S&P downgrade: Officials call for European alternative

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BERLIN, Germany — Investors, it seems, were remarkably unruffled by the long-anticipated downgrading of a string of European countries on Friday, and by the similar fate that befell the euro zone’s bailout fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, on Monday.

More from GlobalPost: Euro zone credit ratings downgrade ... reactions

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African diaspora: Unique Berlin identity

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It's often said that no one in Berlin is from Berlin. But among the city's shifting ethnic milieus, a well-established African community is building a strong Berlin identity, as DW's Stuart Braun discovers.

"I love Neukölln," says Saidu Bah, who runs the African Union bookstore and meeting place on the main drag of Berlin's polyglot southwest district. Saidu came to Germany from Sierra Leone in 1993 after fleeing civil war and opened African Union with his German wife almost five years ago.

Read more at Deutsche Welle

Burning car: a popular crime in Germany

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A German man whose mother was threatened with deportation is accused of a crime that has become a popular way in Germany for young people to express anger: burning cars.

Harry Burkhart, 24, watched as his mother was arrested last week on a warrant from their native Germany on fraud charges that include not paying for breast-augmentation surgery.

Read more at USA Today

Georgian politics: richest man enters politics

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TBILISI, Georgia— The richest man in this former Soviet republic was a reclusive figure, living in a $50 million compound of steel and glass with sweeping views over the presidential palace.
But after he announced his intention to run for parliament in a move that threatens the political establishment, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili found that his hilltop retreat offered no protection from the full-contact sport of Georgian politics.

But after he announced his intention to run for parliament in a move that threatens the political establishment, billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili found that his hilltop retreat offered no protection from the full-contact sport of Georgian politics.

Read more at The Washington Times

Merkel plan: Save euro with federal Europe

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Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted yesterday that the euro could only be saved by changes in the EU treaty to impose legally enforceable budget discipline on countries using the single currency.

Her words, in a landmark speech to the Bundestag, implied exactly the kind of federalist solution, over-riding national sovereignty, which was rejected the day before by President Nicolas Sarkozy. Efforts will be made to resolve the apparent gulf between the two leaders when they meet in Paris on Monday to agree draft treaty changes to place before a critical EU summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday.

Read more at The Independent

Nuclear power: Debate grows in Europe

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DUBLIN — The future of atomic energy in Europe looked bleak after the nuclear disaster in Japan, but some European leaders now see nuclear power as the only clean alternative to dirty coal-fired plants or unreliable wind and solar energy.

For Europe’s politicians — treaty-bound to reduce carbon emissions from coal- and oil-powered plants — the fears of nuclear meltdown and radiation are now being balanced by the need to keep the lights on and factories open across the Continent.

Read more at The Washington Times

Kazakh censorship: Restrictions on social networks

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BERLIN — Kazakhstan’s crackdown on independent media and social networking sites this month has sparked a debate about censorship in this Central Asian nation.

The Kazakh government shut down Internet access and mobile phone coverage early this month in the western region of Mangistau after ongoing protests there by oil workers on strike turned violent and police killed 15 people. Journalists were denied access to the region, and media coverage of events there have been restricted.

Read more at The Washington Times

Austerity tightens: Bleak Christmas for Europe

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BERLIN — Debt-weary European leaders faced voters this month and warned of more hard times ahead, a forecast that made some politicians cry as others tried to comfort their citizens.

“You are not responsible for the crisis,” Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told them.

Read more at The Washington Times

Oligarch challenger: NBA owner takes on Putin

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_RUS130305AA001.jpegMOSCOW – As a sports fan, Mikhail Prokhorov, the majority owner of the New Jersey Nets NBA basketball franchise, knows underdogs can often pull off shock victories.

The Russian billionaire has set for himself a high goal, some say impossible, in announcing he will challenge Vladimir Putin in next year's presidential election.

Read more at USA Today

German Fritzl: Father jailed for incest

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A German father has been jailed for incest with his daughter, but was cleared of rape.

Adolf B, 69, dubbed the German Fritzl, was sentenced to two years and eight months in prison after claiming that his daughter was a "willing participant".

Read more at The Guardian

Serial killings: Linked to neo-Nazis

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BERLIN – The first to die was Enver Simsek , 38, a flower vendor shot in the face in Nuremberg in 2000. The last was Halit Yozgat, 21, shot in the head in the Internet café he ran in Kassel, six years later.

In between, seven more people — mostly Turks — were murdered across Germany in killings that police had surmised were the work of drug syndicates, money launderers or homicidal relatives. Law enforcement appeared to ignore the possibility of right-wing terrorism, in spite of Germany's legacy of decades of periodic violence against minorities by neo-Nazis.

Read more at USA Today

Uzbek prisons: Torture widespread

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BERLIN — Human rights officials expressed concern this week over the widespread use of torture in Uzbek prisons and called on Western governments to impose sanctions on and end dealings with the former Soviet republic’s autocratic regime.

“Uzbekistan really has very few rivals in the world as a country where torture exists,” said Steve Swerdlow, a researcher for Human Rights Watch who wrote a report on Uzbekistan’s abuses. “It’s one of the classic totalitarian police states left in the world today.”.

Read more at The Washington Times

Neo-Nazi women: Far right's secret weapon

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU121121AA002.jpegBERLIN, Germany — “I’m the one you’re looking for,” announced Beate Zschaepe when she reported to the police in Jena, eastern Germany, on Nov. 8.

Four days earlier, Zschaepe had blown up her apartment, apparently to hide evidence. Her two live-in companions had died of gunshot wounds, after botching a bank robbery. Authorities contend that one of the men, Uwe Mundlos, shot the other, Uwe Boehnhardt, before killing himself.

Read more at Global Post

Rights groups: No democracy yet in Egypt

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CAIRO – Egyptians may be voting in free elections for the first time in years, but the repression of critics by the military shows that true democracy does not yet exist, rights activists say.

A military court on Wednesday sentenced Egyptian blogger Maikel Nabil to two years in prison for insulting the military and publishing false news, according to Noor Ayman Nour, an activist with the rights group No to Military Trials for Civilians.

Read more at USA Today

Zwickau cell: Neo-Nazi suspect arrested

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German police have arrested another suspected supporter of the neo-Nazi terror cell which was allegedly responsible for a string of murders across Germany.

The man was detained in the Erzgebirg district of Saxony on suspicion of providing apartments for the three founding members of the National Socialist Underground (NSU), believed to be responsible for the murders of at least 10 people between 2000 and 2007.

Read more at The Guardian

Russian protests: Medvedev responds with election probe

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MOSCOW — Russia’s president on Sunday ordered an investigation of electoral fraud in last week’s parliamentary elections after thousands of protesters rallied against the election results in the most massive demonstrations in the country’s post-Soviet history.

Dmitry Medvedev announced the investigation on his Facebook account, which drew thousands of angry comments and criticisms from other users of the social-networking website.

Read more at The Washington Times

European summit: Germany called to action

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BERLIN – Greece is near bankruptcy, Italy careens toward fiscal catastrophe and the heralded currency union called the eurozone looks increasingly fragile. One country more than any other — Germany — is being called on to save it.

But will it?

European leaders gather in Brussels today and Friday to come up with a long-term solution to an alarming debt crisis that could evenutally destroy the euro currency and could even take down the European Union.

Read more at USA Today

Closer union: Continental Europe in favor

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Italy's usual approach to European Union diktats consists of giving them a sober welcome then trying to stop them making any difference to how Italians conduct their affairs – the opposite of Britain, which bellyaches about the EU yet obeys its rules.

The pattern was visible last month in the elevation of Mario Monti, right, as head of a government of unelected technocrats. Italy's parliament, that "circus of ferocious beasts" as it has been called, gave Mr Monti carte blanche to do everything necessary to save Italy and the euro. But already cries of pain and threats of dissent are being heard from every corner of the Italian political world: some about pensions, others about residence tax, others about a heavier burden on families, the Northern League denouncing the way reforms are being shoved through.

Read more at The Independent

Icy appeal: Why Berlin's best in winter

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Berlin's a great city, but it's commonly advised that you avoid it between the months of November and February. Deutsche Welle's Stuart Braun, however, isn't going anywhere.

I'm going to say something unthinkable. I love winter in Berlin.

Is he serious, they will snigger. Winter in Berlin is hell, they will scoff. These are the naysayers now fleeing the capital, heading south, all the way to Australia if they can. "Get out, run for your lives," they scream. "Winter is coming!"

Read more at Deutsche Welle

President Putin: Familiarity breed contempt

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MOSCOW — Popular support for Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his ruling party is falling as voters prepare for Sunday’s parliamentary elections.

“Opposition to Putin is huge, and it’s growing rapidly,” said Moscow-based journalist Alexei Korolyov.

Read more at The Washington Times

New government: Can it save Italy?

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ROME – Even in a country where an inept, unstable and bickering government is nothing new, Italians say they are nervous about the future.

"What will be next if the Italian economy goes bankrupt?" asked Giacomo Levy, a 33-year-old psychologist. "It's something hard to imagine. People or business can go bankrupt. But the government?"

Read more at USA Today

Belgian government: Nearly formed after 535 days

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BRUSSELS — In the end, the markets made them do it.

After 535 days marked by months of bickering and debate, Belgian politicians possibly have found a way to form a federal government, setting the record for going without an elected national administration.

Read more at The Washington Times

Euro crisis: Thinking the unthinkable

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BERLIN – As Italy sank deeper into crisis Tuesday, eurozone finance ministers met in Brussels to consider once unthinkable ideas, including creating a European government bond to save the bloc even if major players have refused to sign on.

"We're actually really running out of money," said Bert Van Roosebeke, an economist with the Center for European Policy in Freiburg, Germany. "And politicians are starting to look for a new mechanism. Euro bonds are one of them."

Read more at USA Today

Grim prediction: Egyptians braced for bloodshed

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CAIRO – Security forces fought Monday with several thousand protesters in Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence over demands that the military set a date for turning power over to civilians.

Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation Monday in what the protesters took as a gesture toward addressing their complaints. "God is great!" they shouted upon hearing the news.

Read more at USA Today

Debt crisis: Spanish elect conservative

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MADRID – Spanish voters kicked out the Socialist government Sunday in elections seen as a referendum on the handling of the European debt crisis, which has left Spain buckling under soaring unemployment, burgeoning debt and cuts in public benefits.

It was the fifth European government - after Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Italy - to be brought down in the past year because of the debt crisis and the Socialists' worst result since Spain held its first democratic election in 1977 after a 40-year-long dictatorship.

Read more at USA Today

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