Germany culls 14,000 turkeys after bird flu was found on another farm

By Reuters Staff

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https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-birdflu-germany/germany-culls-14000-turkeys-after-bird-flu-was-found-on-another-farm-idUSKBN2A30YX

HAMBURG (Reuters) – An outbreak of bird flu on farm in the eastern German state of Brandenburg has forced authorities to begin slaughtering about 14,000 turkeys, the state government said on Wednesday, reporting the third outbreak there in recent weeks.

Type H5N8 bird flu was confirmed in a farm in the Uckermark area, the Brandenburg state government said.

A series of outbreaks of bird flu have been reported in Germany and elsewhere in Europe in past months with wild birds suspected to be spreading the disease.

Sweden planned to cull around 1.3 million chickens after bird flu was found on a farm in the country, Sweden’s Board of Agriculture said on Jan. 25.

Risk to humans from the disease is considered low, but past outbreaks among farm birds have resulted in extensive slaughtering programmes to contain the spread.

Climate change activist Greta Thunberg meets with German Chancellor Angela Merkel

Thunberg, 17, Luisa Neubauer, 24, of Germany and Belgians Anuna de Wever van der Heyden, 19, and Adélaïde Charlier, 19, were accompanied by a handful of climate protesters as they arrived at the chancellery in Berlin, the first talks the youth activists have held with a head of government since the start of the pandemic.
“We are here, we are loud, because our future’s being stolen,” the protesters chanted as photographers mobbed Thunberg.
In this handout photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Luisa Neubauer and Greta Thunberg in the international conference hall of the Federal Chancellery on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.
In this handout photo provided by the German Government Press Office (BPA), German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Luisa Neubauer and Greta Thunberg in the international conference hall of the Federal Chancellery on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. (Getty)
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks a press conference after the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg speaks a press conference after the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Getty)
The 17-year-old shot to fame after starting her solo protests outside the Swedish parliament two years ago. Students around the world began following her lead, staging regular large protests, and Thunberg was invited to speak to political and business leaders at UN conferences and the annual World Economic Forum in Davos.
But the coronavirus outbreak has prevented the Fridays for Future movement that Thunberg inspired from holding its mass rallies in recent months, dampening its public profile.
“I’m actually surprised that we were able to do this so quickly,” Thunberg said after her meeting with Merkel. “It feels good, I would say.”
The activists had sought a meeting with the chancellor because Germany currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the European Union, which together with Britain accounts for 22 per cent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions. Merkel has in the past lauded the youth activists for putting pressure on politicians to act against global warming.
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives for the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany
Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg arrives for the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Getty)

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Thunberg said she appreciated being given the opportunity to talk to Merkel for 90 minutes, more time than the chancellor spends with many world leaders.
“That really made it possible to have a more in-depth, deep conversation, which we really appreciated,” Thunberg told The Associated Press.
Climate campaigners argue that governments around the world are doing too little to curb the emissions that are heating up the atmosphere. In a letter sent to world leaders last month, Thunberg and others called for numerous measures including ending financing for oil and gas projects and setting binding annual carbon budgets.
Neubauer, the German activist, said Merkel appeared to take the science behind climate change seriously.
“She’s a physicist, so that’s a start,” Neubauer said, adding that the chancellor’s perspective was to focus on progress achieved during her 30-year political career – Merkel served as Germany’s environment minister in 1994-1998 – rather than the decades to come.
Climate activists demonstrate in front of the German Chancellery on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany
Climate activists demonstrate in front of the German Chancellery on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Getty)
“We look (…) towards the future and we see how, well, bad it looks to us,” said Neubauer. “This discussion today was possibly at least the attempt to bring those perspectives a bit together.”
Thunberg said the activists also discussed the EU’s emissions targets and the lack of willingness by governments to take decisive action soon.
“We are sort of in a loop where everyone blames each other because obviously no one can do everything,” Thunberg told The AP. “So then no one does anything.”
Merkel’s spokeswoman, Ulrike Demmer, said Wednesday that the German government recently agreed to to cut emissions by up to 55 per cent over the coming decade compared with 1990 levels. It also backs plans for an EU Green Deal and for making Europe the first “climate neutral” continent by 2050.
 German climate activist Luisa Neubauer (L-R), Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever and Belgian climate activist Adelaide Charlier pose for a group picture after a press conference following the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer (L-R), Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever and Belgian climate activist Adelaide Charlier pose for a group picture after a press conference following the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Getty)
“The subject (of climate change) is an issue of central importance for the entire German government,” Demmer said. “As such, an exchange with (the activists) is certainly beneficial.”
Charlier, the Belgian activist, said Merkel had assured the group that she did not support an EU trade agreement with the Latin American Mercosur bloc that opponents say would be harmful to the environment and human rights. Merkel’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for confirmation.
The activists said they are hoping world leaders will start to treat climate change as a crisis, the way they are doing with the pandemic.
“Of course, we are in a health emergency globally and we are seeing second waves everywhere,” Neubauer told The AP. “Yet the climate crisis doesn’t pause.”
Neubauer said activists are planning to stage another global “climate strike” on Sept. 25, although the pandemic situation will determine whether it is held online or on the streets.
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer (L-R), Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever and Belgian climate activist Adelaide Charlier attend a press conference following the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany
German climate activist Luisa Neubauer (L-R), Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, Belgian climate activist Anuna De Wever and Belgian climate activist Adelaide Charlier attend a press conference following the meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 20, 2020 in Berlin, Germany (Getty)
While the issue of global warming is likely to become a major campaign topic for November’s US presidential election, none of the four activists in Berlin would comment directly on the Democratic nominees for president and vice president, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The two candidates have drawn the backing of other climate campaigners.
But Neubauer noted that Biden’s stance was markedly different from the one taken by US President Donald Trump, who pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord.
“It’s saddening that in 2020, you have to be thankful that at least someone who is running for president doesn’t deny the climate crisis,” she said.
Speaking of her hope for change from the top, Neubauer said, “We need leaders to, you know, act like leaders to, you know, become the adult in the room.”

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Asked whether Merkel could be such a leader during her last year in office, Thunberg added: “She could be, if she wanted to.”

German state minister kills himself as coronavirus hits economy

Thomas Schaefer, finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state which includes Frankfurt, found dead near a railway track.

Schafer belonged to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's centre-right CDU party [Courtesy: Sven Teschke/Creative Commons]
Schafer belonged to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right CDU party [Courtesy: Sven Teschke/Creative Commons]

Thomas Schaefer, the finance minister of Germany’s Hesse state, has committed suicide apparently after becoming “deeply worried” over how to cope with the economic fallout from the coronavirus, state premier Volker Bouffier said on Sunday.

Schaefer, 54, was found dead near a railway track on Saturday. The Wiesbaden prosecution’s office said they believe he died by suicide.

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“We are in shock, we are in disbelief and above all we are immensely sad,” Bouffier said in a recorded statement.

Police and prosecutors said factors, including the questioning of witnesses and their own observations at the scene, led them to conclude that Schaefer killed himself.

Hesse is home to Germany’s financial capital Frankfurt, where major lenders such as Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank have their headquarters. The European Central Bank is also located in Frankfurt.

A visibly shaken Bouffier recalled that Schaefer, who was Hesse’s finance chief for 10 years, had been working “day and night” to help companies and workers deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.

“Today we have to assume that he was deeply worried,” said Bouffier, a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

“It’s precisely during this difficult time that we would have needed someone like him,” he added.

Popular and well-respected, Schaefer had long been touted as a possible successor to Bouffier.

Like Bouffier, Schaefer belonged to Merkel’s centre-right CDU party.

He leaves behind a wife and two children.

Germany is closing all its nuclear power plants. Now it must find a place to bury the deadly waste for 1 million years

(CNN)When it comes to the big questions plaguing the world’s scientists, they don’t get much larger than this.

Where do you safely bury more than 28,000 cubic meters — roughly six Big Ben clock towers — of deadly radioactive waste for the next million years?
This is the “wicked problem” facing Germany as it closes all of its nuclear power plants in the coming years, according to Professor Miranda Schreurs, part of the team searching for a storage site.
Experts are now hunting for somewhere to bury almost 2,000 containers of high-level radioactive waste. The site must be beyond rock-solid, with no groundwater or earthquakes that could cause a leakage.
The technological challenges — of transporting the lethal waste, finding a material to encase it, and even communicating its existence to future humans — are huge.
But the most pressing challenge today might simply be finding a community willing to have a nuclear dumping ground in their backyard.

Searching for a nuclear graveyard

Germany decided to phase out all its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in 2011, amid increasing safety concerns.
The seven power stations still in operation today are due to close by 2022.
With their closure comes a new challenge — finding a permanent nuclear graveyard by the government’s 2031 deadline.
Germany’s Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy says it aims to find a final repository for highly radioactive waste “which offers the best possible safety and security for a period of a million years.”
The country was a “blank map” of potential sites, it added.
Currently, high-level radioactive waste is stored in temporary facilities, usually near the power plant it came from.
But these facilities were “only designed to hold the waste for a few decades,” said Schreurs, chair of environmental and climate policy at the Technical University of Munich, and part of the national committee assisting the search for a high-level radioactive waste site.
As the name suggests, high-level radioactive waste is the most lethal of its kind. It includes the spent fuel rods from nuclear power plants. “If you opened up a canister with those fuel rods in it, you would more or less instantly die,” said Schreurs.
These rods are “so incredibly hot, it’s very hard to transport them safely,” said Schreurs. So for now they’re being stored in containers where they can first cool down over several decades, she added.
There are dozens of these temporary storage sites dotted across Germany. The search is now on for a permanent home at least 1 kilometer underground.

Between a rock and a hard place

The location will need to be geologically “very very stable,” said Schreurs. “It can’t have earthquakes, it can’t have any signs of water flow, it can’t be very porous rock.”
Finland, which has four nuclear power plants and plans to build more in the future, is a world leader in this field. Work is well underway on its own final repository for high-level waste — buried deep in granite bedrock.
Germany’s problem is “it doesn’t have a whole lot of granite,” said Schreurs. Instead, it has to work with the ground it’s got — burying the waste in things like rock salt, clay rock and crystalline granite.
Next year the team hope to have identified potential storage sites in Germany (there are no plans to export the waste). It’s a mission that stretches beyond our lifetimes — the storage facility will finally be sealed sometime between the years 2130 and 2170.
Communications experts are already working on how to tell future generations thousands of years from now — when language will be completely different — not to disturb the site.
Schreurs likened it to past explorers entering the pyramids of Egypt — “we need to find a way to tell them ‘curiosity is not good here.'”

People power

For now, nobody wants a nuclear dumping ground on their doorstep.
Schreurs admitted public mistrust was a challenge, given Germany’s recent history of disastrous storage sites.
Former salt mines at Asse and Morsleben, eastern Germany, that were used for low- and medium-level nuclear waste in the 1960s and 1970s, must now be closed in multibillion-dollar operations after failing to meet today’s safety standards.
The fears around high-level waste are even greater.
Protesters block railway tracks outside Gorleben in 2010.

For more than 40 years, residents in the village of Gorleben, Lower Saxony, have fought tooth-and-nail to keep a permanent high-level waste repository off their turf.
The site was first proposed in 1977 in what critics say was a political choice. Gorleben is situated in what was then a sparsely populated area of West Germany, close to the East German border, and with a high unemployment rate that politicians argued would benefit from a nuclear facility.
Over the decades, there have been countless demonstrations against the proposal. Protesters have blocked railway tracks to stop what they described as “Chernobyl on wheels” — containers of radioactive waste headed for Gorleben’s temporary storage facility.
An exploratory mine was eventually constructed in Gorleben, but it was never used for nuclear waste. And in the face of huge public opposition, the government in recent years decided to start afresh its national search for a dumping ground.
“If we did not build this big, strong and long-lasting resistance, I think the salt mine would already be used,” said Kerstin Rudek, 51, who grew up in Gorleben and has been campaigning against a permanent nuclear repository for the last 35 years.
That doesn’t mean she and other activists plan on quitting their campaign anytime soon. “They haven’t canceled out Gorleben completely, so we are very suspicious it might still be chosen,” said Rudek.
With more than 400 nuclear power plants around the world, many nearing the end of their operating lifetimes, the issue of waste storage will only become more urgent, said Schreurs.
Germany is in the unique position of knowing exactly how much waste it will be dealing with. Knowing where to put it is the challenge.