• The pandemic has had a massive effect on people’s mental health worldwide • Coaching can help get you back on track and focus on your goals • Dilek Süzal is ready to help and has a special deal for Metropolitans
If the pandemic has affected your mental health and made you feel helpless, you’re not alone. Studies have shown that symptoms of anxiety and/or depressive disorder have quadrupled in adults over the past year and a half. Symptoms often include difficulty concentrating and making decisions, feelings of numbness and frustration as well as changes in energy, desires and interests. Fortunately, there are trained professionals who can help you out of your pandemic funk.
One such person is Dilek Süzal, a Vienna-based personal and professional development coach from Austria with Turkish roots who’s turned her passion for helping others discover and actualize their potential into a flourishing career. A Metropolitan herself, she turned to Metropole to share how coaching can get you back on track and achieve your goals.
Coaching Vs. Therapy
Unlike therapy, where healthcare professionals analyze a patients’ past in order to understand present behavior and help them recover from trauma, coaches help their clients navigate problem areas in their lives, providing them with the tools to work toward specific goals.
Coaching sessions are judgment-free safe spaces and offer a pathway to achieving future goals by identifying problems, devising solutions and setting achievable targets. The coach follows structured processes to guide clients toward their ultimate goal, like a friendly companion illuminating the path forward.
Meet Dilek Süzal
Over her two-decade long career as an architect, this proud mother of two was committed to helping others build their ideal physical environment. But over time, she began to wonder what was behind the façade and started digging deeper … starting with herself. “I’ve been on both ends of a coaching session,” Süzal shares with us. “I’ve benefitted greatly from coaching and it’s the joy of my life to be able to guide others now.” As a fellow Metropolitan, she knows the hardships connected to relocating and navigating a new city. “I understand Vienna’s international community because I’m a part of it. I’ve been there, I’ve shared the struggles and I’m here to lend a helping hand,” the Turkish native says of her personal journey.
Coaching for Everyone
Whether you feel the need to reinvigorate your personal life or want to kickstart your career, Süzal has the tools to help you. As a life and business coach, her mentoring sessions focus on the following themes:
Self-Awareness and Mastery
Courage and Strategy for Transformation
Adaptation to a New Cultural Environment
Professional Development and Career Transition in a New Location
Business – Entrepreneurship Coaching and Creating Business Plans
Body-Mind-Soul Alignment and Combating Procrastination
Are You Ready?
If you’re not sure if coaching is right for you, ask yourself this: Do you feel that you’re capable of more and you’re not living up to your potential? Do you find yourself spinning in circles? Do you ever question your path and the choices you’ve made? Do you feel like you don’t fully belong? If just one of these questions made you nod, it might be time to hire a coach and get to work.
Setting a goal is easy, but making a structured plan to achieve it takes a little more work – and doing it alone is often nearly impossible. “If you’re stuck in a certain situation, it can be so hard to see the forest for the trees,” says Süzal. “A coach comes into your life with a blank canvas and supports you as you draw up a plan with small, achievable steps, one after the other.”
The pandemic brought on a flurry of social media posts, articles and ideas on how to best use your downtime. After a year, however, people are less self-actualized and more fatigued and unmotivated than ever. “It’s normal to struggle right now, but it’s not necessary. Don’t feel alone, discouraged and down on yourself – book a session with me and get back on track,” encourages Süzal, who shifted her business online last year. “Doing a session via video chat doesn’t take anything away from the experience – on the contrary, being in their own safe space often helps my clients feel more comfortable right away and open up more freely,” she enthuses.
Time to Live Your Best Life
If you’re ready to meet Süzal and take the first step toward a brighter future, connect with her on her website or send her an email. You can find out more about her professional background on her LinkedIn profile and catch a glimpse of her personal life on her Instagram account. Tell her we sent you and get 15% off your first session.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Prof. Dr. Florian Krammer has been writing (bi-)weekly updates in German for family and friends. Metropole was kindly granted permission to translate and publish these updates.
October 12, 2021
Here it is again, the bi-weekly COVID-19 update. So far, 238 million official SARS-CoV-2 infections have been registered, 4.868 million people have died from COVID-19 so far, and 6.5 billion doses of vaccine have been administered.
Stable Numbers in Europe
In many European countries, case numbers are stable, and often quite low. The big exception is the East and the Balkans. Romania, Ukraine, Serbia, Belarus, Russia, Croatia and Slovakia are currently experiencing waves of infection of varying severity.
In Slovenia it is already going down again and Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary see only very slight increases. Very slight increases, which hopefully will not become a trend, can also be seen in the Netherlands and Denmark.
Falling Case Numbers in the Americas & Asia
The number of cases in the USA, Canada and Mexico is decreasing. In South America – except in Venezuela – they are low and also decreasing in many Central American countries. In Asia, the situation is actually quite good, with case numbers falling almost everywhere. Exceptions are South Korea, where the number of cases remains about the same, and Singapore, where there is a sharp increase.
Spikes in Oceania & China
Australia has seen a further increase in cases, and New Zealand and China each have a handful of cases. In the Middle East and Maghreb, case numbers are low or going down almost everywhere. Exceptions are Turkey (stable high) and Egypt (rising). In Africa, the situation is also stable, with a few exceptions.
The Vaccination Rate Counts
I cannot say exactly how the pandemic will continue. In some countries, basic immunity through vaccination and/or infection is probably high enough now to prevent further waves. In others, certainly not. Hard to say what will happen, but the worst is definitely over. If we’re lucky, we’ll get through the winter without any problems.
However, the vaccination rates in Austria and Germany are unfortunately far too low. For the unvaccinated, the situation is currently still dangerous in Austria and Germany, one should not be deceived just because the case numbers are not extremely high.
Vaccines for Children
A short update on vaccinations in the age group 5-11 years. Pfizer has now submitted the data to the US regulatory authority. The decision on the approval will be made in October. In Europe it will probably take a little longer.
Hidden away in the last office of the mineralogy department of Vienna’s Natural History Museum, behind a quarry of vibrant crystals and rock samples, lab benches and book cases, Ludovic Ferrière lifts the lid off a small, clear, plastic box.
The object Ferrière plucks out has just made national news. It’s a chunk of asteroid called the “Kindberg meteorite,” named after the Styrian town where it was found. Thanks to a network of specialized meteorite cameras, researchers knew more about its prior orbit than that of perhaps any other meteorite in history.
Ferrière saw where the space rock was heading and organized a search campaign, ultimately leading local “citizen scientists” to make the Kindberg discovery. It’s only the latest achievement in his remarkable career, which spans the globe and has landed him at the top of his field, right here in Vienna.
Ludovic Ferrière is sitting at his desk, gesturing to the blue screen of a radar system on his computer. “Everything is rotating, and more or less crossing at some point,” he says. The screen lights up with a white blip, marking the arrival of a shooting star as it passes through the atmosphere over Germany. “The Earth, in its journey around the Sun, is crossing some space debris, mainly dust leftover from comets and asteroids.”
Meteors, or “shooting stars,” are an everyday phenomenon—the Earth runs into flecks of extraterrestrial dust like a car on the highway passing through a cloud of mosquitos. They leave trails across the sky as they burn up in our atmosphere.
“The meteorite—it’s a continuum from astronomy to geology to geochemistry,” Ferrière says. Studying them, he says, “allows us to better understand our place, and how life may have appeared on Earth.”
Lab analysis of the Kindberg meteorite determined, for example, that it formed very near the birth of our solar system and is older than any mineral ever collected from Earth’s crust. Scientists used unusually precise data recorded during the meteorite’s entry to calculate its exact origin in space: a group of near-Earth objects called the Apollo asteroids. Their findings reveal the potential of meteorite tracking technology and give us a snapshot of our celestial past.
Ferrière is endlessly fascinated by what meteorites can teach us. Whether he’s sitting at his microscope or tracking down an impact crater in a faraway country, he says, “I’m in another dimension. I’m crazy about this.”
The international treasure hunter
Ludovic Ferrière is many things: geologist, space rock scientist, impact crater expert and curator of one of the world’s oldest and largest meteorite collections, housed at the Natural History Museum in Vienna. But more than that, he is an explorer, a seeker of knowledge and a global citizen. He’s found meteorites in Egypt and Uruguay, helped discover impact craters in Finland, Sweden, Australia and the DR Congo (where he was once imprisoned on an expedition), and visited nearly any other country you can think of.
He’s a lot like Indiana Jones, if you ditch the campy stunts and swap the treasure with artifacts from space. Hunting for geologic treasures is something Ferrière knows well—his first expeditions began when he was still a young boy, living in a small rural village in central France.
“I was outside all the time. Ever since I was a kid, I was collecting minerals and rocks,” Ferrière says. “And in the countryside, you see very nice sky—almost every night in summer, I saw shooting stars.”
For him, the connection was clear. “One day, I found something in the field that I believed was a meteorite.” Imagine a kid running through the grass, metal detector in hand. “I was trying to answer this question for myself—‘Did I find a meteorite?’”
By primary school, he says, he was telling his teachers he wanted to be a geologist. From there, his interest only grew. It led to a bachelor’s in earth sciences between France and Canada, a master’s in planetology in France, a doctorate in petrography and geochemistry at the University of Vienna, and back to Canada for a postdoc, with visits to remote impact craters in his spare time. He joined the Natural History Museum as a curator in the mineralogy and petrography department in 2011, then went on to lead the expansion of the museum’s renowned meteorite collection.
Ferrière glances over to the wall from his desk, where a poster shows several impact craters, including the Chicxulub—the scar of the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs. He picks up a rock sample that was drilled at the site on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, then holds a microscope slide up to the light. It contains an incredibly thin slice of rock, which allows Ferrière to look for unique features left by a meteorite impact. His work often goes down to the infinitesimally small.
But he insists there is much to uncover about our world that can simply be accomplished by going somewhere new, and looking with your eyes. “I am fascinated by the exploration and discovery of other continents,” says Ferrière. “These days, you can still do that.”
His eyes are wide open.
It’s about people
Ferrière says his research style is a bit old-fashioned. Digitalization notwithstanding, he’d rather have his hands in the soil and boots on the ground than sit behind a screen, especially when it comes to people. His travel over the years has shown him the importance of engaging with foreign cultures, learning new languages, exchanging ideas and just being with others in the same space—simple camaraderie.
“I like to meet new people with different areas of expertise, who come with a different approach,” he says. “I also like to work with artists—really, with people that have a completely different life.”
He tries to find ways to bring that diversity into the field. During the recent search for the Kindberg meteorite, he recruited a rag-tag team of friends, researchers, citizen scientists and even a few farmers from the Austrian countryside. It ultimately led to the meteorite’s discovery.
“Involving the people—the so-called citizen science—this is what has been done in the past for two centuries, or even longer,” he says. “It’s not my success—this is a success of the participation of the public.”
One of Ferrière’s main goals as a curator is to inspire young minds and instill the public with the same excitement he feels when looking up at the sky or examining extraterrestrial rocks. Ferrière hopes that bringing energy to the science and making it accessible will encourage more young people to get involved.
He notes the contributions of his colleagues at the museum, but in particular, sixteen-year-old Anna Kucera, an intern who helped study the new meteorite. Says Kucera, “The opportunity to be one of the first people to see and study a meteorite that was recovered only a few months after falling on Earth is a dream.”
Most important instruments
“Your two eyes are the most important instruments that you have,” Ferrière says. He says it often. The scientist walks past milling museum-goers and along rows of dimly-lit display cases, the halls of mineralogy packed full of carefully labelled minerals and rocks.
“Almost nobody notices,” he says, “but the rooms here are specially decorated for these collections.” He stops under a tall archway and points toward the sculptures near the ceiling, high up on the wall.
Various allegorical figures hold objects and symbols, and Ferrière points out one sculpture in particular: a man who appears to be leaning out of a robe made of star-studded sky. In his arms, the figure holds a silvery meteorite, and if you follow his line of sight, his eyes guide you directly to the meteorite hall.
It’s like a clue right out of The Last Crusade. The treasure: vast knowledge of the solar system.
“Every night you can see shooting stars—every day there is a ton of extraterrestrial dust falling,” says Ferrière. Use your eyes. “The best way to see or notice is to look at the sky. It’s free. You can do it every day.”
“It looks kind of wild at the moment,” says Michael Peceny as he digs his hands into the high plastic container. Wild it looks indeed, this slimy, brown mass he introduces as his “kombucha mother.” Kombucha is an East Asian drink made from fermented tea – sparkling, slightly sour, alcohol-free. It’s the base of a number of drinks Peceny has created in his role as bar chef at Tian, a fine-dining restaurant in Vienna’s 1st district.
Austria’s first and only vegetarian restaurant with a Michelin star, Tian opened in 2011 “at a time when no-one asked for vegetarian food,” says chef and manager Paul Ivić . Tian was also ahead of the curve when it comes to non-alcoholic drink accompaniments. “I used to be totally into spirits and liquors,” Peceny says, “until Paul asked me to develop non-alcoholic alternatives to our common wine pairing.”
It wasn’t an easy, particularly at first. “When you’re eating out, you’re having wine,” says Peceny. “This is a principle that has taken root over many years.” Today, though, you can find him behind the bar in the restaurant’s basement, the shelves at his back lined with motley colored jars and bottles: Homemade vinegars and kombuchas. Kwas, a lemonade made of leftover bread and Eastern European drink Smreka brewed from juniper berries. Peceny works with traditional, often forgotten techniques to create drinks that complement the food. Whether with wine or one of Peceny’s drinks, “we want our guests to have a holistic experience.”
Over the last years, many sophisticated restaurants began offering such alternative beverages to pair with their multi-course menus. Alcohol-free cocktails no longer have self conscious names like Safer Sex on the Beach or Driver’s Choice but more confident ones like Code Red or L’Aperitivo and single origin grape juices are discussed with a seriousness that was once reserved for wine.
A Changing Culture
Alcohol has long been a fixture in Austrian culture. A nation of vintners, winemakers were recognized under Joseph II with their own Law of the Heuriger, granting them the right to serve their own wine “Am Hof”, without a special license, making it accessible to all. In the decades after World War II, the amount of alcohol consumed rose along with the country’s growing prosperity, reaching its climax in the early 1970s, when Austrian adults drank an average of three small glasses (Achterl) of wine per day. These numbers remained relatively constant for two decades. Since 1993, however, the trend has reversed: Average annual consumption declined from approximately 14.4 liters in 1993 to 12.2 liters in 2019 [Handbuch Alkohol].
So after increasing for decades, the amount of alcohol consumed in Austria has actually been falling since the beginning of the 1990s, especially among adolescents. The percentage of Viennese drinking on a nearly daily basis went down from 17% in 2013 to 9% in 2019, according to the Center for Addiction and Drug Coordination. “Dry January,” a practice revived in recent years in the UK, is gaining in popularity in Austria too.
Is the constant availability of alcohol – the unwritten social rule that every social occasion calls for alcohol – a principle that is now being questioned?
Ivić from Tian believes that the growing interest in abstinence is also a reflection of what’s on offer. For a long time, there were simply no appealing alternatives.
“I value water a lot, but I don’t want to drink it all the time,” Ivić observed. The initial skepticism about their non-alcoholic juice pairing – a term that sounds “unsexy”, he admits – died away quickly when guests realized it had nothing to do with an Obi gespritzt (apple juice and club soda) or Soda Zitron-type lemonades. One of Peceny’s concoctions was an asparagus flavored drink, topped with rose-blossom-froth to accompany a fennel, kohlrabi and rose-cream starter. For dessert, instead of a sweet ice wine or port, he offers honey-colored, velvety kombucha aromatized with roasted, caramelized popcorn.
As with wine, it’s about the aromatic interplay. At best, both drink and food taste better.
“Our goal is constant development and getting our guests on board,” Ivić says. Things have come a long way: When they start ed four years ago, only one in ten patrons went for the non-alcoholic pairing. Now, it’s roughly one in three, sometimes even half.
“Nowadays, many [more] guests admit that dinking eight glasses of wine with an eight-course-dinner is too much for them,” says Peceny.
To Your Health!
Pregnancy, driving, medication intake – the traditional explanations no longer dominate. In a time where we track our steps, buy superfood and join yoga classes, cutting down on alcohol seems like an obvious step. The long-standing myth of the g’sundes Glaserl (healthy glass) has been at least partially countered by scientific studies. The same holds true for the belief that “a little wine won’t harm the baby“ – a saying that some pregnant women still hear from their mothers, who may hold that unrelieved tension is as bad or worse.
With rising awareness of health risks, public perception of alcohol is changing. Advertising guidelines for alcoholic beverages have been tightened over the years. In 2010, the beer and spirits industry committed themselves to stricter standards. Similarly, the Österreichischer Werberat (Austrian Advertising Council) has formulated a code of ethics banning ads that encourage “excessive or abusive alcohol intake.”
Of course, the question of “how much is too much” is open to debate. The recommended limits Austrian authorities [Handbuch Alkohol] use were first set by the British Health Education Council in the late 1980s and since adopted by the WHO, setting a 24 gram limit for men and 16 grams for women, or two Achterl for a man and one for a woman Achterl of 12% wine per day. Or alternatively, roughly half a liter of beer.
The percentage of Austrians whose consumption is considered low and unproblematic has increased in recent decades: From 60% in 1994 to 71% in 2020. In a 2020 survey of consumer behavior, 14% of Austrian adults said they were abstinent – that is, they haven’t been drinking for at least twelve months. Asked why, four-fifths of the abstainers ascribed their decision to “negative effects on my health.”
Nina Mohimi und Dani Terbu, Vienna-based food consultants, speak of a “better for me” movement. Others call it “sober curious,” an idea established by New York author Ruby Warrington. In her 2018 book, she wrote about increasing physical health, self care and mindfulness she found “on the other side of alcohol.“
For Lisa Brunner, head of the Institut für Suchtprävention (Department for Addiction Prevention), it is not so much about total abstinence but about sensible consumption and increased awareness of the dangers of excessive drinking. “The crucial thing is having alternatives. I’m delighted about every non-alcoholic drink I discover on a menu and every start up in this sector.”
According to IWSR, a market research institute surveying the global beverage alcohol market, the “no” and “low” consumption market is forecast to grow by 31% by 2024. There are no specifics for Austria, but sales doubling for non-alcoholic beer since 2012 suggest a similar trend. This summer, Austrian spirits company Rick Gin, which already produces a gin alternative, launched two non-alcoholic rums, further adding to the growing range of alcohol-free spirits.
“We have long been derided,” says Roman Proschinger, who is convinced that the market for non-alcoholic drinks will keep growing. “It’s the same with non-alcoholic beer. 20 years ago, no-one gave it a chance.”
Just a few steps from Schloss Belvedere, Proschinger runs Austria’s first shop specializing in non-alcholic wines. After he took on Vinumis a few months ago, he is now working on expanding his range of currently one sparkling and three white wines. “Bubblies are easiest to market,” explains Proschinger as “the carbonic acid works as a flavor carrier.” He estimates the market share of non-alcoholic sparkling wines at currently 5% – suggesting great potential for growth.
His biggest customer group? Pregnant women, drivers, older people who cannot drink for medical reasons. But also, the health-conscious who want to exercise and maintain a balanced diet. And people who enjoy drinking one or two spritzers for lunch and want to return to work with a clear head. Proschinger’s bottles are imprinted with a black tomcat, consistent with his motto: Zero percent Kater (a pun with the German word for a hangover, Kater) – Hundred percent wine.
The wish to stay sober is nothing new. Temperance movements, promoting the abstinence from alcohol, date back to the early 19th century, although history often records catastrophic effects. Still, they reemerge. In this tradition, so-called sober bars have a long tradition, and today can be found in Austin, Texas, Tokyo Japan and beer-loving cities like Dublin and London. With Zeroliq, established in March 2020 in Berlin, the first sober bar opened its doors in the German-speaking market. There’s no such venue (yet) in Austria, but a growing number of bars include elaborate “sober” drinks on their menus.
Take non-alcoholic gin and Italian spritz, homemade pandan cordial and soda, and top it off with grapefruit juice and a slice of cucumber. Code Red, Sigrid Schot’s best-selling sober drink. Since 2017, Schot has been running the Hammond Bar, in the 2nd district, where, says Schot, they have always had some non-alcoholic drinks on the menu, made from tea, homemade syrups and cordials.
However, during lockdown (“God knows we had plenty of time”) they expanded their offer, creating drinks based on non-alcoholic spirits, a market that “rapidly grew over the last 1,5 years.“ Schot also talks about of “lifestyle drinks” – appealing to customers who wish to live more consciously – and draws a comparison to the gin hype which swept over the bar scene a few years ago.
“I don’t think the consumption of alcohol will decline as a consequence,” says Schot, given our culturally rooted drinking habits. “It’s more likely going to be an add-on.” Not least due to prices which often exceed those of alcoholic drinks. Code Red, her signature “sober” drink, costs €10. The mixing is challenging, because alcohol as flavor carrier and preservative is missing, and ingredients are generally very high quality.
“You can’t just throw any old dregs in there; Otherwise no one will buy it,” she says.This is consistent with Michael Peceny’s observation that there is no stigma in guests opting for the Tian juice pairing. Still, both admit that it’s likely due to their particularly open-minded customer base.
Elsewhere, social expectations persist:
“Alcohol is offered at most events. Drinking seems like the logical thing to do,” says Lisa Brunner from the Department for Addiction Prevention. “You almost have to defend yourself, if you’re not drinking.” Some hosts even feel affronted if you refuse the offered Gläschen.
Reframing Social Rituals
Sharing a drink is a social ritual, culturally established over many centuries. An evening beer with colleagues from work, catching up with a friend over a glass of wine, clinking glasses at a birthday party. Alcohol is part of our daily life – even more so in a country like Austria which has a long vinicultural tradition. A country that upholds its “Österreichische Gemütlichkeit” (Austrian sense of ease and sociability). A country where musicians praise the pleasures of alcohol and mayors are known for dictums like “Man, bringe den Spritzwein!” (“My good fellow, bring on the Spritzers!”)
In short, alcohol plays many roles in our society: It’s a mood elevator, it relaxes and lowers inhibitions, it brings people together. Brunner is far from campaigning for total abstinence, praising the joys of a glass in good company. Alcohol is part of our culture, she agrees, and a “nice thing.“. Her work is not aimed at prohibiting it but at keeping consumption at a low-risk level. Therefore, she embraces societal trends promoting sober drinks and non-alcoholic substitutes. “It’s about dealing with the topic more deliberately.”
At Schot’s Hammond Bar, this often means that guests start with one or two standard drinks – and then, when they feel they’ve had enough, switching to non-alcoholic ones or -–increasingly popular – low ABVs (alcohol by volume), drinks which are mixed both with spirits and their non-alcohol equivalents. “They say: I don’t want to be totally hangover tomorrow, but it’s cozy and we want to keep chatting so I’ll have another round.” With or without alcohol, what does it matter? At Tian, there’s no longer preferential treatment: Their menu simply lists a one-price “beverage pairing.” Proving that non-alcoholic drinks can be just as complex, exciting, and “sexy” as wine or champagne.
The alcohol business represents a significant portion of the Austrian economy. From hospitality to wine and spirits, the industry straddles several sectors. Up to 300,000 people in Austria are employed in jobs that have a connection to alcoholic drinks, from agriculture to manufacturing, retail to the hospitality industry. Although it’s still largely male-dominated, today more women are climbing their way to the top, challenging industry traditions. Here are some of the women who represent this new and emerging “female factor.”
Bartender & mixologist
Even before she was allowed to drink alcohol, Jolien Hackett could not resist the urge to create delectable concoctions. As a child, she would help out at her father’s bar-restaurant, mixing “virgin” cocktails to satisfy her increasingly exotic tastes.
Today, Hackett is an award-winning mixologist, embracing the call to explore and excel in the magical world of cocktails.
“What I love about the business is its creativity. Drinking can be an explosion of flavours, so that I sometimes feel like the Remy character from Ratatouille!” the British-born Wienerin exclaimed.
Even though she has represented Austria in international mixology competitions like the Central European Final der Angostura Global Cocktail Challenge – placing fourth as the only woman competing – she acknowledges the “chauvinistic and masculine” character of the bar culture.
But experience and passion have driven her to where she is now, not only working internationally, but also re-mixing the role of the cocktail in Vienna. At the innovative Newman restaurant, in a new-twist-on-traditions she developed an exclusive Negroni menu to accompany its Schnitzel menu. Schnitzel with Negronis, anyone? Perhaps only a imaginative outsider could have thought of that.
Founder and Managing Director of Vinodea, Austria
Although she was introduced to wine culture by her Austrian husband, Swiss-born Madlaina Sladecek-Dosch was principally inspired by the women she met in the wine industry, especially the growing number of female vintners. So much so that just this March, she decided to open a shop in Vienna dedicated exclusively to wines produced by the 20+ women who ignited her passion for wine and winemaking.
But why only female winemakers? As in many aspects of life, women know how to show up for each other, and Sladecek-Dosch saw this as the best way to show her solidarity.
“In Austria, the wine tradition is somehow still very conservative. Taking over a business, putting your own name on your label as a young woman has its own struggles.Women still have to fight to be taken seriously,” the 38-year-old explained.
Some of the female vintners represented in the shop have gone so far as form their own collective brands, such as Frauenzimmer, made up of four young vintners from winegrowing regions across Austria, and Weinblüten, six female winegrowers and -makers from the Vulkanland region of Styria, known for its rich, volcanic terroir.
In the end, for Sladecek-Dosch, it’s about offering a level playingfield for her fellow female pioneers.
“Women make wine just as well as men do,” she said. “They learn the process in the same way and nowadays, it is absurd to maintain that there’s difference.”
CEO of Waldviertler Whisky J.H., Austria
When it comes to whiskey, Austria is not the first place to come to mind. But Waldviertler Whiskey, Austria’s first whiskey distillery founded in 1995, has been changing that. The company’s founders, Johann and Monika Haider, decided to turn the impact the EU would now have on the Austrian agricultural economy and their inherited farm into an opportunity by taking on a previously unheard-of venture: making whiskey from regional resources.
Their daughter, Jasmin Haider-Stadler, has since successfully carried the torch into the next generation. As managing director, Haider-Stadler developed her skills as a distiller and producer, while also studying communications and marketing. She also played a pivotal role in developing “Whiskey Experience World” – a sort of show case/museum next to the distillery, awarded a tourism prize as a top destination in Lower Austria.
If anything, Haider-Stadler sees being a woman as an advantage in the whiskey industry.
“Whiskey is no longer a male topic,” she said. “As a woman, I face the same challenges as a man. While at the same time, women enrich the business, and above all, bring new points of view. The cliché that whisky is male is more than dusty. Women are shaking up the industry and breathing new life into the business.”
Sebastian Kurz announced another impromptu press conference for today, October 9, at 19:30.
Kurz announced that he will “step aside” and resign as chancellor, but he will remain ÖVP party chief and MP in the Parliament. As a deputy in Parliament, Kurz will enjoy immunity against criminal investigations unless and until a parliamentary committee lifts his immunity. The ÖVP has already issued a statement that they will support such a move, thereby making it possible for the investigations to proceed.
Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg (also ÖVP) should take over as chancellor “until the accusations are cleared up.”
Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler (Greens) has commented the resignation of Sebastian Kurz from the office of Chancellor and Head of Government as a right step for Austria: “Sebastian Kurz has informed me of his resignation as Chancellor and, in view of the current situation, I consider this to be the right step for future government work in responsibility for Austria and Austria’s reputation abroad.”
“The cooperation with Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has been very constructive so far. I have arranged a first meeting with the foreign minister proposed by the ÖVP for the office of chancellor for tomorrow,” Kogler said.
Short Summary of Kurz’s Speech
Kurz gives a kind of résumé of the government’s time with the Greens so far.
The chancellor reiterates that the accusations against him are false.
There have already been investigations against other politicians. What’s new, he says, is that this time “the coalition partner has decided to take a clear stand against me.”
Kurz thanks his own party for its support and the public’s encouragement.
Kurz sees the coalition in stalemate. The pandemic is not over yet, however, and the economic upswing has only just begun. It would therefore be irresponsible to “slip into chaos” for months.
Austria needs “stability and responsibility” and the guarantee that the economy recovery reaches everyone
Politics hould never be about personal interests or tactics. “My country is more important to me than my person.”
Kurz announces his resignation as chancellor, he “will step aside.” He wants to make way to prevent chaos and ensure stability.
Current foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg will replace Sebastian Kurz as chancellor. Kurz will sit in Parliament as club chairman (party chief). And he will try to refute the accusations against him.
Kurz reiterates that the welfare of the country is always more important to him than himself.
Kurz left the room after the short statement. Questions were not possible.
Chancellor Sebastian Kurz appeared Wednesday, October 6, on ZIB2 , a nightly news program on Austrian public televison, to reject calls for his resignation and roundly deny any involvement in criminal activity.
On Thursday, October 7, Green Party officials, including Vice-Chancellor Werner Kogler, said they must “question the Chancellor’s continued capacity to act” but did not call for an end to the governing Turquoise-Green coalition, which has been in office since January 2020, ORF reported.
Last night, Kurz said none of the text messages published in the context of the new corruption investigation show him doing anything criminal – and that he doesn’t understand “why everything is always supposed to be my fault.” He maintained that he feels “relaxed” because the investigation will ultimately confirm his innocence.
Hear No Evil, See No Evil
Kurz claimed that the allegedly tailored polling figures matched his later electoral successes, and that it was not necessarily inappropriate for Beinschab’s polling institute to work both for the tabloid Österreich, the Finance Ministry and the ÖVP, because opinion research institutes often work for multiple clients at the same time.
(Prosecutors allege that Finance Ministry officials misused taxpayer money to promote Kurz’s rise within the VP in order to curry personal favor, and that the newspaper Österreich was rewarded for positive coverage with public advertising budgets and other news subsidies).
When confronted with texts in which Thomas Schmid – one of the ten individuals under investigation – bragged about the so-called “Beinschab-Österreich-Tool,” (see here) Kurz distanced himself completely, saying that those messages were between individuals working at the Finance Ministry. Messages he had sent thanking others for poll results were not, he said, relevant to the criminal inquiry.
“Charged Relationship” With the Media
Kurz denied any tit-for-tat arrangement with Österreich, while acknowledging that there is a “charged relationship” (Spannungsverhältnis) between government and the news media in Austria, which should report on government but also negotiate for media grants and subsidies – a controversial issue. He said the potential quid-pro-quo of political ads for positive coverage should be looked at more closely.
Kurz denied any and all knowledge of the allegedly falsified invoices that Sabine Beinschab submitted to the Finance Ministry – and guaranteed “1000%” that he has never written or received a phony invoice (Scheinrechnung) in his life.
METROPOLE will continue to post updates about this investigation as events unfold.
With the investigation of the Austrian Chancellor for corruption now confirmed, supporters and critics alike see the likely end of the political life of Federal Chancellor Sebastian Kurz (ÖVP) – with potentially career-ending consequences for many in his inner circle, some of whom may face prison time.
On Wednesday, October 6, under a court order, Vienna’s Public Prosecutor’s for Corruption and Financial Affairs (WKStA) confirmed it’s search the party offices of the ÖVP, the Finance Ministry, the Chancellery and several private apartments in Vienna in the latest “ÖVP scandal” in search of evidence documenting of the use of public money to purchase positive press coverage and manipulate survey results during the 2016 and 2017 parliamentary elections.
Cash for Positive Polls
Reported in detail in the Austrian news weekly Falter and in Profil, a web of corruption involving disguised invoices and sweetheart advertising deals set up to ensure positive coverage of Sebastian Kurz in the mass market tabloid Österreich – evidence that was the apparent reason for this morning’s raids.
Documents show that the state prosecutor is investigating allegations that Kurz committed “the crimes of embezzlement and bribery,” serious charges that can led to indictment.
Austrian political scientist Thomas Hofer commented the events thus to Bloomberg: “Message control is one thing. But if those allegations are true, this was not only manipulating the media, but also misleading the public.”
Chancellor Kurz himself was interviewed on live TV about the allegations in the evening of October 6, in the ZiB 2 news show of the ORF.
The “ÖVP scandal” – this is how it worked:
Kurz intimates allegedly developed a corrupt mechanism a few years ago when the now-chancellor was fighting to take over leadership of the Conservative Party (ÖVP): they called it the “Beinschab-ÖSTERREICH-Tool”
The alleged triangle of corruption reportedly worked like this:
The ÖVP-led Finance Ministry funneled money to the tabloid Österreich via publicly funded ads. These deals were allegedly fostered through a Sophie Karmasin, who helped arrange meetings between the ministry’s then-General Secretary Thomas Schmid and the Fellners, who own and run Österreich.
In exchange, the tabloid gave Kurz prominent and glowing coverage, particularly of political polls that purported to show Kurz’s meteoric rise in popularity – polls that had been fudged by pollster Sabine Beinschab, also in exchange for payments from the Finance Ministry.
Beinschab billed the Finance Ministry for studies about “corruption prevention,” but included fees for the tweaked polling data.
Here is a translation of a crucial excerpt from the search warrant, which mentions Sebastian Kurz (see tweet below for original):
2./ Sebastian KURZ, by commissioning MMag. SCHMID to organize and negotiate both agreements described under A./II./1. as well as under B./, by obtaining reports on the status, by persuading MMag. Dr. Sophie KARMASIN to participate in the acts by means of a personal conversation, by subsequently commissioning surveys or individual questions and by working towards their controlled publication in order to use the survey results including their publication for exclusively party-political purposes;
This section alleges Kurz’s knowledge and active, direct involvement in the affair.
Current data show how ÖVP ministries have funneled large amounts of money to media outlets of the group Österreich, which is owned by Wolfgang Fellner, even this year (see tweet below).
What was in it for them?
Why would the ÖVP-led Finance Ministry support Kurz instead of Reinhold Mitterlehner, who was then vice chancellor and federal chair of his party? Because then-General Secretary Thomas Schmid – a familiar name from another recent round of muckraking – is and was a close friend and supporter of Sebastian Kurz, and was actively interested in promoting Kurz’s rise within the party and eventually, to the head of government.
Why would the tabloid Österreich, co-founded and closely managed by Wolfgang Fellner and his brother Helmuth Fellner (who also own Austrian magazine News and website and TV channel oe24), allegedly do such a thing? As Schmid reportedly texted, Fellner is “a capitalist.”
Ever more details are coming to light and have yet to be investigated and potentially prosecuted, but it appears that Kurz was both the key beneficiary of the alleged corrupt deals – and was also allegedly well-aware if not actively orchestrating them himself, reports say.
On the orders of the Prosecutor for Economic Affairs and Corruption (WKStA), multiple raids were carried out in the homes and offices of several Conservative Party (ÖVP) officials on Wednesday morning, multiple media reported. The finance ministry was also affected.
Opposition parties have already called for a special session of the National Council (Nationalrat), the lower house of Parliament, to discuss these new developments and allegations.
Will this scandal bring down the government? The jury is out – but the political opposition (and the press) seem increasingly sure.
Every time you see an animated baby elephant last year in your social media feed, it was probably paid for with taxpayers’ money. Or the front page of the U-Bahntabloid graced with reminders to wear a mask… These and many others were part of the government campaign to inform citizens during a public health crisis.
And most went to just three places: In the third quarter of 2020, reports show that over €12 million went toward ads in the print tabloids Kronen Zeitung, Heute and Österreich.
Since 1975, media in Austria have been supported by public funding, a subsidy program to maintain high quality and diversity in the industry. In addition, government institutions also advertise. In 2020, COVID-19 gave rise to massive increases in ad spending among the most-circulated print media, currently up 70% from 2019 to 2020 in the same three-month period.
However, the selection and extent of the support to certain outlets raises inescapable questions about partiality and possible back- room dealings with taxpayers’ money.
In the interest of transparency, the Austrian Chancellery (Bundeskanslzeramt) is legally obliged to report what the government spends on advertising. The regulation – only in place since 2012 – includes public advertising in the form of TV spots, radio advertisements, online and social media campaigns, product and service advertisements and print ads. But a lack of oversight threatens the very quality and diversity the program is intended to support, experts say, through conflicts of interest, self-censorship and undermining innovation in the sector.
Alarm bells went off with a report on media spending from the chancellery, released February 8 by the Austrian online platform ZackZack. The headline had people reeling:
“€10 Million a Month for Austrian Media” Government funding, in fact, increased in 2020 dramatically, as much as 70% in some cases, combined with a commitment of €180 million for media ad spending plus €30 million for “creative services” over the next four years.
So where’s the problem? Isn’t the Fourth Estate a pillar of any open and democratic society? Of course; no argument there. The problem, say critics, is how the money is being spent.
“You get the impression that the government doesn’t care how they spend their money,” said Rubina Möhring, president of Reporters Without Borders Austria. “We’re paying for it… creating a video for the moment.
But not in the interest of society.” According to Möhring, when more money is spent on “yellow” journalism – journalism with catchy headlines but little substance – it threatens both media pluralism and democracy.
Digital and online media received little-to-nothing during COVID-19, however. With the exception of the U-Bahn screen media, Infoscreen, none of the top 11 recipients in 2020 were digital-first outlets, despite the unprecedented amount of time spent online.
But exactly how these decisions are being made is unclear, leaving more questions than answers about the links between politics and public funding for media. At the same time, transparency initiatives consistently face challenges.
The Politics of Media Funding
To repeat: No one disagrees that government support for the media is essential, especially now that the industry is jeopardized by the huge cutbacks in commercial advertising and ever lower subscription rates. But while grant funding in Austria has clear selection criteria, publicly funded advertising does not.
The result: The largest recipients were daily tabloids – including those distributed for free on public transit – who have the highest circulation rates among print media.
But they weren’t the only ones. Falstaff, a high-end magazine on wine, gourmet food and lifestyle with a print circulation of 142,000 across the DACH region, received 438% more in government advertising in 2020, amounting to €250,782 over just three months.
A 2020 study by Dr. Andy Kaltenbrunner of the Medienhaus Wien found that ministries’ selection criteria are, at best, unclear. Worse, their media planning is out of line with the way Austrians consume print, broadcast and online outlets.
Under the People’s Party (ÖVP)-Freedom Party (FPÖ) coalition, the government withdrew advertising from Der Standard and Kurier, newspapers known for their center-left political positions. Equally political was the handling of support for the right-wing tabloid Kronenzeitung and krone.at, which received €1 million more during the ÖVP-FPÖ coalition than allocated by the interim government following the Ibiza affair.
“Some outlets – such as Kurier or Der Standard – were left out of the advertising strategies of the FPÖ-led departments, such as the Ministries of Internal and External Affairs as well as the Ministry of Transport entirely, even though they had considerable budgets at their disposal,” Kaltenbrunner explains in the study. “Others received inexplicably large amounts in ad revenue in comparison to their readership demographics. The media group Österreich fared especially well here. The ÖVP-led chancellery also disproportionately placed its campaigns in the Kronen Zeitung.”
While other European countries support media with government-funded subsidies, the Austrian case is unique in its lack of transparency. As Christopher Buschow, juror on the Vienna Media Initiative (Wiener Medieninitiative) a professor of organization and network media at Bauhaus-Universität Weimer, noted: “The German constitutional court has set clear limits on this. It must be possible for governments to promote campaigns like public health. But if it is used as a tool to promote media or companies that produce content that is closer to the opinion of the ruling government, this is a problem.”
The Russian Doll
Austrian public financing for media is governed by the Federal Act on Transparency in Media Cooperation (Medientransparenzgesetz), passed in 2012. This mandates that the government, public bodies and state-owned corporations disclose their relations with the media, and must include all those who publish four or more times per year.
This stipulation breeds ingenious ways to side-step transparency requirements. According to the investigative outlet Dossier, media companies get around this by publishing supplements within supplements (Beilage einer Beilage), as the City of Vienna does in Preview, which appears only twice a year. This “Russian doll” concept means spending there won’t show up in transparency data surveys. Quantity discounts, too, are not recorded, according toDossier editor-in-chief Florian Skrabal in an interview with Metropole.
For years, ministers have promised to reform media funding and transparency regulations. For example, former State Secretary to the Chancellery Thomas Drozda’s (SPÖ) 2016 call for taxes on technology platforms that would pay for media training and grants is still unaddressed.
Other Major Gaps to Fill…
Austria is one of only five members of the European Union without a Freedom of Information Act (FoI), mandating the release on request of data in the public interest.
Without FoI legislation, journalists must rely on whistleblowers, personal networks and lawsuits to get a hold of data and documents to reach the truth. A draft for a Freedom of Information Act has been on the parliamentary docket since 2016.
Shaping the Media Market
Austria spends comparatively large sums on public advertising. In 2016, Austria spent €18.9 million, 10 times more than Germany per capita. According to Skrabal, this injection “leads to disturbances in the market and dependencies between public officials and media owners.”
Especially in a crisis, public funding for media can determine which outlets survive. According to Barbara Trionfi, executive director of the International Press Institute, excessive advertising paired with official media subsidies “end up saving newspapers that don’t fulfill the criteria of the Austrian Press Council.”
The council, a self-regulatory body of Austrian media outlets, sets standards for freedom of speech, independence from outside influence, protection of privacy, the rejection of discrimination and the unethical procurement of source material. The three media companies that receive the most amount of government ad spending are not members of this body – which experts suggest can hardly be a coincidence.
“At quality newspapers, there is a Chinese wall between advertising and editorial; in the yellow press, the Chinese wall is nonexistent,” explained Skrabal. Without clear guidelines, there is nothing stopping the yellow press from trading support for favorable coverage.
In 2019, an international delegation including IPI and Reporters Without Borders investigated press freedom in Austria. The delegation identified problematic links between politics and the public service broadcaster (ORF), saying “political influence on the ORF must be ended and prevented.” The report also states that publicly funded advertising threatens to become, “an instrument for informal media support, political favors, intimidation or media censorship.”
Digital Media Left Behind
Inequality in digital advertising is particularly conspicuous, especially as society spends more time online. According to a recent MindTake study, 68% of Austrians have been consuming much more news from the internet since the beginning of the pandemic.
In 2019, Kronen Zeitung and Österreich together received €1.6 million in digital advertising, of an available €2.4 million, while online outlets with higher reach received little or none of the government’s advertising budget, the study found.
Austria provides €34 million in grants for digital transformation, for which existing digital media don’t qualify – being punished, in a sense, for being ahead of the game. Experts have criticized this grant structure from the start. As Skrabal and Buschow noted: They’re funding print media that haven’t managed the digital transformation on their own.
Funding media holds multiple risks, said Buschow: “If you give out money based on who has [the most] readers or sold copies, you always support the largest players,” who usually need it the least. When government supports the digitalization of legacy print publications, as they are doing in both Germany and Austria, companies switch to classified, e-commerce or online-transaction-based products, which Buschow stresses are no longer connected to journalism.
The government announcement to spend €180 million on media over the next four years has critics sharpening their swords – and their pens. “Recently, I’m afraid we’ve been going backward in history,” regrets Andy Kaltenbrunner. “More money is being spent, less transparently.”
One of the ironies of medicine is that the treatments for one problem can set the stage for the entry of another. This is what happens with the so-called “black fungus” that has ravaged COVID-19 patients first noticed earlier this summer in India, and now in the U.K., France, the U.S: and elsewhere, as reported in the Guardian of July 1.
Caused by the mucurmycetes molds, black fungus, like other mushrooms, grow on a forest floor carpeted with wet, rotten and decaying leaves and wood, compost, and animal dung. And like other fungi, they release spores into the air, and thus are transmitted into the lungs. Mucormycosis is not a contagious disease, but transmitted via inhalation or a break in the skin. But it’s also possible to ingest the spores, though that is less likely to cause disease.
However, as with most molds, infection in a healthy person is usually fended off by the immune system, and a range of useful bacteria present in the human body. But weakened immune systems, combined with digestive and other bacteria destroyed by antibiotics, and increased blood sugar levels in poorly controlled diabetes can make COVID patients particularly vulnerable to fungal infections.
Black fungus damages the blood vessels and then reduces blood flow to tissues, leaving them necrotic (dying), eventually turning black.
The spores mainly lodge in the nose, sinuses and lungs. Once in the upper respiratory tract, the person might develop rhinosinusitis. It could start with a running nose, red eyes or pain and swelling of the sinuses, but later the person might develop fever, shortness of breath. From here, the spores can spread into the bone, eyes and brain, gastrointestinal tract and major organs and can also get into the circulatory system and spread throughout the body.
The spores can also enter via the skin and cause redness, swelling, and eventually black sores.
Either way, mucormycosis can be fatal, with an estimated death rate of over 40%, with the highest mortality in people with disseminated disease and lowest with skin infections.
Who’s at risk?
The people at most risk have a weak immune system. Usually, they’re immunosuppressed, after cancer treatments or transplants, have a low white blood cell count, are on steroid therapy or other immunosuppressant medications, or have uncontrolled diabetes. But healthy people, too, can get sick if the spores enter the body through broken skin.
Making the diagnosis
The usual symptoms for sinusitis include nasal, a bloody or black nasal discharge, local pain on the cheekbone, numbness or swelling or pain on one side of the face. Sometimes, people have discoloration on the bridge of the nose, and they could experience problems with their jaw and teeth, eye pain with blurred or double vision, and black skin lesions.
So if there is a suspicion, have a culture, or better, a biopsy, taken in the area involved. The diagnosis is made when the fungi are identified along with related inflammation.
And speed is of the essence, treating with a strong intravenous antifungal medication like amphotericin B. However, the most effective treatment is the surgical removal of the affected dying tissue, which can be disfiguring. However, a systemic or brain infection can be fatal, so it is usually worth it.
Can I get mucormycosis in Europe?
Yes, you can. But thankfully, it’s rare, with less than 2 cases per million people, but in India, the prevalence is about 80 times higher than in developed countries. There have been CAM cases in Europe, the Middle East, North and South America. One recent report described four cases in the Netherlands.
Tips to reduce the risk of mucormycosis
Because these common fungal spores are in the air, it’s impossible to avoid them. But there are a few things to do to avoid getting a severe infection.
People with diabetes need to control their blood sugar
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