Wolf Richter

Big Brother Everywhere

A friend, who was installing Skype on a new computer, was baffled when Skype suggested contacts that weren’t on his Skype contact list but in his address book. Turns out, apps are gateways that pilfer voluminous personal information, not only address book data but also … sexual preferences. Nothing is safe. And not just of the user but also of his or her friends. And now the government is trying to catch up in the race to get our information.

Deer Sashimi

The thin slices of raw deer are served with raw onion rings, fresh garlic, fresh ground ginger, and a vinegar-soy sauce. The best meat dish I’ve ever eaten. But I shouldn’t have eaten it.

The Real Reason For Deflation in Japan

Japan was a shockingly expensive country twenty years ago. Back then, the US government pushed Japan to open up its markets, and it is still pushing, in some sectors with little success. But over the years, Japan has become less restrictive to imports. The result: more competition and lower prices—but surprising barriers remain, and some prices are still astoundingly high.

Greece: Even Corruption Is In A Deep Recession

Transparency International just published the results of its National Survey on Corruption in Greece, which tried to sort out the kind of bribery and petty corruption that households had to deal with in their daily lives. The results were sobering, as they tend to be with corruption surveys—but in an unexpected way: for those asking for bribes, an outright depression has commenced.

An IMF Absurdity

On April 20, finance chiefs and central bankers of the G-20 hold a shindig in Washington DC. At issue is money. Bailout money for the Eurozone. The IMF wants to dig deeper into its pocket, but the amounts are skyrocketing, and … “We certainly need more resources,” explained IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde. Bankrupt countries try to bail out bankrupt countries. And taxpayers everywhere get to foot the bill.

A New Beginning in Japan: Glimmers of False Hope?

April 1 marks a new beginning in Japan and coincides roughly with the arrival of cherry blossoms. The first ethereal pink was sighted last week in Kochi. Now blossoms have appeared in Tokyo. Full bloom is expected by Friday. Last year, after the horrific earthquake and tsunami that took over 18,000 lives, cherry-blossom events had been canceled. But this year, it’s different. And there is even an uptick in the numbers.

Bluebelly Mousse

Japan, May 1996. The joys of eating cement us together, and the harmony between us emboldens me. We finish the fifth course, sautéed almond trout, and as I’m pouring the remainder of our bottle of wine, I broach the subject that has been on my mind for weeks and that I’ve broached in subtle ways before without getting a response. Now I want to violate yarikata. I want to communicate with her clearly and directly, with personal pronouns and all.

No More Viagra For Mario Monti And His Ilk

Economic reforms are tough. While they’re supposed to open opportunities, put budgets on sounder footing, or make the country more competitive, they invariably cut into the flesh of some groups, who then react with demonstrations and strikes to put pressure on the reformers to preserve the status quo. But in Italy, pharmacists have come up with an ingenious and tongue-in-cheek strike aimed straight at the reformers personally.

Greece: They’re Not Even Trying Anymore

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti, while in Japan, summarized it eloquently when he said, “The financial aspect of the crisis is over.” The ECB, despite apparently fake German reservations, has jumped with both feet on the money printing bandwagon where it happily joins the Fed, the Bank of Japan, and other central banks. The endless flow of money has started in the Eurozone, and Greek politicians have figured this out.

Taking Bosses Hostage: A Labor Negotiating Tactic In France

At 2 p.m on Thursday, the final day of the annual wage negotiations that were going nowhere, Bruno Ferrec, the man in charge of the nine Fnac stores in Paris, was “retained” by 120 of his employees at a conference room at the Hotel Ibis in Paris. “For now, we do not know when we will let him go,” said the representative of the CGT, one of the unions involved in the negotiations. And the police did nothing.