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German report German report
by Euro Reporter
2012-11-17 11:58:42
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German Greens want conservative voters, not alliance

Germany's Greens do not want to form a coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives after elections next year, but hope to poach their voters, the party's co-chairman said on Friday. There has been growing speculation that the party, which began as a peacenik ecological movement on the far left, may be heading for the unthinkable - a partnership with Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) that would keep her in power. Greens co-chairman Cem Oezdemir, speaking at the start of a three-day party congress, tried to dampen talk that the Greens would form such an alliance if they failed to win a majority with their preferred partners, the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). "We don't want the union and some people haven't quite figured that out yet," Oezdemir told the 710 delegates. "We only want their voters. In 2013 we want to rule together with the SPD. Let's not let this discussion drive us crazy."

The speculation has erupted in the last week after the Greens picked a moderate with strong appeal among conservative voters, Katrin Goering-Eckardt, as one of their two lead candidates for 2013. Analysts believe the Greens, who shared power with the SPD from 1998 to 2005, would quickly ditch the party on election night if their choices were either getting into bed with the CDU, or spending another four years in opposition. An opinion poll published by ZDF on Friday showed Merkel's conservatives with 39 percent but their Free Democrats (FDP) allies at 4 percent - falling short of the 5 percent hurdle needed for seats in parliament. The Greens were at 13 percent and the SPD at 30 percent - not enough for a majority.

These relatively stable polls would mean Merkel would probably try to form a coalition with the SPD or the Greens. In a remarkable appeal to conservative voters, Oezdemir said that the Greens might have once been a small party but were now making the CDU nervous with an emphasis on "conservative values" and their unabashed efforts to appeal to a broader spectrum. "Obviously we're conservative in some ways, but conservative without the resentment and chauvinism of the right," he said, even drawing applause for the comments that a few years earlier could have caused him to be booed off the stage. “We have conservative values but not conservative structures. We're not trying to maintain the conservative lobby structures and the conservative power base. We're also leftist because we want a just an emancipated society."


Germany abandons nuclear power and lives to talk about it

On the afternoon of April 29, 1986, West Germany's Interior Minister Friedrich Zimmermann walked out of a meeting with the Commission on Radiological Protection and spoke to a TV reporter. "There is no danger," Zimmermann assured millions of anxious viewers. "Chernobyl is 2,000 kilometres away." Zimmermann's words carried authority—and not just because of his high office. He looked authoritative, dressed in a dark gray suit, white shirt, matching dark tie and steel-framed aviator glasses on his plump face. He also spoke with the cold command of a lawyer, which he had been before entering politics. The only element out of place in his reassuring performance that day was a large oil painting on the wall behind him. It depicted storm clouds gathering above churning seas and its omen of dread proved to be the most accurate part of the interview. Chernobyl, in Soviet Ukraine, was 300 miles closer than Zimmermann had said. Even as he spoke, a radioactive cloud released by the worst nuclear power disaster in history was over East Germany and drifting west. Like all revolutions, the German Energiewende was set in motion by many factors and its course altered by a multitude of events and actors along the way. A few key moments stand out, however, and the Chernobyl catastrophe is one of them. To fully understand the Energiewende, and to anticipate its future twists and turns, it's essential to understand the role Chernobyl played in shaping the German public's view of nuclear power.

Take Marianne Störmer, for example, my seatmate on a trip crossing a swath of northern Germany. She was a young schoolteacher in Hamburg when the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl exploded and burned out of control for 10 days, and she vividly recalled that time of angst. "A lot of radiation came over here so you had to be very careful about what you ate," she said. "Milk was contaminated. I had always gathered mushrooms in the forest, but we were told not to do that anymore." Now in her mid-fifties, Störmer describes herself as a "typical Bürgher"—German shorthand for a cliché of middle-class and middle-of-the-road sensibilities from an earlier era. She looked the part: conservatively dressed with medium-length brown hair, plain-rimmed glasses and a stout build. A physics teacher, she had admired the engineering and scientific brilliance that made it possible to harness energy from splitting atoms. She had believed in nuclear power — until Chernobyl. The worst part, she said, was the effect on her 11-, 12- and 13-year-old students. "They were so frightened. So were the parents. They asked me: Should the children play outside? Should they not?" Störmer gazed out the window and looked at the passing fields. Then she turned back and shook her head in disgust. "Nuclear," she said deliberately, "is a very ugly sort of energy." A group of German farmers reached that conclusion a decade before Störmer did. In 1975, the conservative residents of southern Germany's grape-growing region occupied the site of a planned nuclear power station, forcing its cancellation. A decade later, when they were ordered to destroy their crops because of radioactive fallout from Chernobyl, they believed their nuclear doubts had been confirmed.

As time passed and memories of Chernobyl faded, however, the German public's wider outcry against nuclear power receded. Through the mid-1990s, the nuclear industry and the ruling conservative government fought nuclear opponents to a standoff. No new plants were built, but no existing facilities were closed. In 2000, a new government passed the comprehensive legislation that became the foundation for the Energiewende, and it included the gradual phase out of nuclear power. But that part of the law was overturned a decade later by the centre-right coalition led by the current chancellor, Angela Merkel, who also extended the life of aging nuclear plants by up to 14 years. Merkel's decision triggered Germany's largest antinuclear protests since Chernobyl. But still, the public remained divided on the issue and the fate of nuclear power remained up in the air. Until Fukushima.


German police stop man with mobile office in car

german_400Forget texting while driving. German police say they nabbed a driver who had wired his Ford station wagon with an entire mobile office. Saarland state police said Friday the 35-year-old man was pulled over for doing 130 kph (80 mph) in a 100 kph zone while passing a truck Monday.

Built on a wooden frame on his passenger seat they found a laptop on a docking station tilted for easy driver access, a printer, router, wireless internet stick, WLAN antenna, and an inverter to power it all.

A navigation system and cellphone mounted to the windshield completed the array. Since there was no evidence he used the office while moving, he got away with a €120 ($153) speeding ticket and a possible fine for having unsecured items in his car.

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