The Blogosphere At Frankfurter Rundschau

Tuesday, May 31, 2005
German newspaper Frankfurter Rundschau regularily posts about the blogworld's reaction to current world events, politics, journalism, changes in society and its relationship to technology:

Frankfurter Rundschau online


Monday, May 30, 2005
What to do when you boot up your computer and there's no internet connection? Two days ago, our phone line went dead for an hour, after that internet was down until a few minutes ago. If you didn't change your DSL settings, the hardware doesn't smell or look charred, the software is untouched, then there's not much one can do: Sit tight and wait. Telekom customer support can check basic DSL availability, so that's what I did and called them. The storm yesterday night must have broken something since there are outtages all over the country. If you're lucky and have alternative internet access (a modem or an IT cafe around the corner), take a look at this website next time. Currently there are still some people in my area having DSL blackouts.

The Forgotten Soldiers

Saturday, May 28, 2005
Japan Times and Asahi report a surprising story about "forgotten" soldiers. The last time Imperial army soliders were found was in the 70ies - I think they even made a movie about it, but can't find it at IMDb right now. I found Hell in the Pacific, but that one's slightly different.

Mountain men in Philippines likely World War II soldiers

Three Projects

Friday, May 27, 2005
I've been working on three new projects since wednesday which left little room for writing. The first project was indirectly related to my stay in Japan five years ago. I was so lucky to be supported by the DAAD, without the scholarship, I would have never laid foot on Japanese soil. Some time ago, I found out that there are several alumni organizations in Germany and made contact with two of them. The local group consisted of one active person, but we managed to meet with four former scholarship holders who live in the area. During the first meeting, I offered to help with the technical stuff and that's how I came to make this. A standard Mambo installation with little content, but that's hopefully going to change. I didn't work with Mambo yet, but the first impression was very positive, easy installation, intuitive interface, an internal structure that serves lots of individual tastes - aside from the rather spotty documentation, but the forum makes up for it. The main goal was to create a working site with basic news, poll, forum and calender capabilities as quick and easy as possible. You'll notice the recycled header image. The only thing that's bugging me is that useless toolbar on top, I'm not sure yet how to get rid of it - it's part of a service that provides the subdomain and doesn't actually have to be retained.

The other two projects are still on a test server, as soon as they're publicly available I'll drop a note.

To Boldly Go Where...

Thursday, May 26, 2005 Man (machine) has gone before: Voyager I is about to leave the solar system after 28 years of travel:

NASA - Voyager Enters Solar System's Final Frontier

A Girl?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005
7th sonogramWe were at the doctor's today. My wife is in her 21st week and it was time for a ultrasound checkup. We asked the gynecologist to keep the answer to the big question to herself, as we chose not to spoil the fun with the search for male and female names, so she didn't show us - but my wife thinks it's a girl. What you can see on the picture is the head, torso, right leg and a part of the umbilical cord. The doctor wanted to take the picture when it's looking into our direction, but the kid ignored us. We could watch the picture being projected on the ceiling, but it was difficult to tell how big it is. The doctor measured the body, it's 21 cm now (that's 8.26 inch for the people not blessed with the metric system) and kicking and moving like there's a party going on and everybody's invited. My wife doesn't feel anything yet, but that'll change soon. I can't wait for 9th October, but I hope the baby takes all time it needs in there.

Anonymous Blogging

Tuesday, May 24, 2005
Since people have lost their jobs over blogging, I thought I look around and see what you can do to protect
  1. your privacy
  2. your basic right of freedom of speech
I found two websites that explain in quite simple terms how anonymous blogging can be done:


The latter has a few other interesting links. In some countries, weblogging can even lead to people being put into prison. There's a list of webloggers who have been detained, freed or threatened in various countries. If you speak German, take a look at Teheran Bytes, a blog written by Nahid Siamdoust, reporter for TIME Magazine in Tehran.

Here are two more useful links...

Private Blogging Wiki Anonymous blogging made simple

The Turnout Report

Monday, May 23, 2005
Düsseldorf's office for statistics and elections published their report (185 pages) about the Diet parliamentary elections a few minutes ago here.

The ratio of male to female delegates at the SPD was 43 to 31, CDU 78 to 11, FDP 9 to 3 and Green Party 6 to 6. As far as I know, no other party than the Green established full gender equality in their party manifesto.

The highest turnout was in Essen (area IV) with 72,7%, the lowest one in Duisburg III with 51,8%. The number for Düsseldorf, my area: 65,5%. The SPD recieved the highest percentage in Unna III - Hamm II with 55,9%, the lowest in Paderborn I with 21,3%. The CDU in contrast was most popular in Paderborn I 65,2% and only 28,3% in Cologne III. In the latter electorate area, the Green Party revieced their highest percentage with unbelievable 18,6%. Paderborn is obviously the conservative stronghold in NRW, I'd like to know why...

This election could not only have consequences for all of Germany, but also for the European Union. The close friendship between the French and German government is partly based on the relationship between Chancellor Schröder and President Chirac - with a CDU-led government in Berlin, this important pillar will vanish in thin air.

Yesterday was Yesterday

It looks like Chancellor Schröder's strategy to deviate the voters' attention from the outcome of the election to the big question of the CDU/CSU "K-Frage" (who is going to be the conservatives' candidate in the upcoming election?). News at 9. a.m. this morning reported first about the advance of the national election, the outcome of the Diet election in NRW was secondary already. Prime Minister of Hesse Roland Koch has been quoted that It's not a big surprise that we want to go into the campaign with Mrs Merkel as our candidate, the leaders of the CDU/CSU (Christian Social Union) will hold a joint session later this day. The CDU doesn't have a manifesto for the election, so they're under pressure to pass many internal compromises (between CDU and CSU). This might lead to new quarrels and weaken the opposition. As I wrote yesterday, Schröder has no alternative - beside that he seems to be convinced that against a candidate like Mrs Merkel, in direct comparison, he might have a better chance (49% vs 21%). Also, German magazine Stern reports that Lower Saxony Prime Minister Christian Wulff would be a more promising candidate than Angela Merkel. Yet, Mr. Wulff said "No" when asked whether he'd like to run for office, but that could change quickly, if the prospects are good enough.

Local radio, Antenne Düsseldorf, reported that the CDU gained 13% with workers and unemployed. Also, looking at the results below, the Green Party and Liberals both recieved less votes than in 2000 - since the tune of the campaign of CDU was in the spirit of change, this seems to have hurt the smaller parties as well. The FDP lost one of its popular local political leaders, Jürgen Möllemann and didn't build up new faces fast enough. The Green Party didn't recover yet from the Visa Affair earlier this year.

The interim results of the election in NRW:

Diet election on 22.05.2005

eligible voters13 239 170100,0
voters8 334 56163,0
invalid votes91 1891,1
valid votes8 243 372100,0

SPD3 059 07437,1
CDU3 695 80644,8
FDP 508 3546,2
Green 509 2196,2
REP67 2820,8
PDS72 9820,9

Diet election on 14.05.2000

eligible voters13 061 265100,0
voters7 409 39956,7
invalid votes72 9881,0
valid votes7 336 411100,0
SPD3 143 17942,8
CDU2 712 17637,0
FDP 721 5589,8
Green 518 2957,1
REP83 2961,1
PDS79 9341,1

At noon, the office for statistics and election is going to publish a PDF-file with all relevant information.

Candidates, Manipulations and Wikipedia

Sunday, May 22, 2005
CDU und SPD: absolute (dark color) and relative (light) constituency gainsLast update for today. As you can see, the major constituencies for the SPD were in the Ruhr Area, a metropolitan area (actually the most dense population area in Europe) and still the SPD stronghold in NRW. The rest of the state chose CDU this time, but it will probably take the SPD longer than the coming legislative period to retake it.

On another note, factor menos reports about a Reuters that the German Wikipedia entries for Jürgen Rüttgers and Peer Steinbrück have suspiciously many changes in the last days. German magazine Spiegel Online wrote about it, too. Taking a closer look, there are 50 changes only for today, but also revisions by other Wikipedia users - the encyclopedia cleans itself, as usual.

Last extrapolation update for today (it's almost midnight): It's identical to my former post. I guess the numbers won't change much anymore.

Good fight, good night.

"Between Ingeniousness and Harakiri"

I just watched Tagesthemen at ARD. Ulrich Deppendorf, program director of WDR commented on the election Chancellor Schröder's strategy to advance the national election is somewhere between ingeniousness and harakiri. I think it's the former not only because there's simply no alternative: Since it will be harder to run the country, the government would go down in flames and slowly lacerate itself - a political stalemate is the worst that can happen to any government. Also, Chancellor Schröder challenges the opposition, they have to act now and show that they're fit for government. First they'll have to agree on one candidate: Germany might elect its first female Chancellor (Mrs. Angela Merkel) this fall, but there's still the possibility that one of her rivals tries to take over (as happened before the last national election). Another side effect is that people won't be talking long about the election in NRW and more about the upcoming national one. A risky move, but the SPD is cornered.

updated extrapolation at 10:44 p.m.:
CDU 44,8% +7,9% and 89 seats
SDP 37,1% -5,7%            74
Green 6,2% -0,9%          12
FDP 6,2% -3,7%             12
others 5,7% +2,4%

The CDU's Plans for NRW

Excepts from the CDU program for NRW:
"Initiative for more economic growth and reduction of bureaucracy:
  • rejection of anti-discrimination law and against "Green" gene technology
  • 1:1 conversion of federal and EU laws
  • elimination of SPD-Green "commissary inflation"

Also, the CDU wants to initiate a law against heads scarfs by teachers in public schools and several laws in regard to universities and school education. The CDU also plans to support start-up enterprises by lowering legal obstacles and increase Public-Private-Partnerships. Another main point is the creation of 1,000 new traineeships (elderly nursing). They also plan to improve several laws for child care, re-introduce equestrian police squads, increase controls against graffiti (how is not clear though) and grow 100 avenues in NRW."
updated extrapolation:
CDU 44,6% +7,6% and 86 seats
SDP 37,6% -5,2%          72
Green 5,8% -1,3%          11
FDP 6,3% -3,5%          12
others 5,7% +2,4%

Full Frontal Attack

The election in NRW has an impact on national politics which is indeed unprecedented in Germany. If Chancellor Schröder really wants to advance the national election to fall 2005 he'll have to overcome another obstacle: First his party will have to issue a motion of no-confidence against his government, which will have to succeed, then the Bundestag will be dissolved within three weeks (article 68 of the basic law), a new election will then be held within 60 days. There's no alternative to Prime Minister Schröder in that case, this move is indeed a bold, full frontal attack.

Update: The SPD won't issue the motion of no-confidence alone, but reaches out to the CDU, if they want advanced elections, all parties together will have to vote against the government. Interesting move.

The First 200 Days

reaction by voters and campaigners at the CDU branch office (source: dpa)What's happening next? The CDU will form a coalition with the FDP, we'll how they'll try to solve problems like unemployment in NRW. For poor students, it'll become more difficult to study at all, the CDU already announced to easen dismissal protection - read their program for the first 200 days here.

The SPD and the Green party combined have less seats than the CDU in parliament.
N-TV asked the future NRW Minister of Economics and Labour how much they want to lower the unemployment rate. His response was that he won't answer that question in detail and specify any numbers, since "others already got into a scrape before with that" - hinting to Chancellor Schröder's statement at the beginning of his government in 1998 that he doesn't deserve to be reelected if he can't lower the employment rate drastically (I think he said he wanted to decrease it by half). Anyway, some numbers for you:

CDU 44,1% +7,1% and 85 seats
SDP 37,4% -5,4%     73
Green 6,1% -1,3%     11
FDP 5,9% -3,7%     12
others 6,6% +2,2%

The NRWSPD reports in their own weblog here.

National Elections in 2005?

Mr Rüttgers gave his first statement after the first extrapolations, translation courtesy by me:
"We knew the surveys were good, we mobilized our voters, 10,000 people alone in the NRW team, the halls were full, the seats were full, the Red-Green government has to go. And therefore I thank everybody, everybody at home and here in our branch office.

I know that the voters put confidence in us, gave us a mandate that NRW comes back, in the following five years with a coalition of the middle. To create security, for the unemployed, for the ones who are afraid to loose their work, for the women to help them to combine work and family - our policy will make NRW a state of a new chance. [...] If we continue to fight as we did in the past weeks, I'm confident we will suceed."
A big surprise: The SPD or more exactly, Mr. Müntefering, the SPD's chairman, thinks about advancing the national election to this year's fall. Since they just lost the election in NRW, this is really a blowoff. Chancellor Schröder is fighting back.

NRW: First Surveys

First surveys conducted in front of the polling booths estimates 45% for the CDU. Livestream (in German) here.

estimated results at 6:14 p.m. :

CDU 44,5% +7,5%
SPD 38,0% -4,8%
Green 6,0% -1,1%
FPD 6,0% -3,8%
other 5,5%

The universities are going to miss the government's financial support - the students are going to pay tuition fees to make up for the public funds.

Elections in NRW

states under SPD oder CDU rule in GermanyNRW (North Rhine-Westphalia), Germany's most populated state with its 18 million citizens is going to the ballots today. The election is - almost - exiting - since the SPD (Social Democratic Party of Germany) ruled for 39 years with the CDU (Christian Democracic Union of Germany) in the opposition. Since 2002, the federal government is lead by Peer Steinbrück (SPD) who formed a coalition with the Green Party (Alliance '90/The Greens). The Green's website features a Star Wars-related campaign video, the SDP is fighting to the end as well. Balloting is over at 6 p.m., then you can watch the results coming in here, it's one of the offical sources provided by the government.

Last election, May 2000, 13 million people were allowed to vote, but the turnout was only 56,7%, with only 7,336,411 valid votes. In 2000, the SPD got 42,8%, but right now, Infratest Dimap sees them at about 37%, CDU 43%, Green and FDP (Free Democratic Party 7,5%. Two days ago, SDP was at around 29% and the CDU at 45%. High unemployment rates - in some areas of NRW as high as 30% - unpopular national politics by the SPD and reforms as Hartz IV drove 800,000 SPD members away. They and the undecided are the ones who count most this time. Thus is looks pretty good for the CDU (and FDP).

On the other hand, Mr Steinbrück is more popular than Jürgen Rüttgers, but half of the people asked in a survey last week want a change of government. Another problem for Mr Rüttgers are excess mandates: If he doesn't win in his constituency, as it happened five years ago, and the CDU wins too many direct mandates, he won't be able to move into parliament. Unfortunately, this is a precondition to be elected for state prime minister. It's a minor obstacle though, another delegate can step down for Mr Rüttgers in case he doesn't make it. After the U.S. election, debates in television became popular, Mr Steinbrück and Mr Rüttgers met twice during the campaign with both times Mr Steinbrück narrowing the margin to his opponent.

The election is a test and thus important for the upcoming national election next year, too. Chancellor Schröder will be under heavy fire in case NRW is lost to the CDU, after all, it's the last SDP-Green Party coalition in Germany - and FDP's Politicians already asked for advanced elections. The result of the election won't have any impact on the Federal Council of Germany though - even if Schröder's SDP looses this state, the opposition wouldn't achieve a majority of 2/3 of the vote in the chamber.

Electoral Test for Germany's Government

Japan Bazar

Saturday, May 21, 2005
Japan BazarOnce a year, the Japanese community in Düsseldorf organizes a second hand market between main station and the VHS (a public adult education institute) in early May. This time, it was smaller than in the years before. We got a Doraemon puzzle for a friend. If you're living in the area and want to buy all kinds of stuff cheap, take a look at Duesselnet. You'll need somebody who translates Japanese for you, though. Over 5,000 Japanese live in Düsseldorf, in Europe, it's the biggest Japanese community. The Sarariman are sent here to work for four or five years, and usually they come with their families. When their time has come, they sell their belongings before returning home to Japan, and lots of it is on Duesselnet's black board or the one in the Japanese club at Marienstrasse.

On the Menu

spring rollsMy family doesn't really know what my (south-korean) wife and me eat. My brother is married to a German, my mother is with an American, my father is married with a Croatian - diversity whereever you look, even on our dishes. My wife's family in Korea is curious, too, so I'll post food every now and then. Today we had spring rolls, whic are not very difficult to cook, but I need more practice with the rolling - I did the ugly roll in the back.

Terrorist or Freedom Fighter

Friday, May 20, 2005
Where is the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter? Since 9/11, the United States have been beating the big drum on the international level to fight terrorism. Now a terrorist - or freedom fighter, depending on your political view, policy and definition - who has been trained by the U.S. Army and was on the run for about 30 years, has been apprehended by the U.S. Homeland Security. Venezuela and Cuba requested his extradition and it is the U.S. government's turn to act. Right now, Carriles is only charged with immigration-related crimes. If the government doesn't measure up to its own words ("If you harbour terrorists, you are terrorists"), its credibility will suffer another hard blow. The San Francisco Chronicle suggested several solutions, the best one in my opinion was to hand him over to the International Criminal Court.

Profile: Luis Posada Carriles

Joseph Chamie

Thursday, May 19, 2005
Mr Joseph ChamieIn the following months, I would like to introduce you to a few interesting people. Some of them I had the pleasure to meet in person, and a few others, although not very high-profile, deserve their five minutes of publicity.

I'd like to start with Mr Joseph Chamie, speaker at New York Model United Nation Simulation 2004 in the general assembly third, the body in which I've had the pleasure to participate. Our group represented Luxembourg - note the "Non-Violence" (a.k.a. "The Knotted Gun") by Fredrik Reuterswärd, a gift from the Government of Luxembourg to the United Nations. The job I'm going to apply for is related to demography, so during the preparations for my portifolio I came across a U.N. webcast aired on November 30th 2004. If you use Real Player (bloated software, try Real Alternative), you can watch the video here or read the transcript here. To be honest, if you want to get an impression of an interesting Demographer, watch the video, the 28 minutes are well invested, I promise.

In the general assembly, Mr Chamie started with a little demonstration of how the world's population changed over the last 50 years. After explaining the three pillars of demography, birth rate, death rate and migration, Mr Chamie said the second half of the 20th century was the most extraordinary in human history. Exemplifying why, he first outlined the world he was born into in 1944. Then he asked all delegates in the room who had highschool education to stand up. There were over two hundred delegates in the room, all of us standing up. We looked at each other, then he asked all delegates who don't have a university degree to sit down. Again another impression, then everyone who lived in the city had to stand up, after that everyone who was born in the countryside. There was only a handful of delegates. Then the married delegates were asked (I stood up again), then the female delegates with one child - both times, there were only a few people. Mr Chamie asked who had more than two children, then three - only one delegate, coming from Africa if I remember correctly, was standing. This demonstration was the basis for his inspiring speech. The collection of 20th century records were:
  • population growth from 1.6 to 6.1 billion people
  • 87 million increase in 1987
  • shortest time to add 1 billion
  • shortest doubling time
  • incredible decline in mortality
  • first-ever decline in fertility
  • international migration
  • unprecedented urbanization
  • etc.
From the video, a few statements:
CHAMIE: Well population change is very simple. There are only three ingredients: mortality, fertility and migration. And…ah…for most countries, migration is relatively secondary for most countries. So it’s fertility and mortality. With low mortality the real engine is fertility and that’s what accounts for these differences. And they’re very…
JENKINS: Fewer women having fewer babies? That’s the bottom line is it?.
CHAMIE: Exactly. Lower birth rates, the lower replacement explains why we would be going three hundred years back to two point three billion.


CHAMIE: They’re many reasons bringing down fertility. One, of course, is mortality rates have come down; that’s a pre-condition – you have to have mortality rates coming down. Second, people are moving to cities, life is changing, children are not as needed as they were on farms and agricultural work. Third, women are becoming educated – once they become educated, they join the labor force – they are delaying marriage, they’re delaying their first birth. Tastes have changed. Now all those ingredients put together – and effective contraception to boot – means that people are choosing smaller families because that’s what they want – and we’re seeing this globally.


CHAMIE: Well, our projection indicates that India will add another half billion people – five hundred million people - over the next fifty years.
JENKINS: That’s a large growth…
CHAMIE: Pakistan over the next fifty years – despite the fact that Pakistan now is a hundred and fifty-five million and China is one point three billion - over the next fifty years Pakistan will add more people than China. O.K.? Pakistan will move up the list and become the...our projections indicate the fourth largest country in the world


CHAMIE: By mid century the population of Iran will overtake Russia’s. The population of Palestinians would be larger than the Israelis, the population of the Moroccans would be larger than the Spaniards. The population of the Philippines would be bigger than Japan.


JENKINS: There are countries I believe, like Italy and South Korea that are already trying to encourage women to have more babies as a way of addressing this problem. Am I right, and if so, have they had any success?
CHAMIE: They’ve had pro-natalist policies and trying to raise it, but so far, they have not been able to raise it back to replacement and most demographers do not believe that they will be able to get it back to replacement in the near future. And the reason why is that people choose according to their own interests and most women are saying, I will have one, possibly two but we are not going to three, four and five simply because we don’t have the time, we are working and we need more help if we’re going to have this and there’s no help coming.
I read estimations a few months back that Germany would need three million immigrants each year to stop the population aging. No politician will be able to explain such an influx. I'll probably be alive in the next 50 years - I'm curious how nations will deal with Mr Chamie's prognosis.

UN Webcast Archives- World Chronicle

Wednesday, May 18, 2005
Blogging will be a little bit light until Friday, since an unexpected opportunity came up - I'm applying for a job that could feed my family and allow me to write my doctoral thesis at the same time. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Draxblog reported in detail about the outcome of the election in Croatia, here, here, here , here, here and here (wow). All in all, the HDZ lost much influence throughout the country, with barely more than a third of the people going to the ballots at all. In Knin, the turnout resulted in a day of revelation for Sanaders HDZ. The Serbian minority, represented by the SDSS, won 8 out of 17 seats, but instead of forming a coalition with them, Sanader's HDZ chose right wing parties, which in the end might disrupt Croatia's path into the European Union. The issue with General Gotovina, low public participation in politics, anti-EU right-wing parties gaining ground... difficult times for Croatia indeed.

Monday, May 16, 2005
"Who are our friends?" asks Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff in his article about German foreign policy. The author puts Chancellor Schröder's and President Bush's policy on peace and freedom into an interesting perspective and gives a good explanation about the cultural and historical roots of its difference, going back to the American Revolution and the beginning of the nation state in Europe. The author fails to draw a clear line between twiddling one's thumbs and unobtrusiveness, since diplomacy is often low-key and pressure on another government can be open or concealed. A point I agree to is that hypocrisy, in respect to foreign policy, living up to expectations, promises and own ideas, is not monopolized at all.

Die Zeit - Politik : Who are our friends?

Sunday, May 15, 2005
Two years ago, the campaigns for the upcoming election in Croatia were late, if at all existent. Since the exact date for the election was announced only one and a half months in advance, some parties started campaining hesitatingly and some didn't do anything at all, it was quite bizarre. The parties don't seem to have changed their modus operandi as Dragan Antulov reports in his Draxblog. The democracy fatigue was worse than in Germany two years ago, unfortunately, there's still a lack of interest in politics.

Draxblog III: Local Elections 2005 Update: Uneventful

Saturday, May 14, 2005
Die ZeitOne of Germany's best newspapers, "Die Zeit" appearently started blogging about different topics, you can take a look their blogindex here. I accidently stumbled over Elternzeit, a blog by Matthias Braun about children, getting children, becoming parents and all that. It's fairly new, too, the first entry was posted in early March.


Here's a great list with tips for every aspiring weblogger. The most important ones imho are "Frequency, good writing, and personality". Oh-oh. Also, there's a warning that people lost jobs, friends and even spouses because of their blogs. As usual, there's quite a lot on the net about it.

47 key tips from the World's best Bloggers

Friday, May 13, 2005
The daughter of Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, published her father's letters. From the introduction:
When I was very young, I thought my father knew everything. Indeed, Omni magazine once declared him "The smartest man in the world". Upon hearing this, his mother exclaimed,"If Richard is the smartest man in the world, God help the world!" My father was the first one to laugh.

Here's how he experienced the first atomic explosion:
I was blinded by a terrific silver-white flash — I had to look away. Wherever I looked an enormous purple splotch appeared: it was just as bright when I closed my eyes. "That," said my scientific brain to my befuddled one, "is an after-image caused by looking at a bright light — it is not the bomb you are looking at." So I turned back to look at the bomb.

The sky was lit up with a bright yellow light — the earth appeared white. The yellow gradually became darker, turning gradually to orange. In the sky I saw white clouds from above the gadget caused by the sudden expansion following the blast wave — the expansion cools the air and fog clouds form — we had expected this. The orange got deeper, but where the gadget was, it was still bright, a bright orange, flaming ball-like mass. This started to rise, leaving a column of smoke behind, below looking much like the stem of a mushroom. The orange mass continued to rise, the orange to fade and flicker. A great ball of smoke and flame three miles across it was, like a great oil fire billowing and churning, now black smoke, now orange flame. Soon the orange died out and only churning smoke, but this was enveloped in a wonderful purple glow.

Another after-image I thought, but on closing my eyes it did disappear, and appeared on opening them again. Others said they saw it too, probably caused by ionised air produced in the great heat. Gradually this disappeared, the ball of smoke rising majestically slowly upward, leaving a trail of dust and smoke.

Then suddenly there was a sharp loud crack followed by resounding thunder. "What was that?" cried the man at my left, a war department representative. "That is the thing," I yelled back.

'This is how science is done'

Thursday, May 12, 2005
The - unfortunately - neverending story goes on: Pyongyang claims again the have or are close to achieve nuclear weapons capabilities and puts its neighborhood on the edge. This time the threat was more precise, news from North Korea's capital arrived that they removed fuel rods from its nuclear power plant. The only (peaceful) way to convince Pyongyang to let go is a concentrated effort by all parties in the six-party talks. The opposite, threats to take down the North Korean government could easily result in a burning Korean penninsula.

North Korea urged to rejoin talks

Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Here's more fun:

Are you a Republican?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005
I have it in cold print now: My command of the English language is slippery at best:
  • 55% General American English
  • 20% Yankee
  • 15% Dixie
  • 5% Midwestern
  • 5% Upper Midwestern

I've been taught RP in school, I lived in Michigan for a half year in 1995, I had to guess and improvise with two or three questions and I'm not a native speaker, so that might explain the strange result somewhat (Dixie??) ... but check it out yourself:

Blogthings - Your Linguistic Profile

Monday, May 09, 2005
flag of the European UnionToday is Europe Day!
The ideas behind what is now the European Union were first put forward in Paris on 9 May 1950, against the background of the instability and the need to rebuild a shattered Europe. The then French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman read to the international press a declaration calling on France, Germany and other European countries to pool together their coal and steel production.

What he proposed was the creation of a supranational European Institution, charged with the management of the coal and steel industry, the basis of all military power. The countries which he called upon had almost destroyed each other in a dreadful conflict, and Schuman's proposal to remove coal and steel production from national controls would make sure such a war could never happen again.

Today's ambition is completely different: to build a Europe which respects freedom and the identity of all of the people who live on this continent. But this ambition is only possible because of the foundations laid by Schuman's declaration

That is why during the Milan Summit of EU leaders in 1985 it was decided that 9 May should be celebrated as "Europe Day".

Sunday, May 08, 2005
Nuclear explosion (source: Wikipedia)Japan could go nuclear within a short period of time if it wanted: they have the technology, the money and the ressources. That was true already for decades, but the Japanese government was missing the will, determination and several factors lead even to a rejection of an offer by the United States (read below) and led finally to the ratification of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1976.

IPS News reports:
"The declaration on Thursday warns that Japan's plan to separate and stockpile up to eight metric tons of plutonium annually, enough to make 1,000 nuclear bombs, calls into question Japan's commitment to strengthening the NPT. [...]

With Rokkasho operational, by 2020 Japan's domestic stock of plutonium could equal the U.S. stockpile of plutonium for weapons," said Frank von Hippel, physicist and professor at the Science and Global Security Programme at the U.S.-based Princeton University.

Anti-nuclear lobbyists are worried that the safeguards at Rokkasho would be inadequate to prevent the deliberate diversion or theft of large quantities of plutonium.

"Separated plutonium poses a risk of theft, and such large stocks would be destabilising," Von Hippel said in the report.

In 1967, Prime Minister Sato commissioned a study on Japanese nuclear policy to examine whether it was possible and desireable to develop nuclear capabilities. The study concluded, that it would cost too much, it would alarm neighboring countries and would not have the support of the public. In November 1971, a White House official told Keizai Editor Yasuo Takeyama that
"if Japan wishes, the U.S. ist prepared to provide Japan nuclear warheads or the know-how to manufacture nuclear warheads." (source: Japan's Nuclear Future: The Plutonium Debate and East Asian Security, 1996)

Interesting enough, the United States joined the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty in 1968, three years earlier. In 1972, President Nixon stated that
"I think it will be a safer world and a better world if we have a strong, healthy United States, Europe, Soviet Union, China, Japan, each balancing the other, not playing one against the other, an even balance."

The idea of mutual deterrence by possession of nuclear weapons in the case of the U.S. and China or Russia didn't help Japan too much, in the contrary:
An authoritative study concluded in 1966 that it would be "highly unthinkable" for the United States to risk a nuclear exchange with Russia or China for the sake of Japan. The Communist powers could use Japan as a hostage to deter and American attack, the study said, and there would be "little practicle meaning" in the destruction of Communist cities after "Tokyo and Osaka had been turned into a second Hiroshima and Nagasaki."

Since the end of the Cold War the world changed, but the statement is not less true than it was in 1966: If there were a nuclear attack on Japan, the - complete or partly - nuclear destruction of the attacker by the U.S. would still have "little practicle meaning". Japan overcoming its "nuclear allergy" and actually developing nuclear weapons (never mind Article Nine of the Japanese constitution) could trigger a new arms race instead and destabilize the whole region.

Japan's Nuclear Dream Could Be World's Nightmare

Saturday, May 07, 2005
(source:, Meyke Tapken)On my way to Hamburg, the driver's girlfriend was from Iran, her name was Layla. I was curious and asked her what she thought about her home country. Layla came to Germany when she was 11 years old, so she has an insight in both cultures. Last year, there was a lively debate about a German school teacher who refused to take off her head-scarf (Hijab) during lessons in a public school. The school argued that the scarf was a symbol of cultural discrimination and thus also a political symbol and therefore couldn't be worn in the school. Laizism demands the separation of church and state, but there are also the questions whether the scarf is actually a symbol at all (Muslims in Germany argued that it isn't) and there's also the basic right of free exercise of religion. The Federal Constitutional Court left the decision to the jurisdiction of each federal state, also the court didn't percieve the question of the scarf being a political sign or not as relevant.

Layla visited Iran four years ago. In her opinion, there are two different "lives" not only women, but especially them, live in Iran. The private life resembles a western, individualist lifestyle: They wear what they want, a scarf is not mandatory, except in religous families, they have boyfriends and listen to modern music - in short, it is not different from other countries. Individualism is no stranger to them. The public life is regulated though: Layla wears a scarf, but personally, she didn't feel it as being forced upon (see explanation below), although it is required. There's a difference between tourists and locals, too: She had a short skirt, but nobody cared about it and she wore make-up and nobody told her to take it off. Her sister in contrast was asked to remove the finger nail polish - to Layla's surprise, she even had a polish remover with her and did as asked. The authocratic rule controls many aspects of life, but it is only the public life they can influence on. The public life is regulated and collectivism is expected and achieved through exterior parity.

The reason why Layla doesn't feel the scarf as being imposed on her was (in my opinion) a rather personal view on the issue: Women who wear a Hijab are protected in a certain way. Women who wear it are talked to in a respectful way and men know that she expects not to be flirted with - and they adhere to this (symbol?). I was surprised by that explanation. Since I didn't have the chance to exchange views in that matter yet, this was new to me. Conversely, her argument implies that women who don't wear a Hijab are unprotected from (sexual) advances, can be talked to in a disrespectful way or such women perhaps want to be hit on. I don't think that can be generalized, but her argument as well as the reverse doesn't seem right. I don't argue (and don't mind) though that Layla looks at the head-scarf positively, that is of course her choice. The problem in my opinion begins when the choice is made by a small group of people and imposed on everybody. A rather western view, I am aware of that.

I mentioned that during the recent debate about the head-scarf I read an article from a women's rights activist from Morocco. She was angry that in Germany and other countries, considerable parts of society argued for and against the head-scarf. The former group she accused from interfering in things they never experienced and don't understand. From her perspective, the women - in her country - have to fight hard for the right to choose whether they want to wear a head-scarf or not (among other things). For her the head-scarf is indeed a symbol, a rather negative one and thus has to be rejected. In Europe, the situation is of course different. But the way our governments deal with this issue will be noticed in other countries, especially in Muslim countries. The Muslim minority in European countries is still a minority and will stay one in the next two or three decades, but the difference of the birth rates will change the social proportions. Germany has been founded on a strong basic law which ensures many rights and freedoms. History will judge how well we integrated minorities into our society.

Friday, May 06, 2005
Crew Exploration Vehicle (source: Lookheed Martin)Space shuttles have been in service since the late 70ies. Now, Lockheed Martin presented a the successor, the Crew Exploration Vehicle. The bad news is, the plans are get it in the air around 2014, which is much longer than the Apollo program i.e. needed. Certainly, after the tragic loss Challenger and Columbia safety is written with a capital S, but the space shuttle won't presumably be in the air after 2010, so there's four years without an adequate transport vehicle. The CEV is supposed to offer flexibilty, safety, (partial) reusabilty and affordability - the two latter were already aims set forth in the space shuttle program, but the space shuttle fleets maintenance and individual flights alone were up to 50 times more expensive than intially planned, furthermore the reusabilty aspect was never properly met, too many parts had to be repaired after each flight.

The Crew Exploration Vehicle is supposed to counter the problems that handicapped the space shuttle program. There won't be a reusable spaceplane, but rather a capsule similar to the one used in the Apollo program. The launch system will be expendable, but I doubt the costs can be reduced in comparison to other programs. Also, I read that the CEV is supposed to
  • transport a crew to low-orbit Earth, thus being a space shuttle between the ISS and Earth
  • serve as an emergency vehicle on ISS
  • transport a crew to the Moon and eventually even to Mars (after 2020)
Let's see: increase safety, extend flexibilty, reduce costs, all in one. I doubt they will be able to meet all aims. Nevertheless, it has to be done. A decade ago, I talked to a teacher from my school about space exploration. She complained that all the money that the space shuttle program cost (approx. $145 billion), they could have used to fight hunger and disease in the world. That may be so, but back then I had the same opinion as I have now: No step forward is a step backward. If humanity doesn't set itself new goals, it'll stagnate. In my opinion, a self-sustaining human population in space in the future is a crucial aim. Humans explore and expand, and it is about time to expand into space.

I'm back, with mixed feeling about the trip. I used to get from Düsseldorf to Hamburg as cheap as possible. The train fare is between 39€ (if you're lucky enough to get one of those tickets) to 71€, so I chose a service where people travelling into the same direction by car can find companions for the trip and share the costs for gas. In contrast to, is free and you get the phonenumber directly, the other service lets you exchange emails or call an expensive service number to get the phone number. I planned to stay for a maximum of three days, but the place I planned to stay at turned out to be a bad idea. The Hospitality Club is a free hospitality exchange organization in lots of countries world wide. There are over 54,000 members in 170 countries, over 11,000 in Germany alone. Usually people participate to meet new people from other countries or they travel a lot as well and don't want to stay in a hotel. Accomodation is free, sometimes you're asked to pay for the phone (if used) or food. I had to copy a few books and magazines at the Institute for Asien Studies, so I looked in HC's directory who lived in the neighborhood. There were half a dozen people in five minutes walking range, so I mailed them and one wrote back. Unfortunately, that person turned out to be an extremely difficult person when I arrived. Instead of an apartment-sharing community, I was welcomed by a completely drunk and quite probably drugs consuming woman in her late thirties, living in an absolute mess - Long story short, I didn't stay the whole three days. After a copyshop marathon on day one I quickly found another guy driving from Hamburg to Düsseldorf (thanks,!) and arrived home in the evening. I guess it was bad a bad apple in HC's database, but I'm not so sure I'll try my luck again in summer for my trip to Ireland.

Monday, May 02, 2005
I'll be in Hamburg for a few days to do some research for my M.A. thesis at the Institute for Asien Studies. My thesis is about "Japan and the United Nations - Peacekeeping and international responsibility in the war against terrorism" - the title sounds grandiose, I hope my professor will think the same about the content, too. Since I'm already in the vicinity, I'm looking forward to meet an old friend I know from Japan.

Sunday, May 01, 2005
General GotovinaYesterday, two men who helped renegade General Gotovina on the run by supplying him with fake passports were arrested.

Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, and Serbia and Montenegro have been promised that they can join the European Union once they are ready, (but as with Turkey) there's no timetable for accession. From all those countries, only Croatia is economically and otherwise fit for it, but there's one big obstacle: The European Union requires Croatia to hand out war criminals to the International Criminal Tribunal, and in the last two years over a dozen wanted were turned in or surrendered voluntarily to the ICTY in The Hague. General Gotovina is accused for crimes against humanity in the Krajina region under his command during the war. For the Croats, he is a hero. When I visited Croatia two years ago, I saw posters and leaflets all over the country, pledging loyalty to the general. At the main road from the southeast to Zadar, there's a huge poster a few kilometers outside the city, labelled "Zadar county - General Gotovina, we stand with you!". Too bad I didn' take a picture of it back then. When I worked in 2003 for the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, I met a lot of Croatians who thought that even if it were true that war crimes were overlooked or even permitted under Gotovina's command, sending him to The Hague would be absolutely unacceptable. The reasoning is usually founded on the wide spread perception of the war that Croatia fought for its freedom and indepence from the Serbs. Since the enemy violated the Geneva conventions, indicting people who put their life on the line for Croatia's freedom is out of the question. The leader of HNS (Croatian People's Party), Vesna Pusić, has been quoted that the former government hesitated to surrender Gotovina in fear of an uprising in the country - this view has been rejected by the current Prime Minister Ivo Sanader who blames his political opponents for incompetency in regards to apprehend the general. I don't know what will happen if the government catches and sends him to The Hague, but I'm certain the people won't like it.

For the European Union, asking to fully cooperate with the ICTY is easy, but just under ten years after Operation Storm they can't expect Croatians to deal with their history as they should. Such things take their time, Germany needed a rise from the ruins of World War 2 and the student movement in the 60ies to start dealing honestly with its Fascist past. How long it will Croatia to cool off the current nationalism nobody knows, but it will take longer than a decade. The last decade under Franjo Tuđman's authoritarian rule certainly didn't help.

Coming Anarchy posted the blogworld's reaction to Robert D. Kaplan's controversial cover story How We Would Fight China, which takes closer look to a possible cold war situation between the US and China.