German far-right party finds a rocky road after electoral success

BERLIN — When the far-right Alternative for Germany, or AfD, placed a best-ever third in Germany’s Sept. 24 general election with 12.6 percent of the vote, supporters celebrated how their populist, anti-Islamic rhetoric rang true for many German voters.

But only 24 hours after the AfD’s historic win, the first right-wing party to enter the lower house of the German parliament since the 1950s already seemed headed for disaster.

Read more at The Washington Times

Londoners just got another reason to hate tourists

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_UK171717aa006.jpegLONDON — Commuters on the crowded London Underground are accustomed to the "mind the gap" warnings from overhead speakers as trains pull into station platforms, but they recently got a glimpse of another change that infuriated many.

The world's oldest subway system unveiled a trial last month to help tourists deal with the congested system: green-painted markings at King's Cross station, a major stop, to show where the doors open.

Read more at USA Today

There are about 400,000 refugee kids in Germany. Educating them is a 'national task.'

    In a modest classroom on the outskirts of Berlin, 10 children, most refugees from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East, consider a perplexing question: Can goats swim?

Benjamin, a precocious 12-year-old from Iran, pipes up with a confident smile on his face. "Of course they can," he says in German. "There's a lot of goats in Iran — I've seen them swim with my own eyes!"

Read more at PRI

More than 800 injured in Catalonia when Spanish police crack down on independence vote

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SPA171717aa005.jpegBARCELONA — Spanish riot police smashed into polling stations Sunday in the Catalonia region and wounded more than 800 people trying to vote on an independence referendum the government had banned as unconstitutional. 

Violence erupted shortly after polls opened in northeastern Spain's autonomous Catalonia region, with video showing Spanish police firing rubber bullets, using batons and roughing up voters.

Read more at USA Today

Germany's 'Trump country:' Why small towns abandoned mainstream parties for far right

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130621aa001.jpegDORFCHEMNITZ, Germany — Retired farmer Gerd Mazanec normally votes for one of Germany's mainstream parties. But in last Sunday's parliamentary elections, he cast his ballot for the far-right Alternative For Germany (AfD).

Mazanec's complaint: Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats and its government partners in Berlin aren't looking out for pensioners like him. Paying more than $3 for a beer on a pension of just $800 a month "simply does not work,” groused Maznec, 62.

Read more at USA Today

How one city plans to steer residents away from driving

    Countries from the UK to China are rolling out extraordinary plans to eliminate fossil-fuel-guzzling automobiles. But one Nordic capital city is mixing tech and urban planning to make sure citizens do not need a car at all.

Finland’s capital Helsinki is growing quickly as it attracts labor from the countryside and overseas. Instead of building more freeways to accommodate the growth, however, officials are trying to make public transit so good that people just give up driving.   

Read more at PRI

Germany's far-right AfD party gains seats in national parliament in major cultural shift

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130827AA001.jpegBERLIN — In a seismic cultural shift, German voters on Sunday elected members of a far-right, nationalist party into parliament for the first time in a half-century.

The Alternative for Germany (AfD), In its first federal election, was headed toward winning about 88 seats in the current 630-member Bundestag and making it the third-largest political force in parliament.

Read more at USA Today

Merkel celebrates fourth-term victory; right-wing nationalists win seats in German parliament

    BERLIN — German voters delivered Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats a fourth consecutive term and the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party a spot in the parliament in Sunday’s federal election, which was widely seen as a referendum on Ms. Merkel’s performance over the past 12 years.

Ms. Merkel’s jubilance over her re-election will be short-lived, as she now must piece together a coalition of widely disparate parties that can propel her Eurocentric, economy-driven mandate — an almost herculean task, given that a far-right nationalist party is entering parliament for the first time since shortly after the end of World War II. 

Read more at The Washington Times

Why is Angela Merkel headed for a fourth term? It's the German economy, stupid!

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU130906aa002.jpegBERLIN – Across western democracies, political turmoil reigns as voters oust incumbents and elect new faces to lead them out of international and economic crises. 

Yet, here in Europe's largest and most powerful nation, a less than charismatic Angela Merkel is poised to cruise to re-election Sunday for a record fourth term as chancellor of a unified Germany. 

Read more at USA Today

For many Germans, this election is about refugees

    Cultures converge on Sonnenallee, the main thoroughfare of Berlin’s southeastern borough of Neukölln.

The German capital’s trademark hipsters, wearing black and sporting tattoos and piercings, duck in and out of craft coffee shops and boutique bistros. A few traditional German pubs are scattered along side streets. But the lion's share of restaurants and shops cater to Arab and Turkish clientele.  

Read more at PRI

Aberdeen, known as Scotland's 'Texas,' turns to green energy after oil boom turns to bust

ABERDEEN, Scotland — This northeastern coastal city was a sleepy college town and fishing port until the 1960s, when the discovery of oil in the North Sea triggered an economic boom that earned it the nickname “Scotland’s Texas.”

But a crash in global oil prices sent the economy into a tailspin, forcing this city of 200,000 to transform itself into a powerhouse for green energy to fight climate change and revive its once booming economy.

Read more at USA Today

Kosovo’s deep love and gratitude for America on prominent display throughout country

KERPIMEH, Kosovo — Hasim Haliti begins every morning with a salute to Bill Clinton.

A glass-framed, eight-year-old poster wishing the former president a happy 63rd birthday “from the People of Kosovo” in Albanian and English hangs over his bed.
It may be dated, but Mr. Haliti has no plans to take it down or cull the other pictures of American politicians and military generals from the late 1990s that hang in his little cafe-bar near the village mosque here in northeastern Kosovo.

Read more at The Washington Times

Merkel’s re-election in Germany is all but certain, but world of fourth-term challenges is not

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU121121AA001.jpegBERLIN — Six months ago, it looked like her job might be in jeopardy, but now Chancellor Angela Merkel is cruising to victory in Germany’s Sept. 24 vote and the big question is what Europe’s dominant political leader plans to do with her mandate for a fourth term.

Although the vote is still a few weeks away, the polls — and many German voters — feel that Ms. Merkel already has won the race.

Read more at The Washington Times

With only 30% approval rating, French president takes risk by proposing labor law reforms

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_FRA161616aa005.jpegPARIS — In a risky move, President Emmanuel Macron is seeking a political second wind by taking on the third rail of French politics.

Faced with plummeting polls and a string of public embarrassments just four months after his stunning electoral win, the 39-year-old president is facing a critical early test this month as he rolls out reforms to France’s notoriously rigid labor laws in a bid to reinvigorate the country’s economy.

Read more at The Washington Times

First cathedral for Mother Teresa is consecrated in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Kosovo (RNS) — Twenty years after the death of St. Teresa of Calcutta, thousands of Christians and Muslims came together to celebrate the consecration, in her name, of this nation’s first Roman Catholic cathedral.

St. Teresa Cathedral is also the only one in the world dedicated to the Albanian saint, who spent most of her life working in the slums of India.

Read more at Religion News Service

Muslim backlash usually follows terrorist attacks in European cities — but not here

 BARCELONA — A TV program asked Mustapha Aoulad Sellam to be a guest the day after the deadly Aug. 17 van attack by Muslim terrorists. As he passed through security, the guard looked at Aoulad Sellam's ID and asked if he is Muslim.

“I said yes, and he got up to greet me, holding out his hand and saying, ‘These are going to be hard days for you. You have my support,’ ” said Aoulad Sellam, president of the Spanish group Stop Islamophobic Phenomena. “I was taken aback, then shook his hand warmly.”

Read more at USA Today

Family businesses in Germany find it harder to pass on legacy

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_DEU131804AA001.jpegBERLIN — After graduating from college in his mid-twenties, Armin Pfannenschwarz was expected to return home immediately to run his aging parents’ family business, a midsize firm specializing in the production of wire harnesses for large auto manufacturers. Ten years later he sold the business to pursue a doctorate.

“I had the experience that the company grew, was better and had a lot of success,” said Mr. Pfannenschwarz, now a professor of economics and business administration at the Karlshochschule International University in Karlsruhe. “But I couldn’t say the same for my own life. I came to the conclusion that this isn’t my life at all.”

Read more at The Washington Times

Catalan independence movement feared to worsen divisions in Spain

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SPA170824AA001.jpegBARCELONA, Spain — Police on Monday shot and killed the man believed to have driven the van that mowed down pedestrians along the famed Las Ramblas promenade here last week, bringing an end to a high-stakes dragnet that had put the nation on edge.

But even as Catalonians and Spaniards breathed a sigh of relief, some feared that an upcoming Catalonian independence referendum slated for Oct. 1 would worsen divisions between central government officials in Madrid and Catalan authorities who traditionally have resisted working together.

Read more at The Washington Times

Spain terror attacks: At least 1 American killed

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SPA170825aa001.jpegBARCELONA — The State Department said Friday that at least one American was killed and one was injured in the terrorist attacks in Spain.

The American was identified as Jared Tucker, 42, of Northern California. He and his wife were spending their first wedding anniversary in Europe, according to family members.

Read more at USA Today

Terrorist in van turns sunny Spanish afternoon into horrific bloodbath

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_SPA170821aa002.jpeg B

BARCELONA, Spain — A white van mowed down dozens of people eating ice cream, window-shopping and enjoying the summer sunshine on one of Barcelona’s busiest streets Thursday afternoon, the latest vehicle turned weapon terrorist attack in Europe but the first in Spain.

The attack killed 14 people and wounded more than 100, at least 15 seriously, the Interior Ministry confirmed. Authorities believed the van’s driver was still at large and said the death toll would likely rise.

Read more at The Washington Times

Silicon Allee: Tech in Berlin


Berlin was devastated and divided after World War II. Today, it’s a hub for tech innovation in Europe. In the capital of cool, a startup scene heats up.

With a time slot of just five precious minutes, each entrepreneur races through a meticulously rehearsed pitch. Among others, an environmentally friendly alternative to Airbnb and a group-gifting platform are on offer this afternoon. 

Read more at ZEIT

Putin’s grants to ‘foreign agents’ signal shift away from hard-line domestic policies

MOSCOW — They are Russian President Vladimir Putin’s favorite motorcycle gang, but the black-clad Night Wolves may soon be struggling for cash after being snubbed in the most recent round of presidential grants, while struggling organizations labeled “foreign agents” by the Kremlin have been approved for funding.

This week’s unexpected outcome of the nationwide bidding for government rubles has sparked a number of interpretations, with some political analysts suggesting it may signal a shift in the hard-line domestic policies that have held sway in the Kremlin under Mr. Putin since Russia’s seizure of Crimea in 2014.

Read more at The Washington Times

New “Education Passport” Tested in Greece

ATHENS—Masoud Burhani, a 30-year-old Afghan refugee, met with officials at the ministry of education here recently to join an innovative new project supporting higher education for refugees.

He and his wife Fariha Burhani, a 23-year-old midwife, and their two toddlers, were staying in a refugee camp in the port city of Skaramangas. But Burhani wanted to resume his studies in civil engineering and re-establish the normal routines of life that he and his family had lost since fleeing the Taliban in Kabul last year.

Read more at Al Fanar

To undercut Iran, Russians pressure Assad to cut Syria’s longtime ties to Hezbollah

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_RUS130621aa001.jpegISTANBUL — The Lebanese Shiite militia Hezbollah and the Syrian government have enjoyed a close, fruitful relationship for nearly 40 years. But six years into the Syrian civil war, there are signs that battle fatigue and diverging strategic visions are fraying their alliance.

Syrian President Bashar Assad is coming under increasing pressure from pro-Russian factions in his ruling circle to dump pro-Iranian Hezbollah, as a U.S.-Russia accord to establish a de-escalation zone in southern Syria gets underway this week.

Read more at The Washington Times

Turkey coup: One year later, country bitterly divided as crackdown continues

ISTANBUL — Gonul Acu was stunned when her husband Veli, an aid worker at the United Nations World Food Program, called last week to say authorities arrested him for allegedly being a terrorist spy.

“Veli is a person who has never touched a gun," said Gonul, 31, also an aid worker and five months pregnant. "He is not a terrorist. He is not aiding anyone. He has simply worked for human rights.”

Read more at USA Today

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