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

Paris puts on a dazzling Bastille Day display for President Trump

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_FRA130226AA001.jpegPARIS — France put on a dazzling Bastille Day display for President Trump on Friday, an occasion that marked both the founding of French democracy and the centennial of the United States' entry into World War I.

The colorful parade along the French capital’s famous Champs-Élysées included U.S. soldiers marching with their French counterparts.

Read more at USA Today

Here's one Trump the French like (Hint: not Donald)

PARIS — Many Parisians who thumb their noses at President Trump during his visit here are giving a thumbs up to first lady Melania Trump for her grace and oh-so-French style. 

"We don't know so much about her," said Vero Baumice, a retired grandmother strolling with friends in central Paris, "but she is elegant."

Read more at USA Today

Bastille Day in Nice, France: More anguish than celebration

 NICE, France — While most of France celebrates Bastille Day on Friday, Emilie Petitjean will mourn the death of her 10-year old son, Romain, one of 86 victims in last year's truck rampage through a holiday crowd on this French Riviera resort.

“The approach of July 14 is bringing back nightmares and anguished feelings that I thought I had overcome,” Petitjean said. “For those who have lost family members, there are scars that will never be healed.”

Read more at USA Today

Parisians turn up their noses on Trump visit


PARIS — Parisians are greeting President Trump's visit Thursday for Bastille Day celebrations in the way the French do best: total disdain.

"Pfff — he should just go to Pittsburgh," student Marie Billoteau, 24, said, harking to Trump's explanation June 1 for withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement: "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” 

Read more at USA Today

Turks grow increasingly restive over Erdogan’s crackdowns in year after coup attempt

ISTANBUL — It was on July 15, 2016 — a year ago Saturday — that rogue military units sought to overthrow the Turkish government in a bloody coup d’etat that left 250 dead and thousands more injured.

One year later, Turkey, a NATO member and a keystone of security in one of the world’s most unstable regions, remains entrenched in a state of emergency that grants its president the power to arrest suspected plotters en masse, crack down on dissenters and journalists who “insult” the government and unilaterally issue decrees without parliamentary approval.

Read more at The Washington Times

Two years after the bailout, life in Greece has gotten more miserable

 ATHENS — Two years after an international bailout that was supposed to lead to an economic revival, conditions here have only worsened and life for Greeks has become one of constant misery. 

The economy is stagnant, unemployment hovers around 25% and is twice as high for young adults, taxes are rising, and wages are falling. Half of Greek homeowners can’t make their mortgage payments and another quarter can’t afford their property taxes, according to the Bank of Greece.

Read more at USA Today

Lacking its own ‘disruptive’ innovations, EU lashes out with Silicon Valley regulations


BERLIN — Silicon Valley’s tech giants are routinely lauded at home for their “disruptive” innovations. But in the European Union, they could be entering a period of increased scrutiny — and heavy penalties — from regulators in Brussels for those same acts of disruption.

In a case that turned heads on both sides of the Atlantic, the European Commission — the EU’s executive arm — on Tuesday slapped Google with a record $2.7 billion fine for abusing its dominance of the market for its own shopping offerings in online search results. The company has said it is weighing an appeal, but Google is facing two other high-profile EU investigations into suspected monopolistic practices in its Android mobile operating system and its AdSense ad system.

Read more at The Washington Times

German lawmakers vote to legalize same-sex marriage

b_179_129_16777215_00_images_USA171819aa001.jpegBERLIN — Ulli Köppe didn't realize he would change history with a simple question this week to German Chancellor Angela Merkel: Why can't he marry the man he loves? Her answer at a public forum surprised everyone: He can.

Merkel's about-face after years of opposing same-sex marriage freed members of her conservative Christian Democrats party to vote their "conscience" instead of toeing the party's hard-line stance on the issue.   

Read more at USA Today

A progressive German mosque draws condemnation at home and abroad


BERLIN (RNS) The Ibn Rushd-Goethe Mosque opened its doors less than two weeks ago. But it’s already fielding death threats and heaps of hate mail from Muslims and others in Germany and abroad.

“Of course, we’re scared,” said the mosque’s co-founder, Islamic scholar Abdel-Hakim Ourghi. “But we won’t allow ourselves to give up. We live in the West and cannot be any other way.”   

Read more at Religion News Service

Romania: Haven for hackers turned cyber sleuths

BUCHAREST, Romania — Razvan Cernaianu once surfed the Internet anonymously and easily broke into the computer systems for NASA, the Pentagon and Oracle.

Then he became part of a legion of hackers that turned Romania into a center of international cyber fraud investigators.

Read more at USA Today

Refugees in Sweden adjust to anti-migrant sentiment and tougher asylum laws

Mushtaq Kht arrived in Sweden 18 months ago after fleeing the Taliban in his native Afghanistan. Like thousands of others, he came to Sweden after hearing it was a welcoming place for refugees.

“I couldn’t stay in Afghanistan," 17-year-old Kht said in fluent Swedish, which he learned while in the country. "They would come and take the boys away and force you to be a Talib.”

Read more at PRI

Some refugees in Serbia fear government help would limit freedom


BELGRADE, Serbia — In recent months, Serbian authorities have tried to provide shelter, food and medical care to thousands of refugees from the Middle East, Asia and Africa camping within its borders.

But the newcomers don't want any of it.


Read more at USA Today

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