Today in Germany: A round-up of what’s happening on Wednesday

Today in Germany: A round-up of what's happening on Wednesday
A row has broken out over the Rundfunkbeitrag. Photo: DPA
From 'Coronaspeck' to the Rundfunkbeitrag and the Querdenker movement being watched by authorities, here's the latest news in Germany.

'Querdenker' put under state observation

The domestic intelligence service in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg has become the first state in Germany to officially place the Querdenker or “lateral thinking” movement under observation.

The Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) put the group known in the state as “Querdenken 711” under observation due to fears over extremist links in the organisation, DPA said.

The group, founded by Stuttgart entrepreneur Michael Ballweg, has been taking to the streets for months against the state-imposed coronavirus restrictions.

Baden-Württemberg's interior minister Thomas Strobl had recently warned of the increasing influence of extremists in parts of the movement.

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Security authorities are reportedly alarmed about calls by protesters for a large rally in Berlin on New Year's Eve, which is being promoted in the far-right Reichsbürger movement. This movement does not recognise modern-day Germany as a legitimate state, and instead believes that entities like the German Reich or even Prussia ought to still exist.

Querdenker founder Ballweg has repeatedly pushed back against accusations. At the end of last week, the entrepreneur told DPA: “We are a peaceful movement and not a political party.” He said extremism, violence and anti-Semitism did not have any part in the movement.

READ ALSO: How Germany's anti-mask movement is creating strange bedfellows

Picture of the day

This Christmas tree seller in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria, got full-on festive weather on Wednesday, as this photo by Karl-Josef Hildenbrand for DPA shows. 

Public broadcasters threaten court over Rundfunkbeitrag row

Public broadcasters, which include TV channels ARD and ZDF, intend to file a complaint with the Federal Constitutional Court if the so-called Rundfunkbeitrag or broadcasting contribution does not go up.

That's according to ARD chairman Tom Buhrow who spoke out during an interview with DPA.

It comes after Saxony-Anhalt became the only state to block a 86 cent increase of the broadcasting fee, that every household in Germany is required to pay. It is currently €17.50 but it is due to rise to €18.36 per month if states give it the green light.

The broadcasting contribution is the main source of income for cash-strapped public broadcasters.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to pay Germany's TV tax, or (legally) avoid it

Germans gained weight during first lockdown

You may be familiar with “Coronaspeck” (or corona bacon/fat), the word for weight gained during lockdown as a result of eating more than usual because of working from home.

Turns out it's true: the body weight and body mass index (BMI) of Germans has increased by quite a lot since the introduction of coronavirus measures in spring.

That's the results of a health study carried out by the Robert Koch Institute. Just over 23,000 people over the age of 15 were interviewed between April 2019 and September 2020 for the project.

The average body weight for both men and women was 77.1 kg between April and August 2019 and 78.2 kg between April and August 2020. The increase of about one kilogram is statistically significant, researchers say.

BMIs have also risen: in the period from April to August 2020 the average was 26.4, which is higher than the value of 25.9 in the previous year. To what extent the increase in body weight and BMI will continue in the coming months should be further observed, the study recommends.

The health study also looked at other factors such as depression symptoms and smoking.

The number of smokers declined, although in this case a connection to the pandemic situation is unclear.

There were no differences in the population in terms of depressive symptoms and the support received and provided in the household. Overall, changes in the health situation (not including the virus), need to be analysed more closely, the study concluded.

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