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German election roundup: Immigration, pension reform and tough questions from children

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More immigration needed in Germany to prop up pension system

Immigration is a huge topic ahead of the September 26th election. And today the pro-business Free Democrats have been sharing their views on it, as well as the pension system. 

The FDP say many more workers from abroad – half a million per year – are needed to help keep the German pension system functioning.

“We need a fundamental rethink in migration policy,” parliamentary group vice chairman and financial politician Christian Dürr told DPA. 

“If we manage to make Germany an open, modern immigration country and at the same time stabilise the pension, we will gain more as a society than we can imagine today.”

READ ALSO: ‘Germany needs more immigrants to fill jobs’

Dürr accused the CDU/CSU and the SPD of putting the financing of pensions on the back burner which he said is a fatal mistake.

For the next federal government, he said, the ageing society will be a major challenge. He said more people were retiring but fewer contributors were entering the labor market.

“The state already has to subsidise pension insurance with large sums of money,” Dürr said. “In the long run, we can’t afford that.”

The FDP is proposing a reform of pension financing based on higher migration into the labour market and an equity pension, in which pension funds invest in stocks to generate higher returns.

“If we want to stabilise our public finances and reduce debt, our country needs at least 500,000 immigrants per year,” Dürr said.

The FDP advocates for a points-based system based on the Canadian model to increase immigration. 

People who want to come to Germany would be classified according to education, work experience, language skills and age. Meanwhile, Germany should make it easier to recognise professional qualifications gained abroad, according to the FDP.

READ ALSO: Where do Germany’s political parties stand on dual citizenship and nationalities 

In the debates for the leading candidates in the Bundestag elections, the financing of pensions has been controversial lately. Green Party candidate for chancellor Annalena Baerbock also spoke out in favour of more immigration of skilled workers. The Left Party leader Janine Wissler called for politicians and civil servants to pay into the statutory pension fund.

Chancellor candidates Olaf Scholz (SPD) and Armin Laschet (CDU/CSU) have been arguing about whether young people should be guaranteed that the retirement age and pension level remains stable. Scholz advocates for this guarantee, while Laschet said it doesn’t need to be considered at the moment.

The latest polls

Here’s a snapshot of some of the latest polls on Wednesday, with SPD still in the lead ahead of the CDU/CSU. 

Bavaria’s Söder sees signs of a turnaround for conservatives

Despite the polls, CSU leader Markus Söder remains confident that CDU/CSU can win the election race.

“We are already seeing the first signs of a turnaround,” Söder said on Wednesday. “I think anything is possible, we can still catch up with the SPD. It is much closer than most believe at the moment.”

Söder is confident that the CDU/CSU – also known as the Union – would become the strongest force in the federal election.

“We will be ahead on election night,” he said. Söder went on to compare politics to football, saying “you have to be an optimist, as a fan of FC Nuremberg anyway”.

We won’t pretend we know much about German football, but Nuremberg must not be at the top of the Bundesliga right now – I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if they make a comeback.

Laschet caught out by children 

There was another awkward moment for the CDU’s Armin Laschet, who’s bidding to become the next Angela Merkel. 

Laschet – and the SPD’s Olaf Scholz – faced a series of questions from young people, on a range of issues. 

One of the youngsters – Romeo – asked about Laschet’s position on marriage for all. Laschet denied he had been against same-sex marriage before Germany voted to legalise it in 2017.

In true professional style, Romeo referred to a previous interview in Spiegel where Laschet had said that as a member of the Bundestag he had voted against the motion on same-sex marriage by the SPD. Laschet tried to dodge the answer by saying: “You were already reading Spiegel so long ago? That’s great.”

To which Romeo replied, “Nah, I Googled it.”

Scholz also had to deal with hard questions. 

Romeo, for instance, asked Scholz why children have drowned in the sea because they want to get to Germany, and why a plane was not sent to them to pick them up.

Scholz replied that many people were looking for ways to come to Germany that were not safe. He said authorities had to try and save them, and make their homeland safer.

Hats off to the young people asking the tough questions. 

Scholz: No tax cuts for the rich 

In a Tuesday interview on ZDF talk show Klartext, SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Sholz declared that “there will be no leeway for tax cuts” for the rich after the election.

In order to ease the tax burden on lower and middle incomes – as he plans – “you have to make sure that those who have a lot contribute a little more,” he told the interviewers. 

READ ALSO: What the German parties tax pledges mean for you



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When will face masks no longer be compulsory indoors in Spain?

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With Covid-19 vaccine campaigns in their later stages and infection rates generally lower, several countries around the world have eased their face mask rules.

Such is the case in England, where masks are now not required in shops and even on certain modes of public transport, or in the US, where fully vaccinated people don’t have to wear one in most indoor settings. 

Spain on the other hand has been strict on its mask-wearing policy throughout the pandemic and its citizens have willingly complied in general.

Many people are still wearing masks outdoors, even though they’ve not been required by Spanish authorities since June, as long as a safety distance of 1.5 metres can be maintained.

So when might it be possible to remove face masks indoors in Spain (other than for eating and drinking) ?

In early October, Spanish media reported that Health Minister Carolina Darias had said that the use of masks indoors would be required until the spring of 2022.

On Wednesday at a press conference after Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council, Darias stressed she never stated that the mandatory use of masks would end in spring next year.

“The face mask has come to stay, at least while the flu virus or other possible viruses are present this autumn,” she reiterated.

“Spain was one of the first countries to regulate the safety distance in outdoor spaces to not have to wear a mask outside, but we know the importance of its use indoors where transmission by aerosols is proven”.

“Let’s take it slowly,” Darias concluded.

READ ALSO – Calendar: When will the Covid restrictions end across Spain?

As usual, Spain’s regional governments have their own views on Covid-19 rules.

Madrid president Isabel Díaz Ayuso, the regional leader with the most liberal take on Covid restrictions during the pandemic, has again taken a different approach by actually offering something closer to a date for when mandatory mask-wearing indoors will be scrapped.

The end of indoor masks should come “after Christmas,” stated Ayuso in late September. “Total” normality and “pre-pandemic” life should not be delayed beyond the spring of 2022, she added.  

Castilla-La Mancha president Emiliano García-Page has also suggested February 2022 as an end date for mandatory masks indoors in the central Spanish region. 

Are regions relaxing any mask-wearing rules?

Catalan Education Minister Josep González-Cambray said on Wednesday that “We will get rid of face masks in schools as soon as we can”. 

According to González-Cambray, the use of face masks in schools is a “health measure” dependent on epidemiological criteria, which is why it will be down to the health departments to decide.

In Valencia, the Generalitat government has said that it will scrap the requirement for children to wear a mask in the school playground. 

“We are working every week with the Health Department and in the next few days the protocol will be updated” because the numbers have been very favorable,” said Valencia’s Minister of Education Vicent Marzà on Saturday.

However, in the Balearic Islands, the regional government has decided the use of masks in the school playground should continue, causing an outcry from many students and their parents.

Balearic  Minister of Health Patricia Gómez confirmed yesterday that the use of masks will continue to be mandatory in school playgrounds “until the situation improves”.

READ ALSO – Going out in Spain: What are the rules for bars and nightclubs?

Why wait until after the winter if the numbers are good now?

The epidemiological situation in Spain is currently the best it’s been since autumn of last year, with a 14-day cumulative incidence of 40.85 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

This means that the country is currently at very low risk for Covid infections according to the categorisation used by the Spanish health ministry.

In addition to this, almost 80 percent of the total population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a percentage that’s higher still if focusing only on those who are eligible for the vaccine (people aged 12 and over).

According to César Carballo, deputy emergency physician at Hospital Ramón y Cajal in Madrid, Spain is in a good epidemiological situation now which should allow to at least remove their masks outdoors.

But flu season is on its way, government leaders and health professionals are keen for the use of masks indoors to continue until after the winter.  

“There is talk that we may have more cases of the flu. We do not know. Last year the flu disappeared completely. We will see this year,” Carballo told Spanish TV channel La Sexta.

“Health personnel are exhausted … to suffer a wave of flu this year would be a severe blow,” he added. “If it were up to me I would maintain that mask-wearing indoors should be required until January or February, accompanied by hand washing and distance”.

READ ALSO: Getting the flu vaccine in Spain in 2021: What you need to know



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‘Million Years ago’: Toninho Geraes vs Adele: The latest plagiarism case in Brazilian music | USA

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Legendary jazz guitarist and composer Pat Metheny once said that Brazilian pop music “might have been the last in the world to have a sophisticated harmony.” Metheny, the winner of 20 Grammy Awards, is one of many international artists to have fallen in love with the Brazilian music of the 1970s and 1980s and incorporated the sound into his own songs. Another example is Greg Kurstin, an award-winning music producer who studied Música Popular Brasileira (or Brazilian Popular Music) in New York, and now works with superstars such as Paul McCartney, Pink and Adele. Now Kurstin and Adele have been accused of plagiarism: singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes, who has written hits for the likes of Zeca Pagodinho, Diogo Nogueira and Martinho da Vila, among others, has claimed that the producer and the British singer almost completely copied the melody of his song Mulheres (recorded by Martinho da Vila in 1995) on the single Million Years Ago, which was released in 2015 and featured on Adele’s album 25.

This dispute over intellectual property coincides with the pre-launch of Adele’s new album following a six-year hiatus. The singer, whose new album 30 is due for release on November 19, felt compelled to mute comments from fans on social media after being inundated with messages from Brazilians on her publications and live transmissions asking her to respond to the accusations of plagiarism. For the time being, both Adele and Kurstin have made no public comment on the matter.

I only wish to protect my musical legacy

Brazilian singer-songwriter Toninho Geraes

“This silence is an evasive strategy,” says Fredímio Biasotto Trotta, Toninho Geraes’s lawyer, who last February sent two extrajudicial notifications to Adele, the British record label XL Recording, Sony Music and Kurstin. In a press release, Sony stated “the matter is currently in the hands of XL Recordings [which owns the rights to the record] and of Adele herself,” explaining that it had only been responsible for the distribution of the single in Brazil and that its contract had expired. XL Recording, for its part, has not made any statement. “We are gathering evidence to file a claim in the British courts, where judges tend to be meticulous in cases like this,” says Trotta, who has been working in the industry for three decades and has been a musician since the age of 11.

What has not yet been revealed, however, is the amount of compensation the lawsuit is seeking. The documents from Trotta ask Adele and Kurstin to provide details of the income derived from album sales of 25 and the profit generated by Million Years Ago on streaming platforms. Martinho da Vila’s album Tá Delícia, Tá Gostoso, on which the single Mulheres is included, was a hit in Brazil and sold 1.5 million copies, according to data from Columbia Records. Toninho Geraes, however, does not want to take legal action and will settle for his name appearing on the writing credits for Million Years Ago, his lawyer has stated. “I only wish to protect my musical legacy,” Geraes says.

Geraes found out about the surprising similarity between the two songs through Misael da Hora, the son of Rildo Hora, who wrote the arrangement for Mulheres and who has worked with the greatest Brazilian samba composers. “He told me about it, thinking it was an authorized version in English, and I was stunned,” says Geraes. The expert analysis requested by his lawyer identified 88 identical, similar or slightly varying bars in the two songs, as well as identical parts in the intro, chorus and endings.

“Brazilian music is very well known, it is a reference point and it is studied wildly everywhere in the world, especially that of the 1960 and 1970s, but generally all of the melodies up to the beginning of the 1990s,” says Trotta. Perhaps one of the most famous cases in this sense was that of Brazilian singer Jorge Ben Jor, who in 1979 sought compensation from British rock singer Rod Stewart for plagiarism of his song Taj Mahal (released five years earlier) in the chorus of the star’s hit single Da You Think I’m Sexy? Stewart publicly admitted the plagiarism in 2012, describing it as “overstepping the boundary” in his autobiography.

In keeping with Trotta’s claim, bossa nova musician and multi-instrumentalist Edu Lobo filed at least two international claims for plagiarism of songs he wrote in the 1960s: one against a French songwriter whose name was never revealed and another, in 1994, against Japanese songwriting trio Tsukasa Yamaguchi, Eiji Takehana and Yasuhiro Nara, who copied his song Ponteio Numa Outra and rebaptized it as Beatitude on their compilation album Multidirection. The case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

More recently, the heirs of songwriter Luiz Bonfá, who died in 2001, accused Belgian-Australian artist Gotye of plagiarizing a small part of Bonfá’s instrumental Seville on the hit single Somebody That I Used to Know, which won two Grammy Awards for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Record of the Year. Gotye reached an agreement to credit Bonfá as a co-writer of the song, a credit that has even been registered with the Australian Copyright Council.

Lawyer Caio Mariano, a specialist in copyright and intellectual property, says though that cases like this are not that common. “At the end of the day, there are also coincidences in music, so it is necessary to prove mens rea – the will and the intention to copy something – to be able to accuse someone of plagiarism. Something that happens a lot is the unauthorized use of musicians such as Tim Maia and Arthur Verocai, among others, who have a rich body of work. In the genesis of genres like hip-hop and rap, for example, there was the culture of sampling in songs. The problems arise when it is done without proper authorization, without worrying about whether it is a violation of copyright,” Mariano explains.

On the dispute between Toninho Geraes and Adele, Mariano opines: “There is a very striking similarity in the harmony, tempo and structure of the songs.” The lawyer points out that Brazilian legislation follows international copyright conventions and that cases such as this one tend to be resolved out of court, via agreements and negotiations. It remains to be seen if this is the path Adele and Kurstin choose when they decide to break their silence.

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South Dublin site with potential for 400 homes seeks €23m-plus

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A substantial residential development site of about 29.4 acres, with the capacity to build almost 400 homes in a prime south Dublin area, has come to the market seeking what is understood to be in excess of €23 million.

The “Brennanstown” plot, which is available in one or more lots, is situated off the Brennanstown Road, one of Dublin’s premier postal addresses, close to the villages of Cabinteely and Foxrock.

It is also close to the Green Luas line, and the site benefits from extensive frontage on to the Brennanstown Road and extends as far south as the Luas Green line at Laughanstown. The site, which is situated within the Cherrywood SDZ, is largely undeveloped and contains five existing residential units.

The land is for sale in one or more lots. Lot 1, known as “Druid’s Glen”, comprises about 8.8 acres of residential development land and 11.1 acres of forestry land, while Lot 2, “Lehaunstown”, consists of about 9.5 acres of residential development land, with a small portion zoned for town centre use under the Cherrywood SDZ.

Zoning status

The third lot comprises the entire 29.4 acres, with development potential for more than 370 residential units and about 600sq m of commercial space.

A report detailing the zoning status and planning potential has been prepared by McGill Planning and is available upon request.

According to selling agent CBRE, the two distinctive plots of lands offer interested parties the potential to deliver both traditional housing and private rental sector accommodation, subject to planning permission, in a well-established residential location.

Darragh Deasy, associate director with CBRE, said: “The scale, affluent location, connectivity and situation of the site within the Cherrywood SDZ offers the purchaser the opportunity to buy a rare development opportunity in Dublin 18.”

There have been significant developments within the Cherrywood SDZ in recent years, with the delivery of housing, apartments and schools well under way, further solidifying the attractiveness of Cherrywood as a residential location.

Upmarket development

Brennanstown Road itself has been home to a marked step-up in construction of late.

Park Developments is currently readying a launch in Brennanstown Wood, a mix of large spacious three-, four- and five-bedroom family homes, while Cairn Homes is planning an upmarket apartment and luxury home development, Barrington, also on the road.

The land at Brennanstown is being brought to the market by CBRE, on the instruction of Declan McDonald of PwC, acting as receiver on behalf of Nama.

The site was previously placed on the market back in 2018 for €35 million, but was withdrawn after developer Johnny Ronan issued High Court proceedings against a Nama-appointed receiver over the sale. The dispute arose over a right of way across the land.

Mr Ronan was subsequently reported to be interested in acquiring the land for about €29 million in 2020, but this sale didn’t proceed.


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