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#230: VAT up on eats? 2036 Olympics? Body cams? AI ads?
Berlin's most beautiful cinema turns 60
Dear 20 Percent,
Berlin has taken a step towards putting in a bid for the Summer Olympic Games. In what year? You guessed it: 2036. A hundred years after those Games, the ones hosted by Adolf Hitler at the Olympic Stadium, which was purpose-built for the occasion. Those Games where Berlin was turned into a giant sports-washing opportunity for Nazi Germany. The Games famously documented by Leni Riefenstahl in her film Olympia. The Games where Black American athlete Jesse Owens famously won four Gold medals, putting a dent in Nazi claims of Aryan superiority.
Maybe it’s just me, but isn’t it just a little inappropriate for Berlin to host the Games on that anniversary. Intentionally milking a milestone of Third Reich history seems tasteless at the very least. But the mayor, Kai Wegner (CDU), seems dead set on that year so get ready for another decade of fraught historical debate.
Seriously, why not just drop the idea? Besides, isn’t hosting the Olympics more a burden than a bonus? According to this recent report by a major think tank, “the benefits of hosting the games are at best exaggerated and at worst nonexistent”.
To be clear, we’re nowhere close to getting the Olympics yet. All that’s happened is that the city-state’s cabinet (Senat) voted to send a Memorandum of Understanding to the German Olympic Sports Confederation stating its intention to make a bid. It’s not too late to give up. And channel efforts and resources into stuff Berlin needs: affordable housing, investment in schools, digital services — to name a few. Kai, wouldn’t you rather be remembered as the mayor who introduced the online-Anmeldung?
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Body cam law under fire
Berlin’s plan for widespread use of bodycams by cops, firefighters and Ordnungsamt officers has come under fire. The city-state’s data privacy officer Meike Kampe noted that the CDU-SPD government’s new legislation contained “technical and legal errors” and said the use of bodycams by police entering private homes would be unconstitutional. The government wants to allow bodycams in homes “if there are indications that this is necessary to avert a danger to life, limb or freedom”, adding cameras could be helpful in domestic violence cases. Police unions agree but Kampe says it should only be possible to record video in people’s homes with a court-issued warrant.
Eating out more expensive?
In July 2020, the government reduced VAT (Umsatzsteuer) on restaurant meals from 19% to 7%, the same rate as groceries purchased in a store. It was intended to help eateries battered by the corona lockdowns. The VAT is set to jump back up to 19% on January 1, 2024 and the hospitality sector is not happy. Ingrid Hartges, head of industry association Dehoga, put it in stark terms: “Fewer guests, less turnover, further closures, lower turnover for suppliers and partners and job losses.” Finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) says there’s no scope to keep the VAT rate low in 2024.
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AI ad campaign for … new buildings?
The Berlin department of urban development has dished out €290,000 on an ad campaign featuring AI-generated models to promote “acceptance” of new residential construction projects, writes Tagesspiegel. The ads will be shown on digital ad displays across town. Department head Christian Gaebler (SPD) said Monday: “Everyone always says: of course we need new flats. But when it gets concrete, you hear: not here, not so fast, and rather not so many flats.” Sure but how is this campaign supposed to get more apartments built? Or are they laying the groundwork for a referendum on building flats on Tempelhof? Sounds like it.
Bürgerämter actually popular?
Berlin’s “citizen offices”, you know, the places you do your Anmeldung, assuming you can get an appointment, are relatively popular compared to others in Germany. That’s based on a new study by the Berlin Brandenburg Consumer Protection Association (VSVBB). Berlin’s Bürgerämter ranked fifth overall! And the Bürgeramt in Klosterstraße, Mitte ranked second in Germany! The survey is based on Google ratings, and the very best rating was enjoyed by citizen’s service centres in Bielefeld, which according to some quirky German conspiracy theorists, is a city that might not actually exist. The worst are in Mönchengladbach .
East German modernist gem Kino International turns 60 this week. The cinema opened in November 1963 and was designed by the architects Josef Kaiser and Heinz Aust, who also created the iconic Café Moskau and Kino Kosmos. On November 9, 1989, the very night the Berlin Wall opened up, Kino International hosted the premiere of GDR filmmaker Heiner Carow’s Coming Out, the story of a gay high school teacher. On Sunday, November 19, there will be an open house at the theatre, including a film poster bazaar. After next year’s Berlinale in February, the International will be closed for two years for renovations.
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