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Germany in Brief

Artist Jeff Koon out of a job in Hamburg; parliamentarians call for directly-elected president; "Kuno, the killer catfish" remains a star and more.


Hamburg didn't like U.S. artist Jeff Koons' proposal for gigantic building cranes on the Reeperbahn.

Hamburg Rejects Artist Koons' Gigantic Cranes

Hamburg politicians decided not to allow U.S. pop artist Jeff Koons to build his highly-disputed building crane sculpture on the city's infamous Reeperbahn in the St. Pauli district, local Senator Mario Mettbach announced on Wednesday. "The amount of popular acceptance that is necessary for realizing such an artwork was not there," he said. Koons had proposed installing two 100-meter high cranes to form a gate on the unused Spielbudenplatz. He planned to dangle 85-meter (280 feet) high life saving rings from the arms of the cranes. Politicians and artists had attacked the plan, including the Academy of Art which dubbed Koon's proposal "overblown banalities." A public competition will now be held to decide how to develop the site, Mettbach said.

Parliament Considers Directly-elected Presidency

Parliamentarians Peter Gauweiler and Josef Winkler proposed a bill on Wednesday calling for Germany's president to be elected directly. Such a change would require amending the Basic Law, Germany's constitution. Currently the Federal Assembly, made up of 603 members of parliament and the same number of representatives from the states, elect the president. Although officially the head of state, the president has a largely ceremonial function. Although the next election is not until May 2004, the search for a president has already begun. The incumbent, Johannes Rau, still has not said whether he will run for re-election.

Dog-eating Catfish Important to Former Home

Since he was found dead last week, "Kuno, the killer catfish" has continued to fascinate the international media, a spokesman for the city of Mönchengladbach said. Dutch, Belgian, Japanese and American media had picked up the story of Kuno's untimely death. "The fish is becoming an important personality for Mönchengladbach," the spokesman said. The fish, which reportedly ate a dachshund at the beginning of his media carrier, was said to have been found dead in the Rhine River last week. Fans in Mönchengladbach were disbelieving. "That wasn't the Kuno we know," Leon Cornelius, a member in the band "Kunos Freunde" (Kuno's Friends) told Reuters on Friday. "For us on the Rhine, Kuno was what Loch Ness is for the Scottish," Uwe Heil, another band member said. Kuno's corpse will be stuffed and exhibited in a local museum.

Minister Appeals for More Traineeships

"Now it's the companies' turn: create more traineeships!" Education Minister Edelgard Bulmahn wrote in the mass-circulation Bild newspaper on Thursday. Buhlmahn wrote that 51,000 fewer positions are being offered than last year, although state employment offices have registered just as many applicants as last year at the same time. Bulmahn's demand came three days after the Association of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK) made a similar appeal to German companies. DaimlerChrysler said on Wednesday it would create around 2,800 spaces for trainees this year to respond to the lack of positions.

Compiled with material from news agencies.

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