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Germany

Germany in Brief

Drought threatens harvest and farmers; political parties agree on cuts to healthcare system; Unemployment offices won't help procure prostitutes and more.

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The continuing heatwave in parts of Europe forced German farmers to harvest grain planted in winter two weeks earlier than planned.

Farmers call for drought aid

German farmers have called for emergency aid to offset massive losses due to the current heatwave. German Farmers Association head Gerd Sonnleitner said the drought was resulting in losses of up to 80 percent. In the worst effected regions -- Saxony, Brandenburg and Bavaria -- up to one-sixth of the 6,000 farms' very existences were threatened. Agriculture Minister Renate Kunäst and Sonnleitner plan to meet on Monday evening to discuss possibilities to aid the stricken industry. Harvests are not only more meager than normal, but Bavaria's Agriculture Minister said grains are smaller. In Brandenburg the drought has already caused €225 million in damage. Only North Rhine-Westphalia and Schleswig-Holstein have been largely spared from the drought.

Consensus on healthcare system cuts

Patients can reckon with higher costs for health care in Germany. The leading governmental and opposition parties agreed on Sunday night to a plan intended to stabilize the public healthcare system and lower non-wage labor costs. In addition to paying monthly premiums, patients will have to hand over €10 each time they go to a doctor and for each day they spend in a hospital -- up to €280 yearly or 2 percent of their income. Patients will no longer receive help from their insurance companies to cover the costs of dentures. Employees will have to cover the costs of sick-pay -- which has been paid for by employers up to now -- themselves from 2007. The plans foresee allowances for the chronically-ill. Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and Christian Democrat opposition leader Angela Merkel ironed out the main points of dispute between the government and its opponents -- over dentures´and pharmacies -- in numerous telephone calls over the course of the night. The reform will bring savings of € 9.9 billion in 2004 alone, according to its architects' calculations. The proposals are expected to be debated by parliament in early September.

Labor office won't help pimp

Jobless prostitutes can't expect help from German unemployment offices. "We want to avoid unemployed people being presented with such offers by job councelors," a spokeswoman for the Federal Labor Office said on Monday in Nuremberg. The spokeswoman confirmed a report from the newsmagazine Der Spiegel that alleged a vacancy announcement had been deleted from the office's online wanted-ads looking for prostitutes. Despite the legalization of prostitution, the trade "remains a difficult issue," the spokeswoman said. The magazine reported that a brothel-owner in Saxony received support from parliamentarian Marita Sehn of the business-friendly Free Democratic Party when the labor office refused to help him find employees other than bartenders and dancers for the establishment he plans to open in September.

Court says suspected al Qaeda members can sent to U.S.

A Frankfurt court announced on Monday two Yemen nationals arrested in the city in January could be deported to the United States. U.S. authorities have accused the men of being involved in financing the al Qaeda terror network and taking part in sending off suicide bombers. The court said international law did not hinder deporting the suspects, and that the United States had assured it the men would not be put before a military or special court, but would be faced with "ordinary criminal procedures." The German government must now decide whether it will hand the Yemenis over to U.S. authorities.

Compiled with material from news agencies.