Plenty of food for thought. Or perhaps you would like to continue any of the debates... Most debates are serious, but once in a while a humorous comment is made. 2020, for instance, commented on President Bush's climate change statements: "Ran across news that forces in Afghanistan expect guerrillas to intensify insurgency soon, due to the mild winter. 10 dead in Kabul. Bush also concerned about the climate warming, now..."
Two agents of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service contradicted Foreign Minister Steinmeier and told a closed session of a parliamentary inquiry that the Pentagon officially backed the offer to free Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz in November 2002, writes United Press International. Another surprising twist, reported in a different UPI article:
Germany's former Interior Minister Otto Schily, who was part of the top-level group that decided to forbid Kurnaz's return to Germany, said the man was considered a security risk. "A man who shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, buys a camouflage suit, binoculars and laced boots, and leaves for Pakistan without saying goodbye to his family in Bremen -- I don't think such a man wants to look for Allah with his binoculars," Schily told the German weekly Die Zeit.
Endnote: The case of the Canadian citizen Maher Arar is different, but it is interesting to note that the Canadian government issued a formal apology and paid $10.5-million compensation for Maher Arar, because an inquiry recently concluded that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police "passed misleading, inaccurate and unfair information to U.S. authorities that very likely led to Arar's arrest and deportation to face torture in Syria." I wonder what the Kurnaz inquiry will conclude.
Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, said that U.S. combat forces must leave Iraq by 2008 in order to make it clear to the Iraqis that the U.S. won't stick around as "apartheid cops." The remarks were made in the Q&A section after a speech at the Brookings Institution. Blake Hounshell writes about it in FP Passport.
Perhaps Senator Biden has seen the video on the left, which was featured by Keith Olbermann on MSNBC and is now on YouTube. Nicole Belle explains at Crooks and Liars that "the Humvee driver is driving this way is because they are afraid of an attack if they slow down" and expresses concern for post-traumatic stress disorder among US troops after several tours to Iraq. She also asks: "Can you imagine having your country occupied by another nation and be subjected to this kind of bullying behavior every day?" Read her entire post including the quote from a reader: "Is there a clearer indication that our presence in Iraq is hurting us?" (You might need to click twice on play to watch the video.)
Related: Why We Worry posts another military video about "the joys of occuption" and asks: "It could be that soldier’s like those in this video are the exception rather than the norm, but how many exceptions does it take to alienate an entire population?"
Happy Valentine's Day! The Trumpet writes about transatlantic trade cooperation, including this unintentionally funny warning of the German-American "lover" relationship:
The Trumpet has for some years foretold of the rekindling of a romance between Germany and the U.S. This is based on a striking prophecy delivered by the Prophet Ezekiel, who describes a "lover" relationship between the two peoples. In the end, America will regret its having trusted so implicitly in a foreign nation rather than in God: Ezekiel warns that Germany, after gaining America’s trust and support, will betray America. To learn more about this biblical forecast, read our book Ezekiel: The End-Time Prophet.
I think it is too late: Chancellor Merkel's charm is irresistable. The U.S. media has already fallen in love with Angela and can't think straight. Recent headline in the godless New Republic "Angela Merkel, Superstar", which is a not so subtle reference to Jesus Christ Superstar. And the Hollywood liberals at the Los Angeles Times worship Merkel like an idol as well: "Germany's rising political star" (HT: Marian). The apocalypse is just a matter of weeks now. Get ready for the rapture! The Trumpet is published by the "Philadelphia Church of God." Because I have signed up for Google Alerts for the keyword "transatlantic," I unfortunately receive the Trumpet's frequent warnings of Germany all the time. Seriously, Happy Valentine's Day! Best wishes to all transatlantic couples - married and unmarried. I don't have any statistics, but I have the impression that there are many such relationships.
Unrelated Endnote: Check out the new feature in our sidebar: "News tips from our readers." Community generated links to the latest articles on transatlantic affairs. Share the love ;-)
It's pickup time at the Vauban kindergarten here at the edge of the Black Forest, but there's not a single minivan waiting for the kids. Instead, a convoy of helmet-donning moms - bicycle trailers in tow - pedal up to the entrance. Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.
US Blogger Andrew Hammel commented on this article in German Joys and concluded: "As this article shows, Germany's far-sighted environmental policies also earn positive press internationally."
Recently, EU Commissioner for Environment Stavros Dimas blasted Germany for not setting a good example on environment protection.The German government first opposed EU plans for stricter car emissions, but then reached a compromise on Germany's general greenhouse gas emissions, writes Reuters.
Following are two more examples of positive US press coverage of energy saving in Germany/Europe, which serve as counter-examples to the claim that the US coverage of Germany is not diverse enough. • A New Yorker travels to Germany and the Czech Republic, encounters regular energy saving technology and several simple services that work on demand only in order to save energy and then writes about it in his blog at Dailykos.
• "Home importer turns to Europe for quality, speed and energy efficiency, not to mention looks," writes the Rocky Mountain News:
The obvious question: Why would anyone go to the trouble and expense of shipping an entire home here from overseas? "Quality, speed and energy efficiency," says Meier, a German-born wood importer who has since started his own company, Platz Haus USA, in hopes of doing the same for other would-be homeowners. In January, his first client, Mary Ellen Vaughan, watched her 2,000-square-foot German chalet go up in a matter of days in Salina, down the road from Meier's house. "Everything you can imagine went wrong weatherwise, and we were still able to build it in a week," says Meier. While U.S. home-builders beg to differ, Meier argues that European homes tend to be better-built for many reasons: Because families own their homes far longer, the homes are "built to last," using slow-growing Nordic timber that has tighter rings and, thus, makes stronger boards. Because fuel costs have always been higher and government regulations tighter, energy efficiency in Germany is top priority. Walls tend to be thicker and better-insulated, passive solarheating is the norm and building materials are greener, he says. And they're beautiful.
Personal comment: Energy efficiency saves money, protects the environment, and decreases our dependency on oil and gas rich countries and reduces the threats from terrorism. No need to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, but Europeans and American still have a long way to go in terms of improving energy efficiency.
Advice on saving energy: Dr. Steffen Schmuck Soldan, the Regional Coordinator of the Fulbright Alumni in Berlin, works for co2online, a German non-profit limited liability company that is campaigning for a reduction in emissions of the environmentally harmful gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Co2online provides quick and specific advice on various aspects of residential heating, energy-saving modernisation, and subsidies. They help home owners and tenants to evaluate their residential energy consumption and to cut costs and CO2-emissions. More information about co2online and the online advisors.
Endnote: A gas station in Omaha, Nebraska, claims to sell only Terror-Free Oil:
The Terror-Free Oil Initiative is dedicated to encouraging Americans to buy gasoline that originated from countries that do not export or finance terrorism. We educate the public by promoting those companies that acquire their crude oil supply from nations outside the Middle East and by exposing those companies that do not. We are also looking into creating a healthy debate concerning alternate methods of fuel production and consumption.
"Ever since reading the New York Times, I've always wondered how simple Germany is portrayed." complains Gerd at Anglofritz:
When you look at the recent stories in both CNN and the NYT about Germany this past week, you’ll find the following: weather in europe, jewish property returned, dax earnings, holocaust survivors, merkel on the eu constitution, some soccer news, holocaust archive and more sports briefings, oh wait another one on nazi germany. I could bet that you’ll find some news of the weird in there too, more of those funky orgelplayers and cannibals. The point is that the American media paints such a simple/negative image of Germany that you’ll rarely find positive news - never mind a diverse picture.
Such press coverage would explain why quite a few Americans associate Germany primarily with Nationalsocialism according to one survey, see the end of this Atlantic Review post. Another "favorite theme in foreign coverage of Germany" is, according to the American blogger Andrew Hammel: "The nation's calcified bureaucracy is driving all the clever, ambitious Germans to Britain and the U.S.."
Moreover, foreign affairs coverage in general has been on a decline in the US, according to a Harvard working paper by Jill Carroll:
Coverage of foreign affairs dropped from 27% in 1987 to 14% by 2004, according to a month-long study of 16 newspapers’ front pages by the Project for Excellence in Journalism. The same study found the nightly broadcast news devoted 19% of all stories to foreign affairs in 1987, slowly dropping off to 10% by 2002 then spiking to 25% in 2003 before dropping again to 14% in 2004.
Personal opinion: I think the US coverage of Germany could be better, but in my humble opinion the NY Times and CNN are not as bad as Gerd claims. I guess, he was exaggerating a bit on purpose to make his point. Read his entire post at Anglofritz and please come back and let us know what you think.
Endnote: For some examples for postive US coverage of Germany, see the latest Atlantic Review post about environmentalism.
For more than four decades, high-ranking representatives from very different countries have discussed military issues at the annual Munich Conference on Security Policy. No other forum brings together crucial policy makers like US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Ali Larijani, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran and its nuclear chief negotiator. Both gave their speeches within 90 minutes on February 11, 2007. Other participants include NATO Secretary General Scheffer, Pakistan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Kasuri, the EU's Solana, Israel's Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Livni, Australia's Minister for Foreign Affairs Downer and both Russia's President Putin and Ukraine's President Yuschenko. Putin's speech got the most press coverage for his accusations against the US and NATO: Iraq; provoking a nuclear arms race; anti-missile defense in Europe; breaking the pledge not to deploy any NATO troops east of Germany etc. NY Times writes about Putin's speech:
The world, he said, is now unipolar: “One single center of power. One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.” With the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and a Congressional delegation sitting stone-faced, Mr. Putin warned that the power amassed by any nation that assumes this ultimate global role “destroys it from within. “It has nothing in common with democracy, of course,” he added. “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations — military force.” “Primarily the United States has overstepped its national borders, and in every area,” said Mr. Putin, who increasingly has tried to re-establish Russia’s once broad Soviet-era influence, using Russia’s natural resources as leverage and defending nations at odds with the United States, including Iran. American military actions, which he termed “unilateral” and “illegitimate,” also “have not been able to resolve any matters at all,” and, he said, have created only more instability and danger. “They bring us to the abyss of one conflict after another,” he said. “Political solutions are becoming impossible.”
Robin Shepherd of the German Marshall Fund Blog asks "Where now for Vladimir Putin?" And Daniel Drezner writes about Gates' eloquent response to Putin: So that's how a competent Secretary of Defense acts. The other speeches are worth checking out as well. All speeches are available in English, including the original audio. The speeches by the German representatives, Chancellor Merkel, Minister of Defense Jung, Foreign Minister Steinmeier and SPD Chairman Beck are available in both English and German. You can also listen to the original audio of the discussions after the speeches. In addition to Robert Gates, the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Robert Kimmit and the Senators McCain and Lieberman, many journalists, think tank representatives and former US officials, like William Cohen, represented the US at the conference. There were a few demonstrators outside (about 3000), but even more police (3500). Coming Anarchy got some pictures.
The organizers praised the conference's frank speeches and serious discussions:
In the conference hall and back rooms of the Hotel Bayerischer Hof, the 43rd has once again justified its motto "Peace Through Dialogue". The Russian President’s speech, in particular, emphasized the very importance of articulating different interests in an open and non-governmental debate. (...) The conference has again underlined its character as a venue for an unrestrained and clear exchange of ideas. As Kurt Beck, Minister President of Rhineland-Palatinate and leader of the German Social Democrats, said: "We have seen openness; an openness that allows us to really talk to each other about problems,to be honest about the interests we have, and, based on this, to develop a stable cooperation."
The conference website provides summaries of the speeches and discussions in English and German.
The informal setting and the frank speeches on defense issues by high-level representatives make this conference founded by the German publisher Ewald von Kleist in 1962 so valuable and unique. When Secretary Rumsfeld told the world at the Munich Conference in early February 2003 that the Bush administration was running out of patience with the UN inspections, then German Foreign Minister Fischer responded that the threat level produced by Iraq did not yet justify a war and that diplomatic means were not exhausted. "Why now?", Mr. Fischer wanted to know about Mr. Rumsfeld's war plans. It was at this conference, where Fischer told Rumsfeld in English his famous statement "I am not convinced!"
• "Intelligence agencies see worrying signs of al-Qaeda's revival," writes The Economist:
In his annual threat assessment on January 11th, John Negroponte, America's outgoing intelligence chief, changed his tone. Al-Qaeda's core leadership was "resilient". Its hiding places in Pakistan were "secure" and it was "cultivating stronger operational connections and relationships" with affiliated groups across the Middle East, north Africa and Europe. That sombre view matches the alarm of British intelligence chiefs in recent months. In November, Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of the security agency, MI5, said her overstretched spooks were contending with some 200 terrorist networks involving about 1,600 suspects, and investigating up to 30 high-priority plots. Home-grown radicals were "foot-soldiers" trained and guided by al-Qaeda on an "extensive and growing scale".(...) The same Western officials also worry about what they call "blowback" from Iraq: instead of sucking in would-be suicide bombers on one-way tickets, it could pump out battle-hardened fighters to wage violent campaigns elsewhere in the world. Mr Negroponte said an American pull-out would allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as an al-Qaeda sanctuary.
• Germany's domestic intelligence unit (Verfassungsschutz) is searching for home-grown terrorists. Of course, they do. That's part of their job, but it contradicts the frequent claim that Europe is spineless and in denial about terrorism. Heinz Fromm, the head of the agency, defended the use of information that may have been obtained under torture, wrote DW World in December:
"All information we receive on threats will be looked into," he had told German tabloid Bild am Sonntag a day earlier, adding that there was still "considerable" risk of a terror attack in Germany. "The possibility that it may not have been obtained in accordance with our principles on the rule of law may not allow us to ignore it," he said, adding that he was only talking about using the material for intelligence purposes and not legal prosecution.
• Germany Info reports briefly that Homeland Security Secretary Chertoff and Interior Minister Schaeuble met in Berlin on January 26, 2007.
• DW World writes about a new German program for civil security research:
Germany plans to earmark 123 million euros ($160 million) in the next four years for training and research in civil security. Currently, Germany is one of the most secure countries in the world, Research Minister Annette Schavan noted. Further development of security technology aims to help it stay that way.
I wonder what indicators Minister Schavan uses to claim that Germany is "one of the most secure countries." How can anybody know which countries are the most secure? The Third Risk Report by the Advisory Board for Civil Protection("Dritter Gefahrenbericht der Schutzkommission") presented to the German Interior Minister on 26 March 2006 outlined many shortcomings: Summary in English. Zusammenfassung auf Deutsch.
• While Al Qaeda seems to be on the march rather than on the run, as the Economist points out, the US might not have enough resources to deal with it, worries Senator Rockefeller according to the Washington Post:
The new chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said he fears the government will not have enough money for homeland security and other domestic priorities because of President Bush's "Iraq adventure." In an interview on Monday, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., criticized almost every major facet of the Bush administration's national security course since Sept. 11, 2001. "The president has in a sense walked away from the war on terror," Rockefeller said. Because of what he termed a misplaced fascination with Iraq based on faulty intelligence, Rockefeller said al-Qaida and Afghanistan have been neglected. He said he worries that U.S. intelligence on Iran is lacking, and what the nation knows about North Korea is even worse.
While Senator Rockefeller just started calling the Iraq war an "adventure," Chancellor Schroeder used this term already in 2002, when he was heavily criticized for being Anti-American and not taking the threat of WMD seriously. USA Erklaert pointed to this article and the often underestimated influence of the intelligence committee chairman.
• Coming Anarchy writes about trouble in the former USSR: "Sausage trader caught with weapons grade uranium."
• David A. Bell, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University, asks in the Los Angeles Times: "Was 9/11 really that bad?" His answer: "The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we're overreacting:"
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism. It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction?