Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The "Woeful Grandson" Scam.

Cops from the local town (Wiesbaden) put out a bulletin this afternoon.....six attempts were made this morning (Wed) to call up older Germans in the city and some person tried the "woeful grandson" trick.  All six episodes met with failure because the folks knew of the scam.

The way that the "woeful grandson" trick works is simple.  Someone calls up a older guy or gal, and tells them that Junior is in serious trouble and he needs ten to twenty thousand Euro to get him out of trouble. This can't wait....it needs to happen in an hour or less.....so there's no time for discussions or thinking.

This typically means a trip to the bank, if the old guy or gal buys into the story.

Locally, banks have been briefed to ask questions if any senior citizen walks in and asks for a significant amount of cash.  The odds of the trick working?  Almost zero.

If the idiots running the scam would just keep the scam to 300 Euro, then it'd be simple for a person to walk up to an ATM machine and withdraw that amount without arising suspicion of the bank clerks.  For some reason, they are all geared toward big scams and want to pursue the ten thousand Euro goal.


Awaiting the Tiger of Sabrodt Scenario

Once upon a time (these essays always start this way).....in a faraway land (Hoyerswerda to be precise)......a hunter or to be more precise....a forester was out in the wooded area and came across the "Tiger of Sabrodt".

I know.....it's an exotic title and probably worthy of a 300-page book....but I need to keep this simple.

There in the rurals of Saxony.......the Tiger of Sabrodt is a title that had been given to a wolf noted in the local region.  For weeks and months....the Tiger of Sabrodt had been noted killing livestock and farm animals in the Hoyerswerde region.  The Prussian government.....existing at that point of time in 1904....had a department to handle these type problems.  So they set up a bounty for the killing of the wolf.

The bounty?  I know you'd be curious.  It was 100 Reich-marks.  In this time-period....it would have meant in relationship to the dollar of about twenty-five dollars in 1905, which is a fair amount of money if you take into account the value of money at the time.

The hunter's name?  That's gotten lost over time and probably doesn't matter.  He was probably a pipe-smoker, a quiet guy who carried a small bottle of schnapps in his back pocket, and generally hit whatever he aimed his rifle at.  The numbers over the wolf?  He was quoted as weighing around 90 pounds and was a sizable wolf (1.6 meters long).

The thing is.....the Tiger of Sabrodt was the last known wolf in Germany.  In that last week or two that he roamed.....his legendary status had grown.  Every single expert on wolves vowed that there were no more wolves left anywhere in Germany.....so the gut feeling and news media spin on this....was that it was NOT a wolf.  What then?  An escaped tiger, from a circus.

Yeah, I know.....it's a hokey story and a definite twist to reality, but it's 1904 and whatever the newspaper prints is absolute fact as far as people are concerned.  You have accept this as part of the situation as well....it was bad enough that people thought it was a wolf, but now you'd suggest it was a tiger?  That went from a three-star bad situation to a definite four-star really bad situation.

So across eastern Germany at the time, in this period of nine years prior to WW I.....the Tiger of Sabrodt was putting fear into the hearts of locals.  People kept a watchful eye over their children and everyone felt dread over their little world and it's lack of safety.

After the hunter killed the wolf.....the Tiger of Sabrodt.....he was stuffed and put on display at the local castle museum (where he is still shown today).

Why do I tell this story?  Well....the topic of wolves has crept back into German society again.  This week, some school over in Saxony decided to cancel a kid's hiking trip into the local woods because of fear of wolves seen in the local area.

The wolf experts tend to say there's nothing much to worry about.  Wolves tend to stay away from civilized areas.

Course, the odd piece to this story is that farmers have come to local authorities and complained that they've had animals killed by the wolves.  They'd like for the government to do "something".  They are careful about how to word the request....but they'd like for some hunter to fix their problem.

How many folks have been dragged off into the woods by wolves?  Well....here's the thing.  As recent as 2010 (in Alaska).....a female teacher was jogging alone and was grabbed by wolves and dragged off (killed by the wolves).  So, you can't really pretend that they are this lovable and sweet creature.

My humble guess is that we will go through a period of ten years where environmentalists and wolf-friendly groups try hard to keep the public focused on preserving the wolf population.  Then one day out in some smaller village where two little kids are walking from one village to another.....one gets grabbed by pack of wolves and the other kid escapes.  Within a week.....things kinda change from the 'good wolf' script.....to the 'bad wolf' script, and some hunter gets permission to hunt down the pack.

So, I come to the end point presently of this little tale.  Roughly 111 years ago.....a wolf came to get a legendary name and title.....being the last hunted wolf in Germany.  And history has the strange luck of repeating itself in some cases.  Hopefully, we can get a good decent name for this new wolf.

German TV Show

So, let's imagine up a new and radically different TV show.

You want to start the show with 1,000 potential candidates, and have some fairly physical things.....like an obstacle course.....designed like a steeplechase.....along the path to weed out 99-percent of the 'players'.

I hate to even use the term 'players' because you almost are acting in the gladiator fashion and trying to beat the competition by any trick possible.

Well....that's the intent of the German state-run TV show "1000 - Who is Number One".

From Saturday night's first episode.....roughly twenty people were injured in the start of the contest.  The contest judges and producers had to be careful about the words they used to describe the injuries.

But that wasn't even the worst of the episodes. A sixty-one year old 'player' ended up having a heart-attack.  Paramedics got called in and hauled the guy off to the local hospital.  So far, he appears to be making it.

No, he didn't make it to the second round, if you were interested.

This was simply the taping of the show.  The real show itself won't be aired until the 2nd of May....roughly ten days away.

The odds of a second episode?  I'm guessing that the state-run TV management crowd will meet....have some discussions.....and eventually decide that this is a pretty stupid and dangerous type environment.

The problem with TV show creativity today is that they keep going back to the 1970s mentality and physical action tied into some mental test.  These were fairly popular with the German public and stayed that way up until three or four years ago when Wetten Dass had the kid who got 'whacked' by a car and paralyzed.  Ever since that point......most all TV production teams have been weary of going back to physical action shows.....especially if done 'live'.

Would a US network take on some production like this?  I think American lawyers for any network would be all nervous and scared.   The minute that some contestant had an heart-attack in the middle of some physical contest.....everyone would be worried about court action and the potential for damages.

So, if you hear of '1,000. Who is Number One'........take some time out and watch the first ten minutes of the show.

Beggars

If you walked around any significant urban area in Germany back in the 1980s....you rarely saw begging.  I could have walked around Frankfurt or Wiesbaden in 1984 and maybe seen one or two beggars in an entire day.  Well....here in 2015....on an average morning or afternoon walk in Wiesbaden.....I'll probably come across fifteen to twenty beggars.  Cops kinda motivate people to stay out of the train station and mall areas....but the shopping district is open territory.

The trigger of the mess?  Some Germans will say that once the wall came down in the late 1980s.....everyone started to notice street begging picking up.  These weren't Germans.....they were East Europeans or from Arabic countries.

I noticed in regional news this morning that Salzburg (Austria) has written up a ban on begging....to start shortly.  Within the city limits of Salzburg...at least in shopping districts.....it's a no-go area for begging.  There's even talk that cemeteries will be put on some special no-go list for beggars.

After WW II.....no matter where you went in Germany.....there were jobs.  Most were full-time....some were part-time....but anybody could find work and avoid the particular nature of begging.  If you count in Hartz IV welfare and social help......no German stands out on the street and begs.   Things are different though with the significant number of non-native Germans or immigrants.
If you asked most Germans about the beggars.....they will respond that they don't give money to them and they don't buy the 'sob-story' image given.  Germans, in essence, are absolutely born into being natural-skeptics.  It might not have been that way in the 1930s, but they've kinda wised up, asked questions, and are a tougher breed of character today than they were forty years ago.  It's hard to find some sympathetic side of a German for these beggar characters.

Living with the beggars?  As each year goes by and you start to see more and more beggars.....I think some German cities will eventually get around to making some tough rules as the Austrians did with Salzburg.  If you remove the beggars from the most active market areas.....where they've got potential....and put them into limited locations for begging capital.....they will eventually get the message.

Greek Exit?

This morning....the German news magazine "Focus".....did a piece on the reality of Greece leaving the Euro.  Generally, it's not a question of when the Greeks leave the Euro, but just how soon it will occur.

One of the things which hasn't been clear.....is the way to the Drachma (the newly anticipated Greek currency).  Focus asked a German banking expert about this and he had some observations.

First, flipping from an established currency to a newly invented currency......takes months and months (by his opinion).  You have to design a bill, go into a printing situation, establish quality standards, and then plan out a swap via the nation's banks.

Second, it doesn't matter whether you talk about printed money or coins.....the length of time is just about the same.

Third, based on what this guy suggests.....as a new currency would roll out....Greeks would find it weak and spend it as quick as possible.  The opposite might be true with the Euro.

I'm of the mind that by the end of this summer.....the Greeks will make the decision to leave the Euro and maybe by early 2016.....the Drachma will reappear.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Angle on the News Item

Ever since the Ukraine mess started up around eighteen months ago....the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) have watched a curious episode occur with news reporting.  Most of what they get and use for nightly broadcasts.....comes out of Russia....so it comes with a heavily tainted view of things.....in a Russian sense.

Most political folks from the Baltic states realize the impact and that very slowly.....people are becoming more pro-Russia and less European-leaning.

This week, Germany made a decision to bring in a number of Baltic state journalists and view training, education and sponsorship into the German news media machine (state-run TV of course).  There would be more relationships and video-sharing going on.

Being an American in Europe.....I tend to watch a number of news devices from various countries, and yes.....I've come to see various viewpoints that are fairly slants.  If you watch ARD/ZDF.....it'll take a few months but you will see some obvious signs of a 'slant'.  The same is true of the BBC, the French national news, the Sky News (UK), and CNN-World News.  There's also RT (Russia Today), which is fairly robust these days and carries a fair amount of slant.

To be honest.....I can't think of any news service now that doesn't have a slant (including Fox, NPR, CBS, MSNBC, ABC, NBC, and even Comedy Central).  Slant is a fact of life.

This brings me to the obvious view that you have no choice but to read various newspapers and view five or six different news media operations.....to come to a complete view of a situation.

The typical Baltic viewer now?  He's going to sit there and be curious why there's a second slant on things and how it's possible to see things slightly different.  The Russians?  They will be a bit peeved but pursue ways of getting more Germans to watch RT and get their slant on things.

Monday, April 20, 2015

TV Review: Mord Mit Aussicht

There's a German show which has been around for three seasons....Mord Mit Aussicht....Murder With a View......which might be worth watching.

The best description would be a female version of T J Hooker getting reassigned to Mayberry, and finding herself in the middle of a potential murder/missing person case on each show.....then discovering by the end that it just didn't turn into a real murder or missing persons case.

It's a small-town situation in the rural west of Germany, where a Koln cop has been reassigned to a town with no real crime.....mostly because of her eager behavior to crack cases.  She arrives to find it's a three-cop town and she supervises two Barney-type characters.

Netflix added the series for their German/American customers.

It was a series that started with low viewers.....blamed partly on the network and the timeslot.

The network flipped the show around, and then over a period of six months.....it picked up viewers.  At some point in 2013....it got up to around seventeen percent of the market.

Total episodes?  Thirty-nine were produced.....each is roughly fifty minutes long with no commercial breaks.

Refugees, Boats, Rafts, and Reality

Over the last couple of years....refugees making their way into Europe have become a billion-dollar industry.  Governments used to be fairly tough on people sneaking in and it wasn't a guaranteed that they would accept you.  Somewhere over the past year or two....things shifted.

What people saw in the Middle East and Africa....was this golden opportunity.  Higher acceptance of refugee status turning into residency and more boats utilized to get you within 'striking' distance of some southern European border.....usually Italy.

So, gangs or men of opportunity (whichever you'd prefer to identify these individuals).....got into the business of buying barely seaworthly boats or rubber rafts, and establishing a bribery system.  Bring in a hundred desperate people.....make them pay at least 500 Euro each, and you walk away with 50,000 Euro per act.

The European countries?  They hyped up rescue operations by the Italians to help save these poor souls on the rubber rafts or marginal boats.  Every week, you'd have the state-run networks in Germany hyping up the positive nature of saving this boat of sixty people and that raft with forty people.  It was a wonderful humanitarian thing that the Italians were doing and thus saving all these poor human beings.

The translation back into the countries of origin?  Continue on.....get the money....make your way to the Libyan coast, and buy your way onto some rubber raft to escape to the 'promised-land'.

This past week......two interesting things happened.

First, it was noted that on one such rubber raft.....a number of Islamic guys forced a number of Christian guys to jump overboard and drown.  The story isn't tied down yet and the number of deaths involved appears to be around five to ten.  The Islamic guys who made it?  Rescued by the Italians once again?  They were bound for court action and there will be some type of murder charge prepared for some of them.

Shocker for the German public?  Yeah.....it opens a discussion over who is on the desperation list and maybe there ought to be some more debate about this whole refugee business.

But we come to episode number two, which is just as interesting.  A boat capsized and went under.....maybe 900-to-1,000 refugees onboard?  The number drifts up and down depending on who tells the story.

Why not just open a air bridge and fly 50,000 refugees a week into Europe and dump them on various countries?  Well...no, that's not exactly going to be acceptable by the bulk of European societies.  As long as you 'bleed' them across.....100 here.....400 there.....800 next week.....that's acceptable.  Bulk refugee situations and into the tens of thousands per week?  That would scare the crap out of most societies in Europe.

The intellectural guys will gear up for German public debate and talk about the noble causes here, and why saving the refugees is of the highest priority.  The comical side of this is that their forum support goes in favor of a billion-dollar rubber-boat movement empire.  You could go to China and buy three-hundred of these sixty-passenger rubber rafts.....get an old fishing boat to pull your 'customers' out of some Libyan port, and simply get them half way to Italy.....dumping them there and walking away with $30,000 in profit for a single day of work.  In a month.....a once-a-day operation could get you $900,000.

Long term.....neither the intellectuals or the political parties of Germany can really predict where this goes and how mass open immigration doors being open will be the cornerstone of a future Germany.  If you were recruiting refugees with science degrees or significant backgrounds for future jobs.....maybe it'd make sense.  But presently, there's just not any real strategy here.

More debate?  Probably, but I don't see it changing much of anything.  The rubber raft industry is a guaranteed bet and worth investing into.....as far as I see the future..