Germany


Munich ReBBC News reports:

One of the biggest insurance companies in the world held a party for salesmen where they were rewarded with the services of prostitutes.

Munich Re is the world’s biggest re-insurer — in other words, the company acts as an insurance company for other insurance companies.

One of its divisions, Ergo, told the BBC that the party had taken place to reward salesmen in 2007. A spokesman said the people who organised it had since left.

The gathering was held at a thermal baths in the Hungarian capital Budapest as a reward to particularly successful salesmen.


MortgageITBBC News reports:

The US Justice Department has sued Deutsche Bank for more than $1bn (£600m) for defrauding the government.

The complaint says Deutsche’s MortgageIT subsidiary lied in order to get Federal Housing Administration (FHA) insurance for its loans.

FHA rules say lenders must make sure the borrower will be able to repay the loan, but the Justice Department claims Deutsche did not do so.

A Deutsche spokesperson described the claims as “unreasonable and unfair”. “We intend to defend against the action vigorously,” she added.

The lawsuit is one of the first targeting mortgage lenders under the federal False Claims Act.


Theo Haser & FamilyVia BBC News:

As a child, Theo Haser was a loyal member of the Hitler Youth. But decades later, haunted by the horror of the Holocaust, he converted to Judaism.

As a young boy, growing up amid the nationalist frenzy of Nazi Germany, Theo Haser idolised Hitler.

When the fuehrer came to his hometown of Munich to visit, Theo and his father were at the front of the crowd reaching out to touch his hand.

“I know if I was able to shake his hand I probably wouldn’t have washed for a few months,” he recalls.

Seventy years later, in a bid to come to terms with his Nazi past, Theo has become a Jew.

“I wanted to be part of a community, this was something I had never felt in my life,” he says. “I wasn’t running away from something, I was joining something entirely new.”



Reuters reports:

Opponents of nuclear power formed a 120-km (75-mile) human chain between reactor sites in Germany Saturday to protest against government plans to extend the power plants’ operation.

Around 120,000 peaceful demonstrators, according to police and organizers, linked arms in a chain running between the northern towns of Brunsbuettel and Kruemmel that passed through the city of Hamburg…





2010 had Greece and Ireland receiving financial help from the Internatioanl Monetary Fund and Eurozone nations. 2011 has Spain, Germany and Britain finding help from Chinese investors as Vice Premier Li Keqiang…


While the U.S. media simultaneously wrings its hands over whether Julian Assange should get life imprisonment or the death penalty and claims WikiLeaks revealed nothing important except about Iran’s WMD ambitions, Scott Horton reports at Harper’s:

Over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday in 2003, Khaled El-Masri traveled by bus to Skopje, Macedonia. There he was apprehended by border guards who noted the similarity of his name to that of Khalid al-Masri, an Al Qaeda agent linked to the Hamburg cell where the 9/11 attacks were plotted. Despite El-Masri’s protests that he was not al-Masri, he was beaten, stripped naked, shot full of drugs, given an enema and a diaper, and flown first to Baghdad and then to the notorious “salt pit,” the CIA’s secret interrogation facility in Afghanistan.

At the salt pit, he was repeatedly beaten, drugged, and subjected to a strange food regime that he supposed was part of an experiment that his captors were performing on him. Throughout this time, El-Masri insisted that he had been falsely imprisoned, and the CIA slowly established that he was who he claimed to be. Over many further weeks of bickering over what to do, a number of CIA figures apparently argued that, though innocent, the best course was to continue to hold him incommunicado because he “knew too much.”…



What causes sinkholes like this to open up so rapidly? Anyone? This latest example is reported by The Local:

A large sinkhole opened up overnight in the middle of residential area in Thuringia [Germany], sucking a nearby car and part of a garage into its depths and forcing authorities to evacuate residents, police said on Monday.

sinkhole

The crater, measuring some 40 by 15 metres, appeared in the town of Schmalkalden around 3 am, a police spokesperson said. A nearby resident heard the noise and called police…


UPI reports: The German electricity grid faces instability because of too much solar power, an expert said. Thanks to a generous feed-in tariff, the installation of rooftop solar panels and large-scale photovoltaic…


This is creepy news from Cyriaque Lamar on io9.com on a Der Spiegel report: It’s been 25 years since Chernobyl fallout contaminated flora and fauna in Europe, but German hunting officials are…


Scott Roxborough writes in the Hollywood Reporter: COLOGNE, Germany — A German cartoon mocking the Catholic Church has sparked holy outrage among believers here who say it incites hatred against the Pope…





Interesting documentary about a group working deep beneath modern Berlin to discover and preserve complex tunnels of bunkers, even as the city is destroyed. Here’s the official program description from National Geographic Channel:

Hitler’s Hidden City is a subterranean adventure under the streets of Berlin, following the work of a team of German archaeologists and historians exposing and exploring the last remaining structures of the Third Reich. We gain rare access to an underground city ordered and — in part — designed by Hitler himself, part of a vast network of over 1000 bunkers and many miles of tunnels, much of which has remained sealed since the war. Eyewitnesses and historians add colorful stories to cutting edge CGI that bring to life this network of bunkers, how they were built and how they were used in the dark days of the downfall of Berlin.



From the Wall Street Journal: AACHEN, Germany — An 88-year-old former member of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen SS went on trial Wednesday for the wartime hit-style killings of three civilians in the Netherlands….