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Du Bow Digest American Edition june 28, 2011
 

Du Bow Digest American Edition june 28, 2011

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DuBow Digest is a newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

DuBow Digest is a newsletter on American Jewish - German relations.

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    Du Bow Digest American Edition june 28, 2011 Du Bow Digest American Edition june 28, 2011 Document Transcript

    • AN AMERICAN JEWISH – GERMAN INFORMATION & OPINION NEWSLETTER dubowdigest@optonline.netAMERICAN EDITIONJUNE 28, 2011Dear Friends:Yes, the summer is upon us but political matters do not seem to be taking a mid-year vacation. In fact, things seem to be looking up – at least for Israel. ChancellorMerkel is hanging tough with her position against a unilateral UN move for statehoodby the Palestinians. Both the EU and the UN are opposed to the forthcoming “Gazaflotilla” which, though weakened greatly by the refusals of Turkey and Greece toallow boats to join it, is due to start out this week.The Schalit issue is one again up in the air (see article below). Even a 1,000 for oneswap doesn’t good enough.Jewish and Israeli questions are definitely on the back burner these days with theEuro bailout of Greece and other EU countries by mostly German money takes firstplace. Saving the Euro is Numero Uno or should I say, “Nummer Eins”On to the news…IN THIS EDITIONGERMANY: A DIPLOMATIC GIANT – OR A MIDGET? – In depends on whichissues.”UNLESS” – The political “unless” becomes a “perhaps”FRATS: GERMAN STYLE – Unlike the American variety.MERKEL, SARKOZY & THE SCHALIT MATTER – Germany and France flex theirmuscles. Will it make a difference? Not so far.ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE LEFT – The Left Party’s left shows its true colors. 1
    • THE INSURANCE WARS – Not enough aggravation? Let’s battle it out with eachother – publicly!GERMAN PASSPORTS – FOR ISRAELIS! - It’s growing.GERMANY: A DIPLOMATIC GIANT – OR A MIDGET?How important is Germany on the world diplomatic stage? Certainly it isn’t asimportant as, say the U.S., China or Russia, to name a few. It is the prime economicengine of Europe but there are lots of questions of how much muscle it has on thediplomatic front.In my last edition I wrote about how “… the Federal Republic’s abstention in the UNon the Libya no-fly zone placed Germany in a very weak position. Since then I cameacross an article in Der Spiegel by Dirk Kurbjuweit, a noted German journalistentitled “Germanys Waning Influence: An Outsider on the Global Stage”.In it Mr. Kurbjuweit states, “Angela Merkels recent trips to India, Singapore and theUS revealed a lot about Germanys current international role. On her foreign visits,the chancellor is a listener rather than a talker, eager not to ruffle any feathers. In itsdesire not to offend, Germany is becoming increasingly marginalized on the globalstage.This year, Merkels Germany embarked on a curious course, a new version ofGermanys famous Sonderweg ("special path"), if you will. It let down its Westernallies in the war over Libya, and it was the only country to conclude, as a result ofthe Fukushima nuclear disaster, that it had to get out of nuclear power as quickly aspossible. And in the euro crisis, Germany has acquired the reputation of beingprincipally concerned with protecting its own money.In principle, this behavior reflects postwar Germanys fundamental fear of war,nuclear power and inflation. And these fears are currently shaping Merkels foreignpolicy. (Ed: Underlining mine)As far as population goes, Germany ranks among the medium-sized dwarfs whencompared with China and India, both nations of more than a billion people. It doeswell by Western standards on the economic dynamism front, but lags behind China,India and Singapore. And when it comes to readiness to use military force, theGermans are generally hesitant, as shown by their total unwillingness to participatein the Libyan conflict.At the moment, Germany is best known internationally as the country that produceshigh-quality cars for the worlds drivers, even after the crisis. It also stands out 2
    • because of its nice chancellor. On her trips, she seemed humble and sometimeseven endearingly clumsy.When she was supposed to inspect an honor guard in Washington, she took a fewawkward steps before she managed to fall into step and get on the correct side ofher military escort. On another occasion, she almost forgot to take along herhusband when going to the waiting Obamas. And her facial expressions were aswonderfully childlike as always, clearly showing her joy or displeasure.The American poet John Ashbery has written a superb poem about America called"A Worldly Country." It is not a line that one would associate with Merkels Germany.After reunification, there was often talk of a Germany that had "grown larger." Butthat phrase wasnt quite true.In fact, when it comes to world politics, Germany has become smaller and hasremained provincial. It wouldnt have come as a great surprise if Merkels plane,upon returning home, had landed in the former capital, the sleepy city of Bonn,instead of big, brash Berlin.I have only been able to touch on a few of the major points that Mr. Kurbjuweitmakes in his article. You owe it to yourself to read the whole thing which you can doby clicking here. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,768482,00.htmlInterestingly, he does not mention the Israel – Palestinian situation once nor doesIran figure in anywhere. Perhaps it is that the article is focused elsewhere and thatthose two issues are tangential. I’m not sure whether it is proper to relegate them toinsignificance.Surely, the diplomatic battle going on mostly in Europe for Israel to get support todefeat the Palestinian statehood move in the UN this September clearly hasGermany as a major player. Its “split personality” toward Iran where the governmentis for strong sanctions while its business community continues to have substantialbusiness relations, is also not unimportant.However, if Germany is trending, as Mr. Kurbjuweit puts it, “…towardsinsignificance” won’t that eventually have a major impact on how seriously it is takenon these latter two issues? If so, to quote that world expert on all matters, mygrandmother, “Oy vey!””UNLESS” 3
    • You may recall that in my last edition I spelled out the difficult situation ChancellorMerkel’s CDU party was in because of the very low poll numbers her coalitionpartners, the Free Democrats had. If they did not improve, I noted, the chances forre-election in 2013 (national elections) were poor – UNLESS – “the Chancellor(might) try to join up with the Greens instead. There are vast differences betweenthe two parties but – nothing is impossible. At least now the CDU has a nuclearpolicy that the Greens might swallow.”At the time I wrote that a Black (CDU) – Green coalition seemed like a pipe dream,something that had very little possibility of turning into something real.No sooner had the last edition gone out when up popped a news article inThelocal.de with the headline, “Green Party boss Cem Özdemir has said that hecould envisage a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservativeChristian Democrats (CDU) after the next federal elections in 2013.Özdemir was quoted as saying, "We are following an independent path andlooking to see with whom we could best implement green policies," he told theHamburger Abendblatt newspaper in an interview published Saturday."The intersection with the (centre-left Social Democratic Party) SPD is of coursegreater. However we have always said that, depending on the situation at the time,we would also talk with the CDU," said Özdemir, who is joint party leader withClaudia Roth.He insisted, however, that despite the Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear powerby 2022 there was much that still divided the two parties.Özdemir, meanwhile, ruled himself out of being his party’s candidate for chancellor,a role which would traditionally see the candidate become foreign minister if theGreens were to be the junior party in any coalition. “I don’t see myself in this role,"he told the paper.He said the issue of who would lead the party into the next election had not come upyet. "We have to remain focused,” he warned. "Governing after the CDU-FDP won’tbe a walk in the park. We have to use the time until the election to have our policieswell prepared. "Özdemir is a highly respected politician. He is a member of the AJC BerlinAdvisory Board and very sensitive to Jewish and Israeli issues. From myperspective, while it is a long shot, a Merkel – Özdemir grouping would beabout as good as it gets.Interestingly, while not admitting that they are getting any closer to the CDU,the Greens at their recent party pow-wow (Der Spiegel) “dropped theirdemand for a nuclear phaseout by 2017 and voted on Saturday to back 4
    • Chancellor Angelas Merkels timetable to shut all reactors by 2022. The voteshows pragmatism and is a sign that the Greens are getting ready to return topower, commentators say. But, they add, it also helps Merkel”. Click here toread about it.http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,770754,00.htmlWhat color emerges when you mix green & black? We may find out in 2013.FRATS: GERMAN STYLEWhen I was a college student at the University of Kentucky, a great “fraternityschool” I was relegated (happily, however) to joining the one Jewish fraternityon campus, ZBT. Jews were just not eligible to join the “Christian” fraternities.That all changed in the 1950’s as membership in almost all fraternities andsororities as things began to liberalize. In the 1960’s with the Civil Rightsrevolution membership requirements liberalized even further when racialdiscrimination began to crumble. I would imagine that today colleges anduniversities absolutely outlaw discrimination. It’s probably illegal. Americanfraternities have never been very political. They’re mostly social (sometimes toa fault) and today even try to perform good deeds in the communities wherethey are located. Hell Week has become Help Week.The situation in Germany is quite different. Today in the Federal Republic (DW-World) “The Burschenschaften are German student groups that have always beenGerman patriots. Now some may be lunging into extreme-right territory with adebate on whether to make German blood a requirement for membership. A Burschenschaft is a German student organization whose members often livetogether, take part in fencing competitions and support each other for life. They wereoriginally started to fight against Napoleon and for a unified Germany in the 19thcentury, but their traditional tendencies have made some of them seem more andmore like right-wing extremists in recent years.This week the Deutsche Burschenschaft, the largest umbrella organization for thesestudent groups, holds its annual conference. During the meeting, members wereexpected to vote on a raft of measures seeking to define who can join and,ultimately, what it means to be German.According to Alexandra Kurth, a political scientist and expert on these studentgroups, the legal committee of the Deutsche Burschenschaft issued a decision latelast year that any potential member who was not ethnically German or whoseparents were not ethnically German, or whose parents were German but thecandidate himself was not, would need to be checked by the committee. 5
    • While the decision has effectively been a rule since it was announced, a motion byconservative members sought to win the official support of 75 percent of those at theconference. Another measure sought to expel one of the member groups foradmitting a student who meets all the other requirements but whose parents areChinese. However on Thursday, both measures were withdrawn from the agendadue to pressure from the organizations liberal wing.But Spokesman Michael Schmidt said he nevertheless expected a "heated debate"over the criteria for membership.Let’s hope the Burschenschaften leaders come to their senses and realize that theyare living in the 21st Century not the 19th. Incidentally, Germany’s Economics Ministerand head of the Free Democratic Party Philipp Roesler, who natural parents wereVietnamese, would not be eligible to become a Burschenschaft member undercurrent rules.One might argue that the whole matter is a “tempest in a teapot” but that is not thecase. Like in the U.S., those that are kept out of certain social organizations arefrequently also left out when it comes to business and professional contacts. And,it’s really an embarrassment for today’s Germany if the rules go unchanged.MERKEL, SARKOZY & THE SCHALIT MATTERFor almost the last five years, the kidnapped (by Hamas) soldier, Gilad Schalit hasbeen held in Gaza as a prisoner. Haaretz recently reported, “German ChancellorAngela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a joint call Friday forthe release of abducted Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Schalit as part of a dealwith Hamas.Merkel and Sarkozy have each called for Schalits release in the past, but this marksthe first time the two European leaders issued a joint call on the matter, which wasan unusual move at a meeting meant to discuss the urgent Greece debt crisis.The comments come eight days before the fifth anniversary of Gilad Schalitsabduction.Israeli sources close to the negotiations said the international move carried largesignificance.According to reports in the Arab world, there has been a renewed attempt atadvancing negotiations in hope to secure a deal which would free Schalit. Israelisources have abstained from estimating the chances of such a move.Moreover, foreign media has reported that Egypt has been recently stepping up itsinvolvement in negotiations based on the plan German mediator Gerhard Conrad 6
    • has outlined in the past. Cairo would like to leverage its new regimes improvedrelationship with Gazas Hamas rulers after it had helped draw up a reconciliationagreement between Hamas and Fatah.Israeli officials believe Egypt has a strong interest in advancing a deal on Schalitafter its success in mediating the Palestinian reconciliation agreement.The Jerusalem Post reports, “For France, the Schalit case is particularly sensitivebecause the captive soldier holds dual Israeli-French citizenship. French ForeignMinister Alain Juppe met with Schalits parents, Noam and Aviva in Jerusalemduring a visit to Jerusalem earlier this month.Germany has mediated attempts to reach a deal between Hamas and Israel forseveral years.Earlier in June, Noam and Aviva Schalit appealed to the French judicial system tohold Hamas, including its Damascus-based leader Khaled Mashaal, responsible forkidnapping their son Gilad and keeping him hostage in Gaza for the past five years.If their legal effort in France is successful, arrest warrants could be issued againstmembers of Hamas, including Mashaal. A suit can be filed in France due to Schalitsdual citizenship.French law is applicable to anyone who is a French citizen, even if the criminal actagainst him occurred outside of France, explained an attorney for the Schalit familyin Israel, Nick Kaufman.The matter of Schalit’s French citizenship, previously unreported as far as I know,gives a new twist to the matter. However, diplomatic attempts by Germany over thelast five years have not brought about a solution. It is well known that Israel is willingto trade 1,000 Palestinian prisoners for Schalit. That deal has been on the table forsome months. While the civilian Hamas people are willing to accept it, it has beenvetoed by their military wing which is closely connected to Iran.After writing the above it was reported in JTA “Efforts are intensifying for the releaseof Israeli hostage Gilad Schalit on the fifth anniversary of his capture by the terroristorganization Hamas.Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Israel had accepted a German-mediated deal for Schalits release, and was awaiting Hamas response."This proposal was harsh; it was not simple for the State of Israel," Netanyahu saidSunday according to a statement released after the weekly Cabinet meeting."However, we agreed to accept it in the belief that it was balanced between ourdesire to secure Gilads release and to prevent possible harm to the lives andsecurity of the Israeli people. As of now, we have yet to receive Hamass official 7
    • answer to the German mediators proposal."It looked as if things were finally moving ahead on this sensitive matter. As perNetanyahu’s statement, the German mediator remains the “middle man” trying toaffect a solution. However, (Jerusalem Post) the deputy chairman of Hamas politicalbureau, Moussa Abu Marzouk said in the most recent interview with al-Hayat thatKonrad (Ed. Note: The German mediator) adopted the position of the Israeligovernment in negotiations over the prisoner swap, describing the Germanmediators offer as "radical and unfair."The announcement came after Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu reiterated onSunday that he had previously agreed to the terms of the German mediator for theprisoner swap. Israel has yet to receive Hamas’s formal answer to a Germanproposal to secure Schalit’s release in exchange for a willingness to release 1,000Palestinian security prisoners, Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet session.He spoke just one day after the Schalit family marked the fifth anniversary of theirson’s kidnapping”.We’re at the “Who knows?” stage once again. Perhaps some elements in Hamasthought that giving up Schalit even for 1,000 Palestinians was too big an issue totrade away. My guess is that the 1,000 Palestinians themselves might have differentthoughts.Stay tuned!ANTI-SEMITISM ON THE LEFTSpiegel on-Line reported, “Swatiskas intertwined in the Star of David, a map of theMiddle East with Israel missing, boycotts of Israeli products: Germanys far-left LeftParty (Die Linke), many feel, has a growing anti-Semitism problem. The issuethreatens to divide the party.Germanys far-left Left Party has been struggling for months to have its voice heardon the national political stage. Falling membership numbers, shrinking support and avery public leadership battle this spring have all left the party struggling to findrelevance.Now, though, the party is facing yet another challenge. For years, the Left Party -- apartial outgrowth of the East German communists -- has been criticized forharboring anti-Semitism and being overtly critical of Israel. Just recently, Left Partyfloor leader Gregor Gysi pushed a resolution through the partys parliamentaryfaction stating: "In the future, the representatives of the Left Party faction will takeaction against any form of anti-Semitism in society." 8
    • The party, the resolution (continued), will no longer participate in boycotts of Israeliproducts, will refrain from demanding a single-state solution to the Middle Eastconflict and will not take part in this years Gaza flotilla.That resolution, however, did not sit well with the partys left wing. The groupprotested against being "muzzled," complaining that Gysis declaration was"undemocratic" and "dangerous," as Left Party parliamentarian Annette Grothcomplained. And Gysi, formerly head of the party, gave in. This week, he plans tocompose a further resolution on anti-Semitism.”…it seems unlikely that the Left Party will be able to quickly silence the debate. OnMonday, Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany,wrote a guest commentary for the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung in which he accusedLeft Party members, particularly those from western Germany, of "downrightpathological hatred of Israel." He also wrote that the "old anti-Zionist spirit from EastGermany still stains the party."There are many within the party who agree. Chief among them is Benjamin-Christopher Krüger, a founding member of a Left Party working group which aims atrooting all forms of anti-Semitism out of the party. "We have an anti-Semitismproblem," he said.Several recent incidents bear witness to the problem. In April, the website of thedistrict chapter of the Left Party in the western city of Duisburg featured a swastikaentangled with a Star of David. The symbol linked to a pamphlet which called Israela "rogue nation" and called for a boycott of Israeli products.Why should anybody be surprised? In recent years the worst sorts of anti-Israel andanti-Semitic utterances have been coming out of the mouths of those on the extremeleft. The virus of anti-Semitism is far from dead and being anti-Israel givesconvenient cover to closet anti-Semites.I have followed Gysi’s career ever since the Berlin Wall came down because Iactually got to know his father, Klaus Gysi who was East Germany’s State Secy. forReligious Affairs fairly back in the 1980’s. The Gysi family was Jewish in origin andKlaus was, indeed, a sort of God Father to the small Jewish community in EastGermany. I do not know the son but my guess is that he has sublimated his Jewishconnection because of his left political commitment until now. What has emergedfrom the left wing of the Left Party has probably reached the point in his mind that hecould take its anti-Semitism any longer and finally had to speak out. He is certainlyno strong supporter of Israel. However, I believe that he saw his party going downan ugly path that he and much of Germany could and would not support. Frankly,what he has done is a very important not only on Israel’s behalf but also in the on-going fight against anti-Semitism.To read another good article on the subject, this one by Ben Weinthal published in 9
    • Y-Net News, click here. http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4086872,00.htmlTHE INSURANCE WARSSince we Jews don’t have enough trouble in today’s world, a group of Holocaustsurvivors and their relatives, mostly in Florida, have decided that we should legally(and very publicly) battle it out with each other over an insurance issue. Such is thesituation concerning who has the right to sue European insurance companies forHolocaust related damages.JTA reports, “At issue is whether Holocaust survivors and their families should beallowed to sue European insurance companies for failing to pay on the policies ofJewish policy-holders killed at the hands of the Nazis. Except in extraordinary cases,such as lawsuits against state sponsors of terrorism, Americans cannot use U.S.courts to sue foreign entities.In the late 1990s, Jewish groups including the Claims Conference reachedsettlements with European insurance companies that resulted in some $306 millionbeing disbursed for survivors and survivor institutions through the InternationalCommission on Holocaust Era Insurance Claims, known by the acronym ICHEIC(pronounced EYE-check). These groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, theAmerican Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, the World Jewish Congressand the World Jewish Restitution Organization see protecting the insurancecompanies from individual lawsuits as key to the strategy of getting Europeannations and institutions to agree to negotiated restitution settlements that result inmoney for needy survivors.But Dubbin (Ed. note: An attorney) and some survivor groups, like the NationalAssociation of Jewish Child Holocaust Survivors, say the ICHEIC agreements neverlegally precluded individual lawsuits, and that legislation allowing such lawsuitsagainst the insurance companies would correct a historic injustice. They say theICHEIC process, which officially ended in 2007, was irredeemably weighted towardthe insurers.Opponents say that if Congress passed a bill that would allow individual U.S.lawsuits against the insurance companies, it would upend the executive branch’sexclusive control over foreign policy. Essentially, they say, it’s a jurisdiction issue.“It would be a cruel and unrealistic increase in expectations to have people go tocourt to try to sue companies against whom they would have great difficulty gettingjurisdiction,” said Stuart Eizenstat, the Clinton administration’s special representativefor Holocaust issues at the time the ICHEIC settlements were being negotiated.Today, Eizenstat is a top negotiator for the Claims Conference. 10
    • The battle between the two sides abounds with allegations of bad faith and greed,and even the threat of elderly survivors picketing a fundraiser for a politician onceseen as sympathetic to their cause.”It is now back in the Congress. A bill which “…would allow courts to proceed overexecutive branch objections in litigating claims aimed at insurers has been or isabout to be filed. Rep. Ros-Lehtinen, who has championed similar bills for years, isnow able as chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee to expedite thebill.”The passage of the bill would certainly upset the long standing current situation ofthe major American Jewish groups doing the negotiating without dozens (hundreds?thousands?) of lawsuits being individually filed. So far it’s mostly Florida basedSenators and Representatives who are behind it. Even with Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’spower pushing it the chances of upsetting the current arrangement are slim.However, the continuing dispute between the two Jewish groups is not going awayany time soon. Read the whole story by clicking here.http://www.jta.org/news/article/2011/06/21/3088234/once-again-holocaust-insurance-bill-spurs-heated-exchangesGERMAN PASSPORTS – FOR ISRAELIS!If you read the American Jewish press (The Forward, etc.) you occasionally comeacross ads from law firms advertising the fact that they can obtain Germanpassports for Jews with German family backgrounds. In reading them I didn’t thinkmany American Jews and certainly Israelis would be interested. I was wrongespecially about the Israelis!Y-Net News recently reported, “For many years, Israelis of German descentboycotted German products, refused to set foot on German soil and severed all tieswith the country they were born in. But now, their own children and grandchildrenare fighting for the right to become German citizens.Recent years have seen a surge in the number of offspring of Israelis of Germandescent applying for a passport. These figures are 10 times higher than the numberof Israelis seeking citizenship in other European countries, like Poland of Romania.A new study conducted by Dr. Sima Salzberg of Bar-Ilan University, which will bepublished in the Eretz Acheret magazine edited by Bambi Sheleg, reveals that some100,000 people living in Israel possess a German passport as well. According to figures provided by the German Embassy, in the past few years about7,000 Israelis have applied for a passport every year. More than 70,000 suchpassports have been granted since 2000. Other countries like Poland, Romania and 11
    • Austria have only issued up to 6,000 passports to Israelis throughout the pastdecade. These figures point to an amazing growth in the popularity of the German passport,considering the fact that Germany and its symbols are still banned by quite a fewIsraelis – mainly Holocaust survivors or relatives of Holocaust victims. The article, which quotes experts and academics, provides a series of reasons forthe German passports popularity among Israelis: Former citizens feel a real desireto regain a citizenship robbed from them or from their forefathers; Israelis are nolonger ashamed to possess a German passport; and the younger generation cangain personal benefits. Israelis with a German passport dont need a visa to enter the United States, canreceive a scholarship for academic studies abroad, can enter countries whichIsraelis are banned from – and money, the study rules, erases any ideology. "These figures are the result of many factors," says Sheleg. "Its a fascinatingidentity issue. What makes 100,000 Israelis, many of them offspring of Jews whoemigrated from Germany, apply for a German passport? "I strongly object to this idea, which seems like a fantasy to me, a sort of oversightof reality. And yet, its fascinating to see the excitement leading many of them toissue a German passport. Its unclear what exactly theyre missing."The data are included in a special issue of Eretz Acheret, published this timetogether with Yakinton, a magazine issued by the Association of Israelis of CentralEuropean origin in honor of the 75th anniversary of German Jews immigration toIsrael, which will be held at the Jeckes Heritage Center in Tefen. The associations chairman, Reuven Merhav, slams the new trend, saying that"there is one passport, a blue one, which carries the States symbol, and thats thedocument we use to identify ourselves abroad and which gives us the freedom ofmovement we have in the world, as of right and not on sufferance."Obviously, Mr. Merhav’s unhappiness with the trend among young people in Israel islargely falling on deaf ears. While I do not have any statistics for American Jews Iwould imagine the numbers are probably less. It’s easier to get around in the worldwith an American passport so one that is not non-Israeli is not a necessity. However,if a youngster is planning to stay in a Euro country for any period of time, perhaps it’seasier to do that with a German passport.A main point it seems to me is that among the new generations the stigma of“Germany” is not what it was to older Jews. Like owning a Mercedes or a BMW,having a German passport has become a commodity with very little if any negativeemotional feeling attached to it. 12
    • ************************************************************************************************DuBow Digest is written and published by Eugene DuBow who can be contacted byclicking here.Both the American and Germany editions are posted atwww.dubowdigest.typepad.comClick here to connect 13