“Hey Baby, I’m Your Handy-Man” – NOT

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

mobile_phoneThe time has come around again to address the issue of German radicalism. This has nothing to do with the national elections coming up there at the end of September. Nor does it have anything to do with the recent film The Baader Meinhof Complex, for that matter.

Rather, it’s about a guy – a fully-functioning adult, mind you, in this ninth year into the 21st century – who owns no mobile telephone whatsoever, and never has. Furthermore, he’s confident he never will. Can you beat that? His name is Selim Özdogan (Turkish, obviously; sounds like some sort of Middle Eastern radical to me), he writes for Die Zeit, and he tells us all about it in an article entitled Handy-Free Zone. (For those not in the know: Handy has been the literal German word for “mobile/cell phone” ever since they first appeared there on a widespread basis in the late 1980s.) (more…)

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Young Set-Phaser-to-Stuns*

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Heard about the new Star Trek film (title: “Star Trek”) coming out next month? For real: this one is apparently going to reveal the pre-history of that great space epic, i.e. the story of those times before the USS Enterprise embarked upon all those space-adventures depicted in the original late-1960s TV series, the period back when James Kirk, Mr. Spock and all the rest of the crew were still just . . . well, “space cadets” might be the best term. There must still be a healthy Trekkie community in Germany, for no less than the prestigious weekly Die Zeit has an article up about this (From Lad to Captain) by Bernd Musa. (more…)

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Wolf Back at the Door

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009

Today we continue our impromptu series on “animals back in Europe that you wouldn’t expect” with an article by Helmut Luther from the German paper Die Zeit about the wolves that now roam in Italy, specifically in the northern reaches of the Apennine Mountains. Actually, Luther’s article (with the nearly-incomprehensible title “In a song with Isegrim” – it seems Isegrim/Isegrin is the name of a wolf-character out of German medieval fables) is located within Die Zeit’s Travel section, as it is oriented towards potential tourists interested in heading down to Northern Italy to try out the very limited wolf-searching commercial tours on offer there, and includes at its end practical information about the tours themselves, how to get there, and available hotel accommodation in the area.

But yes, wolves are back in Northern Italy, after all but completely dying out decades ago. They were officially made a protected species under Italian law back in the 1970s, but Luther writes that a more-helpful development was the economic development since then that prompted country-dwellers in that part of Italy to head away to the city for more lucrative jobs, and so opened the way for wild boars and deer – the wolves’ favorite snacks! – to spread and multiply, with the canines at the top of the local food-chain soon following. (more…)

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Obama is a Democratic Socialist!

Sunday, March 8th, 2009

Sssssshhhhhh – keep it down, will ya? That’s exactly what Rush Limbaugh together with just about the rest of the Republican Party have been loudly declaiming these past few weeks, and we all know that is hogwash. Who is this guy who is piling on this organized campaign of slander against the President?”

Actually, it’s Josef Joffe, one of the publishers of the prestigious German weekly commentary newspaper Die Zeit, who in a new article (title: “The Monster Budget”) calls Obama a “social democrat,” i.e. in the European style. OK, he actually doesn’t call Obama a “social democrat” directly, but instead writes about the “social-democratization” of America that he detects Obama is aiming for on the evidence of the Federal government budget that he just submitted to the Congress. His lede reads “Barack Obama’s proposed budget drives expenditures, debts, and taxes to new heights.” It all sounds like we still might prefer to keep Rush Limbaugh in the dark about this, don’t you think? (Do you remember if Rush understands any German?) (more…)

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North Korean Nuclear Missiles Can Hit USA!

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

OK, hold on, it’s only Guam (a US Pacific territory) that they can hit – so far. I know: that post-title was probably pretty cheap of me, and does no justice to the serious situation that is reported today by Germany’s Die Zeit. Because if they can hit Guam, they can also hit Alaska (I know, still no great loss, but bear with me here . . .) as well as Northern Australia and parts of India and Russia. (They’ve always been able to hit the People’s Republic of China and South Korea, but those are just a given, as respectively North Korea’s biggest ally and – ironically, bizarrely – its biggest enemy.) And I repeat that we are talking about nuclear warheads here.

So you can see how the recent stop in Seoul by new American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton takes on a new after-the-fact significance after this discovery of what the North Korean are up to (which you have to presume that Clinton and other top officials were aware of at the time). For whatever reason, the degree of North Korean invective against South Korea has heated up tremendously in recent weeks, so much so that South Korean politicians are quoted in the Zeit article as speaking of a “war of words.” In reaction to which Clinton announced during her visit there: “North Korea will gain no other relations with the USA as long as it insults and refuses dialog with South Korea.” US and allied officials are concerned not only about the extended range of these new “Taeppodong-2” missiles but also about the prospect that they could find their way to other bad actors like Iran or Syria; the North Koreans have been known in the past as willing sharers of their deadly technology, if the price is right.

News reports also noted how Clinton broke a “taboo” while visiting South Korea by openly speculating during an interview there over what’s happening with the North Korean leadership. For indeed, there seems to be something strange happening there, as the Zeit article describes. Some think dictator Kim Jong-Il might already be dead – for one thing, he didn’t bother to show up to the gala nation-wide celebration last week of his 67th birthday. In any event, his son and designated heir – named “Kim Jong-Un,” it seems – is preparing for his “coming out party” on March 8, which in North Korean dictator terms means taking up a position with the Supreme People’s Congress in preparation for the higher positions he is being groomed to take up later.

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Germany Feasts on US Fertility Train-Wreck

Friday, February 20th, 2009

A notable article just appeared about that silly Californian woman, Nadya Suleman, who recently supplemented her fatherless family of six children with an additional eight, in one fell swoop: USA: Californian family-of-eight deep in debt. And this is from Die Zeit, about as far in the German context away from a cheap tabloid rag-for-the-masses as you could possibly think of! (Oh sorry, you were actually looking for that tabloid instead? Try here.)

Still, it’s easy to see how this is a story that even Die Zeit finds it impossible to divert its horrified eyes away from. It simply punches just about every ticket in what Germans think about America, more specifically about California. Ms. Suleman, she of the fourteen tiny mouths to feed, is unwed, unemployed, and up until recently has been supported mainly by public welfare funds and her parents, living in her mother’s house – of course! Yet now her mother, Angela, is behind by $23,000 on payments for that house and is in danger of losing it – of course! (There was no real-estate craze in Germany; housing prices there were generally stable over the past decade.) Yet Nadya herself recently complained to US Magazine that her mother’s place, with but three bedrooms, was getting rather small for her rapidly-growing family. (To which we all respond in unison, whether in English in German, “Maybe you should have thought of that before you . . .”)

Now, Nadya did recently come up with over $300,000 more after the birth-of-eight took place, from interviews and from the pictures she allowed for all the glossy-magazine photo-spreads. Unfortunately, there was also supposed to be some sort of TV special, which would provide even more dough, but that fell through. (Of course there was going to be a TV special! This is Southern California – show biz!) That prompted the PR firm she had hired (of course she had her own PR firm!) to withdraw its services. So now it seems that she is left with little to forestall impending doom for herself and her extensive brood than contributions she can solicit on her website. (Of course she has a website!)

Only in America? Actually, yes – at least something similar could never happen in Germany, as the article takes pains to point out at the end. Suleman was able to undertake her eight-baby feat in the first place because she had that number of embryos implanted at a Beverly Hills (of course!) clinic. However, “[i]n Germany such an intervention is forbidden. According to the German Law for the Protection of Embryos, a doctor can implant in a woman at most three Embryos per cycle.” And California authorities – if they’re still getting paid – are now investigating whether the doctor in question here violated his/her professional responsibilities.

UPDATE: Jimmy Kimmel comments: “If she loses the house, Nadya will be forced to get pregnant again so she can live in the hospital for another three months.” And from Jay Leno, after the California legislature finally passed a budget: “Now Californians can go back to doing what they do best — buying homes they can’t afford and letting murderers go free.”

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Lotto Anti-Recession Policy

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

Here’s a solution for dealing with hard times, from Germany’s Die Zeit: Game of chance: Rush on Lotto-shops – 25 million euros has its attractions. The lede:

The prospect of winning the Lotto-jackpot of 25 million euros has led to a rush on the sales-points in many places in Germany. Lotto-players file through the tobacco-shops and Lotto-shops one-per-second.

The report comes from on-the-scene in Stuttgart, mainly because the last big German Lotto winner – picked up a €4 million prize last 20 December – came from there. To win that €25 million you have to get the seven numbers picked exactly right; if no one does that in four further drawings, then it will be split among all those who pick at least six numbers correctly for the next drawing.

The article also passes along comment from Klaus Sattler, press-spokesman of the Deutscher Lottoblock that runs these lotteries: “It’s a misconception that people in hard times turn increasingly to games of chance.”

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The Faces of Economic Hardship

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

Now that the German government has finally ditched its initial stance of taking only perfunctory measures in reaction to the economic crisis and has instead launched its own expensive stimulus program (as we discussed in the very last post, just below), it’s understandable that there would be some new Teutonic curiosity about how other countries are coping – I mean, now that Angela Merkel’s government has ceased writing everyone else off as a bunch of free-spending Nervous Nellies. So Die Zeit takes up the comparative economics assignment in fine style with a captioned picture-series entitled “Ways out of the crisis,” and dealing with the approach to recession-relief taken by seven of the world’s main nations, one page per country (pages 8 & 9 just have supplementary content).

Those without a facility in German will of course only be able to fully savor each page’s accompanying photo, which in each case presents a scene out of a soup-kitchen or other poor-relief facility in the respective country. Oh, and if your eye should happen to catch sight of the various numbers mentioned in the texts to the right, you will need to remember that Billion (plural: Billionen) in German actually denotes what Americans would call trillion; it’s Milliard in German (plural: Milliarden) that is “billion.” Note that I will, as usual, use the American terminology.

Otherwise, you can be sure that each country discussed (in order: USA, Russia, Brazil, the UK, France, China, and Japan) is taking active, although varying, measures to counteract the economic crisis. The prize so far goes to China which, when central government outlays are added to additional monies released for provincial governments, has committed to around €1.5 trillion in spending, or 2/3 of current Chinese GDP. Then again, they started earlier (the first major stimulus plan was announced in November), and they can afford it more, holding around €1.4 trillion in foreign exchange reserves. And it does seem that conditions there – except for foreign trade volume – are already starting to turn up. The US, in stark contrast, at this point according to the article can still point only to Barack Obama’s still-inchoate plans for an stimulus package of around €600 billion (no mention is made of recent suggestions to devote some of that to tax-cuts, and yes, the article cites it in terms of euros), which still will raise the federal budget deficit to 11% of GDP. So the Die Zeit editors here are ignoring the $350 billion of the TARP program already spent, as well as that stimulus-money (remember that?) that Congress spread around to all tax-paying citizens last spring – but, come to think of it, there’s not much room to object to them doing that anyway.

Notable mentions elsewhere in this article include the unique aspect of Russia’s relief approach which, other than devoting reserves to support the value of the ruble, features direct money-grants in State assistance to an eligible list of over 300 businesses. (What’s Russian for “corruption” again? How about продажность – “prodazhnost.”) And the brief entry on France points out that the public debt there has now risen to around 4% of GDP, i.e. above the 3% level that all euro-zone members, including also Germany, are supposed to keep below.

UPDATE: Regarding China, others are not so sanguine: Chinese Economy Faces 2009 “Hard Landing,” from Bloomberg (noticed at naked capitalism).

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Germans to Repeat US Banking Mistakes?

Saturday, January 10th, 2009

Ah yes, as I observed in a post a few days ago, when it comes to state funds made available to prop up failing banks, the German bank bailout demand is low. But “low” does not have to mean “non-existent,” and in fact on Thursday the German government made use of the Sonderfonds Finanzmarktstabilisierung (“Special Fund for Financial Market Stabilization,” or Soffin) it had established to provide Commerzbank with €10 billion in exchange for taking up a 25% ownership stake. More precisely, of that €10 billion €1.8 billion actually buys that equity quarter-stake while the remaining €8.2 billion goes to a “silent participation” that gains no voting rights. By the way, at roughly the same time Commerzbank also took advantage of that other facility offered by Soffin – namely State debt guarantees – to bring in another €5 billion in new capital via a guaranteed bond-issue.

If you were to use your imagination to put yourself in the German federal government’s place – say, if you were a German taxpayer in whose name all this money was being spent – you might very well wonder what those civil servants in charge of the Soffin were thinking by accepting in exchange for the lion’s share of that €10 billion amount a mere “silent participation.” After all, it’s clear that insisting on a 100% active participation would have resulted in the purchase of the entire bank, with money to spare. (Do the math: that €1.8 billion bought a 25% interest, yet constituted not even 25% of the €10 total spent.) Instead, the remainder of that money gains for the government the “silent participation” that is in effect a loan, charging 9% interest. (more…)

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Merkel Awaits Obama

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

I’d like to take up again the subject of the rather unconventional German governmental response – so far – to the surging economic troubles to be found in Germany as well as more widely, prompted as I am to do so by the reader response I’ve received. You might recall that we can summarize that response as “Times might be tough, but there’s no need for this government or any other to spend huge sums, go way into debt, or otherwise endanger the EU’s Stability Pact that is supposed to underpin the euro.” (But also remember that this unorthodox position seems to be held only at the German government’s top levels, with plenty of insistent calls to start spending coming from elsewhere, including lower-down in that same government.)

This whole question in its broader sense – which could be phrased, ¡¿Caramba!, what can we do to stop the onrushing Great Depression? – is put into sharp relief by a commentary from Thursday in the Financial Times by the historian Niall Ferguson* (in English of course: The age of obligation, h/t to Naked Capitalism). (more…)

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More Obama Reax

Monday, November 10th, 2008

The ramifications of Obama’s electoral victory last Tuesday are still percolating through the European political consciousness, if the steady supply of commentary in the media there is any indication. We surely would not want to miss, for example, the just-issued commentary from L’Humanité, the organ of the PCF, the French Communist Party, which in its (web-)pages asks United States: Change of an Era? (more…)

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Kennedy and America’s Downfall

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

First off, please note: that’s Paul M. Kennedy, history professor at Yale. One meta-theme that has been floating around the media throughout the global financial crisis of the last month or so has been variations on “the overthrow of the American century,” the “undoing of Wall Street as the world’s financial center,” and the like. If you’re going to write about this, what better expert to consult than Prof. Kennedy, author (although it was way back in 1987) of the noted history The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers?

Germany’s Die Zeit recently caught up with the good professor to do just that, sending correspondent Thomas Fischermann to grab an interview (“USA loses world-power status”). (more…)

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Doping Gets a Pass at the Olympics

Friday, October 17th, 2008

Followers of this weblog over at least the past few months will recall my very doubtful stance towards the issue of possible doping by athletes at this years Beijing Olympic Games. I presented commentary from an ex-Olympic star doubting that doping could be avoided; and I pointed out how technological advances in sporting accessories were probably producing athletic performances many would call “unnatural” anyway. In fact, in my last sentence of that latter post I opined that, because of these accessories, we “have something else to be concerned about in addition to the pharmacological/blood-swapping tricks that we have to hope the Olympic authorities are sufficiently on-guard against.”

Sorry to say, but up comes an article in the respected German commentary weekly Die Zeit, by Friedhard Teuffel (Doping Policy of the IOC [= International Olympic Committee] is not credible), which indicates that those authorities were rather unlikely to have been sufficiently on-guard.
(more…)

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In the Headlights

Thursday, September 25th, 2008

“Thank God for the crises. They have brought America’s presidential candidates closer to us than they would like.” That is the verdict of former Die Zeit US correspondent Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff on how the latest US financial crisis has let us all see Messrs. Obama and McCain, namely under pressure and with their hair down. That evaluation comes at the very end of his recent article (In the headlights of the crises), and the conclusions he draws, at least, rather differ from what one would ordinarily have been led to expect. (more…)

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Will Bush Win in Iraq?

Thursday, September 4th, 2008

The “surge” has succeeded, we are all told. Iraq is now a much more peaceful place; the government of Nuri al-Maliki is now in good shape, they say, increasingly able to take over the task of providing internal security with its own native forces. But “they”? “They” is primarily those with an interest in pushing the image of a peaceable Iraq today as a way somehow (and finally!) to justify the expenditure of thousands of American lives, hundreds of thousands of Americans wounded, and hundreds of billions of dollars since March of 2003. In other words, “they” is namely the Bush administration, and also the McCain presidential campaign – and the credibility of at least the first of those has been running on empty for quite some time.

No, far better to seek a judgment on the current state of Iraq from experts with a higher quotient of objectivity. One long-standing authority is Juan Cole, professor at the University of Michigan and both Arabic- and Farsi-speaker, mainly through his weblog Informed Comment. He recently offered his own summing-up of where we are now: “The level of violence at this moment in Iraq is similar to what prevailed on average during one of the 20th century’s worst ethnic civil wars [the Lebanese Civil War of 1975-1990]! It is still higher than the casualty rates in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, two of the worst ongoing conflicts in the world.” On the other hand, New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins has to know something about conditions in Iraq, from where he reported from 2004 to 2006. (He also has a book coming out soon about that, The Forever War.) In a recent e-mail interview (The Progress in Iraq is Remarkable) he asserts that much of the improvement of conditions in Iraq is “astonishing,” that “parts of [the country] are difficult for me recognize,” although “the calm is very fragile.”

A large part of the basis for optimism is the hand-over last Monday of responsibility for the security of Anbar province to the Iraqi government, which Filkins himself reported on for the NYT. This is also covered by Rainer Hermann of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (From sanctuary for terrorists to model province), who adds some telling details. (more…)

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The Speech: From Berlin to Denver

Friday, August 29th, 2008

He came out to the podium, he gazed out upon the 80,000 upturned faces aglow – and then last night Senator Barack Obama laid out his vision for his presidential campaign and for the presidency presumably to follow.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not trying here to push any Republican-inspired “Messiah” or “Moses-parting-the-seas” irony to cast last evening’s events in a disparaging light. Indeed, it was an impressive spectacle – complete with letter-perfect weather! – that itself rightly dominated the news-cycle and to which reactions still dominate that news-cycle this morning.

The same is not quite true in Europe, which has plenty else to talk about today, but Barack Obama’s speech has still gotten plenty of attention even now (i.e. as your EuroSavant writes this), less than 12 hours after it was delivered. Let’s again start with reactions from those who were vouchsafed their own up-close look at the Senator’s speechifying, last July in Berlin, namely the Germans. (more…)

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Good-Bye Putin

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

The hostilities in Georgia seem to be dying down now. Russian forces are withdrawing – or at least they are supposed to withdraw, under the terms of the cease-fire they signed, but there is considerable doubt as to whether they are actually fulfilling that obligation.

In the meantime, the countries of the NATO alliance struggle to come to terms with the new ruthless military face Russia has shown in this crisis. Germany now stands central in that military alliance, in the same way it has stood central for some time now within the European Union, again because of its sheer weight of population and economic power (and, who knows, maybe also its reputation for military ability in the past), which makes German commentary on these recent developments particularly interesting.

A very good contribution comes from Jochen Bittner, who writes a weblog, called Planet in Progress, that is carried off the Die Zeit webserver. (more…)

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Sour Doping Grapes?

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Die Zeit has engaged a number of German ex-Olympians as commentators on the current Beijing Games, among which Heike Henkel, the German (female) high-jumper who won the gold medal in that event in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (among other athletic honors). In an interview posted on that newspaper’s website (Heike Henkel Puts Phelps’ World Records in Doubt) she admittedly has no unkind words specifically about the validity of achievements in this year’s women’s high-jump – but probably only because that competition is scheduled to start next Thursday! In the meantime, she has plenty to say on the subject of doping and its effect on athletics and athletes. (more…)

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Obama Hip-Hop

Friday, August 15th, 2008

It looks like the august and influential – and therefore sometimes a little stuffy – German weekly newspaper Die Zeit sometime in the recent past, when I wasn’t looking, established a new affiliated website, Zuender, to try to appeal to the younger generation which greatly prefers to access the publication’s content via the Net rather than the newsstand. (Zuender, or rather Zünder, means “detonator” in German.) There’s really no doubt that this is Zuender’s purpose, as one can tell not only from the much more edgy graphical set-up of the website but also from the nature of its articles: as I look at the Zuender homepage right now, the headline article’s title is “Undress, Apartment Inspection!: What do the furnishings in amateur porno-films betray about their directors?”

Sorry, I’m afraid we’re not going to discuss that one today. (I know, I don’t even give you the link. That’s just another reason why you should go learn German yourself.) Rather, let’s take a look at a couple of other pieces, which together give a German look at the current political influence within the US of rap/hip-hop music, starting with one entitled The Irrelevant-Bitch Dilemma, by Oskar Piegsa. (Please pardon the expression, but that’s the title: apparently Nutte is “bitch” in German, i.e. the disparaging term for females. Please do not misuse this knowledge.) (more…)

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IOC-for-Hire

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Back now to the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games. I mentioned before their rampant commercialism. That is certainly not a recent phenomenon by any means, but nonetheless an ever-growing annoyance, clearly at variance with the original “Olympic spirit” and quite possibly a major reason behind the awarding of the Games to Beijing in the first place (that huge Chinese market!), despite the country’s deficiencies in the area of human rights and free information that we have already seen, as well as Beijing’s own deficiencies in sheer clean air which we may be about to witness.

The guardian of the Games and their “Olympic spirit” is supposed to be the 110 members of the International Olympic Committee, lead by its president, the Belgian Jacques Rogge. For anyone who might have any confidence in that body as a defender of the Olympics against the seductions of money, the recent article by Evi Simeoni in the leading German daily the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (or FAZ) should provide a bracing corrective (The Rivalry of the Applicants). (more…)

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Deadly Istanbul Bomb Attack Not Necessarily From the PKK

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Yes, the Olympics are coming up fast, and they will inevitably dominate what is normally the news-bereft August “cucumber season” – the term for the yearly summer low point in the daily news-beat used particularly in Central Europe, I suppose because August is harvest time there for cucumbers. You can expect this blog in the coming weeks to treat articles about the Beijing Olympics on a regular basis. But realize that my approach is a jaundiced one already and is likely to remain so. Frankly, the original Olympic ideal is dead, crushed between rampant commercialism on the one side and the biological/pharmacological progress that now makes it inevitable for athletes to cheat on the other. That latter aspect we have already had the occasion to address in connection with the Tour de France; as for the former, this excellent piece by Sally Jenkins in today’s Washington Post will set you straight for now, but I do have accumulated in my RSS reader some excellent recent articles about the International Olympic Committee which I hope soon to have time to bring up and discuss on this forum.

For now, though, let’s take up the following interesting article out of the august German weekly Die Zeit: Bomb Attack in Istanbul: BND Chief Doubts Involvement of the PKK. As reported here by CNN, on Sunday, 27 July, there occurred a particularly nasty double-bomb attack in a crowded area of Turkey’s largest city, Istanbul. An initial blast, no more than that of a stun grenade, was designed to draw people’s attention and mass them together, so that a second and much-stronger explosion, ten minutes later, could inflict that many more casualties, which turned out to number seventeen killed and at least 154 injured. (more…)

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Obama in Berlin: A Serious German Press Review

Friday, July 25th, 2008

It’s all a bit bizarre: Here at EuroSavant we consider the Economist’s on-site blog Certain Ideas of Europe to be something of a watered-down competitor, in that its (anonymous) writers evidently command a few European languages themselves and take advantage of that often to remark upon noteworthy articles in the European press (really only the French and the German). Yet in its own day-after Obama-Berlin coverage, what else does Certain Ideas of Europe choose to highlight out of reaction to Obama’s Berlin speech from the German Fourth Estate than a breathless piece from the Bild Zeitung (Britons: think The Sun; Americans: maybe The New York Post but – as we’ll see – with a bit greater tolerance for female nudity.) The blog entry is entitled Obama and the ‘BILD girl’. Wow – 27-year-old Bild reporter Judith Bonesky (stifle the puns!) finds herself together in the gym of the Ritz Carlton hotel with HIM! Oh, he’s much taller than she had expected! They exchange some “How are you?”s! Then he goes and starts hefting some impressively-big weights, in such a manly fashion, without breaking a sweat! Naturally, when it’s time for him to go (he’s got a speech to deliver), she grabs her chance for a smugshot with the candidate. (more…)

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Cracks in the German Afghanistan Refusal Front?

Monday, February 11th, 2008

NATO these days is undergoing somewhat of a crisis, having to do with the Alliance’s efforts in Afghanistan. Officials from the various NATO lands will deny it, but recent developments in Afghanistan itself have been further shaped and amplified through a serious of previously-planned security conferences to produce some serious tensions.

It seems some NATO alliance partners are rather unimpressed with the level of contribution offered by certain others, and are ratcheting up the pressure on these laggards to get more with the program. This argument dominated the NATO conference of defense ministers held last week in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius. As you can expect, the US is the leading country among that first group, but Canada has been complaining as well. That country currently has 2,500 troops stationed in dangerous southern Afghanistan, by Kandahar, and has even threatened to send those troops home once its current commitment comes to an end if there are no new troop commitments to southern Afghanistan from other NATO allies. (more…)

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Microsoft Pulling a Fast One?

Saturday, February 9th, 2008

Did you know that there is a search engine out there that is superior to Google? And that Microsoft will shortly purchase it? Obviously, all of this is important in the context of the take-over bid for Yahoo! that Microsoft announced just over week ago, a move that was widely interpreted as being a challenge to Google. Peter Buhr, writing in Die Zeit (Pincer-Attack on Google), sheds some light on what could be one important aspect of the proposed deal that I haven’t seen any coverage of in any English-language forum.

You can actually try out this other search engine for yourself to see what you think: it’s at AlltheWeb, and happens to be owned by Yahoo!, having first been sold to Overture in 2003 whereupon Overture itself was sold to Yahoo! in 2004. According to Buhr, the main problem that has held AlltheWeb back from greater public acceptance has simply been marketing – people never knew about it because PR has never been a specialty of the engineers there. (more…)

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Helmut Schmidt’s 12 Questions to the (US) Presidential Candidates

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Is he still around? Yes, he is: Helmut Schmidt, German Bundeskanzler from 1974 to 1982. Famous for his no-nonsense personality (but, after all, in his youth he was heavily involved in the Wehrmacht throughout the Second World War, including two years serving on the Russian Front), he was in particular the scourge of President Jimmy Carter, who felt the full glare of his teutonic disdain for not being quite as ready to face down the Soviets across the inter-German border in as hard-core a fashion as he. Yes, Ronald Reagan turned out much more to his taste, but alas, he only had about a year-and-a-half to enjoy the Gipper: he lost his majority in the Bundestag on 1 October 1982 and so had to yield his office to Helmut Kohl of the opposition CDU party.

But you could always count on the fact that Helmut Schmidt would land in the private sector on his feet, and in fact from 1983 through today he has been a co-publisher of the well-respected (certainly by this weblog) Hamburg-based opinion weekly Die Zeit. In that capacity – and, really, as among the most éminent of the German intellectual and political éminences grises – it’s only natural that he occasionally grab the podium offered him by his publication to hold forth on some important contemporary development. This time – on a weekend that is just before Super Tuesday, you’ll remember – the German-reading public is treated to a piece by Schmidt titled Liebe Amerikaner (“Dear Americans”), and sub-titled was kann die Welt von euch erwarten? – “what can the world expect from you?” (more…)

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Alan Greenspan Goes All Rumsfeldian

Monday, February 4th, 2008

Former long-term Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, all of 81 years, is still around, and you can be sure that he has some interesting things to say about the sub-prime-inspired financial troubles making all the headlines these days. The leading German opinion-weekly Die Zeit recently caught up with him for a brief interview published as Die große Ironie des Erfolgs – whose English version is also accessible as The great irony of success. (The “English version,” if you think about it, is properly the “original,” since I’m not aware that Greenspan speaks German.) (more…)

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Speculation Rife on Eve of Nobel Prize for Literature

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

Perhaps it is a bit strange to begin one of my earliest posts for the new incarnation of EuroSavant with a limitation – i.e. a reminder of what I don’t cover – but it’s unfortunately the case that Sweden lies outside our press-review purview. This is especially inconvenient this time of year, for the on-the-scene-and-connected Swedish press, it seems, can be counted upon to provide the hottest tips about the year’s crop of Nobel Prize laureates, just before they are all announced to the world roughly in mid-October.

Fortunately, Germany’s Die Zeit is also willing to survey Swedish sources to cast its own look ahead (Literatur-Nobelpreis: Macht DeLillo das Rennen? = “Literature-Nobel Prize: Is DeLillo in the Running?”), and it is interesting material, if rather too brief. (more…)

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Whisper It: Iran Likes the Iraqi Elections, Too

Saturday, January 29th, 2005

The proverbial fly-on-the-wall managed to give his report of the interesting discussions that took place last week in Davos, during the annual World Economic Forum gathering of the world’s movers-and-shakers that comes to a close tomorrow. That “fly” was one of the publishers of Germany’s Die Zeit, Dr. Josef Joffe, and the star of the show (actually, a private dinner) was the Iranian foreign minister, Kamal Kharazi (whose name in German is apparently spelled “Charazi”). Joffe found that if he closed his eyes (and of course made allowance for the accent) he could just as well have been listening to George W. Bush or Condi Rice, as he writes in American-Iranian Unison.

The subject was tomorrow’s long-awaited (long-feared?) Iraqi general elections. And Kharazi was delighted about them. Not only that, but he was also glad to give the Bush administration props (strictly within what he thought was the limited scope of a private dinner party, you understand) for its grim determination that they were going to happen on 30 January 2005, and not a day later. Postponing them in any way, according to him, would have been a victory for the Baathists and the terrorists. (more…)

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British National ID Card: Pros and Cons

Saturday, December 25th, 2004

With a recent commentary in Die Zeit (Germanic Character), Jürgen Krönig takes up the controversy in the UK over the introduction of a national ID card there. Germany has already had a national identity card for some time, but the subject can still be amusing to Zeit readers because, up to now, to many British – most vitally to Lady Thatcher when she was prime minister – the very idea smacked of something “Germanic,” i.e. something appropriate only for those ultra-obedient types over there on the other side of the North Sea who obediently wait for the green at every pedestrian crossing-light.

But times have changed: Parliament has given the go-ahead. (more…)

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More English at Die Zeit

Friday, November 26th, 2004

The threat is worse than I thought: it’s not just some English-writer-for-hire who has made an appearance writing articles in Germany’s foremost commentary newspaper – or rather “German-writer-in-English-for-hire” – but Dr. Theo Sommer himself, a well-known name in the German commentariat and Die Zeit’s “Editor-at-large.” His first contribution, Never waste a crisis. This is the right time for a New Atlantic Covenant, is quite decent. Again, that’s not a translation of the article’s title: that is the article’s title and the thing is written in English. Pretty good English, too, if not as sassy as that of his colleague, Constanze Stelzenmüller, and even if it contains a couple howlers. (Namely “And: It is going through” at the end of the second paragraph and – *ouch* – “[t]he world has changed two [sic] much for that” later on. But blame not the good Dr., but rather his editors.)

But his article is credited at the bottom to “The Atlantic Times, Vol. 1, Nr. 2, November 2004,” so apparently Dr. Sommer didn’t write it exclusively for Die Zeit. Maybe Frau Stelzenmüller will remain largely on her own in her beachhead of English in the German press. By the way, this on-line article discusses “The Atlantic Times,” a new English-language monthly newspaper (“produced in Berlin, printed in Washington and distributed to 20,000 decision makers in the United States”) designed to make Americans more aware of the German point-of-view on things. No indication as to whether it is already on-line or is going to be available that way. (I’ve made an inquiry: stay tuned.)

Update: Here’s the Atlantic Times website. And it’s a free monthly publication for subscribers in the United States. Just go to the website to register for your subscription.

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