#132: Masks, discrimination, Airbnb, Tesla, tablets for kids
Hey there, 20 Percent!
Happy Nikolaustag, when small children wake up to find that small gifts, chocolates, and possibly mandarins and nuts have been deposited in their boots overnight. Kids in my parents’ generation would get potatoes or lumps of coal in their boots if they’d misbehaved, but I doubt that happens much in Berlin these days.
Even though the fourth century Saint Nick might have been the inspiration for both, in modern Germany Nikolaus and the Weihnachtsmann (aka Santa, Father Christmas) are two distinct people, with the main difference being that the Weihnachtsmann delivers the main payload of goods on Christmas Eve.
Being a German kid at this time of the year is confusing, though, because in the more Catholic regions presents are miraculously delivered on Christmas Eve by das Christkind aka Baby Jesus. When I was a kid the logistics of this seemed even more improbable than those of an old guy with a sleigh.
As a Lutheran-dominated part of the country, Berlin used to be fully Weihnachtsmann territory, but with so many transplants from elsewhere in the country, kids might be getting mixed messages at kindergarten about flying babies and whatnot. And of course, nearly every other religion of the world is represented in Berlin. I say, as a parent, just cherrypick the fun parts from whatever myths speak to you.
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Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, December 6
New cases in one day: 1,524 (1,936 Friday)
Total deaths: 5,155 (+20 over Friday)
➡️ 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 217.1 (217.8 Friday)
➡️ 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 16.9 (13.2 Fiday)
➡️ Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 5.0% (3.9% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Bringing back memories of the confusing patchwork of corona rules at the height of the pandemic, 16 state health ministers failed to agree Monday on whether to prolong the mask requirement in public transport. Some states want to drop masks in buses and trains at the end of the year, others want to extend the rule. Others want a “mask recommendation.” Currently, FFP2 masks are required in Berlin transport through December 21. A federal law makes them mandatory in long-distance trains through April 7, 2023. We’ll keep you posted.
Kids get DATENSCHUTZED
The most German story ever: Berlin wants to spend €15 million next year on buying tablet computers for schoolkids in grades 7-10, an age when educators want to work on media literacy with kids. But there’s a catch: Berlin’s data privacy commissioner Meike Kamps is not happy, writes taz. On Monday, during an education committee hearing in the city-state’s parliament, she said, “I want to be honest: We don't currently see any possible use of tablets that complies with data protection.” Her concern is excessive data collection: “Tablets of all manufacturers basically evaluate telemetric data of their users.” I ask myself: but aren’t kids already using phones, tablets and laptops at home anyway? Isn’t data privacy a bigger issue that needs to be tackled by society as a whole — instead of making kids bear the brunt?
EU citizens discriminated
A new study published by DeZIM (German Institute for Integration and Migration Research), found that job centres in Berlin and elsewhere in the country discriminated against newcomers from the EU — who are guaranteed equal treatment by law. This occurs through “recurring patterns of administrative exclusion which go beyond individual instances of discriminatory behaviour”. According to author Nora Ratzmann, who interviewed more than 100 affected people, “unwritten rules and everyday practices which shape individual administrators’ routines” are often illegal and “create barriers to receiving benefits, regardless of Germany’s manifest legal obligations to EU citizens.” Those barriers include linguistic problems, unnecessary bureaucratic burdens and keeping claimants in the dark about their rights and obligations. Read the full paper in English here.
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Airbnb agrees to follow the law
From next March Airbnb will only advertise properties in Berlin with a proper registration number. Spokesperson Nadja Reusch called the decision an “important step for more transparency and the implementation of housing protection”. In reality, after putting up a fuss about the law forever, the platform has just decided to finally conform with local regulations. The company is even advertising the change with the slogan, “So that Berlin stays the way it is,” which is pretty rich, considering the role they’ve played in gentrification. Berliners have been required to register flats used as vacation rentals since 2018. Info and printable pdf forms here! Airbnb is lobbying the city to introduce a fully online registration process, which doesn’t seem unreasonable.
This just in from Tesla…
With all eyes on Elon Musk’s Twitter shenanigans, it’s easy to forget that he just set up a giant electric car factory outside of Berlin. According to Wired, things aren’t going great there. Tesla is having a really hard time finding and retaining talent. The carmaker has managed to hire just 7,000 out of 12,000 workers. Reportedly, they pay wages that are 20% below the competition and working conditions are sub-optimal. Go figure. An employee who preferred not to be named said the Gigafactory was “total chaos” and that “some people are off sick longer than they’ve actually worked.”
Last Sunday was a verkaufsoffener Sonntag, a rare Sunday when stores can open, something Berlin allows a few times a year for special occasions like Christmas, large trade fairs or sporting events. We’re getting another one on Sunday, December 18. Last spring, the service workers’ union Verdi fought against Sunday openings in federal court, but failed to overturn the practice, which varies from state to state.
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