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#49: Rules, storms, ambassador, Nazi trial
Also a sentence in the Porsche trial and women win at the Berlinale
Hi 20 Percenters,
The United States finally has an ambassador to Berlin after the post remained vacant for 20 months. Amy Gutmann was accredited in a ceremony with President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Thursday. Gutman’s Jewish father, who originated from Feuchtwangen in Bavaria, fled Nazi Germany in 1934.
With the appointment, Joe Biden seems to be returning a favour: During Trump’s term in the White House, Biden was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where Gutmann was president. In 2018, the college set up the Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. Is it nepotism or just how the world works?
Ambassador Gutmann, a highly accomplished political scientist, is the first woman to hold the position. She’ll surely prove a more diplomatic diplomat than her predecessor, Trump foot soldier Richard Grenell, who openly ranted about Angela Merkel’s refugee policy and stated that his mission as ambassador was to empower conservatives across Europe. Grenell quit Berlin in June 2020 after being appointed US Director of National Intelligence (we’ll dispense with an oxymoron joke this time). It’s taken so long to find a new ambassador because Republicans in Congress have attempted to block the procedure every step of the way.
More news below!
In case you’re here for the first time: 20 Percent Berlin is a free newsletter about the German capital that goes out every Tuesday and Friday, come rain or shine. Or Windböen (storm winds).
The Berlin corona stats for Friday, February 18
Fully vaccinated: 76.2% (76.0% Tuesday)
Received booster: 57.1% (56.8% Tuesday)
New cases in one day: +6,686 (5,630 Tuesday)
Total deaths: 4,205 (+37 over Tuesday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 977.1 (1,135.8 Tuesday)
🔴 7-day hospitalization incidence (also per 100,000): 23.8 (26.4 Tuesday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 15% (15.9% Tuesday)
Corona rule changes from today, Friday
2G (vaxxed or recovered) no longer required for shopping. FFP2 masks are required, though. The same goes for museums, galleries, memorials, aquariums, zoos and the botanical garden.
A summary of the other rules:
3G (vaxxed, recovered or tested) remains in place for public transport, plane travel, workplaces, sports which involve close contact.
FFP2 masks required on transport.
2G (vaxxed or recovered): hotels, gyms, saunas, spas, hair salons etc.
2G+ (vaxxed or recovered, plus test - unless you’re boosted or vaxxed or recovered within the past three months): restaurants, bars, clubs, cinemas, theatres, indoor events with more than 10 people.
If you have 20 minutes, feel free to read the latest version of the city’s corona rules here.
Twin storms Ylenia and Zeynep
Storm Ylenia wrought havoc in the capital Thursday, when gale-force winds forced the Ringbahn and other S-Bahns to limit service and BER was hit by more flight delays and technical issues than usual. The tempest ravaged the roof of a dental clinic at Charité Hospital and damaged the Paul-Löbe-Haus parliamentary office building next to the Reichstag. The Olympic Stadium took down its Olympic rings for fear of damage. After a brief respite Friday, expect Ylenia’s nasty twin Zeynep to rip through town in the evening. Transport cancellations and delays are expected through Saturday. The authorities are advising people to stay clear of parks and forests due to falling branches.
NSU 2.0 trial
The trial of suspected rightwing extremist and Berlin resident Alexander Horst M. began in Frankfurt on Wednesday. He’s charged with sending 116 threatening messages containing death threats and fantasies of sexual violence by e-mail, SMS or fax (!) under the pseudonym NSU 2.0, a reference to a deadly neo-Nazi terror cell known as the National Socialist Underground believed to have murdered nine immigrants and a policewoman in the early 2000s. The culprit is suspected of having targeted at least 24 people including leftwing politicians, celebrities and lawyers. On his first day in court he sneered at the cameras with two raised middle fingers.
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Berlin top German “workation” destination
Oh lord please no: HomeToGo, a Prenzlauer Berg-based Airbnb clone, has ranked 150 global cities on their suitability for “workations” i.e. working vacations, a concept I’m only too familiar with as a freelancer. Apparently, more and more regular employees are opting for remote work abroad. Factors in the ranking included co-working spaces, food, broadband speeds and cultural offerings. Berlin scored best among German cities, while Tokyo topped the global ranking.
Porsche driver guilty in 2019 fatal crash
A Berlin court Thursday found a man who killed four people during a traffic accident in 2019 in Invalidenstraße guilty of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced him to two years’ probation. The 45-year-old will also lose his license for two years and be forced to donate €15,000 to a charity. Michael M. had previously suffered epileptic attacks and, following brain surgery, had been told not to drive. After an epileptic attack behind the wheel, he killed a three-year-old boy, his grandmother and two adult men. Prosecutors had only sought 18 months of probation.
Women grab Berlinale bears
Female filmmakers and actors cleaned up at the Berlin Film Festival, aka the Berlinale, this year. The Golden Bear for the best film went to the Catalan drama Alcarràs directed by Carla Simón. The Silver Bear for best director was awarded to French filmmaker Claire Denis for Fire (or Both Sides of the Blade). German actor Meltem Kapta won the festival’s gender-neutral best lead acting award for her role in Rabiye Kurnaz Vs George W Bush (trailer above), the true and harrowing story of a Turkish-German mother who attempted to sue the US government for detaining her son Murat Kurnaz at Guantanamo Bay with no evidence.
Last chance to see: transmediale 2022
The transmediale festival’s exhibition, abandon all hope ye who enter here, at Akademie der Künste closes today at 7pm! Leave work early and check it out. While in its early years, transmediale often celebrated what was once known as “digital art”, this year’s Dante-inspired show by nine artists and collectives plunges us into the techno-hell Silicon Valley’s algorithmic hyper-capitalism has transformed the world into. The info.
In the internet age, it’s a minor miracle that Litfaßsäulen — the columns on Berlin corners used to advertise everything from Hollywood blockbusters to classic concerts — are still going strong. Berlin printer Ernst Litfaß came up with the idea in 1854 to combat rampant advertising and graffiti. Um, who’s going to tell him? The once-innovative advertising tool has long since been embraced by the rest of the world. And it has moved with the times: you now see the odd high-tech revolving column like the one shown above. Kudos to the city of Nuremberg, which had the imagination to start converting the insides of Litfaßsäulen into public toilets in 2015. The joke, of course, is that the columns have always served that purpose. - Andrew Blackman
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