German News Service The home for news from Germany
2015 DW.COM, Deutsche Welle Tue, 28 Jul 2015 23:02:32 GMT Tue, 28 Jul 2015 23:02:32 GMT
German News Service
News, Analysis and Service from Germany and Europe – in 30 Languages


Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:29:00 GMT Nine reasons Germany is an e-car nightmare
Germany is not only eco-friendly – it’s also a car-making country. Although you’d think that would make it heaven for use of electric cars, Germany is way behind. DW reporters share results of a real-world test. Germany is known for its cars: Porsche, BMW and no speed limit on the Autobahn. But if you want to be eco-conscious and drive an electric car in Germany, you’ll get a different perspective on the Germans and their cars. Here are nine things that we learned during our trial run: 1. Hardly anyone buys electric cars VW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, BMW – all the German manufacturers have electric cars in their line-up. But only 0.6 percent of all new cars sold in Germany in the first quarter of 2015 were electric cars. In Norway, that figure is approximately 20 percent. Read on to find out why e-cars aren’t really an option in Germany. 2. You rarely get very far with them Our initial plan was to travel 700 kilometers across Germany in three days. That is, until we researched the range of various electric vehicles: 60 kilometers, 140 kilometers, 200 kilometers. Purely electric cars run out of juice after traveling those distances, and hybrid cars switch to gasoline. Only the Tesla – the Porsche among electric cars – has a range of almost 500 kilometers. But it’s not available for rent, only for sale – for about 100,000 euros. 3. Although rare in Germany, e-cars are commonplace in other EU countries The high Tesla price tag doesn’t seem to stop people from using them in cities elsewhere: In Amsterdam and Vienna, they are even used as taxis. There’s no extra charge for a taxi ride the super-quiet and comfortable car. 4. E-car rental is cumbersome In our search for a vehicle that offers the longest possible range, essentially the only option we were left with were hybrid vehicles, which switch to gasoline at some point. Yet those are not available for one-way rentals, and instead have to be returned to the place where they are picked up. They also usually need to be booked days or even weeks in advance. When we called customer service at Sixt – Germany’s largest car rental agency – the customer service representative responded by asking: “Does it absolutely have to be a purely electric or a hybrid car?” Because: “Traveling with an electric vehicle doesn’t work.” Instead, he suggested a fuel-efficient diesel. We declined for environmental reasons. He responded: “You want to travel in an environmentally friendly way? Perhaps you should take a bicycle!” Seriously?! 5. Charging up can become an odyssey After two days of searching unsuccessfully, Volkswagen ended up lending us a Golf GTE – a hybrid with an electric motor that has a range of about 60 kilometers. All went well – until it came to charging. Our car was parked where cars usually are: in a parking lot, 50 meters from the power outlet in our hotel room. Even if we had brought an extension cable and had been able to run it through the hotel lobby and the stairway up to the third floor, we would still have needed an extremely benevolent hotel owner who would let us tap his electricity all night long. Back home in Cologne, we solved the problem differently: After searching an hour-and-a-half for a charging station, we parked the car in front of our apartment building and ran the cable out the window. For eight hours in a no parking zone. We were getting the feeling that charging stations will be key to the future of electric cars – and that things aren’t looking good in Germany in that regard either: For Berlin’s 3.5 million inhabitants, the website “” was only able to locate 190 charging stations within a 20-kilometer radius. Other major European cities are much further along. In Paris, chargemap lists 1,286 stations. 6. Industry doesn’t incentivize for e-cars The German government has stated its intention to put a million electric cars on Germany’s streets by 2020. But right now, there are barely 19,000. So why is it that electric cars are struggling to establish themselves in Germany? Anja Smetanin from the VCD, an ecologically-minded mobility club, says: “What is lacking is an impetus from the industry. At the car dealership and in the ads, what you see are the big conventional cars – you don’t see the alternative technologies.” Because the big cars are what the manufacturers make their money with, says Smetanin. 7. Public policy is lagging Smetanin believes the German government is not offering enough incentives. “What is lacking are specific measures and the willingness to reduce CO2-emissions,” she said. When we asked German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks which measures are planned to improve electric mobility, she remained vague: potential tax deductions for hybrid company cars are “being discussed.” Public incentives for hybrid vehicles are still lacking. 8. Solutions are possible Despite all the obstacles, citizens and small businesses are trying to help electric cars succeed. The Berlin-based start-up Ubitricity has developed a mobile charging device that allows drivers to tap into any power outlet along the way – without having to sponge off the outlet’s owner. The charging device registers how much electricity is being drawn and how much it costs. It saves that data online and later the car owner receives a bill for it at home. All that is required are power outlets in accessible places. Ubitricity founder Knut Hechtfischer estimates that this approach would cost about one-tenth of what conventional charging stations charge. 9. We should push for these solutions – for the environment, and for ourselves It is worth fighting for new solutions! Once you have gotten past the initial obstacles and actually sit behind the wheel of an electric car, regardless of the brand, it is very rewarding: You get to drive silently without emissions and dripping gas pump nozzles. Another plus: Driving an electric car also stoked our German automotive pride – relating to the Autobahn, Mercedes and Volkswagen – even more. This summer, Ruth Krause and Anne-Sophie Brändlin traveled 700 kilometers from Berlin to Paris on a low-carbon road trip. The journey highlights climate heroes and climate solutions ahead of a key climate change conference in Paris this winter.

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:25:00 GMT Von der Leyen visits German troops in Mali
German soldiers sent as EU specialists to train Malian troops are about to be visited by Germany’s defense minister. Ursula von der Leyen has departed from Berlin for a two-day visit starting in Bamako. She was due to hold talks in the Malian capital on Monday evening with President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and officials of the UN’s 10,000-strong blue helmet mission MINUSMA. Von der Leyen’s trip coincides with a scheduled transfer of command of the European Training Mission in Mali (EUTM), to Bundeswehr Brigadier-General Franz Xaver Pfrengle on Tuesday. He takes over leadership of EUTM from his colleague Spanish college Alfonso Garcia-Vaquero Pradal. EUTM, was mandated two years ago to train Malian forces in the wake of France’s military intervention in its former colony in early 2013, which had halted an advance by Islamist extremist advance from Mali’s north. Tuareg rebels, who also asserted control in Mali’s north, recently signed a peace accord. In April 2012, jihadist groups, including al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar Dine, had tried to impose their brutal version of Sharia law on northern Malians after an army coup in the south of the country. Mission based in Niger river town EUTM is based at the Niger river town of Koulikoro, 60 kilometers (37 miles) from Bamako. Bundeswehr medics are also assigned to a field hospital on site. So far, EUTM, comprising soldiers assigned from 20 EU nations as well as aspirants Serbian and Montenegro, has trained 5,500 Malian troops in infantry tactics and logistics. A week ago, Mali’s army said its troops had destroyed insurgent camps near the country’s southern border with Ivory Coast and killed several jihadists. It also said 20 suspected jihadists entering from Ivory Coast were intercepted in Mali’s Sikasso region. All were thought to have links to a Pakistan-affiliated sect called Tabligh, it said. Mausoleums restored in Timbuktu The UN’s cultural organization UNESCO announced a week ago that it had helped restore 14 mausoleums destroyed by jihadists in Mali’s northern city of Timbuktu, a World Heritage place of learning and trade dating back to the Middle Ages. Local craftsmen were hired to rebuild the mausoleums. Technical and financial contributions were made by the EU as a whole as well as France, Norway and Switzerland. Small groups of Islamists in Mali’s north reportedly have continued to stage occasional attacks in the vast desert region. Germany also has seven soldiers assigned with command and support functions to the UN stabilization mission MINUSMA in Bamako. German to increase military spending Shortly after taking office in late 2013, German Defense Minister von der Leyen was told by external experts that Germany’s post-Cold War military had major equipment deficits. The crisis over Ukraine between NATO and Russia also prompted calls for investments in Bundeswehr rearmaments. Germany’s spending on its armed forces is due to increase from 33 billion euros to 35 billion euros ($37 billion to $39 billion) by 2019 in line with Germany’s pledge to play a larger role in global security. ipj/kms (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:22:00 GMT What teenage refugees taught me about art
As a teen, Kate Hairsine hated school trips to art museums and talks on fusty paintings that bored her. But her eyes were opened when she saw young asylum-seekers cherish the kind of art that put her to sleep. The group of young asylum-seekers sit attentively on folding chairs in front of a self-portrait painted by the 19th-century German artist Anselm Feuerbach. The oil painting hangs in a dimly-lit corner of a cavernous room dedicated to the artist and shows a middle-aged man sitting in a brown suit against a brown background. It’s exactly the kind of painting I would normally walk straight past without a second glance. But today, I’m listening to a talk about the painting being given by art educator Petra Erler from the Karlsruhe State Art Gallery. And amazingly, the group of 14 young men discussing the self-portrait don’t seem bored at all. One points to Feuerbach’s prodigious mustache, saying it makes the painter look like he is from India. “All men in India have mustaches or you’re not a man,” he says to laughter from the others, who come from as far afield as Pakistan, Gambia, Ethiopia, and Syria. Some have fled conflicts, others poverty and internal displacement; all of them arrived in Germany alone. “Does Feuerbach look like a nice person?” Erler wants to know. There’s more good-natured laughter as someone muddles up their German, saying Feuerbach looks “clean” (sauber) when they really want to say he looks “mean” (sauer). Youths are thirsty for knowledge Some of the asylum seekers, who are aged between 17 and 22, have been coming to art education classes at the Karlsruhe State Gallery every Tuesday since January – others are new to the class. “Why can you only see half of his face?” asks one of the Syrians, gesturing to Feuerbach’s face painted in profile. It’s a good question and one I wouldn’t have thought to ask – not now, and definitely not as a teenager. And it’s these kinds of questions that make me ashamed of my own lack of curiosity about the self-portrait in front of me. The enthusiasm of the asylum seekers also make me realize how much I take cultural institutions such as art galleries and museums for granted. I haven’t bothered visiting the State Gallery before, although I’ve been living in Karlsruhe for eight years and the gallery stages renowned exhibitions. For many in the group, such as 17-year-old Mamadou from Senegal, visiting a gallery like this is special. “It’s the first time I have ever visited a museum,” Mamadou says in the rhythmic French of West Africa. “And I found it captivating because it is Germany’s history. Every country has its history, just like Senegal has its history. And it’s amazing to see this history.” They get their hands dirty The asylum-seekers don’t just look at art, they also make art in the gallery’s art room. In previous sessions, they have painted in the colorful style of the French Fauve movement, been inspired by the abstract squiggles of Spanish painter Jean Miro, or tried their hands at the patterned linear style of German artist Gerhard Hoehme. Today, the group are taking selfies with a mobile phone – hence looking at Feuerbach’s painting of himself beforehand. Erler ushers them outside to the courtyard, where asylum-seekers take turns striking a pose – some in profile, some head-on. The snaps with sex pouts or quirky smiles usually shared on Facebook are remarkably absent. Instead, the young men pose solemnly with the dignified bearing of the self-portrait they have just discussed. Does art need to save the world? Art projects with refugees abound – and many have ambitious goals, from healing traumatized wounds to giving youth their childhoods back. However, this project’s aims are more modest. According to the teacher who instigated the project, Susanne Hanbrok, it’s about giving young asylum-seekers enrolled in German language classes at the Durlach vocational school a chance to escape the drudgery of the classroom, practice their German, and accomplish small milestones such as buying a tram ticket and navigating the tram network to get to the art gallery. Hanbrok says the students definitely talk more, and on a wider range of topics, during their art lessons than in German class and that the regular visits to the art gallery will continue after Germany’s long summer school break. It might be great for their German, but I’m inspired by the student’s enthusiasm for their art lessons, even though they talk of their dream of becoming mechanics or electricians or carpenters in the same breath. ‘I never painted in my country’ “I love art,” says Bereket from Ethiopia in a mixture of English and German. “It is my first chance to paint because in the past, my life was not so good.” “Now, here in Germany, I am so happy because I have learned about different important painters and I have been able to paint big paintings too… and express [myself] about life, culture and religion.” Twenty-two-year-old Alsanna from Gambia also says he “loves” the art lesson and discussing different painting and trying out different drawings, while his friend Foday, who is also from Gambia, adds that he is “proud of learning to draw because I never painted in my country.” Perhaps it’s time I learn from them and shrug off my negative attitude to art institutions and starting looking at art, and making it myself, with new eyes. An exhibition of the student’s work done during their art lessons is currently hanging in the Durlach vocation school (Gewerbeschule Durlach) until July 31, 2015. The selfies taken by the young asylum seekers will also be part of a forthcoming exhibition accompanying the major show “I am Here. From Rembrandt to the Selfie” at the Karlsruhe State Art Gallery from October 31, 2015 to January 30, 2016.

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:07:00 GMT <br /> Steinmeier warns Turkey against breaking PKK peace process amid IS bombings<br />
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has called on Turkey to maintain peace talks launched with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) in 2012. The warning comes as Turkey continues shelling the organization. In a telephone call with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday, Steinmeier said talks between Ankara and the rebels “should not grind to a halt.” “The already complicated situation would thereby be made more difficult,” Steinmeier said. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg supported Steinmeier’s stance, also warning that Turkey’s bombing campaign could endanger progress which has been made with the PKK in recent years. “Force will never solve the conflict in the long term,” Stoltenberg said. The PKK launched an insurgency against Ankara in 1984 which initially sought independence and later autonomy and greater rights for Kurds. Over 40,000 have been killed in the violence. Earlier on Monday, NATO announced plans to meet the next day to discuss threats to Turkey’s security. No ‘deliberate’ shelling The cautionary statements on Monday came amid ongoing shelling close to the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey deployed tanks and F-16 fighter jets to the region on Friday in response to an alleged “Islamic State” (“IS”) suicide bombing. Thirty-two people died in the blast. The PKK said on Monday, however, that Turkish fighter jets and ground forces have also hit PKK camps in northern Iraq and the Syrian Kurdish YPG in northern Syria – despite the organization’s cooperating with the US to combat IS. Ankara has denied, however, that the government was intentionally targeting Syrian Kurds. Turkey joins US-led coalition Turkish and US officials also began on Monday to finalize plans for a military campaign ,which aims to establish an “IS-free zone.” Turkey was previously reluctant to join the US-led coalition in the fight against IS, but made a major tactical shift over the weekend by firing at Syrian-based IS targets and granting allied forces access to its air bases. ksb/xx (AFP, AP, Reuters)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:26:00 GMT Bierhoff and Flick seek realism as world champions
After winning the World Cup in 2014, Germany is still considered the leading country when it comes to football. Will that be the case by 2018 in Russia? Both Oliver Bierhoff and Hansi Flick highlight what the plan is. Germany team manager Oliver Bierhoff has delivered a warning to the current World Cup holders. “We cannot make the same mistake that was made after 1990,” said Bierhoff speaking to Sky Sports at the international head coach congress in Wolfsburg on Monday. Bierhoff was referring to Germany’s triumph in Italy, 25 years ago. “We won the World Cup, East Germany opened, we got a lot of good players and Franz Beckenbauer said we would be invincible for years to come. We believed that for ten years long and then we woke up and realized many teams had surpassed us,” said Bierhoff. For that very reason, Bierhoff was delighted that Germany’s academy project was underway during this period of success. Outside of the first team though, Germany has not enjoyed as much success. At the U20 World Cup, Germany was knocked out in quarterfinals. The U19s exited the European Championships in the first round, while the U21s fell at the semifinal hurdle in their edition of the same tournament. The last chance for a title this year lies with the U17s, who after losing in the European Championship final to France in May of this year, have the chance to go one better at the U17 World Cup in Chile later this year (October 17 – November 8). More ruthless Germany ahead? “Perhaps the pressure was a little too great,” said Germany’s Sporting Director Hansi Flick, who also labeled the criticism surrounding the poor performances of Germany’s youth teams as typically German. “We were at all five UEFA and FIFA tournaments this year. That is a huge success,” said Flick, who added they weren’t happy with the performance and will analyze what went wrong. “We want to encourage enjoyment. We want the players to measure themselves against the best and to think positively,” said Flick, who added the key was to work on the technical-tactical stability and a cognitive mental stability. “When it comes to efficiency, there is work to be done.” Bierhoff also had his focus points, highlighting two aspects he felt were overused in recent years. “For one, the measures around team tactics. The individual and individual coaching was lost. Secondly, we put a lot of focus on fun and now we have a lot of footballers who perhaps lack sincerity because they are too playful.” This is not something that will change over night, added Bierhoff, but would improve in the foreseeable future. A number nine in his playing days, Bierhoff also believes the role of the classic striker will return. “Players who score goals will always be needed,” said the former Germany striker. “Recently, we’ve focused on technical ability, on small and nimble players. That’s why the classic striker role has been lost a bit. But I am convinced this development will return.” jh/asz (SID)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:15:00 GMT Mats Hummels: ‘The worst I have ever played’
Last year was a disappointment for Borussia Dortmund. Ahead of the new season, Mats Hummels has revealed how he struggled personally in the first half of the campaign and how the Bundesliga feels about Bayern. Looking back at last season, Borussia Dortmund captain Mats Hummels has taken an extremely self-critical stance. “The second half of last season was probably the worst I have ever played in my life so far,” said the central defender in an interview with German sports magazine “kicker”. “The first half of the 2014/15 season felt and looked sluggish,” explained Hummels. “Weight wise it was a disaster for me. I comfort eat when I get frustrated and because the second half of the season was full of frustration, I ended up in a vicious cycle.” The 26-year-old says thanks to a sensible diet and more time spent running during preseason training camp he has lost weight and is in completely different shape than in 2014. “I’m a bit quicker now. I don’t really notice the loss of one kilogram when I run, but I do when it’s more than one.” At the start of 2015, all signs pointed towards a Hummels departure but a conversation with the new Head Coach Thomas Tuchel convinced him to stay. “We talked during a period of time where I was considering my future. I liked both what he said and the way he said it,” said Hummels. Tuchel was direct in his manner and informed Hummels of his individual mistakes, something that struck a cord with the defender. “If a coach wants to convince me to stay, I like it that he didn’t sugarcoat things, but spoke directly. There were days where I would have liked to go and then there were days I wanted to stay. If I move, I need to be 100 percent convinced. I need to know it works on all levels and that wasn’t the case this year.” Too scared of Bayern Challenging Bayern will remain a tough task for Dortmund who is seen as Germany’s second biggest club. Hummels though, believes the rest of the Bundesliga must also step up to the plate when it comes to the record-champions. “In Germany, too many clubs are too scared of Bayern, both verbally as well as in a sporting sense. They would do well to stop that,” said Hummels, who himself was a youth player at Bayern Munich between 1995 and 2008. “You often got the feeling that teams had already given up before the game against Bayern had started. Tuchel’s Mainz wasn’t one [of those teams] though, I noticed that.” On the question of captaincy, Hummels is ready to continue or hand over the armband. “If Tuchel wants another captain, then I have would have no problem with that. I noticed last season as captain that a lot of attention was paid to unnecessary things, and I don’t need that.” With his feet back on Dortmund ground, Hummels looks ready to get BVB back where they want to be. “It [Tuchel hailing Dortmund as a top-four challenger] makes sense not to push the expectation too high when at a new club,” said Hummels. “For us players though, only spots one to three, or at least four, are the ones that count and we are working towards that.” jh/asz (SID)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 10:08:00 GMT Hamburg’s ‘peeing walls’ inspire San Francisco
To fight against public urination, San Francisco is trying out a clever idea developed in Hamburg. If you wee on the walls in those cities, don’t be surprised if they splash it all back at you. In Hamburg’s red-light and party district St Pauli, infamous for its Reeperbahn street, a community group came up with an idea which is catching on in the United States. The walls partygoers usually use to take a leak were covered with a special liquid-repelling paint. Those who would nevertheless pee there would get the spray splashed back on their clothes and shoes. Some may see the idea as a gimmick which wouldn’t stop someone who really has to go. But the video promoting the Hamburg project initiated last March went viral and has been watched over 4.5 million times. Among these viewers was San Francisco’s Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru. “MrCleanSF,” as he nicknames himself on Twitter, decided to try the super hydrophobic paint out in the city’s most problematic urinating zones. Asked if the strategy actually works, Julia Staron, the project’s co-supervisor in Hamburg, admitted the publicity was more important than the paint itself. “What’s important is that the people know about it now. I often notice people reading the signs and saying ‘Oh, yeah, I remember hearing about it.'” The signs newly put up on the San Francisco walls don’t specify the effect of the “pee-proof” paint. Those in Hamburg aptly warn: “Don’t pee here. We pee back.”

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:21:00 GMT <br /> German states look into services for Balkan migrants<br />
German state politicians have made proposals for managing migrants arriving in large numbers, particularly those from the western Balkans. This comes amid continually rising costs for the states. As Germany continues to seek solutions to an ever-growing influx of migrants, on Monday politicians across the country came up with several proposals to reduce numbers and increase federal funding to the 16 states. The premier of Baden-Württemberg, Winfried Kretschmann, called for a “tailored-to-measure immigration offer” that would allow some people from the western Balkan region to enter Germany legally. Kretschmann told the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” that Germany could “create migration corridors for professions that are in short supply here, such as carer jobs.” At the same time, he did not rule out extending the list of “safe countries of origin” to include Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo. However, he told the paper that the federal Interior Ministry would first have to prove that the German government’s previous placement of Serbia, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in this category had led to a clear reduction in asylum-seeker numbers. The categorization as a “safe country of origin” means that asylum-seekers from those countries have virtually no chance of having their applications to remain in Germany granted. Many in Germany see refugee applicants from the western Balkans as prejudicing the chances of asylum-seekers from countries stricken by conflict, or where there is political or other persecution. Kretschmann has invited 70 representatives from politics, business, refugee agencies, churches and charities to take part in a meeting in Stuttgart on Monday to discuss ways of coping with the rising numbers of refugees. Calls for more funding Berlin, which is both Germany’s capital and one of its 16 states, called on the federal government to provide per capita funding rather than a fixed amount to help states pay the growing costs of housing and looking after refugees. “If numbers simply develop upward, then the amount of assistance from the federal government must also be able to develop – and not always be a fixed sum that has to be renegotiated,” Berlin’s governing mayor, Michael Müller, told the ARD public television service on Monday. The interior minister of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), Ralf Jäger, renewed his call for the federal government to pay more to the states for dealing with refugees. In comments to the daily “Rheinische Post,” Jäger backed up his appeal by pointing to the growing flood of refugees taken in by his state, saying NRW had received 5,300 last week alone, a weekly record. He said the state could reckon with more than 100,000 refugees by the end of the year, 60,000 more than in 2014. Visa proposal In another proposal to cut back on the number of refugees coming from western Balkan countries, the managing director of the German Association of Towns and Municipalities, Gerd Landsberg, called in the daily “Welt” for the reintroduction of visas for countries in the region. “Introducing mandatory visas could be a step toward limiting the influx,” Landsberg said, also calling for Albania, Montenegro and Kosovo to receive the categorization as “safe.” Germany has seen a number of attacks on refugee housing in recent months amid growing resentment in some quarters at the wave of refugees, many of them from war-torn Syria. Cities and municipalities have in some cases been forced to set up temporary tent camps to house the asylum-seekers. tj/mkg (AFP, dpa, epd)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 09:12:00 GMT German business confidence jumps unexpectedly
A closely watched survey has shown confidence among business owners in Europe’s largest economy rising in July. The unexpected uptick was largely attributed to worries over Greece’s debt crisis subsiding. German managers’ assessment of current economic conditions and their outlook for the next six months have both improved, a survey by the Munich-based Ifo think tank showed Monday. The carefully watched barometer rose to 108 points in July from 107.5 points in June. Economists had expected a slight decline to 107.2 points. “The preliminary easing of the Greece question has contributed to the improved sentiment in the German economy,” Ifo President Hans-Werner Sinn said in a statement. Worries over Greece subside “Companies’ assessments of the situation improved significantly after a damper the previous month,” Sinn added. “The business prospects too were somewhat more optimistic after three consecutive declines.” After months of crisis talks and fears Greece would crash out of the eurozone, European finance ministers and the Greek government have agreed to resume talks for a third EU-IMF bailout. The Ifo institute polls several thousand managers each month on their assessment of the economy. bea/cjc (AP, AFP, dpa)

Mon, 27 Jul 2015 06:47:00 GMT <br /> French farmers block access from Germany and Spain over falling food prices<br />
Over a thousand French farmers have blocked roads from Spain and Germany to stop foreign produce entering the country. The protest follows a week of action against a fall in food prices, pushing them towards bankruptcy. Over a thousand French farmers have blocked roads from Spain and Germany to stop foreign produce entering the country. The protest follows a week of action against a fall in food prices, pushing them towards bankruptcy. The blockade in France’s northeastern region of Alsace began at 10:00p.m. local time (2000 UTC) on Sunday and was expected to continue until at least Monday afternoon. According to President of the Departmental Federation of Agricultural Holders’ Union (FDSEA ), Franck Sander, more than a thousand agricultural workers took part in the blockades, forcing a dozen trucks to turn back from the French-German border overnight. “We let the cars and everything that comes from France pass,” Sander said. Local French newspaper “L’Alsace” reported 60 tractors blocking the French side of the “Bridge of Europe,” close to Strasbourg and the German town of Kehl. Raids and barricades Similar action was also seen in southwestern France on the A645 motorway, near to the Spanish border, causing tailbacks stretching up to four kilometers (2.5) miles. Around 100 farmers were also seen ransacking dozens of trucks travelling from Spain in the Haute-Garonne region, threatening to unload any meat or fruit en route to the French market. Diverse determinants Sunday’s protests followed a week of action by France’s agricultural sector which saw manure dumped in cities and blockades to major tourist attractions such as one of the country’s most visited sites, the Mont St-Michel in the country’s northeast. The widespread lobby comes amid growing fears of falling food prices which has brought around 10 percent of French farms – around 22,000 operations – to the brink of bankruptcy. A combination of factors including changing dietary habits, decelerating Chinese demand and the ongoing Russian embargo on Western products over the Ukraine conflict has left the affected farmers facing a combined debt of 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion). ‘Sustainable solutions’ The French government last week unveiled an emergency package worth 600 million euros in tax relief and loan guarantees. “The aim of the government’s plan is to deal with the emergency but also to bring sustainable solutions,” Prime Minister Manuel Valls said at the presidential Elysee Palace after a cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Farmers criticized the measures, however, arguing that they still face higher labor costs and quality standards than their foreign counterparts. “The measures announced by the government … none of them deals with the distortion of competition” with farmers from other countries. ksb/jil (AFP, dpa)

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 17:54:00 GMT Froome wins second Tour de France
Chris Froome has finished as the champion of the world’s premier cycling race for the second time in his career. The British rider secured the win early when the race clock was stopped due to poor weather in Paris. Team Sky’s Chris Froome has won cycling’s Tour de France for the second time in three years. He also won the Tour’s mountain classification. The result was no surprise as tradition prohibits attacks on the wearer of the yellow jersey on the final day of the event. “I want to start by thanking my team-mates, without you I would not be standing here. I give you my utmost respect and gratitude,” the Brit said in his winner speech. “This is your yellow jersey as much as it is mine. “Thank you to the support team at Team Sky – your support has got me through the tough times. “Thank you to my wife Michelle – your love and support are my motivation. The maillot jaune is special, very special. I will always respect it and never dishonour it and I will always be proud to have won it.” In any case, the final 109-kilometer (68-mile) stage partly over cobblestone streets in Paris would not have been kind to aggressive cycling. And in response to rain, organizers stopped the race clock. It’s the third Tour triumph for Team Sky, managed by Sir Dave Brailsford. Tour overall runner-up Nairo Quintana won the young rider classification, while Tean Movistar wrapped up the overall team classification win ahead of Sky. Slovakian Peter Sagan claimed the green jersey as the Tour’s top sprinter. “I’m very happy because this year was very hard,” Sagan said. “My role in the team was different. I’m happy I’ve not crashed. I’m very satisfied. I had a lot of fun this year.” The winner of the final stage was German Andre Greipel who secured his fourth stage win of the Tour this year and tenth over the course of his career. Kenneth Valbisen was one of three riders to lead most of Stage 21, but Greipel edged out Mark Cavendish in a thrilling late sprint. “I have dreamt about this, it’s the biggest stage a sprinter can win,” the German said. Earlier, Anna van der Breggen made it two straight Dutch victories in La Course by winning the Tour de France women’s race on the Champs-Elysees. The women’s Tour is held on the same day as the men’s race and has been running for two years. Marion Vos taking the title last season. “It was a really slippery road, it was hectic all day,” said Van Der Breggen on French TV. “This race is really, really big for us.”

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 16:28:00 GMT Report: Lufthansa planning ‘budget’ pricing system
Lufthansa is planning a new pricing system to meet challenges from low-budget competitors, a German paper has reported. Meager earnings have spurred the shakeup at Germany’s classic airline. Lufthansa’s ticket chief Jens Bischof was quoted in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” newspaper saying that passengers would only pay for what they used, unlike the all-round service that the airline has offered since the 1950s. Economy-class flights would be offered in three categories from October 1: Flex, Classic and Light, which would comprise just a seat and hand luggage. The various options, spurred by low-cost rivals, would apply initially to Lufthansa’s domestic and medium-haul flights. “A third of all passengers in Europe and Germany travel only with hand-luggage,” Bischof said. “Why should these customers still pay a standard tariff?” “In our new concept the customer will only pay for the service ordered,” he added. But basics such as free snacks and flight miles will be retained, as will Business Class. Long-haul flights The new system would also apply to Lufthansa’s foreign subsidiaries Austrian and Swiss. It remains unclear whether long-haul flights to Asia and America will also offer the new system. Luggage charges would start at 15 euros, if the passenger handed it over at check-in, or at triple that price if found to be excessive just before boarding. The Süddeutsche said Lufthansa would formally present its model on Monday, after planning the changes over the past year-and-a-half. Lufthansa chief Carsten Spohr, who became a central figure after the crash of a flight of another subsidiary, Germanwings, in southern France in March, had previously pushed for efficiencies to head off airlines such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Middle East competitors. Labor compromise imminent? The shakeup follows Lufthansa’s meager earnings in 2014 and a tentative deal to avoid further strikes, reached last Friday with the pilot’s trade union Cockpit. Both sides are to conduct a joint market analysis to develop a new salary system. The union wants guarantees that all Lufthansa pilots will no longer be allocated to the low cost subsidiary Eurowings in a salaries’ packet said to be worth 400 million euros ($439 million). In exchange, Lufthansa wants to lift the pilots’ normal retirement age, currently at 55. Currently, a company pension tides them over until they reach Germany’s statutory retirement age between 65 and 67. Using seats to capacity The Süddeutsche said the ticket pricing plan marked an about-turn for Lufthansa, which in Germany remains market leader ahead of Air Berlin, which has the backing of Arab Gulf investors. Lufthansa pricing executive Jörg Hennemann told the paper that the proposed ticket pricing system was aimed at ensuring that aircraft seating was consistently “used to capacity.” On average in 2014, Lufthansa flights recorded nearly 80 percent capacity. Worldwide, Lufthansa has 119,000 employees. Last year the airline had a turnover of 30 billion euros but earned a profit of only 55 million euros. ipj/bk (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 15:59:00 GMT <br /> ‘More help needed’ for German states to deal with asylum seekers<br />
Bavarian state premier Horst Seehofer has called for more federal government money to deal with refugees. Germany is expecting a record number of asylum applications this year. Horst Seehofer, who heads the Christian Social Union (CSU), Bavarian sister party to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), told the “Welt am Sonntag” newspaper on Sunday that Germany’s states needed “massive additional help” to manage a huge influx of refugees. “The federal government has to do significantly more than it has done so far,” he said, though he admitted that Berlin had increased its support to the states by a billion euros this year ($1.13 billion). “For the coming years at least a doubling of the funds is necessary. Bavaria is absolutely reaching its limits,” Seehofer added. Rising numbers, rising costs Germany’s 16 states expect to spend about five billion euros ($5.49 billion) combined on processing migrants and refugees this year, double what was spent in 2014. Nationwide, more than 179,000 asylum applications have already been filed this year, and it was expected that more than 400,000 people would apply in total. A statement released by the German Interior Ministry, after talks in June, included a pledge that beginning in 2016, the federal government would contribute “structurally and sustainably to the total public costs that are created in connection with the number of asylum seekers requiring protection and refugees.” A spokesman for the ministry told Reuters on Sunday that the government was willing to increase funds and noted the difficulties faced by local authorities. Over the weekend, aid organizations began setting up tents to accommodate refugees in Eisenhüttenstadt in Brandenburg, because the designated shelters there were full. A temporary tent camp has also been set up in Dresden. Send Balkan migrants back Seehofer also defended his controversial demand for asylum seekers from Balkan countries to be deported more quickly. “That is necessary to preserve the solidarity of the people towards those who are really in need of protection,” he said. But Aydan Özoguz, Germany’s minister of state for migration, told “Der Tagesspiegel,” “The talk of deterrence methods and deportation centers in which only minimal standards should be given, that’s a no-go.” In recent months, Germany has seen hundreds of attacks on refugee shelters as well as protests from far-right groups that have been met with counter-demonstrations. se/bk (Reuters, dpa, AFP, KNA)

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 15:04:00 GMT Vettel wins Hungarian GP, black day for Mercedes
For Mercedes it was a day to forget, as both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg were involved in collisions. That opened the door for Sebastian Vettel to record his second season victory and first career win in Hungary. July 26, 2015 is not going to be a date the two top drivers in Formula 1 or their team Mercedes are going to look back upon with any fondness. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg started one-two but were squeezed out at the start by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel. By the third lap, he was joined at the front by teammate Kimi Raikkonen, with Rosberg in third, while standings leader Hamilton dropped as far back as tenth. Hamilton came back with a number of daring passes, moving up to fourth by the middle of the race. Meanwhile Raikkonen was reporting a loss of power. With 23 laps to go, Nico Hulkenberg’s front wing dropped off, causing a crash and scattering debris over the tarmac of the Hungaroring. Hamilton and Rosberg used the safety-car phase to pit and change to soft tires. But Hamilton shot himself in the foot by immediately crashing with Daniel Ricciardo. The defending champ also earned a drive-through penalty that dropped him all the way back to fifteenth. Rosberg was faring considerably better, taking advantage of Raikkonen’s mechanical troubles to move into second place. The unlucky Finn was forced to retire. Rosberg took up pursuit of Vettel, but was clipped Ricciardo and suffered a tire punctured tire. Incredibly, the German managed to limp to the pits and stay in the race. With the heat off, Vettel took the checkered flag ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Ricciardo. A battling Hamilton finished sixth, and Rosberg had to settle for eighth. “That was a really bad day at the office,” Mercedes head of motor sports Toto Wolf said after the race. “We’re definitely going to have to think about how to eliminate our mistakes so that we don’t jeopardize the title.” Vettel dedicated his win to Jules Bianchi, the former Formula 1 driver who died on July 17 from injuries sustained at last October’s Japanese Grand Prix. Hamilton remains in the lead in the overall drivers’ standings ahead of Rosberg.

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 13:00:00 GMT <br /> Manchester City target Kevin De Bruyne named Germany’s footballer of the year<br />
Belgian winger Kevin de Bruyne has been voted Germany’s footballer of the year by sports journalists. He is just the fifth foreign player to win the award since it was established 55 years ago. Germany’s “Kicker” magazine, which organizes the poll of sports journalists, reported that De Bruyne won this year’s title easily after receiving 367 of the 814 votes. Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, of the Netherlands came in second with 94 votes. Last year’s winner, Bayern and German national goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was third place with 67 votes. Scoring 10 goals with 21 assists, the 24-year-old De Bruyne played a vital role in helping Wolfsburg climb to second place in the Bundesliga and win the German Cup. “To be voted best player in another country is something,” De Bruyne told “Kicker” in a interview to be published on Monday. “It’s recognition for my season.” The other foreign players to win the prize were Ailton, Franck Ribery, Grafite and Robben. Return to England? De Bruyne signed for English Premier League champions Chelsea in 2012, but was swiftly loaned out to Bundesliga side Werder Bremen. The prodigious Belgian enjoyed a fine season in Germany under then Werder coach Thomas Schaaf, scoring 10 goals, assisting 10 and appearing in every match. His return to London marked a frustrating point in his career. Despite creating a goal in the first home game of the season, he was frozen out by Jose Mourinho who questioned the midfielder’s work ethic. But De Bruyne, to this day, denies his attitude was out-of-sync with Mourinho’s demands. In January 2014, he signed a five-year-deal with Wolfsburg who paid around 18 million euros to secure his services. A solid first six months was backed up by an outstanding 2014-15 season where the attacking-midfielder led from the front as a traditional ‘No.10’ behind Bas Dost, the main striker. De Bruyne’s speed, quick thinking and great technique has attracted interest from England, where this week Manchester City were reportedly set to smash the British record transfer fee for him. The English side, owned by the Abu Dhabi-backed City Football Group, could shell out around 70 million euros – or £50 million – to sign the midfielder. But de Bruyne has four years left on his contract, and the Wolves are in no hurry to sell him on. “We have no offer from Manchester City,” said coach Dieter Hecking, responding to suggestions the player’s agent had travelled to meet City representatives. “We have no offer from anybody.” Boss of the year Meanwhile, 50-year-old Hecking was voted coach of the year narrowly ahead of Augsburg’s Markus Weinzierl, with Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Lucien Favre taking third place. Since joining from Nuremburg, Hecking has turned Wolfsburg’s fortunes around. A coach renowned for a defensive approach, he has managed a highly-talented group of players at the Volkswagen Arena to great effect. The Wolves scored 72 goals last season with Hecking bringing out the best in De Bruyne and the likes of Croatian Ivan Perisic, who left Borussia Dortmund following a spat with Jürgen Klopp. Hecking’s Wolfsburg won the German Cup and finished second last season in the Bundesliga, 10 points behind champions Bayern Munich, securing a return to the Champions League. tj/mkg/rd (AP, AFP)

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 11:41:00 GMT <br /> Behind bars: ‘Tristan and Isolde’ at Bayreuth Festival<br />
With two lovers and a bitter end, Richard Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” has intoxicated the world of opera since 1865. The opera opened the Bayreuth Festival on July 25 in a grim new interpretation. A princess is abducted. Against her will, Isolde is to be married off to Marke, King of a faraway land. She’s being taken there by Tristan, the king’s nephew and confidante. Isolde loves Tristan, and he loves her. A hopeless situation, and a love that can find its fulfillment only in death. This “happy ending” in the hereafter can be clearly heard in Richard Wagner’s music. And that is rendered true to the score in very performance of his operas. With the scene and the action, it’s different. Here directors have the scope to take liberties. And Katharina Wagner does take certain liberties in her interpretation of “Tristan and Isolde.” The world she shows is in the here and now, and, after Isolde sings the “Liebestod” (Love-Death) over Tristan’s corpse, she doesn’t die herself but is roughly pulled off by King Marke. Earthly power prevails. A deeply dark view In Act 1, the soloists shift about aimlessly in a labyrinth of staircases. In the black space of the second act, metal bars resembling bike racks change position to become rounded prison cells for Isolde and Tristan, caught helpless in the glare of spotlights. Rather than drinking the love potion, they pour it on the floor. In a planned double suicide, both cut gashes in their arms on the metal bars. Act 3 consists mostly of the wounded Tristan’s dreams and delusions. On a stage that is even darker than before, Isolde appears in triangular structures that are suddenly illuminated and then disappear, sometimes at stage level, sometimes hovering in the air. At one point, Tristan grasps the woman, only to have her disappear into thin air, and is left clutching only her robe. All that can be found or interpreted in Richard Wagner’s text and music. Katharina Wagner’s cautious staging is no revolutionary new interpretation of the piece. On the other hand, neither were the worst fears of festival visitors confirmed: that she would turn the action on its head – as she did with her rendition of the “Mastersingers” in 2007 – and overload it with gratuitous effects. This work of the 37-year-old stage director could hardly stir up rage or indignation in the audience. If a production’s success is to be measured in the lack of boos at the premiere, the new “Tristan and Isolde” can be judged a success. The few boos mixed into the storm of ovations for conductor Christian Thielemann and for soprano Evelyn Herlitzius, on the other hand, are difficult to explain. Stepping in on very short notice for another soloist, the German singer’s performance was beyond reproach – and, cleverly budgeting her energies, she triumphed in the final solo. Even more luminous, pitch-precise and clearer in articulation was American Stephen Gould as Tristan. Only very, very few singers can truly master the role – even among those who perform at the Richard Wagner festival. A new trend? Christian Thielemann, now the Bayreuth Festival’s music director, has complained in the past about all the fuss made over stage presentations, while the musical side is scarcely mentioned. In that light, when Thielemann appeared for five curtain calls after the final chord – with and without the cast – it seemed like a statement. The stage production team and its director, on the other hand, only appeared once, briefly. Looked at this way, the message is: The music is in good hands here. And the staging? If this “Tristan” is seen as the beginning of a trend, then it signals an era of relative calm. Audiences seem, after all, to be weary of stage director Frank Castorf’s random and sometimes absurd antics in the current “Ring” production in Bayreuth. And the festival has canceled its contract with the provocative artist Jonathan Meese, who would have guaranteed a scandal in the planned 2016 production of “Parsifal.” Does that point to a crisis at the Richard Wagner festival? Probably instead to a period of consolidation at the beginning of the era of Katharina Wagner as its sole managing director.

Sun, 26 Jul 2015 04:13:00 GMT <br /> ‘Germany: This is my country now’: Syrian refugee starts a new life<br />
Alaa Houd survived the life-threatening escape from Syria and a long journey through German refugee homes. Now he’s trying to begin a new life in Germany – and a job. Daniel Heinrich reports. Alaa Houd is cool – he sports a scruffy 10-day beard, has a tattooed right arm, a friendship bracelet on his left wrist and a receding hairline. The 28-year-old is immediately likable. Back in Syria, he says, he used to work out a lot. “Real bodybuilding,” he points out, flashing a smile and flexing his biceps. He still has the shoulders to prove it, although the belly protruding from beneath his T-shirt shows that it’s been a while since his last set of sit-ups. No wonder: Houd has been busy with other things lately, on 10-month journey through countless emergency shelters all over Germany, with stops in Frankfurt, Giessen and Dortmund. Before that, he survived a spectacular escape from his native Syria to Germany, across Lebanon, Turkey and Greece – a trip that included a capsized refugee boat and hours spent adrift in the Mediterranean. Now, after months of waiting, he’s finally been given a provisional passport. Next goal: a job. First point of contact is the job center in Duisdorf, a neighborhood in western Bonn. His appointment, where he’ll have his first counseling session to find a job in Germany, starts at 10:30 a.m. sharp – though journalists have to wait outside. “Privacy protection – I hope you understand,” says the woman from the employment agency. Highly-motivated refugees After the talk, Houd heads into Ralf Schäfer’s office. Schäfer is in charge of refugees at the job center, and he’s extremely enthusiastic about the motivation of these new arrivals. “Many of these migrants are incredibly motivated. They want to get involved, and become a part of our society,” he says. Hardly any see themselves as being above “menial” jobs, and that also goes for those with university degrees. Schäfer can’t be discouraged from his positive attitude, and also can’t help taking a little jab at the “locals.” Diplomatically stated, his message still hits home: it’s often more difficult to find jobs for the “regular customers” than it is to find them for “new arrivals” from abroad. Germany, land of opportunity – with obstacles Houd desperately wants to start working again. “Sometimes in Syria I had to work three or four jobs at a time. I did everything,” he says. Whether working as an IT technician, car salesman or personal trainer, “the main thing was that I could feed my family,” he says. “We were never rich, but we had everything that we needed – a nice house, a car.” But the war destroyed everything. “The war doesn’t have anything to do with religion. “Islamic State,” the Free Syrian Army, Bashar al-Assad – they’re all just interested in maintaining their power.” Houd says that life in Syria became a living hell. “Every time I left the house, I was terrified of being killed,” he remembers. The dangerous escape, the journey though German refugee shelters: all that was nothing compared to what happened in Syria. That’s why he’s willing to take any job. “I’ll do anything to start with. The main thing is that I can earn some money,” he says. Desperately needed support But the hurdles of bureaucracy are high and almost impossible to manage alone. That’s why Claudia Dehn is always at Houd’s side. “Claudia’s got everything under control,” he says with a laugh. Dehn, a resident of Bonn, accompanies him to various agency appointments, deals with official correspondence and often translates. And she does it all on a volunteer basis. “I see so many of the problems that confront those who come to us here in Germany,” she says. Dehn talks about a Facebook group in which many refugees upload highly personal information because they simply have no idea where to turn. They have no one to help them with things like translations, for example. “Many people might be able to find someone that can accompany them to government offices, but when they get letters from those offices they are all in German,” says Dehn. At the job center one is constantly reminded of the importance of being able to speak German. “The German language is key,” says Schäfer. “First the language course, then the recognition of foreign degrees.” That can now be dealt with more quickly thanks to changes to existing laws, but it can still take up to a year. And a year is a very long time, especially when bombs continue to fall across Syria every day. Wife and child in Syria Houd didn’t get a job today. First, he got a stack of forms to fill out for his next appointment. But he isn’t about to give up; he knows what his goal is. “The only reason that I’m here is to make sure that one day my son is better off than me,” he says. Suddenly, his self-confident facade begins to quiver, and the look in his eyes hints at the deep pain that he carries inside, constantly tortured by the thought of his wife and son stuck back in Syria. Communication with them is difficult. “There are always power outages in Syria, and Internet connections are very bad,” he says. He wants to get his family to safety, here to Germany, as quickly as possible. He has already applied for papers for his wife and his 3-year-old son. Now he has to wait. By going to the job center, he has completed the first step toward a new life. “Germany,” says Houd “This is my country now.”

Sat, 25 Jul 2015 18:10:00 GMT <br /> Germany avoid ‘groups of death’ in World Cup qualis<br />
Germany can be reasonably confident of getting the chance to defend their title at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. That’s after drawing a relatively easy qualifying group. Some of their neighbors weren’t so lucky. There were a lot of nervous faces at the draw in St. Petersburg after FIFA’s idiosyncratic seedings put top footballing nations like France and Italy in pot two. But Germany national team manager Oliver Bierhoff brought the 2014 champs luck, picking out the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Norway, Azerbaijan and San Marino to face the Germans in Group C. The Czech Republic have a number of skilled players, and Norway are capable of the odd upset. But the draw for Germany could have been a lot worse, as Bierhoff freely acknowledged. “I’m glad we’re not playing after France or Italy,” Bierhoff said after the draw. “For Spain, for example, it’s going to be pretty tough.” In addition to Italy, 2010 champions Spain will have to face Albania, Israel, Macedonia and Liechtenstein – a group that likely had fans of La Roja exclaiming “Ay caramba!” Europe will send 13 teams to Russia for football’s premier event in 2018. The nine group winners qualify, while the eight best second-placed teams play off for the remaining four places. The World Cup dreams of the worst of the runners-up will come to an immediate end. The other killer drawing was Group A. It has the third place team at 2014 World Cup, the Netherlands, squaring off against France as well as Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus and Luxembourg. Here are the other qualifying groups: Group B – Portugal, Switzerland, Hungary, Faroe Islands, Latvia, Andorra Group D – Wales, Austria, Serbia, Ireland, Moldova, Georgia Group E – Romania, Denmark, Poland, Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan Group F – England, Slovakia, Scotland, Slovenia, Lithuania, Malta Group H – Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Estonia, Cyprus Group I – Croatia, Iceland, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland

Sat, 25 Jul 2015 17:15:00 GMT <br /> ‘Mein Kampf’ could return to German shelves in 2016<br />
In 1925, Adolf Hitler’s nearly 800-page manifesto, “Mein Kampf’,” was published for the first time. With its copyright set to expire, it could be republished in Germany in 2016, creating widespread controversy. There may be few book titles as universally familiar as Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf.” During his 1924 imprisonment following a failed coup attempt in Munich, Hitler dictated his tome to Rudolf Hess, who would later become his deputy. “Mein Kampf,” which translates as “My Struggle,” set forth Hitler’s plans for Germany’s future under the Third Reich. Though the initial print run was low, at the height of his power Hitler made sure that every German household had a copy of “Mein Kampf,” resulting in an estimated 9.2 million copies across the country by 1943. In fact, “Mein Kampf” became a regular gift given to newlyweds by the Nazi government. It turned into a brand that no one could escape in Nazi Germany. Today, between 50 and 60 million copies circulate in multiple languages worldwide – but, for decades, you would not have been able to find a copy of “Mein Kampf” in any German bookstore. Following the horrors of World War II, the Federal Republic banned Nazi symbols such as the swastika, the Hitler salute and propaganda material in a bid to keep history from repeating itself. As Hitler had no descendants, the rights to the book were transferred to the German state of Bavaria, his last official place of residence, after his death in 1945. The new copyright holder refused to allow any printing or duplicating of the book. Once a staple in every German household, hard copies of Hitler’s book became hard-to-find relics from a past that still haunts the country. “Mein Kampf,” however, could soon become a lot easier to find, with the copyright on the infamous book scheduled to expire at the end of 2015 – 70 years after the author’s death, in accordance with EU law. By this rationale, “Mein Kampf” would then enter public domain in 2016, with anyone owning the means theoretically allowed to publish Hitler’s tome as he or she may wish. Despite ban availability remained strong Despite efforts to suppress the book, there were always ways to read Hitler’s manifesto in Germany. The nearly 800-page tirade became widely available on the Internet long before the advent of online banking. Recently, English editions, unaffected by Bavaria’s copyright, even hit the top of the charts as an e-book on Amazon and other retailing platforms. Though selling “Mein Kampf” might still not be allowed in Germany, foreign outlets have had no issues in making the content available online, for a profit or not. It never became a punishable offense to simply own a copy of “Mein Kampf” in postwar Germany. In the pre-digital era, you might have have found dusty old copies in attics and basements. Despite being known for disposing of books on a grand scale, Hitler would likely be the first person to tell you how difficult it might be to get rid of more than 9 million books. What would change, then, if “Mein Kampf” were to be reprinted and widely circulated within Germany? Not much, Gerhard Weinberg, professor emeritus of history at the University of North Carolina, told DW in a 2014 interview. “If anybody today wants a copy, it’s accessible,” Weinberg told DW. “There is always the sense of adventure in getting something that is supposedly banned but, in reality, of course available in libraries across the world,” he added. ‘National duty’ Weinberg is not the only history expert who has stressed that the “forbidden fruit” status of “Mein Kampf” in Germany has given the book most of its allure over the past decades. The Bavarian historian Christian Hartmann has long regarded the impending republication of “Mein Kampf” in Germany as a matter of “national duty,” which he has personally become involved in. “No one, who reads the book today, will become a Nazi simply by doing so,” Hartmann told the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) in June. Hartmann works for the publicly funded German historical society IfZ. In 2009, as officials began to worry about what to do with the copyright set to expire, the IfZ applied for a tender from the state of Bavaria to produce an updated, annotated version of “Mein Kampf” providing a framework of historical context and critical analysis. Bavaria contracted the institute to prepare the new edition in order to pre-empt the publication of other editions with the expiry of the copyright. “We have added more than 3,500 footnotes so far and have proven Hitler’s assertions to be wrong in hundreds of details,” Hartmann told SZ. Though some groups are still trying to stop the new edition from being published on the grounds of Hitler’s discriminatory language, Hartmann believes that he has the law on his side. “Our work is protected by Article 5 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany, which covers freedom of research and scholarship,” Hartmann told SZ. Opposition to republication Burkhard Lischka, a Social Democrat and member of parliament, has insisted that, regardless of legal standing, there’s no good reason to republish “Mein Kampf” in Germany. “I believe that, as the German state, based on our history, we have a unique responsibility,” Lischka told DW in 2013. “If you were to generally allow the work to be sold with commentary, then that leads us to the possibility that right-wing extremists will republish the book with commentary none of us would want.” In recent years, attacks against foreigners and migrants have increased in Germany. Coping with the past Some Germans appear to see potential for dialogue where Lischka sees potential peril. For example, Serdar Somuncu, a comedian with Turkish roots, has created an entire show around readings from “Mein Kampf.” He has toured Germany with his show, trying to highlight Hitler’s inconsistencies, generalizations and megalomania. In his act, he draws the audience’s attention to the fact that, outside of Germany, there’s no public debate about whether Hitler’s book should be allowed to be published. “Bavaria, or to be precise, the Bavarian taxman owns the rights to ‘Mein Kampf,'” Somuncu says in a recording preserved on YouTube. “They prohibit ‘Mein Kampf’ in the name of all Germans, saying that publishing the book would harm Germany’s regard abroad. What is interesting, however, is that when you go abroad you can get ‘Mein Kampf’ legally everywhere, even in Israel.” The controversial book has indeed been translated into at least 20 languages and still manages to sell copies. In April, a signed first edition of “Mein Kampf” sold for over $40,000 (37,000 euros) in an online auction. The winning bidder’s identity was not revealed. In his act, Somuncu says there might be a greater danger in banning the book than making it openly available. “Dealing with our past doesn’t have to be burden; it can be a fruitful pursuit indeed,” he says. “Otherwise you will continue to create a sense of ambivalence suspended between running away from the darkness of the past and never incorporating its painful lessons into the present. And, all the while, fascists still bully immigrants and burn down asylum homes. Each time people get together in Germany to hold candlelight vigils in the wake of yet another xenophobic attack, it means that someone has died again. It means that we have failed to act in a situation where we should have acted because we are so busy running away from the past that we could not act in the present.”

Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:55:00 GMT German Defense Ministry denies miscalculations
Germany’s Defense Ministry miscalculated its planned outlay for two of Europe’s new weapon systems to the extent of 1 billion euros, according to “Der Spiegel” magazine. The ministry denies that errors occurred. The German news magazine reported Saturday that ministry data rechecks had shown a cheaper than expected cost overrun for the Puma infantry tank and hardly any anticipated savings for the new Meteor air-to-air missile. A ministry spokesman promptly denied “computing chaos,” telling the German news agency DPA that the ministry had neither made mistakes nor had costs changed. Spiegel claimed the ministry had discovered erroneous costs blamed on outdated data when sent a query by Gesine Lötzsch of the Left. Her party, alongside the pacifist Greens, form the opposition in Germany’s federal Bundestag parliament. Instead of saving 1.2 billion euros on the Meteor missile project, Germany had achieved merely 11 million euros in savings. The Puma overrun had fallen from 2.3 billion to 1.3 billion, Spiegel claimed. Ukraine crisis prompts rethink Worsening relations with Russia, especially over Ukraine, prompted NATO allies, including Germany, over the past year to rethink their assumption that they could scrap weaponry thought obsolete after the end of the Cold War. Last month, retiring German army inspector General Bruno Kasdorf highlighted Bundeswher equipment deficiencies, saying orders should be placed urgently with armaments manufacturers, given time lags between developing and certifying weapons and their delivery. In May, Kasdorf called for 20 billion euros in investments in the Bundeswehr through to 2025, saying — as an example — that the army needed 100 extra Puma infantry tanks for transporting troops. The Bundeswehr last month took its first deliveries of the Puma on a test range at Lüneberg, east of Hannover. External experts were brought in, when Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen took office in 2013. Their subsequent report mercilessly listed shortfalls in equipment and budgeting. Computerized weaponry The 31-ton tank, designed to carry nine soldiers at speeds of up to 70 kilometers an hour (44 miles per hour) and fitted with computerized weapons, is produced by a German consortium, Rheinmetall and Kraus-Maffei Wegmann. The consortium for the Meteor air-to-air missile, which was first test-fired from a Eurofighter jet over Wales in 2012, comprises armaments firms in France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Sweden and Spain. The Meteor, powered by a so-called ramjet, is reputed to have speeds of more than Mach four (4,900 kilometers per hour), a range of about 100 kilometers, and electronic remote controls enabling the crew of the fighter plane or a much larger AWACs surveillance aircraft to hit targets far beyond sight. It is regarded as a successor to the AIM-120 missile long supplied by the US manufacturer Raytheon. ipj/bw (dpa, Reuters)

Sat, 25 Jul 2015 06:01:00 GMT <br /> Several people hurt at anti-refugee protest in Dresden<br />
A demonstration by members of a German right-wing extremist party protesting against a tent camp for refugees in Dresden turned violent, with several people injured. But refugees have now begun to move in. Demonstrators from the German right-wing extremist National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) who were protesting against a tent camp set up to house refugees in the eastern city of Dresden attacked counter-demonstrators on Friday evening, resulting in several injuries. Protesters set off firecrackers and threw stones and bottles. The incident involved some 200 right-wing extremists and 350 people who gathered to oppose them. A police spokesman told the AFP news agency that three people needed first-aid treatment and one protester was temporarily detained. Despite the protests, the first refugees were able to move into the tent camp, which is to provide temporary housing for up to 800 people, according to authorities. The camp was set up on Friday by the German Red Cross, which is running the facility, and the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW). ‘Shocking attacks’ The Red Cross chairman for the state of Saxony, Rüdiger Unger, said Red Cross workers had been attacked by suspected anti-refugee protesters while putting up the tents. Unger said he was “profoundly shocked” by the incidents, adding: “I have never before experienced Red Cross workers being attacked during operations.” Most of the refugees due to arrive in Dresden have fled war-torn Syria. Housing problem Authorities in the state of Saxony, of which Dresden is the capital, say that the state took in 10,500 asylum seekers in the first half of the year – three times as many as in the same period last year – making it necessary to extend reception facilities. They say the some 60 tents are only a temporary measure and will be taken down again when the situation allows. In recent months, a number of refugee accommodation facilities have been set on fire in Germany in protest at the growing wave of asylum seekers coming to the country. tj/jlw (dpa, AFP, epd)

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 20:04:00 GMT In Germany, marriage remains out of reach for gays
Same-sex couples cannot get married in Germany – in contrast to the situation in the US and some other EU countries. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s governing Christian Democrats remain opposed. An office door opens and you see what appears to be Angela Merkel’s silhouette at the window. The chancellor is typing something into her cellphone. In the background you can hear scraps of sentences being spoken by a presenter relaying the recent news from Ireland: “A clear majority of about 62 percent voted for same-sex marriage. This is a historical turning point in the Catholic nation.” Right then, a pretty young woman in a nightgown draws nearer to “Merkel” and embraces her from behind. Merkel tenderly reciprocates the embrace and clearly enjoys it. Of course, this is only a fantasy turned into a video by the Berlin lesbian magazine “Straight.” Reality is quite different for Merkel, reputedly the most powerful woman in the world. She rejects marriage equality and does not want to present any draft legislation on the matter. So, same-sex couples still have many legal disadvantages compared to legally married heterosexual couples. Even gay men and lesbians living in civil partnerships have little chance of adopting children, and, if they do, the process proves to be difficult. “I find it hard to accept full equality,” Merkel told a television program in 2013, before she was re-elected. In this video, you see a homosexual viewer who, with his male partner, is trying to adopt a child. “What reasons lead you to believe that children of same-sex couples are not brought up so well?” he asks the TV presenter and the chancellor.The audience applauds the question. “It concerns the child’s welfare,” Merkel answers. The audience member who asked the question responds: “But we gay couples are also concerned.” “Yes, I know that, I know,” Merkel says, but she has obviously been forced into a tight spot. She does not go into detail about her stance. Instead, the faction leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) voiced his opinion. He asserted that “until proven otherwise, I am convinced that it is in a child’s interest to be raised by a mother and father.” In other words, marriage means a union of man and woman. On July 24, 52 percent of 12,000 CDU members surveyed were of the same opinion. Internal party opposition does not seem to be growing against Merkel. The party’s stance toward gay marriage Up until 1993, homosexuality in Germany was a criminal offense, according to a law known as paragraph 175. That year, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger stepped in and the law, passed in 1872, was finally abolished. It wasn’t until 2001 that the “registered civil partnership” was introduced as a substitute for marriage for couples deemed ineligible. In the last government, the supposedly progressive liberal Free Democrats (FDP), too, opposed marriage equality, keeping in line with the CDU and their Bavarian partners, the Christian Social Union. In 2013, the FDP lost its seats in parliament. The current coalition of the CDU and Social Democrats (SPD) inspired hope for gay men and lesbians. SPD Justice Minister Heiko Maas had been expected to oppose Merkel more strongly. But new draft legislation by the Justice Ministry does not accommodate the main point of criticism toward the “registered civil partnerships,” according to the Greens, who had already introduced the first legislative initiative for gay marriage 25 years ago. Back then, when Helmut Kohl was ruling, it was like fighting against Don Quixote’s windmills. Now, the Green MP Volker Beck is particularly keen on backing marriage equality. No substitute for marriage Currently, homosexual couples only live in a consensual union, known as the registered civil partnership, which also has many disadvantages compared to traditional marriages. Adoption laws are complicated and they hinder many applications. State health insurance does not pay for lesbian couples’ in vitro fertilization but it does for women married to men. Children of homosexual migrants cannot automatically join their parents, but children of straight couples can. These are only a few reasons why same-sex couples would like to wed. They frequently point out Article 6 of Germany’s constitution, which protects marriage but does not define who is permitted to marry. Legal experts state that the constitution does not even need to be amended to facilitate gay marriage. Just a few weeks ago, the Federal Constitutional Court ruled that registered civil partnerships should be granted the same tax advantages as straight couples. Parliamentarians had to comply and decided to grant gay couples the same fiscal rights. Sadly, there have been growing signs that the changes haven’t reached the acting authorities: the revenue offices. Many types of tax software stop working when male-male and female-female are entered, one of Volker Beck’s staff members says. In 24 of the Council of Europe’s 47 member countries, marriage equality is recognized to its full extent. Just a few days ago, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg hinted that this should be the case in all member countries. Partnerships are encompassed in the term “family life” and protected by Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Advocates of marriage equality view the statements in Strasbourg as an imminent turning point for political opinions on the issue – even in Germany.

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:48:00 GMT <br /> Questions but no answers on anniversary of Love Parade tragedy<br />
It’s been five years since the Duisburg Love Parade stampede that claimed 21 people’s lives and injured hundreds more. With no trial in sight, the bereaved are pushing on with their fight for answers – and justice. In front of a mandala draped in thousands of flower buds, Duisburg on Friday officially remembered those who died in the mass panic on July 24, 2010, a catastrophe that is still very much alive for Germany society as questions remain unanswered as to who can be held responsible. “Five years have gone by, and still the trauma remains,” said Duisburg Mayor Sören Link as he addressed the hundreds present for the ceremony, which included victims’ families, those injured and traumatized and a host of political representatives. “It is inexplicable that after so many years so many questions remain unanswered,” said Link, referring indirectly to lingering criticism of the city over claims of misconduct with regard to how the Duisburg festival was organized. “A legal case is central for the victims’ families – so that they can go on with their lives and deal with the unthinkable suffering they have been forced to live through,” he said. Charges pending In the early afternoon on July 24, 2010, a bottleneck formed at one of the tunnels leading into the Love Parade festival grounds, and panic began to spread as people attempted to move in both directions through the tunnel. Nineteen people either suffocated or were trampled to death at the scene, while two other victims died in the hospital. According to hospital records and police reports, at least 652 others were injured. Six public servants from the city of Duisburg and four employees of Lopavent, the company that put on the Love Parade, are facing criminal charges. The charges, filed well over a year ago, include involuntary manslaughter and bodily injury caused by negligence. Accusations of responsibility bounced back and forth for years between festival organizers and city officials who had approved and overseen the permits necessary to hold the event. Duisburg’s public prosecutor, Michael Schwarz, has singled out two causes for the disaster. “Fatal errors with the planning and approval of the event as well as a lack of monitoring safety-relevant requirements on the day of the event led to” the deaths and injuries, a statement from his office said. In addition, the entrances and exits to the festival grounds were not adequate to handle the crowds that came. The prosecutor’s office concluded that it should have been recognized by the public servants and event planners that the safety measures were inadequate and would result in a life-threatening situation. Adolf Sauerland, the mayor of Duisburg at the time of the tragedy, is not among those facing charges. He resisted over a year of calls to resign after the tragedy and was later voted out of office. glb / sms (dpa, AFP)

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 19:22:00 GMT <br /> Wings University offers online degrees for refugees<br />
Refugees face many obstacles before they are admitted to a university. Berlin student Markus Kressler and his team have founded a university where refugees can acquire a tuition-free degree online. Nidal Abbas (pictured) had been looking forward to university studies for a long time. After graduating from high school, he wanted to study civil engineering in his hometown of Homs, in Syria. But things took a turn for the worse, and war hit Homs. At barely 19 years of age, Abbas left his country for Germany. The journey took three months: He traveled across the Mediterranean by boat and then traveled further north. Now he lives in a refugee shelter in Berlin’s Steglitz district and is waiting for his asylum application to be processed. Refugees who want to study in Germany must first acquire official residency status and then have their high school diplomas recognized by authorities – that can take a while. “It is a waste of time,” Nidal says. He has been waiting for half a year; other refugees have waited years. Markus Kressler is convinced that procedures can be accelerated. He and his friends founded Wings, an online university for refugees. “We do not create obstacles,” Kressler says, adding: “Any refugee can enroll at Wings University – even without diplomas.” Starting this fall, the first lectures will go online, and in spring 2016 the full programs will be launched. The Wings University team is putting together study schedules with professors from Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin) and Akademie der Künste (Academy of Arts). Educators from elite US universities such as Harvard and Stanford have already developed the first lectures. Professors from the named institutions have provided Wings University with their lectures free of charge. Shortage of money Engineering, computer science, business studies and architecture are the first four programs in which students can work toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree. “The first 400 students are starting in September,” Kressler says. “And we want to admit 3,000 students next year,” he adds. Still, many weak spots have to be dealt with. Kressler has been to talking to partner universities, which are supposed to carry out the examinations. “A standardized system is important to us,” he says. Of course, the matter of funding comes up. “In the long term, we will receive money for every officially recognized student,” Kressler says. But Wings University has still not been recognized. It is trying to raise money through a crowdfunding campaign – at least enough so that all the bureaucratic work no longer has to be done by volunteers. The money drive has brought in part of the needed funds. Nidal Abbas can hardly wait to start. To him, a university degree means he is sure to find a job and earn money. “My family put together their savings to send me to Germany,” he says. “I have three little sisters; I want to support them soon.”

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 18:40:00 GMT <br /> Kepler-452b: ‘Our imagination is one step ahead of us’<br />
Kepler-452b is being hailed as “Earth’s older cousin.” But Heike Rauer, a researcher at the German Aerospace Center, says we have too few facts to call the planet’s discovery a milestone for space science. Deutsche Welle: People say that the newly discovered Kepler-452b is an “Earth-like planet.” What exactly does that mean? Heike Rauer: It means it has to have characteristics similar to those of our Earth. It has to be a planet made up of rock, it has to have an oxygen atmosphere that would make life there possible, and there has to be water on its surface. It also has to have the right distance to its star – just as long as the one between our Earth and the sun – and its orbital period has to be roughly one year. Which criteria on this list does Kepler-452b fulfill? We know it’s 1.6 times the size of Earth and that its orbital period is 385 days long. That’s pretty similar to our Earth year. Its star is similar to the sun, as well, and the distance between the two is roughly the same as the Earth-sun one. The US researchers that discovered this planet estimated its size based on statistical and theoretic calculations. They said that the possibility for it to be made of rock lies at 50 percent – but it could also be a gas planet. We don’t know if Kepler-452b even has an atmosphere and what that could consist of. How can we find out more in the near future? We have to take it step by step. The Kepler satellite showed us that it’s possible to discover a planet so far away. I’m excited about that, because we want to establish the follow-up mission to Kepler, the European PLATO (Planetary Transits and Oscillations of stars) mission, which will lift off 10 years from now. So, we want to basically do the same as Kepler, but we want to find planets with stars that are bright enough for us to be able to calculate their mass and not make estimates. This way, we’d be able to figure out whether they’re made of rock. And, then, a satellite mission would have to measure their atmosphere. Is the discovery of Kepler-452b a milestone in space research or is it merely an also-ran? Well, it’s progress. It’s a planet that is – possibly – made up of rock, whose orbit is really very similar to Earth’s orbit. Aside from that, though, there’s not much more that we know. For me, a milestone would be to say, “We don’t just know the size of the planet, we also know the mass.” But we’re just not there yet with this one. What do you think of the media coverage? The discovery of Kepler-452b was widely celebrated. With the media, it’s like this: Speculation is more exciting than the cold, hard facts. It’s a little sad that so many are crying wolf now, because then the news we expect to get over the next decades will seem less exciting. Once we’re actually sure that we’ve found an Earth-like planet – one definitely made up of rock with sure signs for an oxygen atmosphere – people will remember the many, many other Earth-like planets that were reported on. That’s a shame, of course. Our imagination is one step ahead of us right now – but maybe that’s just human. Taking this a step further – how probable do you think it is for life to exist on the newly discovered planet? One group thinks it’s highly improbable, because too many factors need to come together for this. Others say, “Why not?” Since, on Earth, life always finds a way, in every last niche. I do believe it’s a possibility. Maybe I simply want to think it’s improbable for us to be alone. But what I find really fascinating is that we can actually start looking into this. That’s the true milestone. You have to remember that we are the first generation in humankind that really knows there are planets outside of our solar system. With technology advancing the way it does, we’ll be able to answer this question in the not-too-distant future. And will we ever be able to travel to Kepler-452b? No. This planet is more than 1,400 light years away. Since we can’t travel even remotely as fast as light, it’s too far away from us. Reaching this planet would take many millions of years. Unfortunately, that makes it harder to learn about these systems. Heike Rauer is the director of the department of Extrasolar Planets and Atmospheres at the German Aerospace Center’s Institute of Planetary Research. She’s also head of the instruments consortium of the PLATO mission. The European Space Agency (ESA) selected this mission in 2014. Starting in 2024, it intends to send a space telescope out to look for a second Earth.

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 17:09:00 GMT Is Merkel invincible? One SPD leader thinks so
SPD politician Torsten Albig, the premier of one of Germany’s 16 states, has said it’s essentially pointless for his party, the country’s second strongest, to run a candidate against Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2017. Albig is not a very popular name in the top ranks of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) right now, after the Schleswig-Holstein state premier went on the air Friday saying there was no real point in running anyone against current Chancellor Angela Merkel at the next election because it would be “stupid to think that we could win.” “Not very smart,” and “lacking honor for the party,” were among the reactions from his own party. He even got burned by other opposition parties, with a Left representative accusing Albig of “sucking up” to the chancellor and damaging German democracy in the process. A politician tells the truth? Asked about the chances SPD head Sigmar Gabriel would have against Merkel, Albig told public broadcaster NDR on Friday, “I’m sure he would do an excellent job, but I think it would be difficult to win against the current chancellor.” In response to the follow-up question as to the SPD’s goals in the 2017 election, Albig said: “I think it would be good if we were just part of the government. For us to go in there in thinking we could win is just stupid. Nobody would take us seriously.” Saving grace Before the end of the interview, however, Albig pulled out one SPD-praising card. “2017 is a long way off. But let me just say that if the vote were tomorrow, it would be better if the SPD were part of the elected government than for Merkel’s CDU to run by itself.” Albig was probably very aware of the latest domestic political survey – released just after the interview on Friday – that suggests less than 25 percent of Germans would vote for the SPD. Over 40 percent told public broadcaster ZDF they would keep their trust in Merkel, keeping with the dominance the CDU had in the last federal election in 2013. If you were wondering, Albig didn’t say in the interview who he would vote for.

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 16:24:00 GMT Should Germany exit the euro?
While the possibility of Greece’s exit from the eurozone has preoccupied European policymakers in recent months, some economists say it’s actually Germany that has to leave the currency union. But others disagree. Through all the haggling and hair-pulling in the past months over more austerity, fewer creditors getting their money, and a dreaded “Grexit” – a scenario in which Greece would leave Europe’s currency union – at least four prominent economists in three major American publications have casually and quietly suggested there may be a third way: A German exit. That is, Germany should exit the euro, and clear the way for countries in the south of Europe – notably, Greece, Italy, Spain, and probably Portugal – to reconcile their debt with a greatly depreciated currency and maybe finally get a handle on their economies. The latest thinker to suggest this, Ashoka Mody of Princeton University in the US, wrote an opinion piece for Bloomberg on July 17, that succinctly lays out why a “Gerxit,” rather than a Grexit, would be a preferable option. “Some reorganization of the monetary union is almost inevitable over the course of the next 25 to 30 years,” Mody told DW. “The only question that has to be asked at this point is: what is the most sensible way, the least disruptive way, of achieving that?” A Fiscal Straightjacket Mody believes that Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble is wrongly conflating the problem of the Greek debt with the problem that is the eurozone experiment. “Schäuble’s assumption is that once Greece goes the rest of the eurozone will function perfectly well with the remaining members, and that the problem is not in the construction of the eurozone, but is in something special to Greeks who cannot adapt to the eurozone,” Mody said. While Mody acknowledges that Greece has a debt problem, he stresses that the issue of debt is separate from the other problems afflicting the eurozone monetary union. “If all that happens is that Greece exits the eurozone, the likelihood that this Greek-like problem reemerges is a near certainty … the fact that diverging countries cannot stay within a monetary and fiscal straightjacket, that reality will not change.” Mody, like many other economists and eurozone critics, points to Italy as the inevitable successor to Greece as the problem child of the euro. “We don’t know whether Italy will be able to eventually repay its debts,” Mody said, adding that “the process of forcing countries with different capabilities, different histories, different cultures, into one mold doesn’t work.” ‘An ill-considered union’ For Mody, it’s clear that the least disruptive way would be Germany reverting to its former currency, the deutsche mark. “Germany would experience the least pain in withdrawing from the euro,” he said. This idea of a Gerxit, rather than a Grexit, is not new. It stretches at least to 2012, when US business magnet George Soros penned a blog post about what a German exit would look like, and why it would be beneficial: Germany would get its own, stronger currency, and countries with weaker economies would be able to reconcile their debt with a much-weakened euro. Germans would be richer, southern Europeans would have a chance to be less poor. On the same day when economist Mody published his analysis on Bloomberg, Ben Bernanke, former chair of the US Federal Reserve, posted an opinion piece on the website of the Brookings Institute, an influential Washington-based think-tank. In it, he argued that Europe was not holding up its end of the bargain when it came to solving the Greek debt crisis. While unemployment in the eurozone has hung around 11 percent over the past several years, the jobless rate in the US has dropped to 5.3 percent, the lowest in years. But there are divergences even within the euro area, with Germany’s unemployment rate currently standing at less than five percent, in contrast to the rest of the eurozone where it is hovering around 13 percent. “The promise of the euro was both to increase prosperity and to foster closer European integration,” Bernanke wrote. However, this is currently not happening and will continue not to happen when countries have such disparate outcomes, he underlined. The countries not only have disparate outcomes, but hugely disparate economic backgrounds, say analysts. That is why, Mody argues, creating a monetary union among these states was never an economically sensible decision “An ill-considered union was formed, and therefore pain will have to be incurred,” Mody said. Finding equilibrium Without strong political will to keep the eurozone intact, it’s all but inevitable for the monetary union to break up, warn experts. The country that would suffer least from such a painful eurozone breakup, as Mody, Bernanke, Soros and several others have postulated, would be Germany. “This offers the most efficient prospect of rediscovering what the right equilibrium for the different countries is,” Mody said. “The equilibrium may well be that there are two currencies, a euro (in the south) and a Deutsche mark (in the north). It may be that there are 15 new currencies in the next 30 years,” Mody said. A disaster? However, others such as Professors Iain Begg and John Ryan, both of the London School of Economics, wasted no time calling the idea of a German exit a “disaster.” “After European Union membership, I think the construction of the euro is one of the greatest achievements that Germany has been able to achieve post-war,” Ryan told DW. “From a political point of view, there’s been a lot of capital put into the project. Going out of the euro would maybe send a bad message for the sustainability of the EU as well.” Furthermore, the euro is a major geopolitical achievement and powerful geopolitical tool, and Europe is currently considered a safe and easy place to invest and to do business, he noted. “And Germany leaving the euro would just send an absolutely crashing message, and it’s not conceivable to think that the eurozone could really survive after that.” Should Germany exit, the world would quickly see, in rapid succession the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, and the Baltic countries also running for the exit, Begg said. The continent would split, and both the north and the south would be in equal amounts of pain, with countries like Ireland, Slovakia and Slovenia left waffling in the middle. A non-euro Germany, coupled with the subsequent split continent that a German exit would leave in its wake, would have “strong repercussions for European integration, never mind euro integration, that it would be seen as catastrophic in Berlin,” Begg said. A re-born deutsche mark would inevitably appreciate and be a very strong currency, both Ryan and Begg said, cautioning that although it may sound like a good thing, it’s certainly not for German exporters who might face a loss of competitiveness. “A Greek exit would be bad for the euro, but nowhere near as bad as Germany leaving the eurozone,” Ryan said. “That would be a catastrophe for Germany and for the eurozone itself, and it would call into question the whole European construction.”

Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:57:00 GMT Fight against cholera

Researchers have discovered that the pathogen that causes cholera only becomes active at body temperature. They plan to prevent the bacteria becoming harmful.

Tomorrow Today
Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:54:00 GMT Out-of-this-world cameras

Sensational images from outer space have made the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research famous. It is acknowledged as one of the best in the world for the development and construction of spacecraft cameras.

Tomorrow Today
Fri, 24 Jul 2015 08:32:00 GMT Richard Wagner’s house reopens to the public
The house where composer Richard Wagner once lived – a museum since 1976 – has been restored, renewed and expanded. After three years of work, it opens its doors to visitors on July 26. Here’s a sneak preview. The individual rooms have been robbed of their former charm, and there are fewer exhibits and less information, some will say. Others will counter that it’s a truly multimedia exhibition that can be appreciated in a single visit – a refreshing rather than exhausting experience. Like everything else surrounding Richard Wagner and the Bayreuth Festival, there is certain to be controversy over the new Richard Wagner Museum complex. Fifteen years from the initial idea to its completion, three years of construction work, and overall expenditures totalling 20 million euros ($22 million) have yielded a vastly expanded facility with double the exhibit space, subterranean archive and a first-ever coming to terms with 20th-century festival history in general and the Third Reich in particular. Yet despite all that, “The museum is like an iceberg,” said Sven Friedrich, director of the Richard Wagner Archive in Villa Wahnfried, just before giving DW an exclusive tour. “The majority of the construction costs were caused by the air conditioning system, making the facilities handicapped-friendly, and the underground facilities. The actual museum came at a cost of only two million euros.” It’s Wagner, not Disneyland Getting my first glimpse of the rooms in the house known as Wahnfried, I assumed that most of the pieces would be uncovered before the exhibition officially opens on July 26. These rooms, dedicated to the time when Richard Wagner and his wife Cosima lived there, are full of furniture covered in protective cloths and everyday objects under glass jars. Wrong, I was told: This is how it will stay. It’s supposed to look as though Richard and Cosima were away on a trip, had had their furniture covered, and were due to return any moment. But Friedrich revealed more important reason for this striking approach: “We didn’t want to add fake historic-looking pieces to the originals. That would have cheapened them. We didn’t want to create a Disneyland.” One familiar with the Wagner Museum as it existed here from 1976 until 2012 will miss certain objects, pictures and, most of all, written information. “That’s because we decided to display only the most valuable pieces,” answered Friedrich. The missing information on the walls is now conveyed by texts and images on tablets that lead the visitor from room to room, he explained. An interactive score is one new interactive feature. You open the cover and turn the pages while images are projected on them that illustrate the process of composition. Another is the multiple rows of headsets where visitors can listen to recordings. Just listen, there’s nothing to see Not interactive, but certainly multimedia is a small movie theater – and most of all, the new exhibition in the Siegfried Wagner house. “What exhibition?” I found myself thinking again, wondering how they could possibly get everything in place before the museum opens. With nothing but dark wood paneling in them, the rooms have an oppressive feel. And that’s the point. Nothing will be added to the 1930s original decor that Winifred Wagner lived in. Instead, the rooms themselves – where Adolf Hitler was once a guest – literally speak, with recorded voices narrating the darkest period of festival history. With nothing to attract the eye upwards, it wanders downwards instead, as though in shame, to floor-level monitors with a collage of pictures, texts and moving images. Thinking about it, it makes sense. The Nazi perversion of Wagner’s art is an abstract theme that is difficult to comprehend out of context or by means of pictures or objects. “Wagner and ideology” is a broader issue, however, extending to Wagner criticism by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and author Thomas Mann, the critical stance of Wagner’s descendants Franz Beidler and Friedelind Wagner, and the Frankfurt School of philosopher and musicologist Theodor W. Adorno. Those issues are taken up in the Siegfried Wagner House as well. Adapting to the times The most striking and expansive new facility is mostly underground and was designed by Berlin museum architect Volker Staab. Apart from the rooms displaying Bayreuth Festival history after the death of Richard Wagner, it houses the National Archive of the Richard Wagner Foundation, including the composer’s original scores and letters. A critical edition of the correspondence by Richard and Cosima Wagner still awaits publication, says Friedrich. Enabling that will be the next order of business by the Richard Wagner Archive. Mixed opinions have always been part of the Bayreuth Festival, so why should Wahnfried be any different? The covered substitute furniture and the pieces once treasured by visitors but not shown, will likely be a bone of contention that the museum shop and café could potentially make up for. As for the air-conditioning? These times, they are a’ changin’, wrote a different bard.

Wed, 22 Jul 2015 10:07:00 GMT Munich city center
Munich’s Marienplatz is known the world over. Sometimes this square is so crowded that just crossing it can be difficult. Tourists armed with cameras stand in front of the New Town Hall and wait for the perfect moment. At precisely 12 o’clock the glockenspiel, located at a lofty height in the New Town Hall spire, begins to chime and figurines dance on two levels. On the top, the figurines tell the story of the marriage of Duke Wilhelm V to Renata of Lorraine in 1568. The bottom half depicts the Schäfflertanz, or coopers’ dance: these craftsmen are said to have danced through the streets to bring fresh vitality when the plague hit Munich in 1517. The figurines have been doing their dance now for over 100 years. Munich’s Frauenkirche church is not far from this square. Serving as the seat of the archbishop of Munich, the church’s distinctive double towers, measuring nearly 100 meters, were meant to be reminiscent of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

Wed, 22 Jul 2015 10:06:00 GMT Heidelberg Castle
What once served as a princely residence is today a tourist hub. A beautiful building filled with tales with which to regale visitors. The castle towers majestically over Heidelberg’s old town center and the River Neckar. Numerous artists, including writers like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Mark Twain, were so taken with Heidelberg Castle that they raved about the romantic castle ruin in their writings. A highlight of the castle tour is the Great Heidelberg Tun, an extremely large wine casket in the royal wine cellar. An impressive 220,000 liters can fit inside it, overseen by a wooden statue of the dwarf Perkeo located opposite. Legend has it that the Italian worked as court jester for the Palatinate Elector Charles III Philip when he was in Tyrol. Charles III Philip brought him to Heidelberg, and because of his ability to hold his drink, the dwarf was also put in charge of the wine cellars. When his master asked him if he could drink the contents of the Great Heidelberg Tun on his own, the dwarf answered in Italian: “Perché no?” or why not – earning him his name Perkeo.

Wed, 22 Jul 2015 00:00:00 GMT Light performance for Cranach’s birthday

The German town of Wittenberg was the birthplace and workplace of revered Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the younger, and 2015 marks the 500th anniversary of his birth.

Tue, 21 Jul 2015 00:00:00 GMT E-Mobility: Electro-scooters on the move
Many urban dwellers want a convenient and environmentally friendly alternative to cars – and there ever more options. In Berlin, for example, bright red electric scooters are now zipping around the city. Much like car-sharing, they can be rented.

Made in Germany
Fri, 17 Jul 2015 22:51:00 GMT Schwerin with two tourists from the US
American students Will Davies and Daniel Richards from Tennessee show us around Schwerin’s castle on the lake, give eel a try and take a spin on a dragon boat.

Discover Germany