Du Bow Digest American Edition dec. 12, 2012


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An American Jewish - German Information & Opinion Newsletter

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Du Bow Digest American Edition dec. 12, 2012

  1. 1. AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONDecember 12, 2012Dear Friends:First and foremost, for my Jewish readers, my best wishes for a wonderful Hanukkahholiday. For my Christian readers, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas. Inanticipation of a great 2013 let me be among the first to wish you all a Happy NewYear.The last month or so has been difficult. The conflict in Gaza, the vote on Palestinianobserver status at the UN and here in the U.S. the battle over the “Fiscal Cliff” allhighlight the difficulties groups of people have with other groups of people. Let’s allhope that as we approach a brand New Year in 2013 somehow it can bring with itgenuine attempts to bridge peacefully the various gaps that separate us. Let’s focuson “13“normally thought to be an unlucky number. However, In Judaism, 13 is theage at which children achieve Bar and Bat Mitzvah – adulthood. Perhaps 2013 willbring about a little more adult behavior among the leaders of our groups and thegroups themselves.Best wishes,Gene (aka Eugene)Enough philosophy! On to the news…IN THIS EDITIONANGELA MERKEL & THE JEWS – The Chancellor is recognized for what she is –the best friend the Jews have in Europe.THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UN – A disappointment.ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEET – In spite of the disappointment. 1
  2. 2. SAVING GERMAN JEWISH CULTURE – Guess who’s in the forefront of trying.BANNING THE NEO-NAZIS – It looks as if they’re going to attempt to do it.A POLITICAL UPDATE – The German elections are 10 months away. Who’s infront?ANGELA MERKEL & THE JEWSPerhaps you are already convinced that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is aboutthe best friend among important European politicians that the Jews and Israel have.This in spite of Germany’s abstention vote in the UN on the Palestinian observerissue. If that is your mindset you’d be right. However, if you have any doubts readon…JTA recently reported, “German Chancellor Angela Merkel has renewed her pledgeto stand up for Jewish life in Germany and for Israels right to self-defense.Speaking … at the annual assembly of the Central Council of Jews in Germany --the first time a German chancellor had visited the assembly -- Merkel reiterated herlongtime commitment to Israels security, which she had stated during the recentGaza conflict. She said it was not only Israels right but its duty to protect its citizensfrom rocket attacks."Germany also has that right," she added.Merkel told a crowd of approximately 200, including the councils 99 delegates, thatshe wanted the Jewish community to know that it is supported and cherished.Recent anti-Semitic attacks on individuals, plus months of debate over the right toritual circumcision -- a discussion often tinged with anti-Semitism -- have put theJewish community under stress, she acknowledged."There are still major indications of anti-Semitism here," said Merkel, who shared thepodium with Central Council President Dieter Graumann.Merkel said she hoped a bill designed to protect the right to religious circumcision ofboys by Jews and Muslims would be passed before the end of December.Observers have suggested that opponents might challenge the law all the way toGermanys Supreme Court and even to the European Court.Graumann, who is in his third year as head of the umbrella organization, praisedMerkels courage in standing up for Israel and for religious freedom in Germany. Hesaid the community had a difficult summer, including the brutal attack on a rabbi in 2
  3. 3. Berlin, the debate on circumcision and "countless thousands of hateful Internetentries that shocked all of us.""We experienced many fanatical finger waggers, people who express a profoundlack of understanding," he said, adding that "it really hurt us."Merkel said she also noted the negative tone in the ritual circumcision discussion."It reminds us to think again about the meaning of religious tolerance," she said,adding that all basic rights have to be balanced so as not to infringe on each other. Itis clear, she said, that the rights of children are just as important to Jews as to anyother community in Germany. "But the respect for and practice of religious ritualsare also a higher good because evidence of religious freedom is also the fact that itcan be practiced."What more is there to say? Such a speech coming from any German politician wouldbe welcomed with applause and gratitude. Coming from a Chancellor makes italmost historic. I have always thought and frequently said that this woman issomething special. I think her presentation moves her from “special” to “unique”.Shortly after making her speech and another one in accepting the Berlin JewishCommunity’s Heinz Galinski Prize, which is given to an individual or organizationwho has fostered understanding in German-Jewish relations and promotedtolerance, Germany voted to “abstain” in the UN on the Palestinian matter. Whiletemporarily clouding the picture of the Chancellor in some Jewish eyes, I believe thatthat view will only be temporary. We just do not have many friends the quality of Fr.Merkel.THE PALESTINIANS, THE GERMANS & THE UNThere is no question that Israel & the U.S. suffered a seeming diplomatic defeat inthe UN over the matter of the Palestinian status. Only the U.S., Israel itself, Canadaand the Czech Republic among the important nations supported a “no” vote when itcame to non-member observer state for Palestine.Following the vote almost anybody who is anybody gave their opinion on who wonand who lost and what the implications for the future were. Taking into considerationthe recent Gaza War (I don’t know what else to call it) and now the UN vote, I’m notsure the Palestinians won anything. Maybe they got some sort of an emotionalfeeling of victory but they got a lot of people killed, much of their infrastructuredestroyed and some sort of recognition by the UN. However, the facts on the groundremain unchanged except that Israel has announced some new construction in theWest Bank. Such was the Palestinian victory! 3
  4. 4. I’m going to leave it up to you to read the general media so you can make up yourown mind about winners and losers. I will only deal with the action Germany took (ordidn’t take) and then you can make a personal decision on that as well.On the basis that there can be no peace without direct face to face negotiations, itwas the hope of Israel, the U.S. and most of the organized American Jewishcommunity that Germany would vote “no” on the Palestine matter and, perhaps,bring other Western European along with it. It didn’t happen. How come?HaaretzAccording to Haaretz, “…the hardest blow came from Berlin. In Jerusalem, Germanywas considered a certainty to vote against the UN resolution, and the Germandecision not to oppose the Palestinian bid but rather to abstain shocked the topbrass at the Foreign Ministry and Prime Ministers office. A top German official whotook part in discussions in Berlin, however, stressed that the writing was on the wall.The senior German official, who has requested anonymity because of the sensitivityof the issue, told Haaretz that Germany has been trying to help Israel on thePalestinian issue for a long time but Israel has not taken the necessary steps toadvance the peace process. "The Israelis," he said, "did not respond in any way toour request to make a gesture on settlements."Israeli officials were furious with the Germans. "The turnaround in the British positioncaused the Germans to change their vote since they did not want to remain isolatedwithin the European Union," said a Foreign Ministry official.Indecisive and confusing Israeli conduct surrounding the Palestinians move at theUN has angered decision-makers in Germany. The Germans feel they have beentaken advantage of, and that Israeli officials have been secretive and uncooperative.The high-ranking German official said "the resolution" to recognize a Palestinianstate "is positive in one sense - it clearly recognizes the two-state solution and theright of existence of the State of Israel."The German decision to abstain in the UN vote is expected to exacerbate theconsiderable tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Prime MinisterBenjamin Netanyahu, which has been an issue in recent years, regardless of thecurrent situation. There is a great deal of anger among officials in the PrimeMinisters Office over the change in Germanys position, especially since themessages coming from the Germans until yesterday morning indicated it was theirintention to vote against the resolution.There is no question that the abstention was not a happy outcome. However, aplanned summit meeting in Berlin between the governments of Israel and Germanywent ahead. (More on that later). The disagreement concerning the vote at the UN 4
  5. 5. did, somewhat, cast a shadow on the discussions. Ever since Netanyahu becameprime minister four years ago, his relations with Merkel have been strained. Onehears that numerous times Merkel felt Netanyahu did not keep promises he hadmade to her, and she was especially angry at the continuation of the construction inthe settlements.Spiegel On-LineInterestingly Spiegel On-Line seemed more interested in the fact that the Europeannations did not vote as a bloc than in the issue itself at hand. They opined, “For theEuropean Union, however, the vote once again exposed the 27-member blocsinability to reach consensus on foreign policy issues. Most EU countries, to be sure,voted in favor of Palestinian observer status, including France, Italy, Spain, Portugal,Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark. Non-EU states Switzerland and Norway alsosupported Abbas. But others, including Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany,abstained in an effort at neutrality. Only one EU member state, the Czech Republic,voted against the Palestinians."We have doubts that todays resolution brings the peace process forward," saidGerman UN Ambassador Peter Wittig, echoing the statement released earlier in theday from the Foreign Ministry in Berlin. He said he feared it would do more harmthan good.Unconfirmed rumors & discussionWho knows if any of this is accurate but it seems to confirm what was published inHaaretz. It is said that the Chancellor herself, according to numerous sources, isupset with the issue of settlements (she has expressed herself publicly and harshlyon this for some time) and the ongoing weakening of Abbas through the lack oftangible progress on negotiations. There is a feeling among the Germans that withIsrael’s security situation collapsing on all sides due to Arab political instability, thesituation with the Palestinians must be settled soon and Abbas strengthened.The final deciding factor for the Chancellor, the rumor goes, was evidently thelanguage of the resolution itself and its emphasis on the two-state solution.Chancellor Merkel is committed to a two-state solution, which she feels is the onlyoption for maintaining a democratic Jewish state.Deutsche WelleAs disappointing to many as the German Government’s abstention was, theopposition party Social Democrats (SPD) seem even to have been more pro-Palestinian. DW reported, “The fact that the EU could not agree on a policy was aserious problem, said Rolf Mützenich, foreign policy spokesman for Germanyscenter-left Social Democratic Party (SPD). He told Deutsche Welle that a "yes" fromGermany would have been perfectly feasible. "I believe we must do everything we 5
  6. 6. can to support the forces in Palestine that want a peaceful agreement with Israeland a fair two-state solution. And that is what President Abbas stands for."Abstaining from the vote was the least that Germany could have done for thePalestinian president, Mützenich continued. The internal Palestinian conflictbetween Hamas and Fatah, which Abbas leads, was enough for him to deal with, heargued. "It would have been a fatal signal if on top of that he hadnt had the supportof important European governments on the international stage, or even beenweakened by them," he said.While the abstention vote caused ill feeling and ruffled personal feathers life goeson. The position of nations is almost always based on perceived national interest,rarely personal feelings. In this case the interests of the two countries involveddiverged. Germany has to consider its interests with the Arab and Islamic countrieswhile Israel is dealing at the forefront with immediate national security issues. Thisdoes not mean that there was or will be a rupture of relations between the two asexemplified by the joint cabinet meeting which took place a week or so following theUN vote.Read on about it…ISRAELI & GERMAN CABINETS MEETA week after the UN vote the annual get-together of the Israeli and German cabinetstook place in Berlin. This annual happening underscores the closeness of the twocountries though their governments might have strong differences concerning policy– which, indeed, they have.After the UN vote, but prior to the joint cabinet meeting, Chancellor Merkelreaffirmed her commitment to Israel’s security. A Jerusalem Post article noted,"Germany will always stand on the side of Israel on the issue (of Israeli security),"Merkel said in her weekly podcast, and spoke of Berlins vocal backing for Israelduring its latest clashes with Hamas. Israel has not only the right but the duty toprotect its citizens," she added.Shortly thereafter “Netanyahu and his ministers [held] consultations with theirGerman counterparts in Berlin. Their talks cover[ed] economic and trade ties andcooperation in science and education as well as regional security issues.Agree to DisagreeAs the cabinets came together Spiegel On-Line reported, “Despite recentdifferences between Germany and Israel over settlement construction plans on theWest Bank, Angela Merkel and Benjamin Netanyahu pledged friendship onThursday in Berlin. They have, said the chancellor, agreed to disagree. 6
  7. 7. Given that horrific history, Merkel told Netanyahu that she is fully aware "what apleasure it is that we can cooperate today." She praised the two countriescollaboration when it comes to education and research, and extolled Israel as beingthe only democracy in the Middle East. The message was clear: The German-Israelirelationship is so solid that occasional differences of opinion are not a threat. And onThursday in Berlin, the pair made little effort to hide those differences.On Wednesday evening, prior to Thursdays high-level meetings between Israeli andGerman cabinet members, Netanyahu joined Merkel for dinner in the Chancellery.The two talked about bilateral cooperation, but also about the current situation in theMiddle East, including in Egypt, and the danger of chemical weapons in Syria. Theyalso talked, of course, about the plans recently announced by Netanyahusgovernment to build 3,000 new housing units for settlers near Jerusalem.Brief and to the PointThe construction plans, intended as a punishment of the Palestinians for theirsuccessful application to the United Nations last week for non-member observerstatus, involve area E-1 between East Jerusalem and Maale Adumim, and wouldessentially cut the West Bank in two [Ed. Note: That is not accurate]. And it is anissue that has long been a point of contention in Merkels relationship withNetanyahu. In September 2011, Merkel even became irate in a telephoneconversation with the Israeli prime minister during a discussion of West Banksettlements. The differences have not disappeared in the meantime."On the settlement question, we have agreed to disagree," said Merkel on Thursday.Netanyahu struck a similar tone: "One should be able to voice different opinionsamong friends.The foundations of German-Israeli relations are "untouchable" Merkel affirmed,adding "and they withstand differences of opinion."To read the article click here http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/merkel-and-netanyahu-pledge-friendship-in-berlin-despite-differences-a-871458.htmlSomething else to worry about. There is little doubt that the German government’sattitude toward Israel is far more positive than that of the general population. Forinstance the Israeli government position on the extension of building in the E-1 areais seen as a hindrance to any possible peace. Many in Germany see thePalestinians as an oppressed minority and the Israelis as oppressors. That attitudeis one that is not unique to Germany but is apparent throughout Europe. My guess isthat even in the Czech Republic, which alone voted with Israel in the UN on thePalestinian matter, the attitudes of the populace is far more pro-Palestinian than pro-Israeli. 7
  8. 8. It is very far from clear as to how that situation might be reversed. The rocketing ofIsrael by Hamas triggered statements by various governments saying that they hadthe right to defend themselves but I doubt if that moved public opinion.It is a very difficult and troubling situation.SAVING GERMAN JEWISH CULTUREOne of the strange paradoxes in German history is that after trying to eradicate Jewsin the Holocaust the German government has now launched (and is underwriting) aworldwide attempt to preserve German Jewish culture before it is lost forever.The Times of Israel reported, “…a major project by national German broadcasterDeutsche Welle documenting the remnants of Germany’s once-thriving Jewishcommunity around the world.The project, called “Spurensuche, Deutsch-Jüdisches Kulturerbe Weltweit” inGerman and “Traces, German-Jewish Heritage in the world” in English, will go liveon the Internet Dec. 4 and include radio and television broadcasts in four languages.“In general, when people in Germany think of German Jews, they think about theHolocaust and the genocide of the Jews—the crime and its remembrance–but notabout how rich this culture was and what was lost,” said Cornelia Rabitz, an editor atDeutsche Welle and coordinator of the project,“We hope, through the project, that the rest of the story comes into the commonconscience,” Rabitz said.“Traces,” underwritten by a 250,000 euro grant by the German Foreign Office, wasinspired by the German-Jewish Cultural Heritage Project sponsored by the MosesMendelssohn Center for European Jewish Studies at the University of Potsdam. Theproject seeks to save German-Jewish documents around the world from decay bycreating a databank of information and then linking it to existing databases to makeinformation universally accessible, said Alisa Jachnowitsch, a Moses MendelssohnCenter researcher.“We want to locate German-Jewish heritage abroad and preserve it, not to bring ithome to Germany, but to let people know how they can preserve their own historicalmemory and legacy in their home countries,” Jachnowitsch said. She recentlytraveled to Buenos Aires, for instance, to speak to the Jewish community thereabout preserving their records.But the German-Jewish heritage resides not just in records, she stressed, but ineverything they were able to bring with them, their china, their volumes of Thomas 8
  9. 9. Mann, their oriental carpets, as well as intangibles, such as their attitudes, tastes,values, even ways of studying.Stefan Messerer, spokesman at the German Embassy in Washington, D.C., saidthat as part of the historic responsibility Germany bears toward the Jewishcommunity and toward the State of Israel for the Holocaust, “the GermanGovernment is committed to maintain German Jewish cultural heritage in German-speaking countries as well as in the countries of emigration.” Besides supporting theproject, the German Government also helps with the upkeep of Jewish cemeteriesand synagogues, subsidizes religious research centers and provides money to trainrabbis and cantors.There are many paradoxes when one contemplates German history of the 20 th andearly 21st Centuries. The relationship Germany now has with Israel and the Jewishpeople worldwide is certainly one of them. Its attempt to save German Jewishculture ranks pretty close to being at the top of that list.There is more to the story which you can read by clicking here.http://www.timesofisrael.com/yekke-renewal-a-new-project-traces-the-remnants-of-german-jewish-culture/BANNING THE NEO-NAZISThere has been discussion in Germany for quite a while about legally banning theneo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD). DW reported, “Germany’s politiciansand citizens are debating a renewed attempt to ban the countrys largest right-wingextremist party, the NPD. But opponents insist that a ban does little to address thecore issues of extremism.Advising communities throughout Germany on how to deal with violence and right-wing extremism has been part of Dierk Borstels work for 15 years. The politicalscientist from Dortmund researches democratic development and how to combatright-wing extremism. Yet Borstel is very critical of renewed attempts to ban theright-wing NPD party in Germany - after a similar attempt failed in 2003."The plans to ban the party could make the NPD seem more important than it is,"Borstel warned. Banning a party, he explained, is one of the most extrememeasures a democracy can take, but Germany is in no way "facing a coup" from theNPD. Instead, Borstel views the debate on banning the party as providing massiveattention for an otherwise weak group."The NPD is currently a party in decline," the expert on extremism told DW. Borstelpoints to its loss of members and influence and its lack of influence anywhere inGermany - even within the right-wing scene. 9
  10. 10. "Even in its core areas like Saxony, there are entire regional groups that are leavingthe party," Borstel said.According to German domestic intelligence reports, the NPD had some 6,300members in 2011. Despite the downward trend, it remains Germanys largest right-wing party.However, the partys success with voters is very limited. In the 2009 federalelections, the NPD secured just 1.5 percent of the vote, providing it with parliamentseats in only two states: Saxony and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Theextremists use the parliament as a platform to voice their ideas, Borstel says. But headvocates combating their views in the same way that teachers are instructed todeal with extremist students - by defeating their arguments rather than simplysilencing them.The money that the party receives as standard compensation for its electioncampaign is among the major points cited by those in favor of a ban.Borstel agrees the money needs to stop flowing. But he maintains that this shouldbe achieved by dissuading voters from supporting the party, and, thus, preventing itfrom reaching the threshold necessary to secure government funding.The political scientist notes that the majority of the right-wing scene is not dependenton such funding anyway. In the state of Saxony, research suggests that selling CDs,concerts or other merchandise are playing a far bigger role than the NPDs money."Repression always leads to innovation," Borstel argues, adding that the right-wingscene will not disappear if theres a ban - in fact, it could simply reappear under anew name, as has happened in the past.His opposition to outlawing the NPD puts him outside of the mainstream inGermany. According to a recent study, the majority of Germans favor legislation thatwould bar the right-wing NPD. Almost three in four people support a law along theselines.The opinion of Dierk Borstel is one side of the coin and as noted above it is not apopular side. Recently The Local ran a piece which noted, “The premiers of thecountrys 16 federal states, which comprise the upper house of parliament, onThursday voted unanimously to outlaw the far-right party despite concerns it couldfail like an effort in 2003.Funke said a successful ban and the consistent and decisive prosecution of neo-Nazis would be a fitting response to the shocking racist murders of nine peopleacross Germany by the so-called National Socialist Underground (NSU), a neo-Naziterror gang. 10
  11. 11. "It would a legacy that would show respect to the victims and their families - it wouldbe a suitable reaction," said Funke, a professor at Berlins Free University Otto SuhrInstitute of Political Science.It would also force the police and intelligence services to crack down on far-rightviolence and intimidation, he said.Only Germanys Constitutional Court has the power to ban a political party - and itrequires an application from either the upper or lower house of parliament, or thegovernment to consider the idea. That application must be backed with legalarguments and proof to show that a party is aggressively working against theconstitution.It is a ticklish matter. The original attempt to outlaw the NPD in 2003 failed.According to Wikipedia, “…in 2003 after it was discovered that a number of theNPDs inner circle were in fact undercover agents or informants of the Germansecret services, like the federal Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz. They include aformer deputy chairman of the party and author of an anti-Semitic tract that formed acentral part of the governments case. Since the government assemblies wereunwilling to fully disclose their agents identities and activities, the court found itimpossible to decide which moves by the party were based on genuine partydecisions and which were controlled by the secret services in an attempt to furtherthe ban. “The party was, in part, responding to the governments dictates”, the courtsaid. “The presence of the state at the leadership level makes influence on its aimsand activities unavoidable”, it concluded.Therefore, the court’s decision was not made on constitutional grounds. However, ifthe BfV (like the FBI) is involved in the NPD, as it assuredly is, a case could againfail. If that was to happen that might, once and for all kill off any chance of anoutlawing of the Party. It might strengthen it and bring new recruits claimingdiscrimination against it.In addition, Germany being a democracy must take into account the issue of freespeech. While their rules are not as liberal as ours, it is still something that has to beconsidered.My guess is that the move to make it illegal will continue especially since the“Premiers” (Better known as the Minister Presidents. We would call the Governors)of the States have voted for it. Perhaps this time the best legal minds in Germanywill be involved in writing the brief so that it will past muster with the ConstitutionalCourt. Let’s hope so.A POLITICAL UPDATEThe Social Democrats (SPD) have formally chosen a former finance minister Peer 11
  12. 12. Steinbrück to represent their party as the Chancellor candidate in next year’snational election. He will, of course, be going up against Germany’s most popularpolitician, Angela Merkel.Poor Hr. Steinbrück! Since his informal selection a couple of months ago he hasbeen saddled with controversy. The controversy or scandal or whatever you want tocall it may sound very strange to American ears. He has been accused of makingtoo much money from speaking engagements. There is no accusation of anythingillegal.When Mitt Romney, during our own election campaign, noted that he earned$374,327 from speeches no one castigated him for that. It was only when he saidthat it was “not very much” that he was landed on by the Democrats for notunderstanding what that sort of money meant to the poor and middle class. I guess itwas the $1.6 million Steinbrück made that got his critics angry. How angry?According to Spiegel On-Line, “Greenpeace activists unfurled a banner behind thepodium that read: "Did you rake in enough dough?"[Steinbrück] faces an uphill struggle to beat Merkel. An Infratest dimap surveyshowed that, were Germans able to vote directly for their chancellor, 49 percentwould support the incumbent chancellor with just 39 percent of respondents sayingthey would vote for Steinbrück. Still, that gap has narrowed in recent weeks.More to the point, Merkels Christian Democratic Union party (CDU), together with itsBavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), stood at 39 percent in thepoll, well ahead of the SPD at 30 percent. The Greens scored 14 percent and thepro-business FDP, Merkels junior coalition party, was at 4 percent, below the 5percent threshold it would need to be able to stay in parliament. The survey wascarried out between December 3 and 5 and commissioned by public televisionchannel ARD.The FDP is Merkels Achilles heel. She remains popular because Germans credither with having defended the nations interests in the euro crisis so far, by blockingcalls for the introduction of common euro bonds, for example. And she has deftlynudged the CDU to the left, backing proposals for a minimum wage and better statesupport for childcare, and thereby encroaching on core SPD territory. But the FDP isso weak that she may need a new coalition partner to stay in power. The SPD or theGreens seem to be her only options.Steinbrück, 65, ruled out serving in another grand coalition. "I dont just want apartial change of government," he said to loud applause. "I want an entirely newgovernment. I want an SPD-Greens government for our country. Im not available forany grand coalition."Political analysts say, however, that such a coalition is the most likely outcome ofthe next election. 12
  13. 13. The election is more than 9 months away. As everybody knows, 9 months is eons inpolitical time. Much can happen between now and September. If the FDP can pullitself together we might have a totally new ballgame but that is doubtful. If not, aGrand Coalition looks like the likely outcome with Merkel remaining Chancellor andSteinbrück (or some other SPD politician) taking over as Foreign Minister.No matter what, we’ll keep following it and let you know what happens.********************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking hereBoth the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 13