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Monday, December 09, 2019

German Chancellor Scholz received with military honours in Poland

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz arrived in Poland on Sunday, where he was received with military honours by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw. The subsequent talks between the two are scheduled to focus on contentious issues such as the dispute between Poland and the EU over the rule of law in Poland, though Scholz pledged in an interview with German public broadcaster ARD on Saturday that his main concern was to carry out a "friendly visit to a friendly nation." Scholz visited both Paris and Brussels on Friday, just two days after being sworn into office. France has traditionally been...

US Welcomes Incoming German Government Led By Social Democrat Scholz

The United States said it looks forward to working with Germany's incoming government after a centre-left coalition clinched a deal. Olaf Scholz from the Social Democrats (SPD), who is expected to become Germany's next chancellor, presented the coalition deal between his party and their Green and Free Democrat (FDP) partners on Wednesday as a bold new agenda for action against climate change. Its agreed program includes a much more rapid transition to clean energy throughout German industry and transport.

"We look forward to working with Germany's new government on our goals of revitalizing the Transatlantic partnership, increasing cooperation with our NATO Allies, and raising the level of ambition of our relationship with the EU," a US State Department spokes...

'National emergency' as German parliament passes pandemic measures

German health officials on Friday urged residents to avoid all non-essential contact as the fourth wave of the coronavirus hit the country with full force and parliament passed a new package of public health measures. "This is a national emergency," Lothar Wieler, the head of the German disease control body, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), said in Berlin. He called for people to stay at home to the extent possible and for poorly ventilated cafes to close. Hospitals were full in many regions and increasing vaccination rates were insufficient to contain the pandemic, Wieler said, as a campaign ...

Munich's Kimmich in coronavirus quarantine again

Bayern Munich and Germany midfielder Joshua Kimmich is back in isolation after a person in his private sphere tested positive for the coronavirus. Bayern said that Kimmich was not making the short trip to Augsburg for Friday night's Bundesliga match because he was "self isolating." Munich gave no further details while Kicker sports magazine said on their website that a PCR test has confirmed that the other person has tested positive for the coronavirus and that Kimmich has to isolate as a close contact because he is not vaccinated. The report said that under Bavarian regulations Kimmich must i...

Two months after volcanic eruption, La Palma counts cost of damage

The damage so far caused by the volcanic eruption on the Canary island of La Palma is believed to have reached some 700 million euros (790 million dollars), according to official estimates. "But we are still in the middle (of the catastrophe)," Canarian Prime Minister Angel Victor Torres was quoted as saying in El Pais daily newspaper on Friday, adding that the damage was increasing by the minute. Since the volcano began to erupt on September 19, the lava, at temperatures of up to 1,300 degrees Celsius, has destroyed more than 2,600 buildings, according to a recent assessment by the European e...

F1 rejects Mercedes appeal for review of Hamilton-Verstappen incident

Formula One has rejected an appeal from the Mercedes team over an incident involving their driver Lewis Hamilton and his world title rival Max Verstappen of Red Bull at last week's Brazilian Grand Prix. Race stewards decided after a hearing that Mercedes' request for a review of the incident would bot be granted. Based on new video evidence Mercedes wanted them to have another look at the incident in which they said Verstappen drove Hamilton off the track without being punished. Red Bull team principal Christian Horner spoke of "the right decision" and Mercedes motor sport chief Toto Wolff sai...

Verstappen tops first Qatar practice, Hamilton fourth

Championship leader Max Verstappen set the pace in first practice Friday for the inaugural Qatar Formula One Grand Prix while title rival Lewis Hamilton had to be content with fourth. Red Bull's Verstappen clocked 1 minute 23.723 seconds on the 5.38-kilometre Losail International Circuit which in the past has only seen MotoGP racing. Pierre Gasly was second for sister team Alpha Tauri, more than four-tenth back, followed by the Mercedes duo of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton. The seven-time world champion trailed by almost eight-tenth and complained about a lack of power. Verstappen tops the cham...

German state of Bavaria cancels all Christmas markets

The southern German state of Bavaria has cancelled all its Christmas markets and ordered the closure of clubs and bars in an effort to curb a severe fourth wave of coronavirus infections. State premier Markus Soeder announced the move, adding that the closures of clubs and bars would last for an initial period of three weeks. The measures come just days after Soeder's government announced the cancellation of the Munich Christmas market - the state's biggest.

Pragmatic Olaf Scholz Revives Social Democrats In Germany

Olaf Scholz, Germany's finance minister and deputy to outoing Chancellor Angela Merkel, has arguably the best chance to be the country's first leader of the post-Merkel era. Back at the start of his campaign for the chancellorship, winning an election seemed like a long shot: His Social Democratic Party (SPD) suffered the worst electoral result in its history in 2017 with 20.5 per cent of the vote, and its numbers had slid further as junior coalition partner to Merkel's conservatives. Yet during an SPD campaign that focussed on Scholz's personal popularity with the electorate, there was a rema...

The H-Bomb: The Most Destructive Weapon On Earth

dpa (TNS)

BANGKOK — The thermonuclear, or hydrogen bomb — of the kind that North Korea said it had tested Wednesday — was developed after the nuclear weapons used on Japan in World War II and is far more destructive.

The first hydrogen bomb, tested in November 1952 by the United States, yielded energy equivalent to 10 megatons of TNT — roughly 1,000 times larger than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima seven years earlier.

In this new type of bomb, two types of hydrogen — deuterium and tritium — are fused into helium, thereby releasing energy.

A conventional nuclear weapon uses fission — splitting rather than fusing the nuclei of atoms — to create a less powerful explosion.

A hydrogen bomb uses an initial fission reaction to produce the high temperatures required for the more powerful fusion reaction.

Less than a year after the U.S. thermonuclear bomb test, the Soviet Union exploded their own H-bomb, starting a race to produce more “superbombs.”

The most powerful H-bomb ever detonated — and therefore the biggest ever man-made explosion — was used by the Soviets in 1961. Known as the Tsar Bomba, it produced a yield equivalent to 50 megatons of TNT.

©2016 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: Pyongyang citizens gather in front of a big screen at Pyongyang Railway Station in Pyongyang, capital of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, to watch a news report on the hydrogen bomb test on Jan. 6, 2016. North Korea announced Wednesday that it has successfully carried out its first hydrogen bomb test. (Lu Rui/Xinhau/Zuma Press/TNS)


Bill Clinton Urges Israelis To Finish What Yitzhak Rabin Started

By Ofira Koopmans, dpa (TNS)

TEL AVIV, Israel — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton urged Israelis to continue supporting the moribund peace process with the Palestinians, despite the setbacks of the past two decades.

“Every day you have to choose hope over fear, empowerment over acceptance, confidence over cynicism,” he said at a mass rally in central Tel Aviv, marking 20 years since the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Thousands of left-wing and centrist Israelis attended the rally.

President Barack Obama, in a recorded video message, also called on Israelis to continue their support for the two-state solution and talks with the Palestinians, despite a new wave of violence.

“I still believe what I said two years ago, that peace is necessary, just and possible,” Obama said. “Peace is necessary because it is the only way to bring true and lasting security for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Clinton, who sealed the 1993 interim Oslo accords two years before Rabin died, said it was up to the younger generation to finish his legacy.

“Ten years ago when I was honored to stand in this space, I said if I could miraculously bring Rabin back to life and he were standing here with me, he’d say: ‘Enough with this bragging about me. Let’s get back to work and finish what I gave my life to do.’ And so all of you here must decide … how to finish his legacy, for the last chapter must be written by the people he gave his life for.”

On November 5, 1995, Rabin was shot dead on the same square where people gathered Saturday night. His assassin was Yigal Amir, a radical Jew opposed to his peace moves with the Palestinians.

Two decades after the assassination, many Israelis have become deeply disillusioned with the persistently deadlocked peace process, which has since lost widespread support.

There have even been statements by some on the far-right endorsing Amir’s actions, to the outrage of Israelis elsewhere on the political spectrum.

Security was tight at Saturday’s rally, as it came during the worst spell of street violence in years. Police used buses two block off all accesses to the central square, which since the assassination was renamed Rabin Square.

Clinton and Israeli President Reuven Rivlin spoke behind bulletproof glass.

Dozens of knife attacks against Israelis have been committed by Palestinians since early October. Israeli security forces have used tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition against Palestinian protesters throwing rocks and gasoline bombs at flash points in the West Bank and along the Gaza border.

In the latest incident of violence earlier Saturday, Israeli border policemen shot dead an 18-year-old Palestinian at a crossing points from the northern West Bank into Israel, police said.

They thought the Palestinian was raising a knife against them and when he did not obey calls to freeze, opened fire, spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative’s annual meeting in New York, September 29, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

EU, Balkan Leaders Struggle To Overcome Migration Crisis

By Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl, dpa (TNS)

BRUSSELS — Eleven leaders from the European Union and the Balkans conferred Sunday to find common ground on how to handle the migrant tide crossing their countries, with overwhelmed Slovenia warning that the EU will fall apart without a joint approach.

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic spoke of “small steps forward” after a first round of talks in Brussels, expressing confidence that “we will be able to overcome all the disputes and all the problems regarding blame games.”

“I’m not sure that we are going to conclude something that would be very helpful immediately, but … I think that all of us will be at least a bit better than we used to,” Vucic said.

Europe is contending with its largest population movement since World War II, with almost 700,000 migrants and asylum seekers arriving by sea this year — many of them from war-torn Syria.

Tens of thousands of refugees have crossed the western Balkans to make their way from Turkey to wealthy northern European countries. The surge has shown no signs of abating despite the onset of colder weather. Bottlenecks in countries with strained resources have left migrants out in the mud, rain and cold.

The nations along the western Balkan route have so far largely been passing on refugees, leading to recriminations and political tensions between neighboring countries.

“Until today, it was difficult to find a solution because a series of countries adopt a stance of ‘not in my own backyard’,” Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said.

At stake is the future of Europe, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said before the talks.

“If we don’t do all we can together to find a common solution and to deliver it … then this is the beginning of the end of the EU and Europe as such,” he said.

The number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in his small country — more than 60,000 in the last 10 days, as many as 13,000 in one day — is “absolutely unbearable,” Cerar said.

Slovenia is the smallest nation to have inadvertently joined the western Balkan route, after Hungary sealed its border to migrants in mid-October.

“We will not be able to endure this for weeks to follow if we don’t get any help, if there is no cooperation,” Cerar said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the goal at the crisis talks was above all to provide help for refugees living in “unbearable conditions.” She underlined the need for Europeans to see this as “a common duty.”

“Every day counts,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who convened the meeting, told the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag. “Otherwise, we will soon see families perishing wretchedly in cold Balkan rivers.”

The commission drafted a 16-point plan for the talks that proposed increased coordination, more shelter and services for needy migrants, and better border controls, including the deployment of support teams to Slovenia and a new mission at the Greek frontier with Albania and Macedonia.

Leaders were also considering whether to agree that “a policy of waving through refugees to a neighboring country is not acceptable,” according to the draft. But some leaders had appeared reluctant before the talks.

Photo: The EU is meeting to discuss what to do with migrants like this one, a boy who is waiting to enter a makeshift camp at the Austrian Slovenian border near the village of Sentilj, Slovenia, October 26, 2015. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Catalonia’s Separatists Win Parliamentary Elections

By Hubert Kahl and Monica Raymunt, dpa (TNS)

MADRID — A coalition of separatists who promised independence for the Spanish region of Catalonia emerged as victors in parliamentary elections Sunday, preliminary results showed.

With 99 per cent of the votes counted, the separatist alliance led by Catalan leader Artur Mas captured 72 of the 135 seats in Catalonia’s parliament.

Of those seats, Mas’ Together for Yes coalition took 62, while its alliance partners Popular Unity Candidacy won 10.

But while the alliance won an absolute majority in parliament, it did not win the majority of votes cast, taking 47.8 percent.

“The separatists have lost the plebiscite,” Socialist opposition leader Pedro Sanchez said in reaction to the separatists’ failure to win the majority of votes.

Voters in Spain’s wealthy northeastern region cast their ballots in what was billed by Mas as a referendum on whether the region should secede from Spain.

Mas formed the separatist alliance before the elections, saying that his coalition’s victory would mean independence for Catalonia’s 7.6 million people within 18 months.

Mas’ liberal ruling party, the Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, joined longtime rivals in the Republican Left of Catalonia and other citizen groups to form the Together for Yes coaltion.

About 63 percent of the region’s 5.5 million eligible voters turned out for the election, beating the turnout for the last regional election in 2012 by nearly 7 percentage points.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has said his government would under no circumstances allow Catalonia’s secession.

“No one will destroy the unity of Spain,” he said.

European Union politicians have suggested that an independent Catalonia would have to be automatically cut out from the European Union and the eurozone currency bloc.

Mas wanted to hold a referendum for independence last November, but the Spanish Constitutional Court declared such a vote illegal after the national government filed a complaint.

(c)2015 Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Photo: hugefluffy

Pope: Priests To Pardon Abortion During Upcoming Jubilee Of Mercy

dpa, (TNS)

VATICAN CITY — Women who have had an abortion will be able to seek pardon during the upcoming Jubilee of Mercy for what the Catholic Church considers a grave sin, Pope Francis said Tuesday.

A jubilee — also known as a holy year — offers Catholics a special occasion to make a pilgrimage and seek forgiveness for their sins. It is regularly observed every quarter of a century, but Francis has called a special one running from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20, 2016.

“I am thinking especially of all the women who have resorted to abortion. I am well aware of the pressures that have led them to this decision. I know that it is an existential and moral tragedy,” the pontiff said in a public letter.

“I have decided … that during the Jubilee Year all priests will have the faculty to absolve from the sin of abortion all who have committed it and who ask forgiveness with heartfelt penance,” he added.

Francis also opened the door to the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a rebel ultra-traditionalist group accused of anti-Semitism that refuses to recognize 1960s church reforms such as the abolition of Latin mass and steps to improve Catholic-Jewish relations.

Expressing hope that the SSPX could “in the near future” be reintegrated in the mainstream Catholic Church, the pope said SSPX priests will be entitled to hand out absolutions during the jubilee, just like ordinary Catholic prelates.

Photo: A photo released by the Osservatore Romano and taken on July 24, 2014 shows Pope Francis blessing Sudanese Christian Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag and her daughter Maya during a private audience at the Vatican.

Taliban Appoints New Leader After Mullah Omar’s Death

dpa (TNS)

KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban has officially appointed a new leader following the death of its founder, Mullah Omar, officials say.

“Senior deputy leader Akhtar Mansoor has now been appointed the leader of the movement,” a Taliban official from Kandahar tells dpa on condition of anonymity.

“The leadership council met in Quetta on Wednesday and Thursday to deliberate on the ongoing issues,” another Taliban leader from Kunar Province tells dpa.

Mansoor was the aviation minister when the Taliban ruled the country, and he had been acting as the deputy leader for the past four years.

Photo: Mullah Omar of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime is shown in this undated U.S. National Counterterrorism Center image.  REUTERS/National Counterterrorism Center/Handout via Reuters   

About 1,250 Perished In Pakistani Heatwave, Officials Say

dpa, (TNS)

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan government said on Wednesday that about 1,250 people died in a severe heatwave that last month gripped the country’s southern province of Sindh.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif visited the worst-hit city of Karachi and was briefed by officials over the heatwave deaths.
According to an official statement, Sharif was informed that in addition to the lives lost, another 65,000 people were treated for heat-related illnesses.

“Most of those who lost their lives were shelterless people, including beggars, whose dehydration was aggravated due to fasting (in the Muslim holy month of Ramadan) in extreme weather,” said the statement.

“The whole country sympathizes with the affected people in this hour of grief,” Sharif said.

Temperatures had soared to over 45 degree Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in Karachi and the rest of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital, at the start of Ramadan on June 19.

Officials said the situation has been controlled due to improvement in the medical services and cooler weather.

Photo: An image of Balochistan, Pakistan. Over 1200 people died in a heatwave in the country. umer malik via Flickr