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Germany

Germany in Brief

German trainees stumble on general knowledge test, tennis icon Boris Becker to pen a biography, Italian premier Berlusconi wants to ease ties between Germany and the U.S. and LTU to fly direct to Kabul.

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Those were the days - German tennis icon Boris Becker is writing a biography.

Capital of Spain? That’s a tough one!

Business leaders and managers in Germany may have something to gloat about this week. Following last week’s criticism from politicians including Chancellor Gerhard Schröder accusing companies of not doing enough to offer internships to young school graduates, a spot survey conducted by a German T.V. magazine on 11 applicants this week revealed shocking deficits in general knowledge, mathematics, geography and history. Some of those surveyed cited Paris, Mallorca or even Portugal as the capital of Spain, only six knew the right answer. Only every second knew the name of the German foreign minister, none had heard of German Finance Minister Hans Eichel while the name "Otto von Bismarck" only rung a bell as a war ship. The surveyed school graduates were apparently among the best candidates who had applied to three eastern German companies. Germany’s trainee program, an apprenticeship track that marries practical training with additional theoretical classes, serves as an alternative for young people who don't want to go apply to university.

Berlusconi wants to pour oil over troubled waters

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants to help smooth frayed relations between German Chancellor Schröder and U.S. President George W. Bush. In an interview with mass-selling German daily Bild on Tuesday, the controversy-prone Italian premier said, "I tend to weaken disagreements and to soften them." Berlusconi, who has been enjoying growing attention from Bush and was a recent visitor to the U.S. president’s Texas ranch, also appealed to Chancellor Schröder to actively try to repair relations with the U.S., which took a nosedive in the lead up to the U.S.-led Iraq war after Germany refused to support America. Berlusconi also praised German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer’s ambitions for the post of EU foreign minister. "He’s a natural candidate for the post of spokesman for European diplomacy," he said. Relations between Germany and Italy soured last month after Berlusconi compared a German member of the European Parliament to a Nazi concentration camp and worsened after a junior Italian tourism minister made disparaging remarks about German tourists.

Becker to bare all?

German tennis legend and celebrity playboy Boris Becker is to write a memoir on his colorful and scandal-tinged life. The Bertelsmann publishing company announced this week the three-time Wimbledon champion aided by experts and consultants is penning a 352-page biography which will be peppered with photographs from Becker’s private archive. The book is expected to be released in November this year. Becker dominated the German tennis scene for more than a decade and together with Steffi Graf helped popularize the sport to dizzying heights in Germany. He quit the tennis scene at the end of the 90s and turned to a business career, but had to contend with more than a couple of financial disasters and was convicted for tax evasion. The former tennis star, who has two sons from former wife Barbara Feltus, has been linked with several starlets, models and singers, a fact which has served to accentuate Becker’s notoriously famous reputation.

LTU to fly direct to Kabul

German airline LTU will begin Europe’s first direct flights to the Afghan capital Kabul on Tuesday, August 5, ending a 23-year-old freeze on civil aviation between the two continents. LTU said an Airbus 330-200 passenger jet, with a seating capacity of around 320, would leave the western German city of Düsseldorf each Tuesday evening and arrive in Kabul early Wednesday morning after a flight of six-and-a- half hours. The Nur Air Travel Service, which will charter the flight, said about 150 mainly exile Afghans, aid organization employees and foreign office personnel had booked the first tickets. About 300,000 exile Afghans live in Germany. LTU is expected to work closely with the multinational International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul and cooperate with German troops. Germany and Afghanistan sealed an aviation agreement last month.