#56: Ukraine support, fuel prices, Anonymous, Torstraße, tech money
And: is Hermannplatz facing turbo-gentrification?
Hi 20 Percenters,
Some things just trigger me. The war in Ukraine is driving fuel prices up. The cost of diesel, for example, has spiked by 64 cents per litre since the conflict began, according to German automobile club/lobbyist ADAC). To alleviate pain at the pump, finance minister Christian Lindner (FDP) is pushing for a 20 cent-per-litre tax cut. But instead of nudging people to drive less and save energy, this encourages the opposite. Not smart if you want your country to quit mainlining Russian fossil fuels and, er, do something about climate change - one of the reasons this traffic light coalition was elected into government in the first place.
What’s more, a speed limit on the autobahn (an easy way to reduce fuel consumption) as some Green politicians are once more suggesting, still remains taboo. The mind boggles.
More news below.
Have a nice Tuesday,
The Berlin corona stats for Tuesday, March 15
Fully vaccinated: 76.8% (76.7% Friday)
Received booster: 58.8% (58.7% Friday)
New cases in one day: 9,372 (4,274 Friday)
Total deaths: 4,305 (+7 over Friday)
🔴 7-day Covid-19 incidence (cases per 100,000): 871.8 (727.5 Friday)
🔴 7-day hospitalisation incidence (also per 100,000): 18.4 (14.5 Friday)
🟡 Covid-19 ICU patient occupancy: 10.4% (11.4% Friday)
Source: Berlin’s corona page
Berliners show up for Ukraine
Thousands of people demonstrated against Putin's war on Sunday. Protesters marched from Alexanderplatz through the Brandenburg Gate along Straße des 17. Juni (fittingly named after the worker revolt in East Berlin on June 17, 1953 that was brutally crushed by Soviet forces). The Polizei said 20,000 to 30,000 people took part. The organisers spoke of 60,000. Berlin cultural institutions continue to organise solidarity events. The Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, for example, is playing a benefit concert tonight. And the proceeds of a piano concert at the Philharmonie on Sunday, March 20, will go to support the work of Doctors Without Borders in Ukraine. Also on Sunday: 450 cinemas across Germany will screen the German documentary Klitschko about the Ukrainian brothers and former heavyweight boxing champions Vitali (now Kyiv mayor) and Wladimir Klitschko. The duo were backed by legendary (but now-deceased) German trainer Fritz Sdunek and are celebrities in Germany. All proceeds will be donated to childrens’ charities in Ukraine.
Oil firm hacked
Hacker group Anonymous says it targeted the German subsidiary of the Russian energy company Rosneft (whose supervisory board is headed by ex-chancellor Gerhard Schröder), and grabbed large amounts of data. Rosneft Deutschland confirmed the security breach to local public broadcaster RBB. Spokesman Burkhard Woelki said it was unclear how much damage had been inflicted but added that the firm’s oil refinery in Schwedt, which supplies most of Berlin and Brandenburg’s gasoline, was unaffected. Anonymous says it captured 20 terabytes of data, including backups of the laptops of company executives. They claim to have remotely wiped 59 iPhones and other devices. Meanwhile Greenpeace activists Tuesday protested at the Schwedt refinery. A handful even chained themselves to tracks that lead to the site, possibly disrupting production, Tagesspiegel reported.
Around 220 BER airport security personnel held a strike early Monday morning - resulting in the cancellation of about two-thirds of scheduled departures. Trade union Ver.di is demanding an hourly wage increase of €1. The Federal Association of Aviation Security Companies (BDLS), which represents the firms employing the staff, is offering a 38 cent raise. Airport security staff currently earn €14 to €19 per hour. The strikes continued Tuesday at other German airports including Frankfurt, the country’s largest.
Is this the future of Hermannplatz?
Vibe shift coming to Neukölln. Plans to refurbish the Karstadt department store on Hermannplatz in the style of the orginal 1929 building that was destroyed in the war are moving ahead. The city’s urban development honcho Andreas Geisel (SPD) has initiated a project-related development plan. The project is facing considerable opposition in the neighbourhood, though. Opponents say the store upgrade will mean a hugely disruptive building site for at least 5 years and result in massive gentrification of the area. Citizen’s group Initiative Hermannplatz (English info) collected 6,000 signatures from people who oppose the redevelopment and delivered them to the Berlin state parliament’s urban development committee.
Millions for tech dudes
Journalists tend to focus on start-up stories they sort of understand: games, delivery services, etc. But a lot of the economy is drab back-office stuff — and Berlin is beginning to get good at this too, apparently. Local start-up Forto, founded by three guys in business shirts with the top three buttons open, “simplifies interactions, removes process friction, and increases visibility around the supply chain” (we don’t know what that means either) and just attracted another US$250 million according to tech.eu. Meanwhile, three Danish guys sporting the same look bought Berlin’s Solvemate for $43 million, an AI chatbot that “ensures brands can create a painless customer experience” — I’m guessing it’s not being used in Germany yet.
It feels like another era but it was just 2 years ago: On March 14, 2020, Berlin's first corona lockdown began. Also on that day was the first pandemic death of a well-known Berliner. The neurosurgeon Jörn Kubicki, ex-mayor Klaus Wowereit's partner of many years, died of Covid-related heart failure at the age of 54.
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