When former German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, joined the supervisory board of pipeline consortium Nordstream in March 2006, it raised a few eyebrows - and not just because Russia's state-owned Gazprom is involved in the project. Schröder had been Germany's chancellor until November 2005, so his transition from politics to business was quick to say the least. Under a new bill passed by the cabinet on Wednesday, former ministers and deputy ministers will have to observe a cooling-off period of 12 months before taking up a post with a company or other private enterprise. If the government sees a conflict of interest, or a danger to the public, it can impose a cooling-off period of up to 18 months. "It's a step in the right direction, as we didn't have any regulation before. In theory, you could switch from one day to the next," Wolfgang Jäckle from Transparency International Germany told DW. The rules are designed to prevent politicians' decisions being influenced while … [Read more...] about revolvingdoor Germany to regulate switch from politics to business
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For weeks a fierce political fight over government debt raged in Washington. Both parties agreed that a default had to be avoided and that the debt burden of the US must be addressed. But while Republicans pushed for a steep reduction of government expenditures mainly through drastic cuts in social programs, Democrats wanted to tackle the issue mainly by increased taxes for the rich. In their zeal to cut welfare programs and raise taxes both parties completely neglected one area of government spending that comes with a hefty sticker price: The cost of war. Back in the winter of 2002, when the United States was still contemplating whether or not it would wage war against Saddam Hussein, President George W. Bush's key economic advisors estimated that an invasion would cost between $50 and $60 billion (35-41 billion euros). With US troops scheduled to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, the war there has cost a cumulative total of $806 billion over the past eight years, … [Read more...] about Trillion-dollar-business: US war spending spirals out of control
Something's up in Russia - an apparatchik there appears to be waging a vendetta on selfies. A statement released by the Kursk branch of the Raspotrebnadzor - the Russian consumer rights bureau - has warned teens: "Reasons for spreading head lice among youth, experts say, are a growing number of selfie photographs during which groups of youths or couples are in a position to exchange parasites by touching heads, which is the main route for transfer of head lice." Past statements by the agency have been somewhat spurious: it has described crows as feathered wolves that spread bird flu and which should be exterminated, and it has also been associated with banning food and drink imports from countries unpopular with the Kremlin. So now selfies are a Cold War weapon for the West to give Russians lice - probably American lice - continuing the spread of degenerate Western values? When contacted by DW, the department of sanitary control at the Kursk branch of Raspotrebnadzor cited … [Read more...] about Check your head: are lice going as viral as the idea that selfies help them spread?
In recent days, the over-two-centuries-old practice of homeopathy has come under fire in Germany. Dr. Karl Lauterbach, the chair of the parliamentary health committee, recently called for public health insurers to stop funding the practice, which typically involves solutions of small amounts of herbs or other medicines heavily diluted with water and then shaken or stirred to "add energy" to the solution. According to its proponents, homeopathy can heal patients as well - if not better - than conventional medicine, while its detractors, including nearly all medical doctors and scientists, say that it is no more powerful than a placebo. Homeopathy was first proposed by the German physician Samuel Hahnemann in the late 18th century, and today is covered by over two-thirds of public health insurance in Germany. In an interview with the magazine Der Spiegel, Lauterbach, who himself is a medical doctor and an adjunct professor of health policy at Harvard University in the United … [Read more...] about Homeopathy draws ire of German government officials
The speech was without fanfare and lasted only 12 minutes, but it signaled a shift in the post-war era and heralded great changes to come. On June 5, 1947, US Secretary of State George C. Marshall addressed the graduating class at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Within days, his recommendations became known as the Marshall Plan, which has gone down in history as the most successful civil-reconstruction project of the 20th century. "The Marshall Plan served as the economic and political foundation for the Western alliance that waged the Cold War," said Diane Kunz, a professor of history at Yale University. "It allowed the United States gradually to engage itself in the bipolar confrontation by first committing money, not blood." Historians, however, disagree on how large a role the Marshall Plan money played in Europe's economic recovery. Small Speech, Big Idea Marshall's speech offered few details, but the powerful impact of his ideas, militarily and … [Read more...] about The Marshall Plan: Rebuilding a War-Torn Continent
I'd like to comment on topics that I think should regularly be on the front pages but are not - and in many crucial cases are scarcely mentioned at all or are presented in ways that seem to me deceptive because they're framed almost reflexively in terms of doctrines of the powerful. In these comments I'll focus primarily on the United States for several reasons: One, it's the most important country in terms of its power and influence. Second, it's the most advanced - not in its inherent character, but in the sense that because of its power, other societies tend to move in that direction. The third reason is just that I know it better. But I think what I say generalizes much more widely - at least to my knowledge, obviously there are some variations. So I'll be concerned then with tendencies in American society and what they portend for the world, given American power. American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it's still incomparable. And it's … [Read more...] about “Every innocent killed creates ten new enemies”
We've heard it said often before: technology has the potential to turn our mobile devices into lifesaving tools. But do we really want health workers - whether they're human beings or computers running "anonymizing" algorithms - knowing our every online move? Some say it's not a case of whether we want it - but that we need it. Word-of-mouth done the manual way can be very slow. Take the bird flu strain H7N9. Its potential to spread from person to person has put public health officials worldwide on the lookout for signs of its spreading this way. They're constantly monitoring trends from lab test samples across the world. But that can be drawn-out process. "Our knowledge and ability to respond to emerging strains is two weeks behind," says Dr Rachel McKendry, head of a new £17million collaborative effort that aims to hurry the process of disease tracking…by a lot. McKendry says the average scenario in the UK looks like this: 1) You wake up after a bad night but decide … [Read more...] about Is data mining for disease tracking good for public health or just another snooper’s charter?
Marco Rubio (pictured above) did not waste any time taking on Hillary Clinton, the widely assumed Democratic candidate-to-beat in the presidential election 2016. Not even ten minutes into his announcement speech, the 43-year-old Rubio blasted 67-year-old Clinton who had declared her bid the previous day, as a leader from yesterday, and framed the presidential race as a "generational choice" about the future of the country. With his attack against Hillary Clinton during his own presidential candidacy announcement, Rubio's political career comes full circle in a way. As highlighted in a telling #link:http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/04/13/marco-rubios-been-battling-clintons-since-1996-heres-photographic-proof/?tid=sm_tw:black-and-white picture# by the Washington Post, he has been fighting the Clintons for close to two decades now. Back in 1996 as a college student, Rubio wrote campaign placards for Republican candidate Bob Dole's failed bid to oust President Bill … [Read more...] about Leading Republican candidates have yet to announce presidential bid
On October 10, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Kailash Satyarthi and 17-year-old Malala Yousafzai for "their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education." Referring to the 60-year-old Indian activist the Nobel Committee said: "Showing great personal courage, Kailash Satyarthi, maintaining Gandhi's tradition, has headed various forms of protests and demonstrations, all peaceful, focusing on the grave exploitation of children for financial gain." Satyarthi has dedicated his life to helping millions of children forced into slavery. Born in India in 1954, the electrical engineer founded Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), or the Save the Childhood Movement, a non-profit organization aiming to eliminate child trafficking and labor, in 1980. In a DW interview, Siddharth Kara, director of the program on human trafficking and modern slavery at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, … [Read more...] about ‘Poverty and caste’ fueling child labor in South Asia
The Facebook website was launched on February 4, 2004, from a dorm-room at Harvard College in Boston. At the time, sign-up was limited to Harvard students — a very small and specialized market. The website was a simple online website application of paper "face-books," which are booklets organizers prepare for participants in some workshops, classes or conferences, showing pictures and mini-biographies of the people attending. Facebook the website — was opened up to the general public in 2006. From then onward, anyone 13 years old or older could sign up for a Facebook member page. A couple of months ago, on July 26, 2017, just eleven years later, the website had about 2 billion active members. The market valuation of Facebook's stock exceeded $500 billion (416 billion euros). Its 2016 revenues were $27.6 billion, of which an astounding $10.2 billion were net income. The company is wildly profitable, and its main founder, Mark Zuckerberg, pictured at top, … [Read more...] about Network effects helped Facebook win