Germany’s Oktoberfest price hikes risk shortchanging waitresses

Sep 24, 2014 17:05 UTC

A waitress wearing wrist braces and a traditional Bavarian dirndl slams 20 kilos of beer onto a wooden table at Munich’s annual Oktoberfest. Her customers scramble for coins, debating how much to pay.

oktoberfest1.jpgIn past years, a 10-euro note would cover the cost of beer plus a roughly 10 percent tip. This year, the cost of a liter (slightly less than 34 U.S. ounces) of Oktoberfest beer increased to between 9.70 and 10.10 euros (about $13), depending on the tent. Without a practical default tip, many waitresses fear customers will skimp.

The price of beer at Oktoberfest has increased every year in the past decade, edging further away from the cost of brew anywhere else in Munich.

Susanne Hoffman, 47, works daily 15-hour shifts under grueling conditions to sell food and beer in the Bräurosl tent. She works on commission, earning 9 percent of each 9.95 euro beer she sells and whatever extra customers tip. This is Hoffman’s 15th year working at Oktoberfest, and she says the rising price of beer could cut into a main source of income.

“Maybe this year will be worse,” Hoffman said.

As the base price hovers around 10 euros, the math becomes more complex, requiring revelers to fumble with small change. Waitresses say evenings are worse as the tents become more crowded and the patrons become more inebriated.

‘Refugees Welcome!’ is more than a slogan in Germany

Sep 18, 2014 17:31 UTC

Twelve-year-old Assrien arrived from Al-Malikiyah in northeastern Syria five months ago, but today she chatters away in German.

Assrien plays soccer with German children on a makeshift field at a community event in Berlin’s Reinickendorf district. There are live performances, children’s activities, and food stalls designed to bring together refugees and locals to promote friendliness between the groups.

The slogans “No one is illegal” and “Refugees Welcome!” appear in graffiti and on paraphernalia around Berlin. As asylum seekers increasingly flock to Germany, a solidarity movement not only demands that immigrants have the right to stay, but provides its own support through language classes, sports, and mentorship programs.

The Teflon NFL now looking to remove the egg on its face

Sep 12, 2014 17:55 UTC

It’s Thursday Night Football at Manhattan’s Wharf Bar. Young professionals stream through the door to watch the Baltimore Ravens vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers at this unofficial “Ravens bar,” pulling NFL jerseys out of their backpacks and putting them on over button-up shirts and ties. A banner on the wall declares, “You’re in Ravens country.” A full hour before the game starts and it’s standing room only.

This display of fan loyalty comes despite the fact that just a few days prior, a video leaked to the public showing running back — and now ex-Raven — Ray Rice knocking a woman unconscious.

“Welcome to the madhouse,” a bouncer quips, observing the crowd.

NFL: Super Bowl XLVIII-Winning Team Press ConferenceIt’s this scene that the NFL and its commissioner, Roger Goodell, are counting on: diehard fans willing to separate an ugly domestic violence case and allegations of a cover-up from their passion for the game. But while NFL fans may be forgiving, experts say the league needs to be proactive in reestablishing trust with its customers.

Google and Rubik’s Cube: Puzzle unlocked

May 28, 2014 15:15 UTC

It seems incongruous: A $350 billion Internet behemoth and a quaint toy that had its heyday in the 1980s.

And yet, when Erno Rubik, the 70-year-old Hungarian architect that invented the puzzle that bears his name, sought a partner to celebrate Rubik’s Cube’s 40th anniversary, Google was a natural fit. And the search engine company understood the connection.

rubik.JPG“We want to create order and they also want to create order,” Rubik said about Google. “The Internet, if chaotic, is useless. We need tools that can help us in the chaos.”

College football fans tackle player-union debate

May 9, 2014 21:43 UTC

“I just wiped tears from my eyes,” said Paul Elder, a fan who writes about Auburn University’s football team for a website called Track ‘Em Tigers. A clip from last year’s game-winning pass against the University of Georgia had just appeared on the jumbo screen at the school’s annual “A-Day” exhibition in April at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Elder is 65 and towers at six feet four inches tall. “It just brought me back to that moment when I was here to watch that play last year,” he said. “Moments like that are like a drug, you keep coming back for more.”

Many Auburn football fans, for whom following the team involves long drives, good barbecue and waiting for the nirvana of the gridiron, proudly say they are a “family.” The crowd at the spring game Elder recently attended hosted 70 thousand fans on a weekend that both overlapped with Easter and threatened to rain. They are also driving a business that is growing so fast, athletic regulating bodies can’t keep up.  Television contracts, ticket sales and wealthy booster donations place Auburn’s football program among the most lucrative in the nation.

Against the backdrop of this passion and the NFL’s draft this week, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) faces a challenge from a regional National Labor Relations Board decision that said in March that football players at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois qualify as employees who are eligible to unionize.

2014 Detroit Auto Show: Looking Ahead to the Past

Paul Lienert
Jan 15, 2014 22:07 UTC

The organizers of the annual Detroit auto show rebranded the event 25 years ago as the North American International Auto Show. But the 2014 edition — my 40th Detroit show for those who are keeping score — takes me back to the early 1970s when local auto dealers hosted what was still a regional event focused largely on domestic brands. In fact, the hometown angle had been the dominant theme since the show originated in 1907 at Beller’s Beer Garden.

This year, the big news in Detroit is Ford’s redesigned F-150 pickup truck and a new crop of performance cars, including hot editions of the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Corvette. Guess what. I could have written that headline back in 1974.

Except there’s a topical twist: Contemporary sports cars — even the big F-series pickup — are redefining and expanding Americans’ concept of performance to include energy and environmental conservation. Strangely enough, the carmakers seem to have discovered that horsepower and fuel economy aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive, as they once argued.

Syrian refugee schools flourish in southern Turkey

Jan 2, 2014 20:53 UTC

Reyhanli, Turkey – In a classroom in southern Turkey, 8-year-old children proudly display their colored-pencil drawings. They include images of the things that make them happiest: hearts, houses and other images typical for children their age. They also show anti-aircraft missiles and revolutionary flags. Syrian refugee children in soutehrn Turky

Syrian girls attending Al Salam school draw pictures in a workshop with the program Zeitouna in Reyhanli, Turkey, on Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013. (Credit: Clare Richardson)

In Reyhanli, a small town in Turkey’s southernmost province of Hatay, children who have fled the war in Syria attend school at Al Salam, where displaced Syrian teachers conduct classes in Arabic. Despite tensions with local communities, Syrian schools have cropped up in southern Turkey to serve a flood of refugee children in their native tongue.

Albanian ‘blood feuds’ force families into isolation

Dec 10, 2013 12:09 UTC

Shkodër, Albania – Bilal Ademi remembers the day when 70 men in his family were forced into hiding. On May 18, 2010, Ademi’s cousin, a policeman, shot and killed another officer while on duty.

Bilal Ademi gestures while recounting the story of his family’s situation in his home in Mushan, Albania on Nov. 15 2013. Bilal’s cousin, a policeman, shot and killed a fellow officer in a dispute, sparking a blood feud with the victim’s family. (Nick St.Oegger)

The Ademi men are the objects of a “blood feud,” targets of retribution for the killing of Tom Jakini. According to a set of traditional Albanian laws dating back to the 15th century called the “Kanun of Lekë Dukagjini,” the family of the victim has the right to avenge Jakini’s death by killing one of the Ademi men.In Shkodër and surrounding villages in northern Albania, a country nestled on continental Europe’s western Balkan shore on the Adriatic Sea, these conflicts can drive entire families to confine themselves indoors out of fear for their lives. Absent a brokered peace, there is no expiration on vendettas. The Kanun dictates that even male children born into families involved in blood feuds become targets once they reach their teenage years. Women are supposed to be exempt, but in rare instances are not spared.

ICYMI: Top 10 stories, easily explained

Sep 20, 2013 19:51 UTC

1. Navy Yard shooting leaves 13 dead, plenty of questions
A gunman identified as Aaron Alexis, a U.S. Navy Reserves veteran with a history of mental illness, opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, killing 12 people and injuring another dozen before being killed in one of several gun battles with police. The incident—the worst attack at a U.S. military installation since U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people at Ford Hood, Texas, in 2009—prompted a review of security measures at the Navy Yard and renewed the national debate over gun control just five months after the Senate defeated a gun-buyer background check bill.

2. To taper or….oh, not to? OK
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shocked, well, everyone by announcing that the central bank is not yet ready to scale back a quantitative easing program put in place back in 2008. The decision came just four months after Bernanke outlined a QE-reduction plan—known as “tapering”—that included trimming the bank’s $85-billion-a-month bond-buying by the end of the year and ending it by mid-2014 (by which time the bank anticipated unemployment falling to 7 percent). Bernanke’s announcement prompted criticism of the Fed’s communication strategy, and suggested the bank may have shot itself in the foot by outlining tapering in the spring, opening the door to reactionary economic conditions that made said tapering nonviable. The move also leaves Bernanke’s successor—increasingly likely to be Fed Vice Chair Janet Yellen—without a useful QE roadmap.

3.  A Whale of a fail 
Onetime Wall Street darling JPMorgan Chase & Co. will pay $920 million to four regulators in two countries to settle liabilities from its $6.2 billion “London Whale” trading loss. The settlement(s) are notable for JPM’s rare admission of wrongdoing—though whose wrongdoing was left unanswered—but don’t mean the end of the bank’s Whale woes. JPMorgan still faces criminal probes into the scandal (plus probes related to energy trading, mortgage securities and bribery in China). Nor has the bank yet squared its Whale liabilities with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. But JPM swears it’s learned its lesson: CEO Jamie Dimon sent a morale-boosting memo to the bank’s employees on Tuesday, touting measures to prevent future Whales that include increased transparency, better reporting and a bunch of new compliance officers.

On Syria, Congress asks the wrong questions too late

Danielle Wiener-Bronner
Sep 4, 2013 21:46 UTC

Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters Corp.

Tuesday’s Senate hearing on Syria was essentially a success for President Barack Obama. Democrat Rob Menendez and Republican Bob Corker collaborated to draft a resolution that would limit U.S. military involvement in Syria to 60 days, with room for a 30-day extension. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the resolution, which will keep U.S. troops out of Syria, on Wednesday.

But the bar for success on Syria is low. Nearly 1,500 people are dead from an apparent chemical attack, most likely carried out by the government on its own people, including civilians. This comes more than two years after Syria’s fight with rebel forces began. Questions pitting the interests of the United States against humanitarian interests of preventing another similar attack in Syria are astounding, given that roughly 100,000 people have died in the conflict since March 2011.