Berlin’s oldest squatters takea stand for their social club

Updated 04 August 2012

Berlin’s oldest squatters takea stand for their social club

SOME of Berlin’s most senior squatters are nearly a century old, but age is not stopping the scrappy bunch from fighting impending eviction from their cherished social club.
The cash-strapped authorities in the former communist eastern district of Pankow have said they need to cut around five million euros ($6 million) from their budget and plan to close public facilities to do so.
Among the sites hit is a villa on Stille Strasse, the home of despised Stasi secret police chief Erich Mielke in the 1950s and now a beloved gathering place for some 300 pensioners to play chess, learn English, dance and socialize.
The stately old place is surrounded by mature trees and, most recently, draped with banners reading “Hands off!” and “This house is occupied”.
“We always told them we were prepared to occupy the building for the cause. The politicians didn’t believe us,” club president Doris Syrbe, 72, told AFP.
The Pankow administrators say it would cost 2.5 million euros to renovate the site, which has been used as a clubhouse for nearly 15 years. Maintenance costs reach 60,000 euros annually.
The district now aims to sell it out from under the grey-haired patrons on Berlin’s buoyant real estate market. But the senior citizens say they will not take the city’s announcement lying down and since early July have hung out the banners and taken turns occupying the gracious old mansion all day and night to ensure no one locks them out.
“The house was to be closed for the summer and we were afraid of not being able to return after the holidays,” Syrbe said. Although Pankow has offered alternative meeting places, the pensioners are having none of it, saying the other options fail to offer the facilities needed for them to continue their fitness classes, for example, or to accommodate all the current members. “We were ready to move but somewhere in the neighborhood, and everybody together,” Syrbe said.
“We refuse to be split apart,” added the retired telecommunications engineer. They have also taken their campaign online to the social mobilization site and collected more than 4,900 signatures.
The seniors aim to hand a petition with 10,000 names to officials in the district administration at a council meeting later this month.
A 29-year-old representative from US-based said she wants to get the elderly activists to deploy Twitter as well and was checking to see if their mobile phones were equipped to use the microblogging site.
Officials have meanwhile cut off service to the landline telephone at the centre.
“You can’t make a claim to a telephone paid for by the district in an illegally squatted house,” town councilor Lioba Zuern-Kasztantowicz told local media, citing the acute need for budget cuts to justify clearing the space.
House-squatting has a long tradition in Berlin. During the Cold War, young activists in the West of the city demonstrated their disgust about property speculation by taking over buildings.
When the Berlin Wall fell, the practice spread into the eastern districts.
The average age of the rebels on Stille Strasse is about 70, however, with some well into their 90s. They say they are entitled to a peaceful, publicly financed place to paint, play cards and sing in a choir.
“We’re not ready for hospice care,” said a defiant Syrbe.
The group has taken inspiration from the international Occupy movements, and maintains a well-oiled media operation, neat camping beds in the rooms of the house and impeccable cleanliness.
The neighbours have been largely supportive, coming by with an encouraging word or a freshly baked cake to keep up morale. Many of the seniors say they have been touched by such signs of solidarity, particularly from young people.
Sven Schwabe, 26, who studies social movements at the University of Duesseldorf in western Germany, raced across the country when he heard about the Pankow project.


More of the same at more of the cost, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 worth it?

Updated 15 August 2018

More of the same at more of the cost, is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 worth it?

  • For a phone that doesn’t seem to look or feel much different to its predecessor, the Note 8, many will ask if it’s worth the splash
  • Samsung does not break out shipments of its smartphone models, but analysts reckon it has shipped around 10 million Note 8 models so far

DUBAI: Through the grand halls of Dubai’s recently opened Habtoor Palace, the region’s tech geeks rejoiced as Samsung Gulf launched its latest Galaxy Note 9 smartphone on Wednesday.

“It is a phone that has all the features you need to work hard and play harder,” said Tarek Sabbagh, Head of IT and Mobile (IM) Division at Samsung Gulf Electronics, adding that “it’s designed for a level of performance, power and intelligence that today’s power users want and need.”

Samsung says the battery will work on a single charge a day. It also boasts a processor that will let users view high resolution movies without having to endure the frustration of constant buffering.

All this for $1,007 for the 128 GB model, while costing almost $300 more for the 512 GB model – for a phone that doesn’t seem to look or feel much different to its predecessor, the Note 8, many will ask if it’s worth the splash.

A tech journalist speaking at the pre-launch lobby certainly didn’t think so.

“I have the Note 8, and apart from the camera and the Bluetooth clicker on the stylus, it’s basically the same,” he told Arab News.

One by one, Samsung’s GCC team made their way up to the stage following snappy, flashy videos introducing the new smartphone’s chic, sexy look – offered in three colors: Midnight Black, Ocean Blue and Lavender Purple.

Probably the most impressive and practical aspect of the new phone is the Samsung DeX. A piece of software that, with the help of a special cable, allows the smartphone to hook up to any screen and run as a desktop, all through the gadget’s processing power. This may prove especially helpful to those who travel often and don’t want to lug a heavy laptop each time.

Another plus for the Note 9 is the dual camera that comes with a dual OIS (Optical Image Stabilization).

The combination of advanced intelligence features and leading premium hardware which allows advanced noise reduction technology, and a lens that adjusts to light just like the human eye, according to the launch data.

Samsung is counting on the Note 9 to outsell the Note 8 to stem a sales slump. It said last month its flagship Galaxy S9 phone missed sales targets, sending profits in the mobile division down by a third in the April-June quarter.

Samsung does not break out shipments of its smartphone models, but analysts reckon it has shipped around 10 million Note 8 models so far.

“The jury is still out if the device can boost sales of Samsung’s premium category,” mobile phone market tracker Counterpoint Research said in a blog, pointing to stiff competition from the iPhone X, Huawei’s P20 Pro and the Find X from China’s Oppo Electronics.

(With Reuters)