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Germany in Brief

German government decides to up child benefits to low-income families, 80 percent of Germans know who Gerhard Schröder is, Buddhists converge on Germany and T.V. channel draws fire for planned GDR revival show.


This is Gerhard Schröder, the chancellor of Germany.

A helping hand to low-income families with kids

The German government plans to pay extra child benefits amounting to €140 a month to low-income families. According to the German Finance and Labor Ministry currently more than a million children in Germany live in families who are dependant on social welfare handouts. About 150,000 of those children will now come under the so-called "Unemployment benefits II" regulation that will be a combination of unemployment and social welfare benefits. German Health Minister Ulla Schmidt said the planned fusion of unemployment and social welfare benefits also aims to provide additional support to families, whose own income doesn’t suffice to care for their children. She added the new regulation would also be an added attraction to parents to take up a job. The new law is expected to be approved by the cabinet in August and will take effect starting July 2004.

So who is Gerhard Schröder?

How many Germans recognize Gerhard Schröder as their chancellor? Over the weekend it was barely every second, and then a day later suddenly 80 percent of them knew who he was. The reason for the sudden about-turn was a slip-up on the part of the respected Forsa research poll institute which published a new online survey over the weekend. News magazine Spiegel cited the survey over the weekend with the words, " a new online survey method has thrown up amazing results: according to it just about half of all Germans know that Gerhard Schröder is the chancellor." Researchers reportedly used a new technique by which participants could answer questions via the remote control on the television screen. Forsa Head Manfred Güllner has now added to the furore sparked by the survey when he admitted this week that the institute had "made a mistake." Apparently Forsa employees didn’t judge as correct cheeky answers by participants such as "bankruptcy chancellor" and "our boss of all things" when asked to name Schröder’s function. Well, at least now Chancellor Schröder needn’t worry about not being recognized.

Buddhists gather to meditate in Germany

Some 3,000 Buddhists from more than 40 countries are meeting and meditating for 18 days in Immenhausen in the state of Hesse for Germany’s largest Buddhist gathering. The meeting is devoid of any religious slant. "We’re normal people. Doctors, teachers, software experts – no monks or nuns," Holm Ay, spokesman for the Buddhist umbrella organization Diamondway ( BDD), the largest Buddhist community in Germany told German news agency dpa. Buddha’s teachings are gaining popularity in Germany, with some 10,000 Buddhists estimated in the country. However the plethora of Buddhist organizations and communities in the country have led to frequent accusations and doubts over the credibility of some groups and debates over how one can differentiate between dubious and the "real" ones. But Micheal Utsch of the Protestant Center for Religious and Ideological Issues (EZW) underlined the significance of Buddhism for the West. "With the stock market bust, the striving for material values has waned, the people are looking for something better," he said.

T.V. channel faces flak for planned GDR revival show

German private television channel RTL has come under fire from an aid organization for playing down human rights abuses in Communist East Germany with its planned "GDR Show". The group "Help," an organization for victims of political violence in Europe, said the title of the show alone implies an "underrating of the terrible second dictatorship. " In a public letter to RTL, Help’s organizers wrote "We expect – and with us millions of morally-thinking people – that you should neither produce nor broadcast this show that glosses over and underplays the GDR dictatorship." RTL however is planning to go ahead with the GDR revival revue, slated to go on air in September with former ice-skating champion Katarina Witt as the host. On the cards are talks with prominent guests, clips from television programs and films as well as a presentation of the former music, fashion and everyday culture in the GDR. RTL editor Edgar Schnicke defended the channel’s decision by saying they had already broadcast a large documentary on the GDR which "presents the correct political facts and links."