Tag Archives: United States

Germany Slams U.S. PRISM Program Days Before Obama Makes Return Visit To Berlin

Obama-Merkel-WH-Visit-479x319It turns out that it isn’t only Americans who have become outraged over the recent leaks regarding privacy breaches made by the US government in recent years.  Numerous German citizens and politicians have expressed their own outrage over the questionable PRISM data collection practices, with some going as far as to compare the American government to the German Stasi (Ministry for State Security) that existed during the communist reign over East Germany.

Why is it that Germans have become so concerned over the data collection being done in the United States?  Part of the NSA leak that was released by Edward Snowden late last week included a map of how much secret surveillance was taking place in each country.  It turns out that Germany was the most spied on country in the entire EU by a long shot.  In fact, Germany seems to be in the same level as China, Iran, Pakistan, and Iraq, while being even higher than Syria.

PRISM Map

According to the leak, PRISM is system for which the NSA uses to collect private data from Internet users on some of the most used online services, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple.  The US government hasn’t been shy about admitting its existence, but the companies whose servers are being accessed to gain the info have denied the claims.

Prism Slide

Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament for Bavaria, said in astatement to Reuters that Washington DC is using ”American-style Stasi methods” and commented that ”I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell”.

Germany’s Justice Minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, wants an explanation from her American counterpart, Eric Holder.  She wrote in a Spiegel editorial piece that “the more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is… The suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored. For that reason, openness and clarification by the US administration itself is paramount at this point.”

While President Barack Obama has defended the US governments practices by saying that there needs to be some trade-offs in privacy for the sake of national security, and that you can’t have full security as well as privacy without any inconvenience, his statements are geared more towards American citizens.  Germany’s federal data protection commissioner, Peter Schaar, explained that “American laws only protect Americans” and Europeans, including Germans, are left unprotected from US surveillance programs.

Obama Berlin Crowd 2008

With the upcoming elections in Germany, Angela Merkel is feeling the pressure to address the issue with President Obama when he arrives in Berlin on June 18, and has confirmed that she will be questioning Obama when he arrives.  The timing couldn’t be any worse for President Obama, and the reaction he receives will more than likely be drastically different than his previous visit before the 2008 elections when he addressed a crowd of over 200,000 fans in Berlin.

Sources: RTReutersDer Spiegel 
Photos: White House Photo by Pete SouzaMatt Ortega via flickr
Article Source: GermanPulse

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Surrealism in SoCal – Diving into Subconscious Worlds

Frida Kahlo, Self-Portrait, 1940. See discussi...

“In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States”

A landmark exhibition of LACMA on the surrealist movement of women artists closed today! It showed an impressive collection of relevant artworks by major figures of this art movement like Frida KahloLeonora Carrington, Lee Miller, Kay Sage, Dorothea Tanning, and Remedios Varo.

These expressive pieces of artwork deal with self discovery, self analysis and searching for identity . They seem to have a life of its own and put the viewer under a spell, where one can feel the creators’ pain, but also their curiosity in finding answers to life’s questions and dealing with life’s tragic turns.

Having opened in the end of January 2012 the exhibition closed today, May 6th. For the one who didn’t get a chance to see this magnificent art show, here is a slideshow with some of the works displayed at LACMA.

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Impressions Of The Last Day Of The Year 2011

2011 is almost over. It was a beautiful sunny day down here in Southern California with the fog slowly coming in from the ocean in the afternoon creating some crisp winter atmosphere.

Have a great start into 2012!

Happy New Year !

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Sybille Cohen : Thinking Adventure Only – Settling for a Lifetime

-A CaliforniaGermans Interview-
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Sybille Cohen originally from Hamburg, moved to Northern California in 2001. She is director of the Bay Area KinderStube (short BAKS) a full-immersion German-language preschool for children between the ages of 2.5 and 5 years in Albany, a city very close to Berkeley. She has been teaching children from infants to preschool age over her extensive career and taught also as a teacher at the German Language School in Novato.

When coming to California initially, she didn’t have much of a plan but was ready for an adventure. And in fact the trip turned into the adventure of her lifetime. During her stay she met her now husband and made California her home.

Sybille you arrived in California about 10 years ago. What made you leave Germany?                                                                                                                                          This is a great question. I think I was just ready for a change and an adventure. I wanted to do something completely new. I had not seen or traveled ever before so I took a sabbatical from work and just went. California came to mind because I had a friend whose aunt lives here in San Anselmo. I just wanted to experience something new and get to know a different culture.

What was your first impression when you arrived here in CA?
.         Boy, arriving in the states was quite a shock. Everything was so big and enormous, the stores, the freeways, … On the other hand I was very surprised how friendly the Americans are. Always willing to help no matter if I had trouble with the car I rented or if I needed driving directions…

How long did you initially plan on staying in the USA?                        
.        Initially I had planned on staying for 6 month. But everything changed when I met my husband to be. During my stay I was asked if I would like to work as an Au pair for a widowed father who had two boys. I took the job and a couple of months later I found myself in love with the nicest man I’ve ever met, the dad himself! When my visa was about to expire there weren’t many options for us to have me staying longer especially since this was after 9/11. After consulting with an immigration lawyer we spontaneously decided to get married, and this after only nine months of being together! Would I have ever done something like this in Germany? Hell no! But it was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Since it was such an unforeseen change in plan, was it hard leaving family in Germany behind? What was your family’s reaction?
.       It was very difficult to leave family and friends behind! It was probably one of the most difficult decisions I ever had to make. For many years I lived in, or better between two worlds, which means, when I was in Germany I wanted to be in the US and vice versa. By now I am content and I enjoy my stays in Germany and am happy when I’m home. Home for me now is California.                        Moving to California turned out to be a very tough change for my family back in Germany. The one most affected by it was my mother since I have a very close connection with her. But in the long run we rearranged our lives and we found a way that it now works for both sides. I’m trying to visit them once a year at least, which is very important to me, especially now as they get older.

Given the option, would you consider moving back to Germany at some point?
.       This is a tricky question. At this point in my life I’m not considering moving back to Germany because everything my life revolves around is here. The US has become my home. Germany on the other hand will always be special for me, since this is where I’m coming from. I am German in my heart and always will be!

You have been working with BAKS (Bay Area Kinderstube) since 2007 and since 2009 you are the school’s director. Please tell us a bit about BAKS.                                                                                                      BAKS started out as a parent initiative in 1994 and became a private pre-school open to the public in 1997. We are a full immersion German language pre-school, which means that we exclusively speak German with our children. The German language development takes an integral part of the social, emotional, and cognitive development of our children. We not only teach but ‘live’ the language so that it becomes a natural part of our students’ life. We have many different activities throughout the day from reading, singing, art and dancing to nature explorations, and we also cook and bake together. Since this school year we offer also martial art lessons once a week, alternating with yoga sessions as part of our curriculum!

There is a long waiting list to get a space at Bay Area KinderStube. What’s the success of BAKS?
.        In my opinion KinderStube’s success results in the fact that we are not only a childcare center. KinderStube has the feeling of home probably because it is small and therefore homelike. We have no more than 24 children in our morning program. With 4 teachers on site we have a great teacher/child ration of 1:6. In our afternoon session our ration is 2:12. The other component to our success is that we have very compassionate teachers. We always try to understand each child in his or her own way. Our goal is to get the best out of each one of them and make them feel accepted as an individual. We want to give them a feel of belonging.

 

What are the prerequisites, if any,  for a child to start at BAKS?
.        It is always a plus when the child has already some knowledge of the German Language but it is not a must. The one thing we are looking for is that one parent is able to speak the language and that it is spoken to the child outside of our school.

Can you share some advice with our readers on whether to start their child in a traditional American pre-school or a German immersion pre-school?
.        I do know both school systems and I have to say that the decision which route to go depends really on the parents and on what they think is best for their child. The big difference between these two systems is that the German system is not as academic in preschool and Kindergarten as the American. Kids learn to write and read in first grade, which I think is early enough considering the amount of school years still ahead of the child. But it also depends on the child itself. Is he or she already interested in reading, writing, and wants to learn more the parent should address it as well. On the other hand, is your child not an early “starter “, then don’t worry to give him or her a little more time and let them play a year longer. It won’t matter in the long run.

Sybille, thank you so much for your time and for sharing your insights with us. We wish you and BAKS continued success!

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For more information on BAKS please visit the school website at: http://www.kinderstube.org/home.html

If you would like to visit BAKS – Bay Area KinderStube, you can just call for an appointment or come by to the “Laternenfest” (lantern fest) this Sunday November 13th at 5pm. There will be Glühwein, Hot chocolate “Weckmänner” and Hot Dogs . For sale will also be German children books and lanterns for the children who don’t have any but would like to participate at the lantern walk.

The festive evening will start out with fall season’s songs and have its highlight in the presentation of the St. Martin’s play presented by the KinderStube “Füchse”. The following lantern procession will conclude the evening. At the end there will be a raffle with 5 opulently filled Gift baskets with the proceeds going towards buying new wood chairs and tables for the school.

BAKS – Bay Area KinderStube
842 Key Route Boulevard
Albany, CA 94706
(510) 525-3105
 
 

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Dia De Los Muertos

Old Town San Diego – Tour of over 40 Altars, Nov 1-2 , 2011 with a candlelight procession on Wednesday.

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