When Had We Left The Jungle?

I wasn’t aware that we had.

Jungle

WTO Faces Existential Threat in Times of Trump -U.S. President Donald Trump has set his sights squarely on the World Trade Organization in Geneva. Even its critics are worried that without the organization, the world of trade would revert to the law of the jungle.

The U.S. and other industrialized nations made several concessions to developing economies when the WTO was founded in 1995 and significantly reduced their tariffs. In return, they were able to push through stronger protections for intellectual property. They hoped that the strategy would help slow China’s rise.

But from the U.S. perspective, the system has not been beneficial. And once China joined the WTO in 2001, that dissatisfaction only grew, partly because the Chinese proved adept at taking advantage of the rules. Even today, there is significant dissent within the WTO because the economic superpower China is still classified as a “developing nation” by the organization, which gives it certain privileges. On the other hand, China is fighting for recognition as a market economy, to which both the U.S. and the European Union are opposed because it would mean they could no longer defend themselves against state-subsidized Chinese exports with anti-dumping duties.

On top of all that, the WTO is facing a more fundamental problem: its size and its sluggishness. Negotiating rounds focused on removing tariffs have become increasingly complex. And because everything is up for negotiation at the same time, every member state can paralyze the process by simply exercising its veto. The Doha Round, launched in 2001, is a perfect example: It never achieved any results and has become symbolic of the WTO’s failure.

“The problems are coming from the behavior of a single country that would like to return to the jungle.”

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German Of The Day: BAMF

That stands for Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge, which means the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. It turns out they should have translated that as the Bureau for Asylum and Migrant Fraud, however.

BAMF

This is one of those tip of the iceberg stories, folks. Employees at Bremen’s BAMF have been accused of improperly granting asylum in 1,200 cases between 2013 and 2017 and now an investigation has been launched in which 18,000 additional successful asylum applications will be reviewed. In the meantime irregularities at other BAMF offices have come to light.

Internal email correspondence at the Bremen office has emerged in which an upper-level manager appears to be aware of this systemic problem but asks that an internal investigation be carried out in a “noiseless” manner.  Nor should “everything be examined down to the last detail.”

Same old same old, isn’t it? We’re from the government and we’re here to help.

Angeschrieben wegen möglicher Unregelmäßigkeiten in den Bremer Asylverfahren, habe der zuständige Abteilungsleiter des Bundesamts im Februar 2017 zwar eine Prüfung angeordnet, zugleich aber verfügt, dass diese „geräuschlos“ geschehen solle. Er wolle nicht, heiße es in seiner E-Mail, „dass alles bis ins Detail geprüft wird.”

German Of The Day: Heimaturlaub

That means home leave. And boy oh boy is Germany ever sticking to its guns on this one. When it comes to being super-mega-ultra strict about paying for asylum seekers’ vacation trips back home, that is.

Vacation

As German Integrationsbeauftragte (integration commissioner) Aydan Özoguz (SPD) explains, Germany doesn’t foot the bill for just any asylum seeker. They have to be Ausnahmefällen (exceptional cases) before the German tax payer will be asked to send them on an all expenses paid flight back home – and back again.

Someone’s mother dying would be such an exceptional case, for instance. Anybody’s mother (it doesn’t have to be your own). Or maybe your ex-neighbor’s dog is suffering for an ingrown toenail. Or maybe you forgot to bring your favorite bowling ball with you when you were on the run and now you have the urgent need to go pick it up. For integration purposes, of course. You know, exceptional cases like that.

I’m not making this up, people. Not all of it anyway.

“Es kann gewichtige Gründe geben, warum ein anerkannter Flüchtling für kurze Zeit in seine Heimat reisen will.”

The Next Giant Leap For Womankind

Peeing standing up. And people like you said it couldn’t be done.

Urinals

The future will be taking place right here in Berlin, too. If Berlin’s breathtakingly progressive left-wing coalition government can succeed in pushing their zukunfstweisend (forward-thinking, groundbreaking) “toilet concept” through, that is.

It’s a common problem when you’re out and about. Nature calls – but the queue for the ladies is bladder-testingly slow to advance. Meanwhile your male companion waltzes in and out with what often feels like unfair speed. Now, the Berlin city authorities plan to address the issue of gender equality in public toilets, as they seek to redevelop the city’s conveniences. All locations that currently have a male-only “pissoir” (public urinal facility) should only exist in combination with unisex toilets, a 99-page city strategy paper called “the toilet concept” concludes.

Today the urinals, tomorrow the, I dunno, jock straps. Womankind marches on.

Hat das rot-grüne Berlin keine anderen Probleme?

German Air Farce Ready For Action

Only one of Germany’s eight way-over-budget Airbus A400M military transport planes is working at the moment, if working is the proper word for a military transport plane that will never actually be used anywhere anyway. Jeepers. That’s like, I dunno, less than half or something.

A400M

Germany’s defense minister Ursula von der Leyen apparently discovered this problem single handedly after the A400M she had taken for a visit to Lithuania broke down there.

Meanwhile… Countless aircraft belonging to German Billigflieger (budget airlines) loaded with countless tons of German tourists don’t seem to be having any technical problems whatsoever. Their number will be increasing dramatically this summer. You just got to set your priorities right these days, I guess.

Zum Sommer wächst das Angebot der Billigflieger an deutschen Flughäfen kräftig.

Another Year Closes

But Berlin’s “new” airport doors won’t. So that’s why the grand opening will have to be put off again for another year.

Doors

For now, I mean. Hey, when one door closes another one opens. And when when one door doesn’t close… Whatever.

Statt 80 Prozent Ende 2016 sind de facto nur 20 Prozent in Ordnung. Ein ordnungsgemäßes Funktionieren der Türen ist jedoch insbesondere für die fehlerfreie Entrauchung wichtig.

PS: You just wait, Hamburg. You’re going to have to.

Dial M For Merkel

And something tells me there was a lot of heavy breathing during this telephone conversation, too.

Tsipras

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras made an uncexpected telephone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel that nobody wants to comment about officially.

Bild newspaper reported on Monday that Tsipras had called Merkel as well as Euro group head Jeroen Dijsselbloem to try to convince them of the need for more help for Greece and for the need for an emergency meeting of EU leaders this week.

Bild said the reason for the call is that the Greek government has run out of money

“It’s on fire and there’s no water there to put out the fire. The situation is more than dramatic.”

L’Etat, C’est You

Or at least the national deficit is all yours, my German friends (and mine – I live and pay taxes here, too).

Debt

But there’s good news, at least. Sort of. It’s only going to get worse!

It’s a paradoxical situation: The economy is braving the euro crisis, tax revenue is making the coffers ring and the German state still goes further into debt. The public sector deficit climbed to 30 billion euros during the first nine months this year. First and foremost the federal government, but also social security and other benefits have gone into the red.

And economists fear that this is just the beginning. Billions of new burdens have been tucked away in the coalition agreement just signed between the Union and the SPD. Tax, social insurance and other contribution increases are right around the corner.

Hey, you voted this coalition government into office, Germany. Oh, that’s right. You didn’t.

Trotz guter Konjunktur und steigender Steuereinnahmen macht Deutschland Milliarden neue Schulden. Jetzt befürchten Ökonomen: Das wird die Bürger teuer zu stehen kommen – und zwar schon bald.

I Love You, You Big Dummy

Come to Berlin Country! Come to where the City Tax is!

City Tax

The city of Berlin loves youz tourists, honest it does. Sort of. In fact, the local yokel politicians here love youz guys so much that they feel the pressing need to show you just how much that is. And it’s a full 15 percent more than any of you out there were expecting. And that’s 15 percent more for getting absolutely nothing in return!

That’s right. Starting next month you will be permitted to pay an additional 15 percent City Tax on top of your hotel room bill here, at no extra cost to them and absolutely not free of charge for you! Now that’s what I call big City Tax hospitality!

I love you, you big dummy. You big dumb tourist. Book your flight to Berlin now!

“Es ist absolut nicht rechtssicher und wird ein bürokratisches Verwaltungsmonster sein.”

Der Spiegel: Republicans End Amerika As We Know It

Uh, that’s bad, right?

Republicans

America’s Republicans have emerged again as a crazed mob. The conservatives have stubbornly voted for the shutdown and against their own leadership. In doing so, they are only thinking of their own careers and not about their party.

Wow. That’s kind of touching. I honestly had no idea that Der Spiegel was so concerned about the Republican Party up until now.

Amerikas Republikaner erscheinen mal wieder wie ein wildgewordener Haufen. Die Konservativen stimmen stur für den Shutdown und gegen die eigene Führung. Dabei denken sie nur an ihre Karriere und nicht an die Partei.