Jul 23

For my German speaking readers.

YouTube Added: 10.07.2013

Related article:

Germany undervalues journalism, union chief says (Deutsche Welle, Jan 12, 2011):

China, Zimbabwe and Iran all come to mind in discussions about press freedom – not Germany. But Michael Konken, chairman of journalists’ union DJV explains why journalism in Germany is endangered.

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Jun 26

The article you are reading originally appeared in German in issue 26/2012 (June 25, 2012) of DER SPIEGEL.

Imagining the Unthinkable – The Disastrous Consequences of a Euro Crash (Der Spiegel, June 25. 2012):

Part 1: The Disastrous Consequences of a Euro Crash

As the debt crisis worsens in Spain and Italy, financial experts are warning of the catastrophic consequences of a crash of the euro: the destruction of trillions in assets and record high unemployment levels, even in Germany.

It wasn’t long ago that Mario Draghi was spreading confidence and good cheer. “The worst is over,” the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) told Germany’s Bild newspaper only a few weeks ago. The situation in the euro zone had “stabilized,” Draghi said, and “investor confidence was returning.” And because everything seemed to be on track, Draghi even accepted a Prussian spiked helmet from the reporters. Hurrah.

Last week, however, Europe’s chief monetary watchdog wasn’t looking nearly as happy in photos taken in front of a circle of blue-and-yellow stars inside the Euro Tower, the ECB’s Frankfurt headquarters, where he was congratulating the winners of an international student contest. He smiled, shook hands and handed out certificates. But what he had to tell his listeners no longer sounded optimistic. Instead, Draghi sounded deeply concerned and even displayed a touch of resignation. “You are the first generation that has grown up with the euro and is no longer familiar with the old currencies,” he said. “I hope we won’t experience them again.”

The fact that Europe’s top central banker is no longer willing to rule out a return to the old national currencies shows how serious the situation is. Until recently, it was seen as a sign of political correctness to not even consider the possibility of a euro collapse. But now that the currency dispute has escalated in Europe, the inconceivable is becoming conceivable, at all levels of politics and the economy.

Collapse of Currency a ‘Very Likely Scenario’

Continue reading »

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Jun 30

IMAGINE the Reserve Bank of Australia, concerned that its friends in the city of Sydney (but perhaps Melbourne) who, having wallowed in wealth all their adult lives, were no longer gainfully employable and their wildly extravagant lifestyles were in danger, and, having the powers to intervene in the market, decided to do just that on their behalf.

Imagine them offering to enter the market and buy shares that would prop up the foolish gambles of the bankers, gambles they had encouraged them, until recently, to take by providing them with cheap money.

On top of that, they told this group they would provide hundreds of billions of dollars in credits to these same profiteers on the grounds they were so big and important to the economy they were indeed too big to fail.

Then, imagine, despite pouring untold taxpayers money into stocks and allowing their cronies access to vast sums, the system continued to fail. So they announced they would need greater power and with it more secrecy.

For its growing band of critics has, perhaps unwittingly and in the interest of public good, this has become the principal function of the US Federal Reserve.

If this was to happen in Australia the International Monetary Fund would be hammering at the door of the Reserve Bank. But Australia does not have a President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, commonly known as the Plunge Protection Team, that allows the US Government to prop up the markets by buying shares. But to imagine the IMF investigating the US financial system is unthinkable, or was. But, at the weekend, Der Spiegel reported that the IMF would conduct a full investigation into virtually every aspect of it.

Der Spiegel wrote that the IMF had “informed” Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke of plans that would have been unheard of in the past: a general examination of the US financial system. The IMF’s board of directors has ruled that a so-called Financial Sector Assessment Program is to be carried out in the US.

This, Der Spiegel wrote, “is nothing less than an X-ray of the entire US financial system”, adding that “no Fed chief in US history has been forced to submit to the kind of humiliation that Ben Bernanke is facing”.

The fact that the IMF is knocking on the very doors of its parents and waving legal papers about who lost the house, the car and the kids will, if the past is anything to go by, be buried in the US by pom-pom waving on CNBC telling all what a great time it is to buy.

But the news that the US Fed has now lost its last vestige of credibility did not end with the German report.

The Telegraph from London weighed in, following the Royal Bank of Scotland’s statement last week (also lost on the US public) that it was time to head for the crags, and reported Barclays Capital’s closely watched Global Outlook analysis that said US headline inflation would hit 5.5% by August and the Fed would have to raise interest rates six times by the end of next year to prevent a wage spiral.

If the Fed hesitates, the bond markets will take matters into their own hands. “This is the first test for central banks in 30 years and they have fluffed it,” the report found. “They have zero credibility, and the Fed is negative if that’s possible. It has lost all credibility.”

Der Spiegel reports that the IMF is threatening to seriously study the accounts of America, something President George Bush is determined to prevent at least while he is in the White House, informing the IMF that it can begin its investigation but cannot complete it until he leaves office.

Continue reading »

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May 26

Former telecoms monopoly Deutsche Telekom over the weekend became the latest German firm to be rocked by revelations of spying on its employees.

Deutsche Telekom, Europe’s biggest phone company, confirmed on Saturday allegations in Spiegel magazine that it hired an outside firm to track hundreds of thousands of phone calls by senior executives and journalists in 2005-6.

It denied that the Berlin consultancy firm listened to the conversations, instead merely logging details on who phoned whom as well as the time and duration of the calls.

Spiegel said that “Operation Clipper” and “Operation Rheingold” were set up in order to identify the source of leaks of sensitive financial information to financial journalists.

Chief executive Rene Obermann, who was not in charge when the spying took place, said that state prosecutors and a law firm in Cologne were investigating the affair.

Less than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the demise of the Stasi secret police in communist East Germany, Germans are particularly sensitive about infringements into their privacy.

Other firms have also been accused of spying on their own workers.

The biggest such scandal involved Lidl, one of German’s biggest budget supermarket chains, which reportedly violated labour laws by by installing hidden cameras in its stores to systematically keep tabs on staff.

Lidl even recorded employees when they used the toilet, their conversations while on break, and kept track on who their friends outside work were, reports said in March.

Anti-terrorism surveillance measures introduced by the government such as installing secret cameras in terror suspects’ homes and including biometric data on passports have also riled civil liberties groups.

May 25 08:04 PM US/Eastern

Source: AFP

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Mar 30

Germany and other industrialized nations are desperately trying to brace themselves against the threat of a collapse of the global financial system. The crisis has now taken its toll on the German economy, where the weak dollar is putting jobs in jeopardy and the credit crunch is paralyzing many businesses.

trader1.jpgA trader reacts in front of the DAX board at the Frankfurt stock exchange.

The Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank, doesn’t like to see its employees working too late, and it expects even senior staff members to be headed home by 8 p.m. On weekends, employees seeking to escape the confines of their own homes are required to sign in at the front desk and are accompanied to their own desks by a security guard. Sensitive documents are kept in safes in many offices, and a portion of Germany’s gold reserves is stored behind meter-thick, reinforced concrete walls in the basement of a nearby building. In this environment, working overtime is considered a security risk.But the ordinary working day has been in disarray in recent weeks at the Bundesbank headquarters building, a gray, concrete box in Frankfurt’s Ginnheim neighborhood, where the crisis on international financial markets has many employees working late, even on weekends. Continue reading »

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