Yannick Pasquet

Yannick Pasquet

    The sky is grey and a warm sun will not be making an appearance for months but millions of Germans have a tanned glow throughout the winter. Some have a decidedly orange tint. About 16-million Germans -- one-fifth of the population -- top up their tans on sunbeds, more than in any other European country.

    Hours to go before the World Cup started on Friday, the streets of Munich were alive with exuberant fans singing, showing their colours and waiting for the whistle to blow as hosts Germany meet Costa Rica in the curtain-raiser. A giant screen set up by German public television station ZDF in Munich's central Marienplatz counted down the seconds.

    A bank run by women for women is being launched in Germany to tailor financial services to female needs in a sector traditionally governed by a very male suit-and-tie brigade. Its name? What else -- Frauenbank, or Women's Bank. The idea was the brainchild of Astrid Hastreiter, a 41-year-old information technology specialist who said she was spurred on by a few observations.

    German consumer protection watchdog Stiftung Warentest warned on Tuesday of "serious deficiencies" in security at four of the 12 to be used during the soccer World Cup finals starting in June. The study, presented at a news conference by one of its authors, Hubertus Primus, found that there was no plan to allow fans to enter the pitch in case of a mass panic.

    German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his conservative rival, Angela Merkel, were back on the campaign trail on Friday ahead of weekend voting in the eastern city of Dresden, which will complete the country's inconclusive general election. About 220 000 voters will go to the polls on Sunday.