Duisburg: Autonomous inland waterway vessels?

A ship called Daniel Mr Allister is in a river. The surrounding looks industrial.

Is it a contribution to solving transport and environmental problems? Autonomous inland waterway vessels are expected to be available in 15 years – this was the result of a feasibility study conducted by the Duisburg Development Center for Ship Technology and Transport Systems on October 31, 2018. The study was carried out for the Chambers of Industry and Commerce in the Ruhr area. With its canals and ports, the Ruhr area would be an ideal test area for self-propelled ships.

By transferring the goods of large Rhine freighters to smaller, self-propelled ships instead of trucks, the chances of smaller freighters becoming competitive would be increased, the development center emphasizes. But it should not be forgotten that the automotive industry is also working at full speed on autonomous technology. And in contrast to inland navigation, the automotive industry is supported by companies worth billions.

A comparison over the years also speaks against inland waterway transport: last year, 222 million tons were transported via rivers, ten years ago it was almost 250 million tons. In 2010, inland waterway transport accounted for about 6% of commercial freight transport, 9% by rail and 76% by road. As far as rail freight transport is concerned, it can be said that, despite annual growth in volume, it has not really got off the ground since the financial crisis of 2008.

For Thomas Schlipköther, the Duisburg Port’s Chief Technology and Operations Officer, there are more pressing problems at the moment anyway. These include the extremely low water levels to which one has to adapt. Furthermore, the fact that many inland waterway vessels still chug through the rivers with old diesel engines. In this context, Ursula Heinen-Esser (CDU) demanded conversion premiums for inland waterway vessels in the “Rheinische Post” (1. 11. 2018). In comparison to inland navigation, sea shipping is far more harmful in terms of pollutant emissions, as heavy fuel oil is burned (inland navigation vessels are usually ship diesel engines). Nevertheless, inland navigation has been lagging behind for years in terms of air pollutants emitted.

Marseille: Housing collapse claims eight lives

A Street Art of Nelson Mandela in the neighbourhood of Noailles in Marseille. The neighbourhood is known for derelict housing.

It’s a miracle that accidents don’t happen every day in Marseille,” says an anonymous expert from the TGI (Tribunal de grande instance de Marseille), among other things, about what happened on 5 November 2018 in the district of Noailles, Marseille. Two dilapidated houses collapsed in the morning and eight people were buried in the rubble. The doors of the first house, which has been classified as dilapidated since 2008, were locked or bricked up, but neighbours suspect that squatters have nevertheless gained access. In the second collapsed house, from which chunks of the façade had already broken out in September of this year, there were nine apartments, inhabited by couples and families. But these houses are by no means the only ones in a precarious condition. A government survey carried out in 2015 showed that 40,000 houses (out of a population of around 100,000) were “a risk to health or safety”. In the Noailles district, 48 percent of the building stock is considered dilapidated and inhumane.

The anger of the inhabitants is increasing. On the one hand, it is the homeowners who, even when renovation work is long overdue, only have to do the bare essentials; on the other hand, it is the municipal authorities who do not lift a finger when renovating houses or building social housing. On 14 November 2018, citizens, social organisations and interest groups commemorated the victims during a protest march with around 8,000 demonstrators.

The lack of social housing is also what forces many people to move into dilapidated houses, says Florent Houdmon, who works for the Abbé Pierre Foundation in the greater Marseille area against poverty and housing shortages. Nowhere else in France would such conditions exist. It’s no coincidence that the houses of the poor, of all people, are collapsing, as Jean-Luc Mélenchon of France Insoumise is sure when he expresses the thoughts of numerous residents of Marseille.

A technical explanation for the collapses could be the rainfalls that occurred days before, which are also held responsible for the cracks in the walls and a front door that no longer fits into the frame. However, this does not explain the lack of implementation of the principle of renovation that had already been adopted 20 years earlier, as Patrick Lacoste from the citizens’ initiative “A city centre for all” makes clear. Now the public prosecutor’s office is investigating for negligent homicide. Jean-Claude Gaudin, Mayor of Marseille since 1995, who was strongly criticised for the incidents, admitted for the first time on Sunday that he had not done enough in the fight against the dilapidated housing conditions. Insight as the first step towards improvement? It will come to light. It remains to be hoped that this incident will remain a unique example which will bring the city administration to action.


Bern: Reitschule investigated by the Police

The autonomous place Reitschule in Bern, Switzerland. The facade of the traditional building and once horse riding school is covered of street art.

On Friday evening, 23 November 2018, several dozen police officers stormed the courtyard of the autonomous Bernese Cultural Centre Reitschule. 15 men were reported to the police – 13 on suspicion of drug trafficking and two others for obstructing the operation. Among the men were nine Nigerians and one each Iraqi, Syrian, Sudanese, Moroccan and Ethiopian. Four of the men were finally arrested for illegal residence in Switzerland.
The reporting of the two parties could not be more different: On the one hand, the police, who speak of several people who had harassed them and obstructed them in their operations. An unknown person would even have shot them from the balcony with a slingshot. The riding school’s media group, on the other hand, claims that at least one person was injured by rubber bullets. In addition, the restaurant “Sous le Pont” located in the Reitschule had been affected for hours.
Thick air prevailed however already before. Already on 1 September 2018 there were riots between the police and visitors to the Reitschule, where the police, according to their own statements, were thrown at with water balloons and attacked with fireworks, iron bars and bottles after patrolling the riding school in full gear. The “Reitschüler”, on the other hand, testify that they were shot with rubber shot at head height. The rubber shot had been marked with smileys and other inscriptions, which substantiated the suspicion of a planned escalation, writes the media group of the Reitschule. Police spokeswoman Jolanda Egger says that the police do not do such a thing, because it would contradict their principles. The deployment would be checked by the police.

The following video shows a person filming the operation who was sprayed with pepper spray:


Is the suspicion of a planned escalation justified? The police themselves speak of their strategy as a “preventive presence marking”, which they consider necessary due to the increasing number of cases of serious bodily harm in urban nightclubs.
According to Reto Nause, security director of the city of Bern and CVP politician, it is not a good idea to avoid the Reitschule simply for fear of escalation. There must be no such thing as “lawless spaces,” he notes, stressing that the strategy of preventive presence would be maintained even after riots. By the way, Nause was banned from the Reitschule on the same evening of the last events on 23 November, when he apparently happened to be strolling around the forecourt after a concert. What he reacted to with incomprehension was that the state would subsidize the cultural center, and that the fact of being expelled from a public space was a contradiction in terms. The Reitschule, on the other hand, countered that the storming of a restaurant does not exactly testify to tolerance and dialogue.

In the course of the events the desire for bodycams was not expressed for the first time: the mini cameras on the body of the policemen should provide for more transparent operations. Today, filming within the legal framework is only permitted at public events in the Canton of Berne if there are concrete indications that criminal offences could be committed (for example, at unauthorised rallies). It was only in April that an unauthorised Afrin rally was dissolved by the police. As a result, on 30 August 2018, the Bern City Parliament ordered an independent investigation against the will of Nause.
Whoever may have thrown the first stone, there are different opinions among the population about the autonomous cultural centre. “Close the shop”, demand those who see in the “Reitschüler” above all useless riot brothers. But more differentiated opinions warn against a shift in the problem of drug trafficking. And what about the street next to the Bundeshaus? Nobody would say a word about that either, according to the cynical reply of an anonymous user. The voting results so far speak a clearer language: the Bernese electorate has already voted five times on the abolition of the centre, but each time they were against it. The last time the sale of the building was rejected was in 2010 with a majority of 68.4% votes. A clear commitment to tolerance and cultural diversity, said city president Alexander Tschäppät (SP).

Berlin: Controversy around Germanys rent brake

Almost aesthetic: construction cranes during the blue hour (Photo by emcanicepic /pixabay licence)

Author’s note: This article contains outdated information.

Average earners in German cities have to leave a lot of money on the table to buy a new apartment – the rental price brake introduced in June 2015 has even increased the increase in this segment.

A study commissioned by the ARD magazine Panorama by the real estate market specialist empirica-systeme revealed unpleasant figures. Many households would have to spend more than 27% of their net income on rent, which is considered problematic by experts. The lower the income, the less money is left for other living expenses. In 64 German cities, residents with an average income cannot avoid paying more than 27%. This applies above all to smaller cities such as Schwerin, Erfurt and Rosenheim. In Berlin, on the other hand, the so-called rent burden rate is an incredible 41.3%.

The high prices can be explained on the one hand by increasing land prices and strong demand in cities, but on the other hand also by rising construction costs. As many building regulations in the areas of fire protection, noise protection and insulation have tightened since 2005, prices have risen by 33% during this period, according to the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW).

A measure criticised for inefficiency 

Building in the east of Berlin.

What concrete action has been taken against this? According to former commissioner Dietmar Walberg, the commission set up by the federal government in 2014 to reduce construction costs would have drawn up important proposals, but these were not implemented. The rent brake would also contribute little to improving the situation, according to the Association of Towns and Municipalities. This was introduced by the coalition in the last legislative period and tightened at the beginning of the year. Urban planning expert Norbert Portz sees no quantifiable improvement, and would not be opposed to abolition. The rent brake would only cure the symptoms of dilapidated housing construction and would not provide a viable solution. Instead, the federal government would have to assume more responsibility in social housing construction. It would be best for the municipalities to build themselves – which they are not doing at the moment, as land is available but private owners do not want to sell it. In Addition, jobs are to be transferred to the countryside, for example through digitisation – and thus give people a reason to move out of the city.

Who will benefit from the rent brake? Study author Claus Michelsen states that “the average development of rents is slowing down”. However, this is in the order of only 2 to 4%, and has no influence on the segment of new buildings – these are not subject to the rent brake. According to a DIW expert, this is a good thing, because otherwise the residential construction sector could be stalled.

Previously, the Federal Ministry of Justice had already investigated 91 cases, most of which took place in Berlin, where tenants successfully applied the brake in three quarters of the cases – resulting in average repayments of EUR 167 per month.

In seven federal states the rent brake does not apply at all. Although the states have the right to have the rent brake applied in areas with a tight housing market, the necessary legal ordinances may only be issued until 31 December 2020. There is still room for improvement, as Justice Minister Katarina Barley (SPD) says. In spring 2019 she plans to present a bill to extend the scheme by 5 years. The rent index is to be corrected by the fact that the leases of the last six (instead of the past four) years represent the local custom. She is satisfied with the effect already achieved, even if she admits that the rent brake alone cannot heal the market.

In the following interview she talks about the tightening of the rent brake, what else it contains and what should be improved:

The coalition partner CDU/CSU takes a critical view of the restriction of rent increase possibilities associated with the rent brake: “Interest in investments in the housing market could suffer as a result.

In any case, the rent problem cannot be denied: The fact that the popular initiative “Expropriate German Housing” is falling on fertile ground even before 20,000 signatures have been reached in Berlin is putting the Senate under pressure.

This article is a translation from the original “Berlin Umstrittene Mietpreisbremse“, which was written by Anna M .

Saint Denis: JP Morgan invests in the Seine Saint-Denis

Building of the city hall in Seine Saint Denis. The buidling is located in the departement 93.


Townhall of Saint-Denis, one of the poorer suburbs of the metropolitan regions of Paris (Foto by Guillaume Baviere / CC by 2.0)

According to various media reports, the American bank JPMorgan will invest 30 million dollars (approximately 27 million euros) in the greater Paris area and in particular in the Seine-Saint-Denis department (93), as part of its “AdvancingCities” initiative.

Europe1 reports in an interview with Kyril Courboin, the French managing director of JP Morgan France, that the bank wants to invest a large part of its money in charities that counteract unemployment.

Unemployment is a major problem, especially in the Seine-Saint-Denis (93) region, as it is one of the poorest in France, bordering on Paris. Among others, clubs such as “Les Compagnons du Devoir“, “Simplon.co“, “Sport dans la Ville”, “l’AFMAe” will be supported with money. According to Businesswire, the aim is to improve the efficiency of clubs and to combat unemployment by providing training opportunities to local citiziens. The whole project is marketed as part of a social responsibility and anthropological investment. Nevertheless, the timing is remarkably good, since Paris will host the Olympic Games in 2024, which will take place to a large extent in the “93”.


Munich: The museum Neue Pinakothek closes its doors until 2027

Munich: The museum “Neue Pinakothek” closes its doors until 2025

The new Pinakothek in Munich, an emblematic cultural institution of the southern German state capital, closed its doors at the beginning of the year. The museum, which housed works by Vincent van Gogh, Gustav Klimt and Goya, urgently needed renovation.

Water soaks through the roof when it rains heavily, while the walls are covered with asbestos, a harmful material once used for isolation of buildings. According to Bayerischer Rundfunk, the technology used to ventilate and air-condition the rooms is also outdated, which is why the building will remain closed beyond 2025. The current estimated reopening is set for 2027. The financing of the construction costs amounting to 220 million euros was approved by the Bavarian state parliament.

Huge visitor flow and crowning final guided visit

A huge line of people is waiting in front of the entrance to the Neue Pinakothek on 30 December to see the collection in all its glory for the last time.

In order to give all those interested in culture the chance to say goodbye to the masterpieces from the 19th century, admission was free from 17 to 30 December. This led to a huge stream of visitors, which spread as far as Barerstraße at 11 o’clock in the morning, on the last day. The crowd then shifted in part to the old Pinakothek and the other cultural areas in the museum quarter.

The last day of the Neue Pinakothek was concluded with a large farewell tour. General director Professor Doctor Bernhard Maaz talked about sculptures and classicism up to Rodin, while the art mediator Doctor Alina Langer gave an introduction under the motto “Under the Sun of the South. Vincent van Gogh”, for those interested in the opportunity to learn something about Expressionism.

But the most important works in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek won’t disappear . Some of them will be preserved in the Schack Collection and in the east wing of the Alte Pinakothek for the public. The other works are expected to be exhibited in other museums of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen.

The article is available in French and German.

The article was updated on 28.07.19. (Opening year and financing, source SZ)

Paris: Graffiti-Eldorado at subway line 12

Paris: Graffiti-Eldorado of subway line 12

Paris subway line 12 – Colortime

While the adventurous used to travel to the Wild West in search of adventure, gold and wealth, today the most diverse graffiti artists and vandals are drawn to Paris. The reason?

The metro line 12 which crosses the city from the northern Banlieue Aubervilliers to the southern, Issy-les-Moulineaux. No matter if a graffiti on the Metro per day or five. In the train-yards of the 12 reigns a gold rush atmosphere.

In the search for the color on the panels of the Paris-Metro:

Graffiti OLMS Paris Metro Ligne 12

The subway line enjoys great popularity with the numerous local and international graffiti crews. From Reis (Lisbon) to RWS & ORF (Bonn) the wicked line 12 is a pilgrimage place of the Paris graffiti-scene.

And sometimes also an expression of their anonymous world of thoughts (“and how many times of misery and evil…”).

Et combien de saisons de misere et de galere…

Popular among the sprayers for its design are the MF67 models, which celebrated their first appearance between 1967 – 1978. The previously used Sprague-Thompson trains were replaced and the new models got introduced. The name derives from “Métro Fer appel d’offre 1967” (Iron-Métro call 1967). The Line 12 has 50 of the 138 MF-67 models in service.

The blue-green-white painting is typical for these older models of the Paris Métroparks. In the graffiti scene, world-famous for its graffiti aesthetics, it regularly draws crews from all over the world into the underground shafts of the Line 12 somewhere in the north of Paris. In the photo below you can see a graffiti of the Portuguese “Reis” crew. These are from Lisbon and means translated “kings”.