#117: How Germany wants to cut gas prices
Plus: Russian spies and a great documentary film fest
Hey 20 Percenters,
The last few days have made it clear that Germany is riddled with security vulnerabilities. On Friday, TV satirist Jan Böhmermann, with the help of research group Policy Network Analytics, revealed links between Germany’s head of cybersecurity Arne Schönbohm and a dodgy Russian firm with an office in Berlin-Mitte.
It’s complicated but Schönbohm’s Cyber-Sicherheitsrat Deutschland e.V lobbying outfit includes among its members a subsidiary of Infotecs, which was founded in 1991 by an ex-KGB man and which currently works directly with the Russian secret service, the FSB.
What does Protelion — the subsidiary — do exactly? Provide secure mobile phones to politicians and government officials, for one! Hopefully not Chancellor Scholz’s! It also offers cybersecurity solutions for “critical infrastructure”! So far, no one knows who or what uses Protelion software… but stay tuned.
At least it looks like Schönbohm is going be fired.
Interestingly, back in January, the United States Commerce Department put Infotecs on an export ban list for having “enabled the activities of malicious Russian cyber actors” but it doesn’t look like the Germans got the memo.
It wasn’t hackers that shut down the rail network across northern Germany for hours on Saturday, it was people with cable cutters. Deutsche Bahn communication cables were sabotaged almost simultaneously at key points in Herne, North Rhine-Westfalia and Berlin-Hohenschönhausen — knocking out the railway’s digital control system for the north of the country through Saturday afternoon. A back-up system failed. The police are certain the attack was “politically motivated”, not ruling out the Russians. Whoever it was, they knew what they were doing.
For a fascinating and disturbing deep dive into the web of Russian lobby groups in Germany in recent years, check out this long read in English by Correctiv in which Policy Network Analytics also participated.
More news below!
P.S. Thanks to today’s sponsor, power utility Ostrom.
Berlin corona and other stats for Tuesday, October 11
New cases in one day: 3,893 (3,165 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,849 (+6 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 457.6 (330.6 Friday)
🔴7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 13.9 (11.4 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 5.4% (4.6% Friday, back to yellow! 😬)
🟢Days FC Union Berlin has led the Männer-Bundesliga: 30
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Gas price cap plan
A panel of experts commissioned by the government to come up with a plan to cap the price of natural gas for consumers and businesses presented its recommendations Monday. Here it is:
Step 1: The government pays everyone’s (every household and business that uses gas) gas bill for the month of December. The landlord lobby has already complained that it’s technically impossible for landlords (who often handle central gas heating costs) to figure out how much gas individual households use. I ask myself, surely this is possible with their nifty Nebenkostenabrechnung software, i.e. Excel?
Step 2: A government-subsidised price cap. This being Germany, it’s a little complicated and favours big business: From January 2023, industrial customers will profit from a capped price of 7 cents per kWh for 70% of the previous year's consumption for 16 months.
Step 3: Private households and small-to-medium-sized firms will see a cap of 12 cents per kWh on 80% of the previous year's consumption - starting in March 2023. Yep, the little guy is getting a worse deal. A blitz-subsidy for industry is supposed to save jobs. Meanwhile, small businesses like independent bakeries are fighting for their lives.
This is just a proposal. It could take weeks of wrangling between coalition partners to produce any legislation.
Activists block autobahns
Protesters from the group Last Generation appear to be stepping up their game. On Monday morning, they blocked traffic at various autobahn entry points on the A100 that reaches around the western half of the city, and on the A103 and on the A114. Commuters weren’t amused. Some were stuck in gridlock traffic for more than an hour. The activists demanded a national speed limit and “public transport for all.” Meanwhile, also on Monday, police said that two Last Generation protesters were suspected of smashing a window and possibly triggering a fire alarm in the Reichstag building, seat of the Bundestag.
Double decker bus crash
Around 10pm Friday, a BVG bus on line 282 took a wrong turn in Steglitz and ended up slamming into a highway bridge that was too low for the vehicle. The front of the top deck was crushed, injuring three passengers. Two men were hospitalised, reports RBB (video)
Event: Human Rights Film Festival
Another reason to love Berlin: the plethora of film festivals. This week: the long-running Human Rights Film Festival. From October 13, it’s ten days of documentaries telling the stories of activists and movements fighting for democracy, social and environmental causes around the world. Above: the trailer for Sirens. Most films are in English or with English subtitles. The info.
When the sun shines from a certain angle, a cross forms on the bulb of the Alexanderplatz TV Tower. East Germans called the phenomenon “The Pope’s revenge” - revenge against the ultra-secular, communist GDR. Head of state Walter Ulbricht was reportedly enraged when he saw it the first time.
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