#101: Tourists, gas, cannabis
Berlin's last playboy dies
Dear 20 Percent,
Germans love to roll out an English one-liner when they want to make a point. In July, when talking about the energy crisis, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said “You’ll never walk alone,” in reference to the beloved Liverpool F.C. anthem. No matter how high gas prices get, he wanted to say, we’ve got your back.
That was then. Yesterday, the government sent a very different signal when it announced details about the new Gasumlage, a levy on natural gas that kicks in on October 1, in order to protect energy companies burned by skyrocketing gas prices from bankruptcy.
All gas consumers will notice an additional 2.419 cents per kilowatt-hour on their bills — for the next year and a half. For a household of four, the Gasumlage means additional annual costs of €480. And no, this levy does not prevent utility companies from increasing prices for other reasons.
It’s a nasty surprise after the feel-good €9 ticket that ends this month (and which has yet to be replaced). The ticket helped keep down inflation, but now economists say the gas levy will cause inflation to spike in the autumn.
The whole thing feels like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It looks like middle-class and people on low incomes are being asked to bear the brunt of the energy crisis.
With Christian Lindner of the neoliberal FDP heading the finance ministry, calls to ask the wealthy to contribute more will fall on deaf ears. At the same time, he’s insisting on austerity in the worst crisis to hit Europe since World War II. And in an interview he called the €9 ticket a symptom of a “freebie mentality”.
If people can’t afford heating this winter, they’ll take it to the streets where the lyrics of Scholz’s favourite song will take on new meaning: “Walk on, walk on. With hope in your heart. And you'll never walk alone. You'll never walk alone.”
More news below!
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The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, August 16
Received booster: 63% (63% Friday)
New cases in one day: 2,875 (2,909 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,745 (+8 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 293.1 (293.1 Friday)
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 16.1 (14.8 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 5.6% (6.2% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
If you’re reading this and you live in Berlin, you were probably a tourist at some point, so let’s not complain too much about the growing numbers of out-of-towners ambling cluelessly through our streets. Official figures for the first half of the year are in: 4.4 million guests visited the city. Sounds like a lot but in fact that’s just 65 percent of pre-Covid levels — and visitBerlin is selling that as a big comeback. There were 11.2 million hotel stays, 36 percent of which were by non-Germans, with Touris from the UK, the Netherlands and Spain topping the table.
Firefighters evacuated about 350 passengers from three S-Bahn trains halted on the tracks near Friedrichstraße station on Monday evening, reports RBB. Thanks to a technical problem in one of the trains, people had to wait for more than an hour in 30-degree heat. Some passengers were treated for circulatory problems.
On Saturday, 1,500 people in hemp-leaf masks and carrying giant papier-mâché joints marched through Mitte to demand an end to the prohibition of recreational cannabis use, as they have every year since 1997. The SPD-Green-FDP government promised legalisation of cannabis in its coalition agreement, but the Ukraine war has thrown a spanner in the works. Justice Minister Marco Buschmann (FDP) said in May he thought the legal sale of the drug could begin in the spring of 2023. But the opposition CDU/CSU is doing all it can to derail the project. One of the main hurdles cited by conservative politicians is the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, of which Germany is a signatory. According to Frankfurter Rundschau, there are workarounds to the treaty.
On August 14, 1972 an East German Interflug airliner crashed near Königs Wusterhausen shortly after taking off from Schönefeld Airport. All 156 passengers and crew members died in Germany’s worst aviation disaster. Investigators found that the crash was caused by technical problems in the Soviet-made Ilyushin Il-62 — the East German leadership kept that knowledge secret.
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