Tag Archives | Germany

How Germany’s Pirate Party is Hacking Politics (With Liquid Feedback)

Piraten ParteiWould be great if this caught on in the United States. As David Meyer writes on GigaOM:
In the furores over SOPA, CISPA and similar bills, many have suggested that politicians just don’t get technology. That’s not an accusation that can be leveled at the Pirate movement, which is gaining traction in Europe at impressive speed. The Pirates saw their first major electoral success in the European elections of 2009, when voters in the movement’s birthplace of Sweden returned a Pirate to the European Parliament. The Swedes didn’t vote the Pirates into their own legislature, mind you, but now big wins are coming in Germany, the continent’s largest economy and the ideological home of the hacker movement. Why Germany? Because that’s what the Pirates are trying to do: hack politics, in the sense of making-and-tweaking-stuff sense, rather than destroying it. The movement may have begun with a narrow focus on intellectual property, but it has developed into an attempt to make the political process transparent — and of course better suited to the digital age.
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Racial Profiling is Legal in Germany

PolizeiVia the Local:

The young black German whose refusal to show police his ID led to a court ruling that cops could use skin colour as a criteria for spot-checks, says he will fight the case all the way.

Speaking to The Local, the 25-year-old student said he was disappointed by the verdict which has provoked a storm of outrage. One human rights lawyer called for the judge to be dismissed, while his own lawyer says he will take the case to the Constitutional Court if necessary.

“I don’t want to believe it — that my country now supports this, it is terrible,” the student said.

“The police have been told they can do this — no-one is thinking of the person getting hurt. I just wish every kind of racism would stop; it is horrid how people are treated by those who think they are lesser.” The student, who asked not to be identified, said he often took the train from Kassel, where he studies, to visit family in Frankfurt.

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The Terrible Truth About Germany

Lt. Col. Max Klaar (left)  Bundeswehr (retired) embraces Merrit P. Drucker, retired US army major at a ceremony in Washington marking Drucker's apology for atrocities against German prisoners in US camps. Photo: Monica Frim.

Lt. Col. Max Klaar (left) Bundeswehr (retired) embraces Merrit P. Drucker, retired US Army major at a ceremony in Washington. Photo: Monica Frim.

World War Two stopped in 1945, but it did not end.

The death rate among soldiers and civilians in Germany increased. No peace treaty was signed between Germany and its former opponents. And according to many Germans, there is still no real peace either, because the country is occupied and lacks a treaty.

It is identified by the United Nations as a “Hostile State;” the propaganda which helped to start the war still goes on against Germany; the conquerors have never been called to account for the atrocities they inflicted on their German prisoners of war, or for the deaths by forced starvation of millions of German civilians. Thuggish fascists still threaten freedom of speech. Thousands of political prisoners have been sentenced to jail in Germany for expressing opinions tolerated among the conquerors.… Read the rest

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German Government Spyware Transforms Citizen’s Computers Into ‘Big Brother’-Type Surveillance Devices

CCCDiscovered by the Chaos Computer Club, reports GlobalPost:

The use of so-called “Trojan horse” software by authorities in a number of German states came to light after the Computer Chaos Club, a hacker group, published details of their examination of spyware planted on a laptop in Bavaria.

It found that the software — developed by a private company called DigiTask for the Bavarian police — was capable of much more than just monitoring internet phone calls. It could take screenshots, remotely add files and control a computer’s microphone or webcam to monitor the person’s home. However, the authorities insist that they did not deploy these functions. Investigations are ongoing.

Graham Cluley, a senior technology consultant with British computer security firm Sophos, which also analyzed the software, said that the spyware could “automatically update itself over the internet, so new functionality can be added. It can be used to install new software onto the computer, so people could actually alter the contents of a suspect’s hard drive.”

The scandal has led politicians and security experts to look at whether the country’s already stringent privacy laws need firming up.

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City Introduces “Sex Tax Meters” For Prostitutes

800px-10.3010_Torino-nightlife.v2Inspectors may be pulling prostitutes off the streets in Germany. Not because they’re trying to lower crime rate, but because they haven’t been paying their income taxes. Via Reuters:

Prostitutes in the German city of Bonn must carry a ticket purchased from a new parking meter-like machine while working the streets or face hefty fines from tax authorities in a scheme launched on Monday night.

In Germany, ladies of the night pay income tax — the level of which varies from region to region — but compliance is difficult to enforce with women seeking business on the street.

Germany’s first “sex tax meters,” from which prostitutes can purchase a ticket for 6 euros ($8.72) per night, will ensure the tax system is fairly implemented, a city spokeswoman said.

“Inspectors will monitor compliance — not every evening but frequently,” the spokeswoman told Reuters.

[Continues at Reuters]

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Hundreds Of Mystery Underground Tunnels Below Germany

image-239154-galleryV9-wqggWhy were vast networks of carefully constructed “goblin tunnels” built below Bavaria during the Middle Ages? Why is there not a single written word about their purpose or construction? Der Spiegel delves into the darkness:

There are more than 700 curious tunnel networks in Bavaria, but their purpose remains a mystery. Were they built as graves for the souls of the dead, as ritual spaces or as hideaways from marauding bandits?

At least 700 of these chambers have been found in Bavaria alone, along with about 500 in Austria. In the local vernacular, they have fanciful names such as “Schrazelloch” (“goblin hole”) or “Alraunenhöhle” (“mandrake cave”). They were supposedly built by elves, and legend has it that gnomes lived inside. According to some sagas, they were parts of long escape tunnels from castles. Similar small underground labyrinths have been found across Europe, from Hungary to Spain, but no one knows why they were built.

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German Insurer Munich Re Rewards Salesmen With Prostitutes

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.
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U.S. Gov’t Sues Deutsche Bank For More Than $1 Billion

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.
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The Young Nazi Who Grew Up To Become A Jew

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."
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Germany To Close Seven Nuclear Reactors For ‘Safety Review’

Brunsbüttel Nuclear Reactor. Photo: Steffen Papenbroock (CC)

Brunsbüttel Nuclear Power Plant. Photo: Steffen Papenbroock (CC)

Could Japan’s tragedy be used as a wake-up call for other countries? Germany has decided to close some of it’s oldest nuclear reactors for safety checks after Japan’s nuclear crisis. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Germany said it would shut down its seven oldest nuclear reactors during a three-month “safety review,” a surprise reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel whose government just months ago vouched for the plants’ safety.

Ms. Merkel’s center-right government, which already said on Monday that it would suspend a lifespan extension for country’s nuclear reactors, responded to growing public unease over nuclear power amid the Japanese crisis by agreeing to shut down the oldest of those plants. The sudden shift reflects concern within Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democratic party that it has been on the wrong side of an emotional political issue that analysts say could tip the balance in several upcoming regional elections.

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