Söldner- und Rüstungslobbyisten

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

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

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

United Kingdom:

British Association of Private Security Companies.

Germany:

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

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

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

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

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

(ZILLED nah   oont   RISS toongs lobby ISSED en.)

Söldnerfirmen

Mercenary companies. Private military contractors in Europe include:

United Kingdom:

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

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

Other interesting G4S acquisitions:

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

Clients include Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malta:

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

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

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

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

Ireland:

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

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

Sweden:

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

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

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

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

Protectas SA, a Swiss security company.

Denmark:

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

France:

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

Germany:

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

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

Spain:

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

(ZILLED nah FEAH men.)

Der sogenannte Chatham-House-Rule

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

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

“Wer Grundrechte einschränkt, ist beweispflichtig.”

“Anyone limiting fundamental rights must provide proof.”

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

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

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

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

Wetterbedingte Produktionslastverschiebungen kommunizieren

To communicate production time shifts in response to weather conditions.

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

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

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

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

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

Schimpfwort-Erkennungsscheisssoftware

Swearword recognition software.

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

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

(SHIMPF vort   air KEN noongs shice soft vair.)

Besonnenheit

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

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

(Bə ZONN en height.)

Die „Sonne“

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

(Dee   ZONN ah.)

Lebenslüge

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

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

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

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

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

(LAY bens LOO gah.)

NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

„Zum Schutz des Kundenerlebnisses“

“To protect your customers’ experience.”

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

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

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

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

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

„Bad Pharma“ wird besser!

“Bad Pharma” is getting better!

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

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

(Bod   FAW mah   vee awed   BESS ah.)

Transportmonopolstellung

Transport monopoly.

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

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

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

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

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

(Tronz POAH t mon oh POLE shtell oong.)

Kommunalverbände

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

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

(Com yune AWL fair BEND ah.)

Ufergängerzone

Waterside pedestrian zone.

In the summer of 2013, Paris’s mayor Bertrand Delanoë banned cars on a street for about two kilometers along the left bank of the Seine, creating a zone open to pedestrians and non-motorized two-wheeled contraptions. The wide new walkway goes from Pont de l’Alma to the Musée d’Orsay, creating a four-hectare waterfront idyll in the middle of Paris, said the Frankfurt business newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. The former street now has jungle gyms for kids to play on, large containers of grass and trees, and very good-looking people to watch. It might be quieter too.

This was part of the former mayor’s political philosophy to try to make life more pleasant for nonmotorized inhabitants of his city. During his two terms, the mayor furthermore “got rid of parking spaces, added bus lanes, built new streetcars and started a public rental system for electric autos,” said FAZ.net, also blaming him for Paris’s 20,000 city bikes where the first half-hour is free. Paris now has city bike stands every few hundred meters; “no other city in the world has a network as dense.”

(OOF aw GENG aw TSOWN aw.)

“Bürger sind mehr als nur Verbraucher.”

“Burghers are more than just consumers.”

“Being a burgher also means helping co-design your society,” said Bundespräsident Joachim Gauck in his official speech at a lunch with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping.

(Burgher zinned MARE alss noor fair BROW chh ah.)

Einheitsstecker

Uniform plug.

The E.U. agreed on a universal adapter for recharging electric cars!

They’ve even chosen the model: in German it’s called the “Type 2″ or “Mennekes” plug.

(EYE n heights SHTECK ah!)

Meiler

A German word for a nuclear power plant. I always thought it was taken from Three Mile Island after the meltdown on 28 Mar 1979 drew the world’s attention to Pennsylvania. But an internet article said Meiler is an old word for furnace, kiln or pit and Meiler here is short for Atommeiler, a nuclear oven.

(MILE err.)

Wasser|Wasser-Wärmepumpe

Water/water heat pump, which can be used e.g. for heating a residential home via groundwater according to one German manufacturer.

The U.K. government announced that to reduce its dependence on natural gas it will incentivize development of carbon-neutral water-based networks that bring heat to multiple buildings. From any body of water, such as rivers or lakes, that is exposed to sunshine the networks will take water, filter it twice, remove the extra heat via heat exchangers, concentrate that heat to 45°C via “reverse refrigeration” and pipe it to nearby buildings.

If the water is taken from a river, the current can be used to generate the electricity running the system.

England’s first such network will serve ~150 homes and a hotel|conference center in South London, said Energy Secretary Ed Davey (LibDem). He has asked the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change to draw up a map of England showing where such water-energy networks can be built.

(VOSS ah   VOSS ah   VAIR ma POOMP ah.)

Möglicherweise bevorzugt behandelt

Possibly gave preferential treatment.

Hedge funds, unlimited short selling and now high-frequency traders have been for some time a regular source of concern for financial consumer protection advocates in Germany. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung recently reported on high-speed automated trading-related investigations that diverse U.S. financial regulators at various levels are making.

  • The F.A.Z. said the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating whether certain software programs might accelerate transactions for some traders and not others.
  • The state of New York’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, accused U.S. stock markets of using computer hardware to give speed advantages to high-frequency traders, to the detriment of private investors. He said the markets are letting high-frequency traders set up their computers inside the markets’ data centers and giving them access to “ultrafast” cables connecting to the markets’ networks.
  • The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Comission is investigating “complex agreements between so-called high-frequency traders and the [Terminbörsen: derivative exchanges, or futures markets] Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Intercontinental Exchange. The agreements have to do with rebates for the execution of stock orders.”

Last month the company Business Wire, which the F.A.Z. said is a competitor of Marketwired and a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, agreed to stop providing similar services. Warren Buffet stopped the practice working with Eric Schneiderman after it was found that high-frequency traders had been able to obtain these data directly from Business Wire, rather than via the official route through high-speed subscriptions to intermediary news agencies such as Bloomberg, like everyone else.

A data specialist firm called Nanex said a 100-millisecond difference in publication delivery of a company’s press statement had at least once sufficed to earn a profit of US$800,000.

In a related F.A.Z. op-ed, the author commented that the S.E.C. in Washington, D.C., should have been doing much of this regulatory work, but lately Attorney Schneiderman has been “making them legs.”

Update on 03 Apr 2014: One of many interesting responses to Michael Lewis’s 60 Minutes interview about his new high-frequency trading book, Flash Boys, said the relevant wireless connections are faster than fiber optic connections.

The F.B.I. said it too is investigating.

(MIG lichh ah VISE ah beh FORD sooked beh HOND alt.)

Mietpreisbremse promulgieren

Promulgating a brake on apartment rents.

New Justice Minister and Consumer Protection Minister Heiko Maas said he will take steps to counteract the rising rents in Germany. This was also agreed in the new government’s coalition agreement negotiated between the three ruling parties, C.D.U., S.P.D. and C.S.U.

Under the new rules, new tenants’ rent could not exceed 110% of the previous tenant’s rent. Fees for agents who find the new renters will in future be paid by landlords, not tenants. These rules will go into effect in 2015.

(MEAT price bremz ah prom ool GEAR en.)

Energiewende-Bremse protestieren

Protesting a brake decelerating the Energiewende, Germany’s switch to renewable energy sources and more energy independence.

Tens of thousands of people protested creatively in several German cities on 22 Mar 2014 because they are afraid the new oppositionless grosse Koalition government wants to slow down Germany’s switch to solar and wind power, and delay the shutdowns of coal and nuclear power plants. Protesters interviewed said governments should speed up the switch to renewables, not slow it down.

The first draft of the new coalition’s Energiewende reform is supposed to be ready in early April 2014.

(En nog EE venned ah   bremz ah   pro tess TEA ren.)

Induktive Ladesäule

“Inductive loading column,” a wireless recharging station for at least one German factory’s fleet of electric cars. You back the car into the column. Then, magnetism! The car’s batteries recharge in about six hours.

(In duked YVES ah   LAUD ah zoy lah.)

Kanzleramtschef, ChefBK, Kanzleramtsminister

“Chief of the chancellory,” Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, whose duties include coordinating and controlling/monitoring Germany’s secret services as the boss of the federal government’s intelligence agencies officer [of the person with the job title Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für die Nachrichtendienste].

Update on 25 Jul 2013: After Bundeskanzleramtschef Ronald Pofalla testified secretly before the Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, the parliamentary committee that is pro forma in charge of Germany’s intelligence services, he made a statement to the press saying absolutely everything done so far by Germany’s spy agencies had been legit and in compliance with German law. Also that German data protection law had not been reinterpreted. Supervisory committee members from opposition parties (parties that were in the ruling coalition when the information exchange began between German and U.S. intelligence agencies, as far as we know so far) gave counterstatements to the press indicating they were not satisfied with Mr. Pofalla’s responses to their catalog of questions about the U.S.A.’s Prism program.

Amusingly, artists at one news show edited Mr. Pofalla’s sound bite into their report to begin just he was saying “This statement is clearly false…”

(KANT’s lah omts chef,   CHEF bay kah,   KANT’s lah omts minn iss tah.)

Parlamentarisches Kontrollgremium, PKG

“Parliamentary supervisory committee” whose eleven Bundestag members are said to supervise Germany’s intelligence agencies Bundesnachrichtendienst, Militärischer Abschirmdienst and federal Verfassungsschutz. The P.K.G. is a German parliamentary committee presumably similar to e.g. the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee. Its meetings are secret, held in a supposedly unsnoopable room, and its members cannot discuss what they learn, even with other Bundestag members.

This committee is the nominal control of Germany’s intelligence agencies. Spiegel.de wrote there can be disagreement between the eleven committee members and the intelligence agencies about what is worth reporting to the committee about the activities of the agencies’ tens of thousands of employees, quoting P.K.G. member the excellent Christian Ströbele (Green party) as saying in frustration “How are we supposed to control the secret services when we get no information?”

(Pah lah men TAH rish ess   con TROLL gray me oom,   pay kah gay.)

Ringtausch

A circular exchange.

Concept used to describe how intelligence agencies from countries in the Five Eyes alliance kindly spy on the other four countries’ populations so each can say they’re not spying on themselves. A Leftists party speaker used the term in the Bundestag discussion on the occasion of the first day of work for the Bundestag’s new N.S.A. investigation committee [NSA-Untersuchungsausschuss].

The American N.S.A. probably won’t send anyone to testify before this Bundestag committee. The eight members (six government, two opposition) will nevertheless try to find out what Germany’s intelligence agencies have been doing and witnessing, and how they’ve been cooperating. Like the U.S.A., Germany appears to have a parliamentary committee that is nominally in charge of its intelligence agencies but might be more of a powerless excuse that is not even fully informed: the Parliamentarisches Kontrollgremium.

(RINGED ow! sh.)

44%

The amount of incoming solar radiation that might currently be convertable into electricity, in laboratory experiments.

Solar panels on the nonmilitary market produce electricity with ~14% to ~19% efficiency, said Spiegel.de. Conventional silicium solar panels can’t convert more than 34% of incoming sunlight into electricity. In 2012, Cambridge University researchers said they’d developed a new approach that could improve that by making electricity out of nonvisible light, such as heat. Their two-part system’s components each converted a different section of the spectrum of solar radiation. At least one of the two components is in the form of nanoparticles. The idea of “printing” solar panels that consist of a mix of small particles each specializing in conversion of different light wavelengths is a thrilling one.

(Fee ah oont fee ah tsig   prote CENT.)

Vorteil nehmen von rechtsstaatlicher Abwesenheit daheim und rechtsstaatlicher Anwesenheit in London

Benefitting from the absence of rule-of-law in Russia and from the presence of rule-of-law in London.

An argument that Russia’s economic elites’ use of the relative safety of western countries’ financial and legal systems should depend on whether in Russia those people have participated in what would be considered lawbreaking in the western systems.

An interesting pundit said on Australian radio, for example, that money from selling exported Russian oil and gas is often moved through western financial leveraging instruments before being imported into Russia, to make it harder for that cash to be arbitrarily seized there. Even well-connected Russians are just as hostage to Vladimir Putin as the Crimean Tatars.

He said a counterargument holds that oligarchs will learn from living and working in rule-of-law countries and import some of that back to their homeland. Yet with the west’s inadequate oversight members of these groups might likewise grow corruption in their partner countries and firms. It does look as if German power utility companies who worked with post-Soviet Russian partners who demanded bribes in Russia might have started using extralegal shortcuts to achieve their goals at home; at the very least, their German competitor utilities would have had to compete with them while they were using such methods. Corruption really does seem to breed more corruption: apparently after the multinational Siemens developed streamlined procedures for paying bribes in corrupt countries it began offering them in relatively clean countries.

In a worst-case outcome, it would be interesting to see how western jurists would determine culpability in a country without an independent judiciary.

(FORE tile   nay men   fun   rect SHTOTT lichh ah   OB vaze en height   da HIME   oont   rect SHTOTT lichh ah   ON vaze en height   inn   LAWN dawn.)

Handschrift des Arztes muss lesbar sein

“Physicians’ handwriting must be legible” in patients’ medical records according to the current version of Germany’s patients’ rights law, passed last year.

Frank Leopold, head of a Verein that advocates for medical patients, told Spiegel.de some other salient aspects of the patients’ rights law [German Civil Code, §630a et seqq.]:

Upon request, patients must be given access to view their full medical records, unless it could harm them or endanger the rights of third parties. If the patient so desires, this access must be granted directly after treatment, “without delay” [unverzüglich]. If physicians use the “harm” reason as grounds to refuse patients access to their full medical records, an appropriate diagnosis must have been made.

Patients have the right to get copies of their medical records, though the patient must pay for the copies.

Everything in a patient’s medical record must be left there. Any corrections and changes must be made so that the original content is still apparent, and must be signed and dated by the physician.

Software that keeps medical records must meet the same requirements. All changes and original content must remain apparent.

Handwriting in medical records must be legible, even physicians’ handwriting.

Mr. Leopold was skeptical about preventing manipulation to electronic records, but said he didn’t know enough about the software to comment.

He said it’s important to talk about this in public fora, because it’s important for patients and physicians to know patients’ current rights, to prevent confusion.

(HONNED shrift   dess   OTTS tess   moose   LAZE bah   z eye n.)

Doktrin der Dritte

“Third-party doctrine.”

An interesting loophole in the few privacy protections U.S. Americans and their customers think they have. Any information you have deliberately shared with a company is no longer protected against “unwarranted search and seizure” by the U.S. government. Does this also apply to information you have inadvertently shared with a company?

(DOCKED rin   dared   RITT ah.)

Bildungsbroker-Blödsinn

Education broker balderdash.

A British charity called the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas.com) which “controls admissions to U.K. universities,” charging fees of ~£23 per student to help >700,000 students sign up for university courses in the U.K. each year, has been selling marketers the data of those students and the data of ~15,000 of their parents and the data of younger children aged 13 to 16 who sign up for courses via another program they offer.

The charity has a “commercial arm” that apparently made £12 million in 2013 from selling the students’ information, to customers such as mobile phone companies, a large software company and a beverages company. The charity’s spokesperson told reporters they are “strictly legal,” selling children’s data within the requirements of British law.

The level of civilization this implies is lower than expected.

Achtung: an analyst said the sort of “carefully selected third parties” checkbox Ucas used “is usually preceded by a triple negative question so you don’t know if ticking the box gets you more mail or less.” In the case of Ucas, students didn’t dare opt out of sharing their contact data for fear of not receiving college offers.

(BILL doongz broke ah   BLID zinn.)

ISDAfix-Referenzwert

ISDAfix benchmark reference.

The International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc., website at ISDA.org said the ISDAfix is “the leading benchmark for annual swap rates for swap transactions worldwide.” Bloomberg* BusinessWeek.com’s April 2013 article called ISDAfix “a benchmark in the $379 trillion market for interest rate swaps, which corporations and governments use to fine-tune their borrowing costs.” Süddeutsche Zeitung’s August 2013 estimate was that a $450 trillion market was affected by this benchmark. A Reuters.com* Jan. 2014 market estimate was even higher: “The organization’s ISDAfix benchmark is an important reference point underlying contracts in the $630 trillion derivatives market, and ICAP collects data for the U.S. dollar-denominated part of it.”

The data used to set the US$ section of the ISDAfix benchmark were provided by thirteen banks to the New Jersey office of a U.K. broker or “intermediary trader” known as ICAP. U.K. financial data company Thomson Reuters* calculated the benchmark prices from ICAP’s banks’ data for the US$ section and from data it collected directly from banks for the other currencies. ICAP published its ISDAfix benchmark prices on a Reuters page every morning at 11 a.m. and updated them throughout the day based on reported transactions. ICAP’s data entry was not automated.

The S.Z. said Germany’s BaFin finance regulator started investigating ISDAfix fixing after Bloomberg reported that the U.S.A.’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission financial regulator was investigating perhaps fifteen banks and about a dozen current and former ICAP traders for possible pricing collusion.

Background from Bloomberg BusinessWeek.com:

“In their simplest form, swaps are used by investors to exchange a fixed interest rate for a floating one, or vice versa. They also come in profoundly more complicated flavors, and altogether they constitute more than half of the $639 trillion global derivatives market. ISDAfix, used by traders to settle contracts and value positions, is commonly found in hybrid securities known as structured notes that are popular with wealthy investors. While they affect everything from pension annuities to commercial real estate investments, ISDAfix rates are esoteric even by the standards of structured finance. …

“…Banks could earn millions by persuading ICAP brokers to delay their manual entry of data. Publishing stale prices can boost profits for banks dramatically. On a $500 million swap that matures in 20 years, for example, a delay that prevents the instrument from moving one basis point (0.01 percent) equals $1 million in profit for the dealer. [...Also, ICAP's] brokers match dealers by phone, then enter transactions into the 19901 screen by hand. The firm is paid commissions based on the size of the trades it matches.”

FT.com described a 2010 FT.com article saying that “prices capable of influencing Isdafix through the rate-setting process sometimes appeared to move in ways beneficial to a handful of banks.”

The ICAP brokerage was also hired to execute many ISDAfix-related trades for reasons that could have included exerting extra influence on ICAP-mediated benchmarks, said an online article from Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal*.

A 25 Sep 2013 Bloomberg.com article seemed to indicate that brokers were particularly able to game off-market trading price benchmarks, particularly in slow economic times when those relying on brokers’ reported pricing data had fewer sales of their own to glean comparable pricing data from. “To promote market integrity, it is critical that benchmark interest rates be anchored in observable transactions,” said C.F.T.C. chair Gary Gensler in 2013.

Update on 26 Sep 2013: ICAP was fined £55 million “for control failures that allowed employees to engage in Libor rigging” said an online Financial Times article. After admitting L.I.B.O.R. control failures, which the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority also called a poor compliance culture, the huge brokerage firm argued against reducing its ISDAfix role, saying that would give undue influence to the banks submitting ISDAfix pricing data. ICAP, the world’s largest broker for interbank transactions, couldn’t have been gaming the ISDAfix benchmark’s timing because people would have noticed, ICAP said.

Update on 26 Jan 2014: It was announced that ICAP was to be removed from its middleman role in ISDAfix, which was to be restructured so that banks would submit US$ pricing data to Thomson Reuters directly, said Rupert Murdoch’s WSJ.com. Thomson Reuters has been collecting the non-US$ ISDAfix data directly from banks for years, said Reuters.com, but the US$ data from ICAP for >15 years: “[ICAP] had been providing ‘snapshots’ using transaction-based information from its BrokerTec platform in addition to information from recent deals, the second source said, but the process would now return purely to a poll of participating banks.” Apparently the snapshots involved removing some outliers and averaging the data. ICAP said, “We appreciate ISDA’s interest in having a consistent polling process across each of the relevant currencies and fixings.”

ISDA said moving ISDAfix pricing data for all currencies to Reuters is a first step toward their goal of defining the benchmark based on actual trades (“live prices from trading venues” said FT.com), not just data submitted by banks. The new system will also be automated: “The second stage will be the move to an automated, market-based ISDAfix rate setting process, which is expected to begin in the second quarter of 2014,” said an ISDA spokesperson. ISDA said they will create a code of conduct and oversight committee for the benchmark.

ICAP’s C.E.O. Michael Spencer helped create the ISDAfix benchmark fifteen years ago. Reporting on the ISDAfix benchmark described ISDA as the benchmark’s “overseer” and as a lobbying group.

Update on 09 Mar 2014: Thomson Reuters has been granted U.K. regulatory approval to create a benchmark services subsidiary to handle the ~160 benchmarks the company helps calculate, including L.I.B.O.R. International benchmark regulations are about to be tightened this summer, according to a letter sent last summer by the International Organization of Securities Commissions (“a global body of central banks. They include oversight of third parties and policies for managing conflicts of interest” –FT.com) warning companies they had one year before new stricter rules. “Administrators of financial market benchmarks have to prove by the July deadline that they have improved systems for monitoring submitted figures,” said FT.com.

* The U.K.’s Reuters press agency was reporting on financial news related to the ISDAfix and it belongs to Thomson Reuters (since the Canadian Thomson Corp. bought Reuters in 2008). The parent company of Bloomberg News “competes with ICAP in some businesses, including foreign-exchange and swaps trading, and with Thomson Reuters in providing financial news and data” according to their disclaimer in an ISDAfix article. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. owns the Wall Street Journal and owned Dow Jones from 2007 to 2010, when it sold it to the C.M.E., Chicago Mercantile Exchange/Chicago Board of Trade group.

(EESS dah feex   ref ah R-R-RENTS veaht.)

Den Schluss schmeissen

Foreigner German for “banging the close.”

Banging the close was one of two unethical things several currency market traders said they could do to game exchange rates because a handful of large banks controlled half the market, according to a June 2013 article in FAZ.net. Traders at the big banks could input trades before and after a huge trade’s 60-second window and have an effect on the rate, despite the fact that “The benchmark exchange rates are based on actual transactions and not on banks’ estimates like the L.I.B.O.R. reference rate is.” The second thing was to arrange their day’s work around a pending large trade; they would get a poorer exchange rate for the client in order to buy back her sold currency more cheaply than would have been the case.

The June 2013 article also said authorities were investigating benchmark manipulation in crude oil and swap markets.

(Dane   SHLOOSS   shmigh sen.)

Cuando bandoleaba

“When I was a bandit,” according to Eric Hobsbawm*. These “violent popular heroes” in “individual or minority rebellion within peasant societies” may have been aspirational to crooked central bankers.

Bankers at England’s central bank may have been among those manipulating currency exchange rates to line their own pockets, said Süddeutsche.de. Several members of the “Chief Dealers Subgroup” of the Bank of England’s “London Foreign Exchange Joint Standing Committee” were among >20 currency dealers recently suspended from large banks around the world. The dealers have been accused of using chatrooms and nicknames such as “The Cartell” or “The Bandits Club” to discuss prices for currency markets.

Süddeutsche Zeitung said there’s gossip that UBS, which also suspended a currency dealer who was a member of the subgroup, might again seek immunity in return for testimony in a potential trial, as it did in the L.I.B.O.R. scandal.

“What’s hanging in the air is whether this central bank knew about the manipulation for years and whether its employees were involved in the affair,” wrote Süddeutsche.de, saying [corruption] at a central bank would add “a new dimension” to recent banking scandals. The Bank of England published minutes of the subgroup’s meetings from 2005 to 2013 this week that are said to be of interest in possible shenanigans. The subgroup last met in February 2013.

In the U.K., the Bank of England acts as a regulator to help ensure financial stability, Süddeutsche.de said. The government body investigating possible currency market manipulation is Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority.

“Currency markets,” said a Süddeutsche.de op-ed, “are the world’s biggest financial market, with a daily turnover of US$5.3 trillion. …London is the center, [where] about half the world’s currency business is transacted. That’s also where the London Fixing is calculated. It is a fixed exchange rate between currencies, the most important one is published every day at 4 p.m. The business is controlled by a few major banks.” Investigations of about 15 banks for currency manipulation began in fall 2013, but the Bank of England was supposedly warned about a potential problem in 2006.

* Eric Hobsbawm’s book Bandits describes three subtypes: noble robbers like Robin Hood, avengers like the Brazilian cangaçeiro Lampiao and haiduks or “primitive resistance fighters.”

Ritter der Kokosnuss

“Riders of the Coconuts,” the calqued German title of the film
“Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
Rider is the German word for a knight.

In German, the British writers’ Romanized French soldiers hurl slightly retailored insults at Romanized British soldiers from the (Scottish) castle ramparts:

“I don’t feel like talking with you any longer. You karstified English
fresh-beer-drinker! I fart on you, pig priests! If it were up to me, you would never enter the European Community!” Ha HA!

The film’s medieval class conflict comedy is complicated by verbs conjugated in a You form that no longer exists in English:

Michael Palin: Come (all you folks) here and see the violence on which the system is based! Help! Help! I’m being subdued!

Graham Chapman: Blöder Bauer! [Stupid farmer/peasant!]

Michael Palin: Hooo, now he shows his true character, did you (all) hear that? He’s a proper exploiter. Did you (all) see how he suppressed me? Did you see it?

(RITT ah   dare   COCO snoose.)

Ökolöwen Leipzig

Ecological Lions of Leipzig, an East German environmentalist organization.

There’s an 1990 interview with them in a documentary film called “MITGIFT mit Gift” which shows before and after pictures of the terrible environmental damage East Germany inflicted on itself while attempting to meet its planning goals “in the clash of the systems,” as ZDF heute journal moderator Claus Kleber said.

The large hole in the ground at the beginning of this clip is not a giant coal pit but an open uranium mine, in Thuringia.

(Ə co LƏ ven   LIPED sig.)

Kaverneninspektion durch Kameras im stillgelegten Atomkraftwerk Brunsbüttel

“Camera cavern inspection in Brunsbüttel’s shutdown nuclear power plant.”

Cameras lowered into one of six underground concrete chambers to inspect barrels of nuclear waste impermanently stored under the offline Brunsbüttel nuclear power plant found another ~18 that were rusted. >600 barrels of nuclear waste are stored at Brünsbuttel. Rust was found on about one-quarter of the 70 inspected so far; some drums were so rusted their walls had breached, said ARD tagesschau.de. Schleswig-Holstein’s environmental minister Robert Habeck (Green party) said the video inspection showed that corroded drums are not “isolated outliers” [Einzelfälle] as some previously claimed, “that it’s not one barrel or a few barrels that are beset but that in fact this is a systemic problem.”

The drums were only intended to be kept in short-term storage at the plant but have now been there for thirty years. Fixing the problem will be difficult: a special crane will have to lift each barrel and put it in a new container, without breaking the damaged drums and without exposing workers to leaking radioactivity. Once in new containers the nuclear waste can be moved to permanent storage, but Germany has no permanent nuclear waste storage sites yet.

(Caw VERNE nen inn spects yoan   dooichhh   COM air oz   imm   shtill g’leg ten   ah TOME croft vair k   BROONZ bittle.)

“Gewisse Leichen ausm Keller des BMVg nachholen”

“She has to haul certain corpses out of the defense ministry’s cellar” at this stage, said a Leftists party spokesman about Germany’s new defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (C.D.U.). “Including these weapons projects.”

There was an uproar in the Bundestag after the Greens discovered the defense ministry made a 55-million euro payment to MTU in December 2013 without obtaining Bundestag approval or informing defense ministry management. The payment was compensation for a 2011 decision to reduce the German military’s Eurofighter order from 180 to 140 fighter jets. But budget rules require Bundestag approval for every single expenditure >25 million euros. Germany’s new defense minister said she was shocked and, said Spiegel.de, invited all responsible persons in her ministry to a meeting of her predecessor’s so-called Arms Board [Rüstungsboard] on 19 Feb 2014 to discuss the defense department’s biggest procurement projects.

Update on 20 Feb 2014: New defense minister Ursula von der Leyen (C.D.U.) fired Thomas de Maizière’s state secretary Stéphane Beemelmans and her Weapons department head Detlef Selhausen, “both considered key figures in the Euro Hawk drone controversy” said ARD tagesschau.de. She announced plans to fundamentally reform the German military’s entire planning and procurement because costs and schedules for billion-euro projects are not transparent, she said. ARD tagesschau.de said at this stage corruption cannot be ruled out in the defense ministry and in its complex interrelationships with German industry.

Over the next three months, the German military is going to “transilluminate” [durchleuchten] its ~1200 procurement projects, including gathering suggestions for how they can be better accompanied/managed/monitored and controlled/inspected/checked [begleitet und kontrolliert].

Update on 04 Apr 2014: The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported that some major defense procurement projects continue despite the new minister’s freeze.

“Although important decisions have been postponed or cast into question for some large arms orders, other major projects are ongoing, such as delivery of the new A400M transport plane (which has a long history of delays and cost overruns) and the new Puma armored tank (in which many initial deficiencies were found).” And, especially, the defense ministry is quietly preparing for a project that will cost billions, called the TLVS, taktisches Luftverteidigungssystem, a new generation of missile defense that will include new missiles, radar equipment, command centers and networking capabilities.

Ten years ago Germany began working with the U.S. and Italy on the new missile defense, called Meads, and has spent about a billion euros on prototypes since then. TLVS project requirements include “360-degree radar and a modular system in which any new components, such as launching platforms or other defense missiles, can be added. The defense batteries should be rapidly transportable by plane to distant theaters.” The defense department is looking at five options for this project, including using Lockheed’s Meads, Raytheon’s Patriots, or combinations of the two. German defense hawks will try to persuade other countries to join in development and deployment, lowering Germany’s costs for both. Vladimir Putin is helping with this by creating interest in missile defense in e.g. Poland and the Netherlands.

(G’VISS ah   LIE chh en   ow! sem   KELLAH   dess   BOON dess min iss TARE ee oom   fir   fair TIED ee goong   NAW chh hole en.)

Wenn schon, denn schon

If you’re going to do it, do it right.

(VEN shone, DEN shone.)

Verbrennungsmotor

Combustion engine.

Auto experts at the recent Geneva Auto Salon said German car manufacturers will be making cars with combustion engines for the next fifteen years or so. They went on to list every conceivable reason for why there aren’t more electric cars in Germany except the one that was the subject of a credible critical anecdotal article recently about trying to test-drive BMW’s new electric car and being unable to find places to recharge it around Hamburg, a city so large it’s also a state.

The author and his family used phone apps to find car recharging sites provided by several major German utility companies only to discover the rechargers weren’t there, weren’t connected up yet, didn’t recharge on weekends, only accepted payment from cards it took fifteen days to acquire, didn’t recognize the code on a payment card the utility expressed to the author, were on a 20-cm concrete pedestal which meant you could only drive close enough to use them on days the business next door was open.

(Fair BRENN oongz moe TOR.)

Flotter

Nimbler.

Also, more agile, speedy, swift, brisk, deft, lissome, slippy, nippy and “fly.”

Non-bank-owned “mortgage servicing” companies have been buying up mortgage servicing rights from large banks in the U.S.A., controlling 3% of the mortgage servicing market in 2010 and 17% in 2014 said NYTimes.com. Homeowners in trouble seeking help with their mortgage found themselves being asked to supply the same documentation over and over as their mortgage servicing was sold on from group to group.

Initially, some U.S. regulators thought that moving banks’ mortgage management responsibilities from mortgage servicers the banks owned to private companies the banks didn’t own would benefit consumers because the private companies would be “nimbler.”

One of the largest of these companies, Ocwen, has now been found to have been cutting numerous corners. It was also affiliated with companies that profit from foreclosures. The chair of Ocwen was chair of a company that bought foreclosed properties and turned them into rentals, but Ocwen told regulators that it maintained an “arms-length relationship” from his foreclosure company.

Though it’s been said the private mortgage servicers are unregulated in the U.S., there may instead be a bit of a patchwork of too-light regulation because in December 2013 the U.S.’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and 49 state attorneys general negotiated a $2.1 billion settlement with Ocwen for “mortgage servicing violations.” The C.F.P.B. commented that Ocwen “took advantage of borrowers at every stage of the process.”

Cut corners attributed to the private mortgage servicers have included:

  • Robosigning fake paperwork
  • Other missing paperwork that wasn’t counterfeited
  • Demanding wrongful fees
  • Wrongful evictions
  • Not updating technology and procedures and not hiring sufficient employees to handle the huge influx of mortgages despite assurances to the contrary and despite the overloaded software’s apparently accidental triggering of wrongful foreclosures
  • Profit-motivated rushing of processing
  • Possible hosing of the housing-derivatives investors who bought mortgage-based financial securities

The head of the state of New York’s Department of Financial Services, Benjamin Lawsky, installed an independent monitor at Ocwen who reported on the inadequate bookkeeping, as a result of which Mr. Lawsky stopped Wells Fargo’s sale or transfer of mortgage servicing rights for 184,000 mortgages, worth $39 billion, to Ocwen in February 2014.

Ocwen was headquartered in Atlanta, with staffing centers in India and Uruguay, an affiliate incorporated in the tax haven of Luxembourg and an affiliate based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

The structure of the companies and possibly of the hedge funds investing in them during their recent rapid growth begs the question of whether mutual stock price embetterment has been an objective and, if so, how that was done. It looks as if moving profits and losses around the world for tax benefit could also have been envisioned. You have to note the big banks’ balls in selling off their buggy business as “rights” rather than paying people to take it as a favor. The ways innovated to make money off such a venture might be instructive. They might include gaming of a U.S. system in which state regulators have to do the job of federal regulators while families lose their homes.

Ocwen itself said that servicing mortgages has a limited lifespan and it has been seeking to diversify. FT.com reported the company was planning to sell up to $1 billion in a new type of debt this year: mortgage-servicing-rights-backed bonds.

(FLAW tah.)

Bertha Benz

Ms. Bertha Benz undertook the first long-distance automobile trip. In 1888 she drove Karl Benz’s patented motorized wagon, the three-wheeled Patent-Motorwagen, about 60 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim, refueling by buying petroleum ether at an apothecary’s shop in Wiesloch that now calls itself “the world’s first filling station.”

During the trip, Wikipedians wrote, “she solved numerous problems. …A blacksmith had to help mend a chain at one point. The brakes needed to be repaired and, in doing so, Bertha Benz invented brake lining. She also had to use a long, straight hatpin to clean a fuel pipe, which had become blocked, and to insulate a wire with a garter. She left Mannheim around dawn and reached Pforzheim somewhat after dusk, notifying her husband of her successful journey by telegram. She drove back to Mannheim the next day.”

Drahtesel

“Wire donkey,” a German nickname for bicycles because they speed you on your way while carrying quite heavy loads.

A Chicago couple has put together an economic development program called World Bicycle Relief. They’ve given away thousands of “Buffaloes,” very stable heavy bikes that can carry 100 kg over the rear wheel. The bikes have one gear and one back-pedal brake and are put together in Africa from parts made in Asia, by >60 mechanics working full-time. No unusual or proprietary tools are required, such as Allen wrenches or chain keys. Everything can be taken apart and re-assembled; there are no unnecessary rivets. World Bicycle Relief also teaches people how to repair the bikes.

The group tries to give more than half the bikes to girls. Because, around the world, girls are often sent to bring the day’s water for their families, walking such long distances that this chore keeps them from attending school. With a Buffalo bike, they can bring back the water and then bike to school.

FAZ.net said it’s a good thing these bikes are so stable because they’re being used to transport AIDS patients in a volunteer program in Zambia. Farmers can use them to bring produce and milk to market. The bikes can earn a little extra income by being rented out to neighbors.

(DRAUGHT aezle.)

Blödeödianer

Malarkeyites.

Inhabitants of the tiny planet BlödeÖde 04, actually just a toll booth on the Milky Way according to the seafaring and spacefaring Cap’n Bluebear.

(BLID ah id YON ah.)

Riesenzinkenlangzahnelefantose, Blödzillus seidoofus giganticus (Erreger der ansteckenden Blödheit)

Giantlongtoothelefantosis, Nonsensicus ridiculosum giganticus (a microbe that spreads contagious malarkey).

Cap’n Bluebear told his grandchildren bears the Nonsensicus germ is so full of malarkey it hurts. Which is good, because otherwise more people would catch it. Best possible cure: doing homework.

(R-r-ree zen tsink en long tsahn ella fawn TOE zah,   blid ZILL ooss   zeye D’OH! fooss   ghee GONE teak ooss,   err AE gare   dare   on SHTECK en den   BLID height.)

“Ich lasse es nicht zu, dass Sie unseren Blödsinn hier als Unfug bezeichnen!”

“I will not stand here and allow you to call our malarkey foolery,” ladies and gentlemen of the court!

From the Cologne carneval comedy troupe Stunksitzung’s 2013 mock trial of several office ladies for snipping off a colleague’s tie on Weiberfastnacht, after first making him will-less by singing traditional carneval songs multiple times and pouring old man’s schnapps into him. At work.

Unfug means monkeyshines, horseplay, mischief, flim-flam, foolery, skylarking and rags, so the root word Fug, which is no longer used, must be the opposite of that.

The internet says Fug derives from old Germanic words for things that fit well together and indicates meetness, appropriateness, ability, skill, virtuosity, craft, artistry [Kunstfertigkeit, Schicklichkeit]. It’s still used today in the phrase Fug und Recht, lawful authorization.

(Ichh   lossah   ess   nichh t   tsoo,   doss   zee   oonz ren   BLID zinn   here   olls   OON foog   bets EYE chh nen.)

Die Munitionen sind daran schuld.

Blame the bullets.

Problems with the Bundeswehr’s standard assault rifle, the Heckler & Koch G36, occurred during fighting in Afghanistan. Its accuracy could deviate by up to half a meter during sustained firing because the plastic-seated barrel heated up; this was confirmed by testing at the military’s Wehrtechnische Dienststelle ["military technology service center"] not long after troops reported the first problems in 2011. Germany’s defense minister at the time, Thomas de Maizière (C.D.U.), was criticized for not putting a moratorium on new orders for the G36 despite these unresolved problems. Instead of replacing the G36, they decided to tell German soldiers in Afghanistan to avoid sustained fire and to allow hot barrels to cool to “hand warmth” for more accurate shooting.

Now Metallwerk Elisenhütte in Nassau, a Rhineland-Palatinate firm that has “traditionally” supplied bullets to German military and police forces, meaning for a long time, has accepted blame for Heckler & Koch’s overheating gun barrels. Two palettes of bullets from a different manufacturer were shipped to Afghanistan, the defense department announced. More G36 rifles have been ordered from Heckler & Koch.

Many people would assume the Wehrtechnische Dienststelle’s tests in 2012 would have used bullets from multiple manufacturers. Yet the bullets were not identified as the source of the G36′s overheating until December 2013, a time between German governments when e.g. state secretaries seem to have been running the show at the defense department.

(Dee   moon eats YO! nen   zinned   dah ron   SHOOLED.)

Gehaltszulage, Taschengeld, Spesen

“Extra salary,”

“pocket money,”

and the German word that, depending on how loosely your company defines it, may mean money for expenses, room and board, sundries, fees, entertainment. “Ausser Spesen nichts gewesen” (ow! sah   SHPAY zen   nix    geh VEY zen) means a sales trip occurred in which few positive results were achieved apart from enjoying the per diem for expenses.

After the E.U. capped bankers’ bonuses at 1x to 2x annual salary, London banks have started renaming their lagniappes in ways that don’t easily translate into German. Last fall some of the bonus lolly was being paid as “top up” money, and now they’re being called “allowances.”

NYTimes.com said new nomenclature may also include “role-based pay” and “reviewable salary.”

Gray areas are being found, NYTimes.com said, between fixed pay and variable pay. The new bonuses can include giving employees variable pay at fixed, regular time intervals, not having it count toward a pension, resetting it every year like a salary, changing it in response to environmental factors like a bonus.

Renaming bonuses may make it harder to “claw” them back after risk management mistakes, as well as impede efforts to encourage employees to take a longer-term view by e.g. requiring bonuses to be paid out in installments over several years.

(G’HALT soo log en,   TOSH en geld,   SHPAY zen.)

Direktbank

A new type of bank apparently that doesn’t spend a lot of money on brick-and-mortar branches. Direktbanks use the internet and provide interest advantages. ING-Direktbank, the German subsidiary of the large Dutch bank ING, is the first major bank in Germany to eliminate overdraft interest rates for the standard giro accounts everyone uses in lieu of checking. Overdrafts there will now be charged the bank’s normal interest rate for short-term small loans [Dispokredit or drawing credit], which they also lowered from 8.5% to 7.95%. The eliminated overdraft interest rate had been 12%; other German banks are still charging up to 18% on overdrafts. The European Central Bank’s prime interest rate is currently 0.25%.

Spiegel.de said that last year ING-Diba acquired half a million new customers. That was before they eliminated overdraft interest and other banks didn’t.

The bank’s top German executive also proposed that a [neutral, reliable] central authority should publish a list of all short-term credit and overdraft pricing schemes offered at all German banks. Perhaps the Stiftung Warentest could do it, he said, mentioning a product-testing foundation that has the reputation of Consumer Reports in the U.S.A.

(Dear ECKED bonk.)

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