered rather gray and oppressive in a special way in Germany, at an intensity only made possible by festivals, so another English explanation of Alltagsgeschichte might be history of the LDG, loathsome daily grind, rather than of DWM, dead white males.

Most people who ever lived have been forgotten. The ordinary events in their ordinary lives might have been considered the most unworthy of documentation because ubiquity gives an air of permanence, because the literate few didn’t know how normal people lived or because chroniclers wanted to erase or deny aspects of it. Accidents are thus the source of much of the little we know in Alltagsgeschichte and related branches of historical study. Such as the preservation of medieval clothing cast aside in mountain salt mines, the preservation of Stone Age bodies in Alpine glacier ice, the Viking custom of sacrificing things valuable to them in anaerobic peat bogs. It took an unusual event to bring details of common people’s lives into written forms that were preserved: in witch trial documents clerks wrote down where women were and what they were doing when bedeviled, old coroner’s reports contain information about peasant work, Samuel Pepys’s diary is a unique source of day-to-day detail, and Ken Starr’s report accidentally tells us more about White House routine than any political memoire. Anything that causes secret services to violate people’s rights to privacy will record details of everyday life otherwise lost to posterity. On a lighter note, today’s Bundestagsfloskeln websites, where people can submit examples of classic German parliamentary speech phrases, real or “pastiche,” are accidentally excellent teaching aids to people unfamiliar with parliamentary democracy or the intense German “discussion” tradition.

One wonders what technology, customs and rules might lead to a future Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy-type encyclopedia in which important events are narrated in 3D video with realistically embarrassing detail.

(OLL togs geh SHICHH teh.)

Die Nachrichtenfrage

“The news question.” Where do you get your news? What reliable news selecters and sharers have you found? What conduits bring you your news?

(Dee   NOCHH richh ten froggah.)

Demokratiequalität

“Democracy quality.” Twenty years after “the West” set up ways to monitor, motivate and report on the democratization of former Eastern bloc and other countries around the world, it appears some Western countries could also use some polish. Timm Beichelt of the Europe University in Frankfurt (Oder) wrote inter alia in his essay “Verkannte Parallelen. Transformationsforschung und Europastudien” that many eastern European countries have done quite a good job of organizing new structures while, e.g., France and Italy would have trouble with freedom of the press as measured by now-standard democracy indicators. Italy because of Berlusconi’s media empire, but France…?

(Dame awk rah TEE qvoll ee TATE.)

Windhund-Verfahren

“Greyhound method” for first-come-first-serve allocation of press seats in the small state courtroom where the last surviving member of the neonazi serial-killing terrorist cell will go on trial this month. The foreign press didn’t find out about signing up until half an hour after local journalists had gotten the last seat. There has been serious shouting, ernsthafte Diskussion and a rapid decision by the constitutional court in Karlsruhe, and now the trial has been delayed a couple weeks and seats will be redistributed.

(VIND hoond fer FAR en.)

Offene, freimütige, furchtlose Beratung

“Frank and fearless advice,” what Phillip Adams thought diplomats and the media should give to leaders contemplating war and other violence.

(OH fennah,   fr eye MOOT iggah,   FOORCHHT loh zah   bare OTT oong.)

Partnermedium

Partner member of the media, what the Süddeutsche Zeitung is calling the other news organizations that received copies of the “Offshore Leaks” data trove. The SZ has posted a map showing the countries known so far to contain such media outlets and a list of the latest important discoveries.

(POT nah may dee OOM.)

Private Tageszeitungen

Private daily newspapers.” On 01 April 2013, for the first time in fifty years, you could buy nongovernment newspapers on the streets of Myanmar. There are now four daily papers there to choose from.

The Myanmar government is planning a controversial new media law that may re-impose censorship.

Blaupause

To this foreigner, Blaupause looks like “blue break,” which might indicate a nice use of free time in a well-situated beer garden because “blue” means drinking in Germany. But the word actually means “blueprints.”

New ESM head Jeroen Dijsselbloem angered some small countries whose economies are dependent on a large banking sector or at least threatened by large bank failures when he indicated that elements found to work in what the EU does in Cyprus—reduction of a banking sector that had grown to 7x the size of the country’s economy, reregulation of the remaining banks—could be applied to other Member States that get in too much trouble.

About Cyprus: German news reports that, during the past fortnight of negotiations when large transfers from Cypriot banks were supposed to be frozen, over a billion euros were nevertheless transferred off the island by foreign banks, mostly in London. A whistleblower list has appeared containing names of parliament members, local officials and associated companies and organizations that received millions in loans between 2007 and 2012 from the country’s two largest banks (Bank of Cyprus and Laiki Bank, plus Hellenic Bank in only one instance so far) but did not have to pay the full loans back. The only Cypriot political parties not represented on that list were a social democratic party and an environmental party, fwiw. A second whistleblower list is expected to appear containing names of large deposit holders who managed to get their money off the island just in time.

The corruption details cited in the Spiegel article were reported by the Cyprus news portal 24h.com.cy, Greek journalist Kostas Vaxevanis, and the Greek newspapers Ethnos and Kathimerini.

(Bl ow! Pow! Zah.)

Doschd

“Dozhd,” an “optimistic” independent Russian television channel. Its name means “rain” in Russian. Started as an Internet-only channel in April 2010, Dozhd became known internationally after their in-depth coverage of protests following the 2011 Duma election. German Wikipedia says their content is two-thirds live reporting and discussion, plus concerts, readings, experimental programs, documentaries, video art &c. There is an affiliated radio channel Serebrjanny Doschd (Себебрянный дождь,”Silver Rain”).

Update on 08 Feb 2014: An interview on Australian ABC Radio National’s Media Report mentioned that despite recent Russian legislation recriminalizing defamation, making it possible to blacklist websites for carrying the very vague “unlawful content” and redefining treason so broadly “that it could be now that any information shared with an international journalist is an act of espionage,” as host Richard Aedy said, the critical broadcaster Doschd has been suppressed by applying huge pressure to the cable operators connecting it to viewers to drop the channel. Guest Norman Hermant said Doschd was perhaps Russia’s most independent broadcaster, disseminating primarily by internet but also to consumers’ televisions by cable and satellite networks. “It’s now been left to an internet stream. Now an internet stream in Russia is very good for people who want to see it in Moscow and a few other big cities. But the vast majority of Russians still get their news and information from broadcast media.”

“Den kleinen Kreis der Kenner zu einem grossen Kreis der Kenner zu machen”

Much-loved words of Bertold Brecht in the 1930’s. He said, “What is democratic is turning the small group of people ‘in the know’ into a large group of people ‘in the know.'”

(Dane   KLY nen   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   eye nem   GROSS en   k rice   dare   kenner   tsoo   MOCHH en.)

Kernkraftwerksbeseitigung

“Nuclear power plant elimination.” Japanese journalists and engineers are travelling to Germany to see how nuclear power plants are being dismantled and disposed of there. This ZDF video for example shows metal holders for fuel rods that have been kept in water for years, then soaked in acid, hand-cleaned with high-pressure water, air and/or sand, and placed into temporary storage. There are no permanent storage sites in Germany for nuclear waste. The tour guide explained that some plant parts will be stored for at least fifty years before they can be taken apart.

(KERRRN croft verks beh ZITE ee goong.)

Anlassbezogene Prüfung

“Investigation because investigation is indicated.” German Minister for Work and Social Matters Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) has announced that Amazon.de will be investigated for maltreatment of its workers in Germany. The situation reached national attention after an investigative report by ARD about worker rights abuses at the company. In response to the report and the uproar, Amazon has fired its relevant private security firm, H.E.S.S.

(On loss beh TSOH geh neh   PROO foong.)

“Themen statt Köpfe”

“Issues rather than heads.” Part of Pirate Marina Weisband’s discussion of the current state of and reporting on the German Pirate Party. She says it’s too bad there is such a focus among some journalists on personalities and people in the nascent political party, because the program is what will establish the group among voters. “Talking about personalities is tempting because it doesn’t require a lot of prior knowledge,” but the pirates have to get to work on the issues at hand, especially figuring out responsible ways for GPP politicians to process/grok hundreds of direct petitions before major political meetings.

(TAY men   shtot   KÖPF eh.)

“Andere Journalisten stellen sich nicht so an.”

“Other journalists aren’t doing that.” “Other journalists aren’t taking that attitude.” Spiegel-Online reports that this was the CSU response in late May 2011 when asked for a written statement on the Bavarian government’s position in the ongoing German search for “final storage” (Endlager) locations for nuclear waste. At the time, the CSU indicated that Bavaria might reverse its position and become a candidate for permanent nuclear waste disposal. The state’s environmental ministry did not respond to Spiegel’s follow-up questions, even though the government “is legally obligated to provide information.” Finally, they agreed to a phone interview but no written statement, because “other journalists weren’t” demanding written statements. CSU party spokesperson Ulrike Strauß told der Spiegel that written statements weren’t normal.

Spiegel emailed Strauß their versions of her oral statements for her approval, and she called the top editors’ secretary (Sekretariat der Chefredaktion) to complain. Instead of the senior editors, the business editor returned her call, repeating that the magazine was going to insist on written quotes. Ultimately, nine days after Spiegel’s initial query on 23 May 2011, the state environmental minister announced that Bavaria would not be used for permanent nuclear waste disposal.

Spiegel goes on to report that, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, in March 2011 CSU spokesperson Ulrike Strauß phoned the Bayerischer Rundfunk (Bavarian {Public} Broadcasting, BR) news department to complain about a critical report about a CSU politician. The critical report was then replaced in subsequent news programs; it aired only once. BR says no pressure was exerted. Strauß says she acted entirely alone, on her own. The report in question was about environmental minister Markus Söder (CSU)’s contradictory statements before and after the Fukushima nuclear disaster regarding whether the Bavarian nuclear power plant Isar I was entirely safe. Before Fukushima it was safe. After, not so safe.

(ON derr eh   journaLIST en   SHTELL en   zichh   nichht   zoh   ON.)

Sommerloch

“Summer hole.” The lack of interesting news stories in summer when everyone goes on vacation. Outside the USA, the English translation for Sommerloch is “silly season,” according to Wikipedia. Inside the US, it’s called the “slow news season.”

Verfassungsschutz

“Constitution Protection.” The name for a federal German police agency that has state branches. I don’t know much about it. The name might be intended to convey the idea that federal police are needed to keep a democracy from falling into dictatorship.

Wikipedia says the Verfassungsschutz offices are responsible for domestic intelligence, the Bundesnachrichtendienst for foreign intelligence, and the Militärischer Abschirmdienst for military intelligence.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said federal Verfassungsschutz is responsible for defending Germany against spying.

Update on 28 August 2012: Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) has announced that he would like to reform the Verfassungsschutz, including a mandate that all state-level Verfassungsschutz organizations would have to send all their information to a central federal office (some state offices have already protested this) and that a central federal list be kept of all Verfassungsschutzmänner and -frauen who are providing information to these police in return for money. See V-Mann, V-Frau.

Update on 29 August 2012: The state and federal reps supposedly only discussed for one hour before agreeing on a framework for reform, which even the opposition SPD party now supports. Not only will state Verfassungsschutz offices be required to share all information with the federal office, but the federal office will be required to share all information with state offices as well (there are currently a total of 17 Verfassungsschutz offices). The state reps negotiated away Hans-Peter Friedrich’s proposal that the federal office be made the sole boss of  investigations of (potentially) violent groups. Angela Merkel’s libertarianesque coalition partner, the FDP, criticizes that these changes are just moving furniture around and the old system, with its redundancies, remains the same.

Update on 03 July 2013: Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) and the head of federal Verfassungsschutz, Hans-Georg Maaßen, announced the Verfassungsschutz agencies will undergo fundamental reforms of structures and procedures, imposing uniform standards on the state and federal offices. The changes are to include: new guidelines for the use of V-people (“persons who have committed the most serious crimes are not to be acquirable as V-people” —Maaßen; informants are no longer to receive fees high enough that they could live on that income alone; handlers are to be swapped every five years at the latest to prevent friendships and Seilschaften; and a central file of state and federal V-people is to be created e.g. to prevent multiple Verfassungsschutz offices from paying the same informant); new rules for working with state Verfassungsschutz agencies (which will have to send the knowledge they acquire in unfiltered form to the federal office) and in future files are only to be destroyed after multiple-step reviews (with destruction training and a “file destruction officer” appointed for each department). “Cross-thinkers” [Querdenker] in the offices are supposed to observe, question and criticize what they see, hopefully spotting real trends and catching when departments are on wrong or slow tracks. These initial reforms are said to be in response to the failures discovered in the investigations of Germany’s decade-long serial-killing bank-robbing neonazi terror cell, not to the revelations of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Because there is a German election in two months it’s possible these announced reforms will not be enacted and/or funded, as has apparently been the case with some of Health Minister Daniel Bahr (FDP)’s pre-election reform announcements. The opposition criticized them as purely cosmetic and piecemeal anyway. Thomas Oppermann (SPD) called for a mentality change at these agencies and training employees so that they “have a sense of where the real dangers to our democracy lurk.” Hans-Christian Ströbele (Green party) said Verfassungsschutz should be eliminated “such as it is. We can’t let people just continue on who failed like that.”

Update on 19 Sep 2013: A state Verfassungsschutz office (Lower Saxony’s) was caught collecting and keeping information on at least seven journalists. Federal-level Verfassungsschutz was also caught cooperating with the C.I.A. and the Bundesnachrichtendienst to spy on a journalist, though Hans-Georg Maaßen issued a denial; the NDR journalist‘s name, passport number, mobile phone number and date of birth were on a U.S. list of names and data given to the German domestic and foreign intelligence agencies in 2010 with a request for more information about those people.

These reports showed that the German domestic intelligence Verfassungsschutz (state and federal) and foreign intelligence Bundenachrichtendienst agencies are supplying information for databases (now including ones named “Project 6,” “P6” and/or “PX”) that should have been inspected by data protection officers and subject to German data protection rules regulating among other things what information they can contain and for how long, after which the data must be deleted. However, the German data protection officers did not know about these databases, said Peter Schaar. He said this is no minor infraction, and “anyone running such a project absolutely must guarantee that all activities are completely documented and subjected to data protection control/inspection.”

The excuse for Lower Saxony Verfassungsschutz’s spying on journalists was fighting neonazis and the excuse for federal Verfassungsschutz’s spying on journalists was fighting terror. In his 2007 book Das Ende der Privatsphäre [“The End of Privacy”], Mr. Schaar said in the 1990’s the excuse tended to be fighting organized crime.

Update on 14 Mar 2014: New Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière announced the Verfassungsschutz will stop watching members of the Leftists party, which many S.E.D. politicians from the former East Germany joined twenty years ago, “unless they have good grounds for surveillance.” It will also “in general” stop watching Bundestag members, no matter what party they belong to. He said they reserved the right to investigate resumption of surveillance if they received new knowledge. Such as, that Bundestag members had connections to extreme milieux willing to do violence. Süddeutsche.de said this change of policy is in response to a case Bodo Ramelow (Leftists, and kept under observation for decades) brought to the supreme court, Bundesverfassungsgericht, in Karlsruhe. The court decided in October 2013 that “parliamentarians could only be watched who abused their mandate to fight against the free democratic basic order.” Süddeutsche.de said Mr. de Maizière’s formal statement did not say members of state parliaments would generally no longer be watched, and it noted that formally that his statement only commits the federal Bundesverfassungsschutz to suspend operations, not the 16 state offices.

Update on 08 Apr 2014: A company that represents companies in the Maschinenbau industry [“machine building,” industrial engineering] signed an agreement with federal Verfassungsschutz at this year’s trade show in Hanover. The agreement is supposed to encourage more German companies to consult Verfassungsschutz about suspected cases of industrial espionage. FAZ.net: “But Verfassungsschutz’s advantage is that unlike police they do not have to follow up on a crime, said the association. That is to say, the intelligence agency can pass on information to a company that’s affected; what happens with it after that is the management’s decision.”

(Fer FOSS oongs shoots.)

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