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Time to talk Print E-mail
Russian soldiers unload T-72 tanks at a railway station near the Crimean capital, Simferopol.
Russian soldiers unload T-72 tanks at a railway station near the Crimean capital, Simferopol.

Saber rattling will not solve the Ukraine crisis

By Peter H. Koepf

April 4, 2014

It was a searing indictment by a clear-sighted woman who could no longer endure myopic hero-epics peddled by men driven by war hysteria: “Lay down your arms!” was the title of Bertha von Suttner’s world-famous novel. A Russian named Leo Tolstoy read it, too. “God grant that your book will lead to the abolition of war,” he wrote to the Austrian author. Suttner may have won the Nobel Peace Prize for her antiwar book, but it didn’t make Europe’s leaders any more sensible. A few weeks after she died, they plunged Europe into the First World War.

One hundred years after Suttner’s death in 1914, the hour of the saber rattlers and warmongers has returned. Vladimir Putin moved troops and tanks into Crimea to, in his words, prevent a fascist interim government installed by Western agents from expelling Russians from the peninsula and Ukraine in general.

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Nothing exceeds like success Print E-mail

The US, IMF and EU urge Germany to cut its trade surplus

By Wolfgang Mulke

April 4, 2014

Germany is aiming to become world champion in soccer this year; but in another discipline, it already is. No other country on earth has such a high current account surplus. Last year, Germany exported far more products and services than the country imported, leading to a record trade surplus of nearly €200 billion.

This is a cause of concern internationally, because the imbalance is hurtful to other economies – German export success means continuing debt among customers for two reasons. Firstly, the success of German goods means that other countries sell less of their own – less competitive – products on the international market. And secondly, despite importing German goods, they sell too little of their own products to Germany – where businesses and private households are reluctant to spend money.

First the US, then the IMF, and now the European Commission – all recommend a reduction of Germany’s trade surplus. After closely studying the causes of economic imbalance in the EU, Brussels says it wants Germany’s domestic demand strengthened, and hurdles to medium-term growth removed.

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Evidence of an unyielding spirit Print E-mail
Ai Weiwei: Stools (2014).
Ai Weiwei: Stools (2014).

Berlin hosts the biggest ever exhibition by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei

By Klaus Grimberg

April 4, 2014

They are similar and yet fundamentally different. Ai Weiwei’s arrangement of 6,000 stools fills the inner courtyard of the Martin-Gropius-Bau – a delicate mosaic of Chinese history. The stools, made in different centuries, stand for a rural China that is gradually vanishing. More and more farmers leave for the growing cities of tens of millions of people, but their traditional way of life stays behind – and lands on the scrapheap as China ruthlessly disposes of the past. Standardized modernity awaits in the metropolis; the individuality of the stools, with their dents and cracks, coats of paint and patches of color, is sacrificed to the promise of mass-produced progress.

Ai Weiwei turns even this bizarre parade of wooden stools into a critical comment on modern China. And that is true of nearly every work in his Berlin exhibition, which takes up his common theme in its title – “Evidence.” Ai Weiwei aims to present the evidence – in his own case as well. It is, of course, no accident that this show opened three years to the day after the artist was arrested at Beijing airport. He was held for 81 days in a secret prison, watched around the clock by two guards in a brightly-lit cell, with no contact to the outside world. The authorities gave no reason for his arrest. The exhibition features an exact replica of that cell, in which every surface was covered in plastic padding. It is another oppressive example of how the remorseless authoritarian state brooks no criticism, no deviation from the norm.

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