Tuesday, December 6, 2016

ARD and Criticism

The majority of Germans get their dose of news via ARD's 8PM nightly news....a 15-minute segment which takes roughly 20 items and encapsulates them into a 20-to-120 second piece each.

The "Tagesschau" is an odd dynamic to German culture.  If something appears on Tagesschau....it's absolute fact (regarded as such by German society).  If it doesn't appear on Tagesschau....well, it's not important or deemed non-news.

By Saturday morning....if you follow commercial news (newspapers, RTL, etc).....they were reporting the arrest in Freiburg of the guy accused of the murder of Maria L....which had been a big deal down in the southwestern region of Germany for the past month.  The accused?  A immigrant from Afghanistan....17 years old.....coming into Germany in 2015.

The essentials of the case?  Maria L was a 19-year-old student who was raped and killed on 16 October.  DNA evidence was enough to give the cops a chance of solving the case. This case was widely reported across the nation via print-media, on-line media and television media....well, up until they caught the murderer.

The thing is....for all the great hype and talk by journalists who work for ARD/ZDF (tax-payer funded by the monthly media tax)....they avoided the story.  It didn't get reported by ARD's Tagesschau until Monday night.  It's generally perceived by a fair number of Germans that they avoided the story because it is an anti-immigrant type story.  Most remember the 31 December 2015 episode in Koln, where various sexual assaults occurred (well over 500 police reports for that evening), and how ARD/ZDF waited days (almost a week) to finally report what was a large segment of immigrants involved in the sexual assaults.

I read through a couple of pieces....mostly from non-ARD sources (Focus for example, and a local regional paper from the region).....which had some harsh criticism to be dumped on ARD management.

Oddly, the original talk from ARD was that this was just a regional event and they don't always cover regional events.  It was a lousy comment because you can go through a normal news piece and find three or four regional events reported almost nightly.

Lack of trust?  The thing is....you continually see ARD and ZDF "shoot themselves in the foot" over stupid behavioral decisions like this.  News is news.  Unless you work for ARD or ZDF, where they will decide when to bless something to be news.

While people sit around and do all kinds of public chat forums on fake news.....no one seems to want to pull these out into the public forums....discussing the tight control of news.  A growing public perception is that anything that is negative about immigrants or migrants....won't be reported by state-run TV.

This all goes back to my theme of having to read or view forty-odd news sources a day because if you just stick with one or two....you might be getting censored news or some half-fake news piece.

Monday, December 5, 2016

A Long Cold Bus Ride

Yesterday, I did my daily public bus ride into Wiesbaden.  By mid-day, I'd finished up my business, and was ready to take the bus back....it's a 25-minute ride.

For those who aren't aware....temperatures over the last couple of days have dropped.  By mid-day yesterday, it was -3C (26.6 F).   Yeah....fairly cold.

So I stood and waited ten minutes for the bus.  It arrived and I entered the forward part of the double-bus.  It's a bus unit with an extended trailer attached onto the rear.  Wiesbaden has a lot of them.  You can haul roughly 100 people with this type of bus.  When you look at it.....there's really two cabins, and this middle "hall" where four to six people could stand between the two bus units.

I board in the forward area, and it's really max'ed out....every seat taken and three or four people standing.  I look toward the rear cabinet.....just five or six people there....tons of empty seats.  I make my way back there.

Oddly, as I pass this middle "hall", there's this change in temperature.  The forward part of the bus was probably around 16 to 18 C (62 F)....decently warmed.  The rear of the bus....-3 C (26.6 F).  No heat.

This is one of those nit-picky things on public transportation in Germany.  It's possible to enter a bus or train in the summer, with the temperature soaring well above 33 C (91 F) and find that the AC units just aren't chilling and that you've got maybe 30 minutes before you start to feel some element of heat exhaustion.  Or, you can ride the public buses or trains in mid-winter, and discover that the heat units aren't working with the temperature below freezing.

I figured I could survive the 25-minute ride.   Then we took off, and you could feel this breeze going through the cabin of the bus.  Chilled air coming in.  No windows open.  I'm at a loss to figure out what's open and allowing a fair amount of air into the cabin area. Yep, -3C (26.6 F) and a breeze.  Through town, it was bad.  Then we left the city limits and the bus picked up steam.  By minute 20 of this experience, I finally got up and moved toward the front of the bus where it was still fairly warm, and just stood there for the last bit of the trip.

It's a somewhat rare experience....maybe once or twice a winter, you go through this.  In the summer, maybe once or twice a week....you will experience the AC breakdown episode.

Some people will probably note that they've ridden Bulgarian buses which simply had two buttons....absolute maximum heat....at a toasty 33 C (91 F) in the winter (where you sweat in December) or absolute maximum air conditioning at a chilled 18 C (62 F) in July (where you need a jacket on a really hot day to survive the bus ride).

These are the little things in life that you tend to notice.  Thirty years ago....none of the German buses had AC units, and half had some minimum heat function that gave you the barest essential element of heat....just enough.

Thankfully, some warm front starts to move through tonight, so I won't have to think about this much.

2017: The Snowden Year

At some point last Thursday....members of the joint German government (CDU/CSU and SPD parties) sent an appeal to the German Federal Supreme Court.

The subject?  They've been ordered by the court to allow Edward Snowden to testify to the Bundestag.

For these political parties....this ordered situation could trigger a massive problem.  By handing an entry visa to Snowden....it opens the door that Snowden will ask for asylum once in the country.  It also opens the door for the US to ask for Snowden to be turned over.  The hint by the original order is that the court ordered the country to find some method to avoid handing Snowden over to the US.  I'm guessing that the political folks have reviewed the hundred-odd ways of doing this and not found a single method that works.

The Linke Party?  They are the opposition to this and all charged up to bring Snowden in and confront the US.

If you were looking for a scene to totally put both the SPD and CDU into a dismal position....this Snowden episode is a five-star possibility.

The US could drag out the extradition treaty and note that Germany isn't prepared to carry out their actions.....so why bother honoring the treaty?

Triggering a confrontation on NATO actions?  That could be an additional step.

Trump could simply deny any visits to Germany, and visit virtually everyone in Europe and avoid any relations or visits with the Germans....making this all look pretty stupid.

Me?  If I were the Germans, I would load the Bundestag on some cruise boat and take them all up to Saint Petersburg....and ask Snowden to come on-board the cruise boat.  Once he says no....then you've finished the task.

I think if I were German government....I'd ask the judges involved in this whole thing to read the extradition treaty and ask how you legally avoid it.

The odd feature of this episode is that the Chief Prosecutor for the Merkel government....is a SPD member.  The Foreign Minister?  He's also a SPD member.  Both would have to stand there and absorb a massive amount of criticism in carrying out this order.

This is one of the five or six episodes which could affect the 2017 election outcome.

My Trip Through Frankfurt

Yesterday (Sunday), I ended up going to a Christmas concert in Frankfurt, at the old Opera Haus.

Since I'm not all happy driving into Frankfurt.....I made the decision to take the local train from near my village....into the heart of Frankfurt (the Hauptbahnhof)....the main station.  It's a 37-minute ride.

When you arrive in Frankfurt....you are at least two hundred feet below the surface and deep under the station itself.  You have to walk through a couple of tunnels to reach the level for your next leg of the journey.

So I'm walking along and here are three German guys on some sleeping bag....laying on the side of the tunnel, and preparing their next hit of heroin.  They've got the syringes and getting things all prepared.  Yeah....there's probably a dozen Germans a minute walking by the three guys.....watching this....and they keep walking.

Back in 1978, when I first got to Germany....you could walk through any part of the train station in Frankfurt, and you didn't have stuff like this.  Cops were around....the station management wanted to keep things clean. In the mid-1980s....you could see changes coming.  By the early 1990s....with the Wall gone and cops looking the other way....hard-core drug usage got introduced into Frankfurt.

If you regularly use the Frankfurt station....on a weekly basis....you will probably walk by at least five or six episodes of guys doing their drug business.  It's an accepted part of the city scene now.

No desire to fix this?  I would speculate that they've discussed the matter and came to the conclusion that if you flush the rats out of this tunnel....they will simply move to another tunnel, or eventually to the nicer neighborhoods of Frankfurt, or perhaps even next to the Messe (the show halls of the city). So, they just leave it alone and let it go.

Dangerous?  No.  Other than some guy overdosing or having a bad experience....there's not much of a danger.

So if you haven't ever seen guys doing heroin.....just take a walk through the Frankfurt subway system.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Murder Story

In the last two months, in Freiburg (a fair-sized town) in the south of Germany.....there's been two murders of young women.  Murder in general for Freiburg, is a rare thing.  Both of these (within a 30 km) distance kinda shocked the community of 230,000 people.

Maria L. was a student.....19 years old....and had gone to a student party.  At some point after midnight, she left alone.  They found her body in the river....enough evidence to suggest rape and murder.

Forensics did a good job and found some evidence of the guy...DNA-related.

So they went back to video cameras around the area of the party, and noted this one guy....who had the hair length that they were interested in.  No evidence that he was at the party itself....just that he was watching from a distance.

It took a bit of work, but they finally came down to this one single guy....an Afghan refugee kid (17 years old) who was living with some local German family (because he was underage)  He's been arrested and will face murder charges.

The case of the second murder?  Caroline G.?  She was jogging and never returned.  Twenty-seven years old.

So far, the cops are still working on that case, and they are looking at notes to see if maybe this Afghan kid might have been involved in this.  The one issue is that it was 30 km away from the nurse murder.  But with train access?  It's possible that someone might prove the connection.

The odds of this Afghan 17-year-old actually being Afghan or 17-years old?  Well....this is probably going to come up sooner or later.

You see, over the past three years.....a fair number of folks entered Germany with fake passports.  Germans haven't exactly had enough qualified people or the systems to distinguish fake passports.  If someone got real suspicious....then they'd hustle up an expert and prove it one way or another.  There hasn't been a nation-wide review of the passports or nationality status.

Another issue is that there are a fair number of foreign guys who showed up and said they were under the age of 18.....some even claiming 13 or 14 years old....and issues would show up to make the case that the guy was definitely over the age of 18.  I'll wait and see on this case here.....but I might have suspicions that the guy is over the age of 18.

Where does this all lead?  The case will be talked about in local press and throughout the state of Baden-Wurttemberg.  Cops did a great job, and they may yet prove some connection on the second murder.  The thing is.....it'll drive up harsh criticism over asylum and immigration.  Questions will linger.  Lack of trust will build up.  The legal system perform as it should....but in the public eyes, neither of these murders should have happen.

So, this likely becomes a bit of discussion to be around the 2017 national election, and throw more questions on the open-door policy.  If some fraud gets dug up over the passport or the age?  It'll just intensify the the whole discussion.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

German Political Landscape at the end of 2016

Channel Two (ZDF) has a political show and they do a fair amount of polling across Germany.  So last week, they did the poll on political voting (if there was an election).

With Merkel's announcement that she will be the candidate for the CDU.....the CDU now sits at 36-percent.  That's a rise of two-percent since the last time and the unknown factor if she'd run or not.

The SPD?  They slide one-percent to 21-percent.  It's a weak point for them.

The Greens?  11-percent, sliding two percent over the last poll.

The Linke Party?  Sitting at 10-percent.

The FDP?  Sitting at a flat 5-percent.  They need that as a minimum.....to make it into the Bundestag.

And the AfD?  They sit at 13-percent.

Some journalists could look at this and note that Merkel's position is strong and if some points could be trimmed off the AfD.....that this partnership with the CDU/CSU and Greens would be possible after this next national election (Sep, 2017).

Some strong hints have come from the CSU in the past month over two senstive topics.  First, they want a maximum limit on refugees per year (200,000)......which Merkel will not agree to.  This could indicate problems in the CSU sharing their Bavarian votes.  The second problem is that the CSU has strongly hinted that it really doesn't care to partner up with the Green Party.  Both of these issues would be enough to carve off the CSU vote and make it a slightly difficult election in the end.

If the CSU left?  The CDU could still win, and partner with the FDP and Greens.  The FDP and Greens would both need a strong showing....with the FDP getting a minimum of 5-percent of the national vote.  I suspect the Greens would have to have at least one or two points more than what they have now.

On the positive side.....a lot of independent voters are happier now....knowing Merkel will be the chancellor candidate for the CDU.

Friday, December 2, 2016

German Frustration with Breitbart?

I sat last night and was watching the late Channel One (ARD) news.  It's a longer edition and you will find some things mentioned which didn't get into the 8PM news.  There are also fewer people watching it.  Out of 82-million in population....I kinda doubt that they have more than two or three million watching it.

The odd featured item?  Breitbart News.

They decided to introduce Germans to Breitbart.  It was a three or four minute piece.  They obviously had started their agenda on 'fake news' and this was to be likely the first of many different news bits to readily identify fake news sites.

Extensive graphics were thrown into the report.....which typically for a normal news item.....you wouldn't do.  That was obvious.

There is a worry by not only the Berlin establishment (center-left and center-right politics), but also by journalists and intellectuals that public sentiment is swinging and they need to put some theme out there to make people question anything but their "legitimate news".

Facebook, Twitter, etc.....are all under a continuing trend by the Berlin leadership to dump 'fake news'.  The problem is that you reach a point where fake news and real news are virtually the same thing.

Oddly, as much as they are pressing forward on controlling Twitter and Facebook....it's now obvious that another platform (Gab) is about to erupt on the scene and be a source for those who are cast off away from Facebook and Twitter.  Gab will be based outside of the US and the EU.  Gab will likely over the next twelve months take approximately ten to twenty percent of the normal users away from Facebook.  The ability of the Berlin crowd and the EU to put pressure on Gab?  Other than just eliminating them from entry into the European internet....that's about it.

Breitbart in German?  No.  That's one of the odd parts to this story.  Everything they do is in English.  There is a London office.....I admit.  But so far, there's not been any interest to have a Breitbart Berlin office or bureau.  Introduction in an election year?  It wouldn't shock me.

Might Breitbart enter and start to note ARD or ZDF as fake news sites?  One might be amused, but you can probably find enough bits and pieces to make this stick to a small degree.  Then, the race is on.....who is the fakest of the fake?

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The German Islamic "Spy"

So it's been a couple of days now that the Islamic "spy" within the German intelligence service was noted and arrested.

What can be said is that he was a recent hire (Apr 2016)...51 years old....given a security clearance...then was noted putting internal and classified info out in some Islamic chat room and suggesting a scenario that might endanger his office/agency.  The agency and the Berlin authorities are at a loss on explaining this.  They say that there is a vetting process and he passed the normal review for a hiree who worked in a sensitive job.  The opposition political parties?  They are hyped up and now wondering if Nazis might have been hired over the decades within this same agency.

What really happened?  I doubt if the news people will really dig into this and find the screw-up.

My thoughts?  I think that you have a government agency....like several other such agencies in Germany, which was given a list of new jobs, and was venturing into fresh new territory because it's rare that jobs become open (usually when someone retires).

The HR group did what they are supposed to do....advertise.  When you look around....there's just not a wide array of people with unique skills for intelligence work.  You also take into consideration that most Germans don't really like moving.  So if this job was in Hamburg....I'm guessing that 95-percent of the applicants are from within fifty kilometers of Hamburg.

They might have had a hundred applicants for the job....but after you establish that a university degree is necessary and some past work experience is needed...you come down to five individuals for the interview.  People that come in 'polished', professionally dressed, and deliver a fine interview...get the extra points and get hired.  I'm guessing this guy knew how to dress....how to "act" his way through the interview....established a fine relationship with the HR people doing the interview.  It was not that hard for him to get the job.

The review of his background?  They probably looked at his credit background.....no issues.  They probably asked about travel and trips, and other than some trips across Europe, nothing special.  Family references?  If he was 51 years old....the parents are probably passed away.  Arrests?  A review would establish that he's probably never been detained.  End of the review....the guy is given some kind of security clearance.

It's a script for a decent movie, just waiting to be written.

The suggestion of more reviews and maybe that Nazis might also be in the intelligence service?  One might expect every single employee to be forced through some new process and a review of their social media business, and chat room activity.  The thing is....you could end up with 200 employees under some bit of suspicion because of their anti-government chat, their financial issues, or frequent trips to Bangkok.  If you had to fire those 200?  Well....then you'd put the HR guys back into a serious mess because they'd have to recruit/hire 200 fresh and new employees with potential problems.

On the positive side?  At least he didn't do a data dump of one million secret documents and hand it over to ISIS or WikiLeaks.  Well.....at least we hope he didn't.