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World

Germany in Brief

German opposition politician meets Bush in Washington; ministry officials wait for bird flu confirmation, German airlines buck terrorist fears in Kenya, casting shows swamp German TV and more.

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A German opposition leader gets an audience the chancellor hasn't had in a while.

German politician gets the audience chancellor can't

As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell was preparing for his visit to Berlin, Hesse State Premier Roland Koch was engaged in a spontaneous meeting with U.S. President George Bush. Koch was in Washington on Thursday for a scheduled meeting at the White House with Vice President Richard Cheney when the U.S. leader surprisingly sat down and joined in. Koch is the first high-level German politician to meet President Bush in the six months since relations soured over threatened military action against Iraq. Koch was delighted to have held fifteen minutes of talks with President Bush, and said afterwards that the central theme of their talks had been about the so-called "ice age" in U.S.-German relations. His chancellor, on the other hand was reportedly "furious," according to an Associated Press report. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Bush haven't had more than a few minutes of conversation in more than a year. "It's an affront," a chancellor aide told AP.

Bird flu in Germany not confirmed

The two new cases of bird flu reported in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia on Thursday, have not yet been confirmed. Reports from the German Agriculture Ministry say that the cases were sent away for rapid testing, but that the results had not yet turned up any conclusive results. The European Union yesterday extended its ban on North Rhine-Westphalian exports of until the end of the month. The ban, which was imposed following the discovery last week of a number of cases of bird flu, applies to chicken, eggs, chicken carcases and untreated dung. The German authorities have already ordered the precautionary slaughter of around 84,000 hens. German travel companies continue to fly to Kenya

German travel company have responded with calm to current fears over terrorist attacks in Kenya. Unlike British travel companies which, following an order issued by the British government on Thursday, have temporarily cancelled all flights between Britain and the Kenyan capital of Mombasa. A spokesman for Thomas Cook in Germany said on Friday, that they would continue flying to Mombasa until advised by the Foreign Office or the Transport Ministry not to. Rival travel giant, TUI Deutschland is also continuing with its travel program.

One in seven Berliners live in poverty

Some fourteen years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, one in every seven citizens of Berlin lives in poverty. Statistics presented on Friday by the Berlin Regional Statistics Office show that in 2002 some 533,000 Berliners (15.6%) survived from a monthly allowance of just €606 ($696), making it the highest poverty level ever recorded in the city. The percentage of those living in poverty is considerably higher in the former western districts of the city (17.3%) than in the east (12.9%), and the five poorest districts are all in the west. Horst Schmollinger of the Regional Statistics Office warned that large families are particularly at risk of poverty.

In the shadow of the "Superstars"

Deutschland sucht den Superstar

Contestants on the ultra-successful German knock-off of Great Britain's "Pop Idol"

With the resounding success of Germany’s music talent show “Deutschland Sucht den Superstar” (the country's version of "Pop Idol") still ringing out across the nation, Germany is soon to be hit by a tidal wave of similar new casting-style programs. Private Channel Pro 7 is gearing up for a third series of their hit show “Popstars”, which spawned the likes of bands “No Angels” and “Bro’Sis”. RTL, the brains behind the Superstars, is putting together a second series of their baby, while rival channel Sat.1 has its own version -- “Star Search” -- in the making. And for those who really can’t get enough, even the public broadcaster ZDF is creating a version, dubbed “Deutschlands Stimme 2003.”

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