Barcelona and Cambrils attacks: What we know so far

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

 

Barcelona and Cambrils attacks: What we know so far

People wait to enter the area after a van crashed into pedestrians near the Las Ramblas avenue in central Barcelona, Spain August 17, 2017Image copyright REUTERS
Image caption Barcelona is one of Europe’s most popular cities for tourists

There have been two attacks in Spain’s Catalonia region involving people driving cars at crowds at high-speeds.

Here is what we know so far.

What happened?

On Thursday afternoon at 16:50 local time (14:50 GMT) a white van smashed into people on Las Ramblas, a famous boulevard in central Barcelona that runs 1.2km (0.75 miles) and was packed with tourists.

The van driver is said to have zig-zagged to try and hit as many people as possible along the pedestrianised area, knocking many to the floor and sending others fleeing for cover in shops and cafes.

He killed 13 people and injured more than 100, and managed to flee the scene.

Spanish police have described it as a terror attack.

Barcelona map

What was the second attack?

About eight hours later, an Audi A3 car ploughed into pedestrians in the popular seaside resort town of Cambrils, 110km (68 miles) south-west of Barcelona.

Six civilians were injured, one critically, and a police officer was hurt too.

Five attackers, some of whom appeared to be wearing suicide belts, were then shot by police. Four died at the scene and one later died of his injuries.

Controlled explosions were carried out and authorities later said the explosive belts were fake.

Both the Las Ramblas and Cambrils attacks are believed to be linked.

Who has been arrested?

On Thursday, one person from Spain’s north African enclave of Melilla was arrested in Alcanar and a Moroccan was arrested in Ripoll. Both are towns in Catalonia – the same region as Barcelona.

Police say neither of the pair arrested was the driver.

Documents belonging to the Moroccan, 28-year-old Driss Oubakir, were allegedly used to rent the van used in the Las Ramblas attack but local media report he says his papers were stolen and used without his knowledge.

He arrived in Barcelona from Morocco on 13 August, the El Pais newspaper reports, citing police sources.

On Friday, police announced another arrest in Ripoll. It remains unclear how many people were involved in the plots.

Weren’t there other incidents too?

On Thursday evening at 19:30 local time, a car was driven into officers at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Barcelona.

The car was later found with a dead man inside it, but the interior ministry has denied earlier reports he was killed by police gunfire. He is not believed to be linked to the Las Ramblas attack, officials say, but investigations are ongoing

On Wednesday night, an explosion completely destroyed a house in Alcanar, 200km south of Barcelona, killing one person and wounding seven.

Media caption What was it like to be caught up in the Barcelona attack?

The house was filled with bottles of propane and butane, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported (in Spanish).

That incident is believed to be connected to Thursday’s events.

Who are the victims?

They come from all over the world, with at least 24 nationalities represented.

People from Ireland, France, Australia, China, Pakistan, Venezuela, Algeria, Peru, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines are all reported to be among the victims.

Aftermath of Barcelona attack in pictures

Belgium said one of its citizens was killed and France said 26 of its nationals were injured, 11 seriously. The Australian government said at least four citizens were injured.

Who is responsible?

So-called Islamic State (IS) has said it was behind the Las Ramblas attack and that IS “soldiers” carried it out. But it did not provide any evidence or details to back up the claim.

Why Spain?

The country is one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations but in recent years has not seen the kind of jihadist violence that has rocked France, the UK, Belgium and Germany.

Still, Spain has been targeted before – several trains in Madrid, the capital, were bombed by al-Qaeda inspired militants in 2004, killing 191 people.

The IS news agency, Amaq, said the attack was carried out as part of efforts to target states fighting in the US-led anti-IS coalition.

A few hundred Spanish soldiers are in Iraq, training local forces fighting the Sunni militant group.

How much jihadist activity is there in the country?

The number of operations carried out against jihadists has increased significantly since Spain raised its terror alert level to four out of five in June 2015, meaning there was “high risk” of a terror attack.

Before these attacks, 51 suspected jihadists had already been detained in the country this year, while 69 were detained last year, and 75 were detained in 2015, according to El Pais.

Security and surveillance was stepped up in the wake of truck attacks in the French city of Nice in July 2016 and the German capital Berlin in December.

Related Topics

12 people killed when tree falls at Catholic festival in Portugal

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

12 people killed when tree falls at Catholic festival in Portugal

Twelve people were killed when a tree fell on August 15, 2017, in Madeira, Portugal.

Story highlights

  • The tree was a 200-year-old oak, local media report
  • A little girl was among those killed, the regional health chief said

(CNN) Twelve people were killed and 50 others injured when an enormous tree fell Tuesday in Madeira, Portugal, officials said.

The tree came down during an important Catholic celebration on the island, regional Health Secretary Pedro Ramos said in a televised news conference.
The dead and injured had gathered to honor Our Lady of the Mountain at a church in a village near the island’s main city of Funchal, Ramos said. Tuesday marked the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, when Catholics celebrate the assumption of the body Jesus Christ’s mother into heaven. It is one of six Catholic holy days of obligation.

People help the injured after a falling tree killed 12 people on August 15, 2017, in Madeira, Portugal.

Massive tree crashes down

Video from the scene shows a massive tree crashing down as a panicked crowd screams and flees. The tree was a 200-year-old oak, local media reported.
A little girl was among those killed, Ramos said, adding that seven of the injured were in serious condition, with three people expected to require surgery. Three foreign nationals — one each from France, Germany and Hungary — were are among the injured, he said.
Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa was expected to arrive Tuesday on the island, said the president of the regional government, Miguel Albuquerque.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa offered his condolences on Twitter.
Madeira, a popular tourist destination dubbed the “pearl of the Atlantic,” is the largest of several Portuguese islands in the North Atlantic.

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

Kosovo charges 9 men with plotting attacks at Albania-Israel World Cup match

By Fatos Bytyci | PRISTINA

Kosovo prosecutors said on Wednesday they had charged nine Kosovar men with planning attacks at a World Cup soccer match in Albania against the visiting Israel team and its fans last November.

Last year, Kosovar police arrested 19 people – including the nine charged on Wednesday – on suspicion that they had links with the Islamic State militant group and were planning attacks in Kosovo and neighboring Albania.

At the time, fearing such attacks, Albanian authorities moved the Nov. 12 qualifier to a venue near the capital Tirana from a stadium in the northern town of Shkoder.

The state prosecutor said some of the nine men charged were in contact with Lavdrim Muhaxheri, a prominent Islamic State member and the self-declared “commander of Albanians in Syria and Iraq” from whom they received orders to attack. Police and family members told Reuters last week that Muhaxheri has been killed in Syria.

The group was also planning to launch attacks inside Kosovo against local and international institutions and buy weapons with money received from Muhaxheri, the prosecutor said.

NATO has around 4,500 soldiers in Kosovo helping to keep a fragile peace. The European Union and the United Nations also have security and diplomatic missions in Kosovo.

The prosecution said the defendants took orders from Muhaxheri and planned to attack and destabilize “the countries in the Balkans and then create their territory of the Islamic State”.

One of the defendants had kept in his basement 283 grams of self-made triacetone triperoxide (TATP) explosives. The same explosive was used in attacks in Paris and Brussels and was found in a series of foiled bombings in Europe since 2007.

Another defendant had produced half a kilo of explosives at his house from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil (ANFO), it said.

Kosovo, with a majority ethnic Albanian Muslim population, has had no militant attacks on its home turf, but at least 200 people have been detained or investigated over offences related to Islamic State.

A total of 300 Kosovo nationals have gone to Syria to fight for Islamic State and more than 50 have been killed there.

International and local security agencies in Kosovo, including at the NATO mission and the EU police mission, are worried that many of those returning home from combat zones could pose a security threat.

In 2015, Kosovo adopted a law introducing jail sentences of up to 15 years for anyone found guilty of fighting in wars abroad.

(Editing by Aleksandar Vasovic and Louise Ireland)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT AND FROM THE WASHINGTON POST)

Why Terror Suspects in Europe Slip Through Security Cracks

London- About a year ago, police stopped a young man in the airport of Bologna, a town in northern Italy. Youssef Zaghba, an Italian citizen of Moroccan origin, had raised suspicions because he was to embark on a one-way ticket for Istanbul: They feared he was trying to reach Syria through Turkey to join a terror group.

After ISIS propaganda materials were found on his smartphone, Zaghba was arrested and briefly detained between March and April 2016. (Attempting to join a foreign ogranization is a crime in Italy, since a special law was introduced in 2015.)

Eventually authorities had to release him because his lawyer found irregularities in the arrest, but the secret services kept monitoring him and put his name in the Schengen Information System (SIS), the database where European Union member states share security information, so that other countries could be alerted that Zaghba posed a danger.

On June 3 of this year, Zaghba participated in the London Bridge attack that left eight people dead, along with the three terrorists.

Despite being in the EU’s watch list, Zaghba was let into Britain at least twice. Moreover, according to the local media, he was not considered “a subject of interest” by British security. Most recently, Zaghba traveled between two countries in January: He was briefly questioned in London’s Stansted airport. (It is unclear if the British failed to go through a check of the SIS database, or if they saw his name on the database and simply ignored the warning, as the newspaper Repubblica suggests.)

How could a terror suspect be on Italy’s watch list and not in the British one? And why didn’t the presence of Zaghba’s name in the SIS prompt UK authorities to keep an eye on him?

The London Bridge attack raises issue about the sharing of security information between European countries, at a time when terrorists have been shown to move often across the EU’s open borders.

It is not unusual after an attack to learn that the perpetrators were already known to anti-terror agencies. Some analysts argue that this doesn’t always imply a security failure, because there are too many people on watch-lists to monitor effectively all of them: There are some 23,000 “subjects of interests” for anti-terror agencies in the UK and 15,000 in France.

“Since it takes at least four agents to monitor a single suspect, it becomes apparent that many European countries lack the resources to monitor all of them and that there’s an overload of security information,” said Arturo Varvelli, the head of the Terrorism Program at ISPI, a think tank in Milan.

However, Zaghba’s case is different — and the way he slipped by, despite all the warnings, might not be just the result of an overburdened security system but also symptomatic of a different problem: European countries still haven’t fully learned how to read (and perhaps trust) each other’s red flags.

“It’s the second time, in less than a year, that a terrorist already known to Italian authorities has carried an attack in another European country,” notes Francesco Strazzari, a security expert at the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa, referring to last winter’s attack in Berlin. The Christmas Market attack was carried by a Tunisian man who immigrated to Italy, and whom Italian authorities had tried to deport because they were aware of his radical tendencies.

In an interview, Strazzari recalled that the November 2015 attacks in France were also carried out by terrorists that had ties to a different country, Belgium, and who seemed to move freely between the two.

Critics of the EU have blamed its open borders for security failures, while its supporters point out that assets such as the SIS database are actually supposed to improve the security of each country. But Strazzari says that the main problem is that sometimes information gets “lost in translation.”

The EU, he says, doesn’t really have a pan-European security apparatus, but only a system that aims at coordinating the security services of each of its member states.

Varvelli, the ISPI researcher, argues that lack of trust might also pose a problem. Red flags about individuals are not clear cut, he explains: “Security officials need to interpret them, in order to grasp the level of danger, and knowing where that information comes from plays an important part in the process.”

But while they are bound to share information, the secret services of different countries aren’t keen on sharing with each other how they gathered that information — which ends up making the information less useful.

Varvelli said that ISIS is “well aware” of this weakness and are exploiting it: “Terrorists have realized that if they are closely monitored in the country they are based in, a good strategy is to move to a different country.”

The Washington Post

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME.COM)

John McCain Says U.S. Global Leadership Was Better Under Obama Than Trump

11:20 AM ET

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain said in a new interview that America’s standing in the world was better under former President Barack Obama than it is now under President Donald Trump.

McCain, Obama’s 2008 opponent who remained a vocal critic during his presidency, asked by The Guardian whether U.S. standing in the world was better under Obama. “As far as American leadership is concerned, yes,” McCain said.

He was also critical of Trump’s Twitter attacks against London Mayor Sadiq Khan following the recent terrorist attack in the city.

Pathetic excuse by London Mayor Sadiq Khan who had to think fast on his “no reason to be alarmed” statement. MSM is working hard to sell it!

McCain said Trump sent the message to the United Kingdom that, “America does not want to lead.”

 

“They are not sure of American leadership, whether it be in Siberia or whether it be in Antarctica,” McCain said.

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF REUTERS NEWS AGENCY)

British politics in foment as exit poll shows May failing to win majority

By Kate Holton and David Milliken | LONDON

Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party will fail to win a parliamentary majority in Britain’s election, according to an exit poll on Thursday, a shock result that would plunge domestic politics into turmoil and could delay Brexit talks.

The exit poll predicted May’s party would not win a majority of the 650 seats in parliament to take office alone, meaning she would have to form a coalition or attempt to govern with the backing of other smaller parties.

The exit poll predicted the Conservatives would win 314 seats and the Labour Party 266, meaning no clear winner and a “hung parliament”.

The exit poll sent shockwaves through financial markets. Sterling fell more than two cents against the U.S. dollar. .

It was an extraordinary failure for May, who was enjoying opinion poll leads of 20 points and more when she called the snap election just seven weeks ago.

But her lead had gradually shrunk over the course of the campaign, during which she backtracked on a major social care proposal, opted not to take part in a high-profile TV debate with her opponents, and faced questions over her record on security after Britain was hit by two Islamist militant attacks that killed 30 people.

“If the poll is anything like accurate, this is completely catastrophic for the Conservatives and for Theresa May,” George Osborne, who was the Conservative finance minister from 2010 to 2016 when he was sacked by May, said on ITV.

Analysts were treating the exit poll with caution. In the last election, in 2015, the corresponding poll predicted May’s predecessor David Cameron would fall short of a majority. But as the night wore on and the actual results came in from constituencies, it became clear he had in fact won a majority, albeit a small one of just 12 seats.

That outcome was a triumph for Cameron though, because he had been predicted to fall well short. For May, who went into the campaign expecting to win a landslide, even a narrow win later in the night would leave her badly damaged.

Until the final results become clear, it is hard to predict who will form the next government.

“It’s difficult to see, if these numbers were right, how they (the Conservatives) would put together the coalition to remain in office,” said Osborne.

“But equally it’s quite difficult looking at those numbers to see how Labour could put together a coalition, so it’s on a real knife edge.”

Political deadlock in London could derail negotiations with the other 27 EU countries ahead of Britain’s exit from the bloc, due in March 2019, before they even begin in earnest.

A delay in forming a government could push back the start of Brexit talks, currently scheduled for June 19, and reduce the time available for what are expected to be the most complex negotiations in post-World War Two European history.

The poll forecast the Scottish National Party (SNP) would win 34 seats, the center-left Liberal Democrats 14, the Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru three and the Greens one.

If the exit poll is correct, Labour, led by veteran socialist Jeremy Corbyn, could attempt to form a government with those smaller parties, which strongly oppose most of May’s policies on domestic issues such as public spending cuts.

May called the snap election to strengthen her hand in Brexit negotiations with the other 27 EU countries and to cement her grip on the Conservative Party after she took over as prime minister in the wake of last year’s Brexit referendum.

If she fails to win a majority, that could call into question her position as Conservative leader and might mean a second election in Britain this year.

If Corbyn’s Labour does take power with the backing of the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats, both parties adamantly opposed to Brexit, Britain’s future will be very different to the course the Conservatives were planning and could even raise the possibility of a second referendum.

May had promised to clinch a Brexit deal that prioritized control over immigration policy, with Britain leaving the European single market and customs union, and said no deal would be better than a bad deal.

Labour said it would push ahead with Brexit but would scrap May’s negotiating plans and make its priority maintaining the benefits of both the EU single market and its customs union, arguing no deal with the EU would be the worst possible outcome.

It also proposed raising taxes for the richest 5 percent of Britons, scrapping university tuition fees and investing 250 billion pounds ($315 billion) in infrastructure plans.

(Additional reporting by Paul Sandle, William Schomberg, Andy Bruce, William James, Alistair Smout, Paddy Graham, writing by Guy Faulconbridge and Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF FRANCE 24 TV)

Trump irritates allies and returns to brewing crisis in US

 

 
© Mandel Ngan, AFP | US president Donald Trump flies home after G7 summit in Italy

Text by EMILIE BOYER KING

Latest update : 2017-05-28

President Donald Trump flew back to the United States on Saturday without a much-awaited commitment to fighting climate change, at odds with many of his allies on big policy issues and to a brewing crisis in the White House.

Now back home, Trump is unlikely to get much rest after his gruelling nine-day diplomatic marathon, with Russian controversies and claims that his son-in-law Jared Kushner wanted to set up secret communications with Moscow swirling overhead.

Trump’s first trip abroad as president took him to Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Vatican, and Belgium and Italy. He met with heads of state, the pope and attended gatherings of NATO leaders and members of the G-7 industrialised nations.

The royal treatment in Saudi Arabia

Trump is not a conventional president and neither was his first foray into international politics.

From the start, he set a new direction. In many ways, the first leg of his journey in the Middle-east was the easiest for the US leader who made ‘America First’ a cornerstone of his presidency and is still learning the ropes on international diplomacy.

Instead of following presidential tradition by heading to a neighbouring democracy like Canada or Mexico, Trump kicked off his maiden voyage in Saudi Arabia, the repressive desert kingdom, where he sought to win Arab states’ support for fighting extremism.

He was given the royal treatment, and looked delighted as he took part in traditional dances and enjoyed lavish meals. Raising the human rights record of his host, one of the world’s most oppressive governments, was not on his agenda.

“We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship,” Trump said.

Instead, the US closed a $110 billion arms sale to show its renewed commitment to the security of the Persian Gulf region and unveiled numerous business agreements, but without going into details.

Trump then travelled to Israel and the West Bank to more rapturous welcome. He looked solemn as he lay a wreath at a holocaust memorial and as he prayed at the sacred western wall in Jerusalem. But while he called for peace in the region he was vague as to what form it should take. Trump stayed clear of calling for ‘a two-state solution’, an option backed by his predecessor Barack Obama.

Trump chastised the members

Things started to heat up when Trump left the warm climes of the Middle East for Europe, for the NATO summit in Brussels and the most confrontational part of his trip.

On his way, Trump made a short stop in Rome for an audience with Pope Francis. The two men have in the past clashed on issues such as migration, climate change and the Mexico-US wall. After the meeting, the Vatican said, laconically, that there had been an “exchange of views” on international issues.

Trump was more enthusiastic: “Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world,” he tweeted on May 24th after meeting the pontiff.

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

The NATO summit in Belgium the next day pitted Trump against the 27 other members of the military alliance. The US president unnerved them by not affirming his commitment to the alliance’s key Article 5 on mutual defense — which states the principle that an attack on any one member is an attack on all. A US administration spokesperson downplayed their fears however and saying the US would adhere to it.

Trump chastised the members for not spending enough on defence and repeated the charge that some members owed “massive amounts of money” from past years, even though allied contributions are voluntary.

A “disaster”

Trump’s appearance in Brussels was particularly frustrating for Germany. In a meeting with senior European Union officials, he said the country was “very bad on trade” despite months of painstaking relationship building between Germany and the US in the run up to the summit.

It is little surprise European officials described the summit as a “disaster”.

Side meetings with other leaders in the Belgium capital provided with some light relief however. A series of “manly” and prolonged handshakes with French President Emmanuel Macron, followed by an apparent snub by Macron in favour of European Union leaders, delighted the twittersphere.

À Bruxelles, unis avec nos alliés de @NATO.

Leaving the EU headquarters and his crestfallen NATO allies behind, Trump ended his diplomatic tour in Italy for the G7 summit with the leaders of the world’s wealthiest industrial nations. This stop was set to be just as acrimonious: four preparatory meetings had failed to clear up differences with the Trump administration on trade, how to deal with Russia and climate change.

Little surprise, but some disappointment

So there was perhaps little surprise, but some disappointment, when after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders, Trump refused to commit to the hard-fought Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The six other G7 nations reaffirmed their commitment to it in a joint statement issued Saturday.

Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

The leaders reached agreement on some issues however. On trade, Trump bowed to pressure from allies to retain a pledge to fight protectionism. And on Russia, Trump did not insist on removing the threat of additional sanctions for Moscow’s intervention in Ukraine, as the allies had feared.

‘Someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work’

But despite disagreements over many policy issues, leaders also warmed to the US president.

“I saw someone who is willing to listen and who wants to work,’ said France’s Macron. “I think Donald Trump understood the importance of multilateral discussion and that, along with the pragmatism he demonstrated during his campaign, Trump will now take into account the interests of his friends and partners.”

The Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the G7 summit’s host agreed. “I found him very willing to engage, very curious, with an ability and desire to ask questions and to learn from all his partners,” he said.

At the summit’s close on Saturday, Trump appeared to rate his trip as a success.

“I think we hit a home run no matter where we are,” he said.

Home, where a whole new set of challenges begin.

Merkel: Europe ‘can no longer rely on allies’ after Trump and Brexit

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

Merkel: Europe ‘can no longer rely on allies’ after Trump and Brexit

Media caption“We must fight for our destiny as Europeans,” says Mrs Merkel

Europe can no longer “completely depend” on the US and UK following the election of President Trump and Brexit, German Chancellor Angela Merkel says.

Mrs Merkel said she wanted friendly relations with both countries as well as Russia but Europe now had to “fight for its own destiny”.

It follows the G7’s failure to commit to the 2015 Paris climate deal, talks Mrs Merkel said were “very difficult”.

President Trump has said he will make a decision in the coming week.

“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I’ve experienced that in the last few days,” Mrs Merkel told a crowd at an election rally in Munich, southern Germany.

The BBC’s Damien McGuinness, in Berlin, says the comments are a sign of growing assertiveness within the EU.

The relationship between Berlin and new French President Emmanuel Macron had to be a priority, Mrs Merkel said.

Earlier the German leader had described the “six against one” discussion about the Paris Accord during the G7 summit in Sicily as “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory”.

Mr Trump said he would abandon the Paris deal – the world’s first comprehensive climate agreement requiring countries to cut carbon emission – during his election campaign and has also expressed doubts about climate change.

Speaking in Brussels last week, Mr Trump also told Nato members to spend more money on defence and did not re-state his administration’s commitment to Nato’s mutual security guarantees.

BBC Defence and Diplomatic Correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the mere fact that this is even in question shows just how uneasy the relationship is between Mr Trump and the organisation of which his country is the leading member.

While in Belgium Mr Trump also reportedly described German trade practices as “bad, very bad”, complaining that Europe’s largest economy sells too many cars to the US.

The US president has described his visit to Europe as a “great success for America” with “big results”.


Passionate Merkel – BBC’s Damien McGuinness in Berlin:

It might have been thanks to the beer, pretzels and Bavarian brass-band enlivening the crowd.

But Mrs Merkel’s words were uncharacteristically passionate and unusually forthright. By all means keep friendly relations with Trump’s America and Brexit Britain, was the message – but we can’t rely on them.

Rapturous applause greeted her fiery calls for Europeans to fight for their own destiny.

No wonder she’s sounding confident. France has a new president who shares her pro free-trade, Europhile values, so there is a positive feeling in Europe that the EU’s Franco-German motor is back in business.

With four months to go before elections, Angela Merkel’s position also looks stronger than ever domestically. Initial enthusiasm for her center-left rival Martin Schulz has fizzled out. And Sunday’s beer-tent event underscored her strength by marking an end to a potential split with her Bavarian sister conservative party.

She might not have welcomed Brexit or Trump. But it seems that Mrs Merkel has decided that standing up for the EU will only strengthen her chances of winning another term in September.


Polls in Germany say Mrs Merkel is on course to be re-elected for a fourth term as German chancellor at elections in September.

Trump’s Brussels trip displayed a now familiar disregard for the facts.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF BLOOMBERG NEWS)

‘Bad Germans’ And Other Trump Blunders

Trump’s Brussels trip displayed a now familiar disregard for the facts.
May 26, 2017, 8:31 AM EDT May 26, 2017, 10:56 AM EDT
Made in the U.S.A.Photogaper: Ariana Lindquist/Bloomberg

During his first foreign trip since he was elected, President Donald Trump didn’t look too out of place in Saudi Arabia or even in the Vatican. In Brussels, however, he was a befuddled elephant in a china shop, doing his best to convince European leaders that the U.S. was clueless on key cooperation issues.

It was bad enough that he shoved aside Montenegro Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to be in the front row during a North Atlantic Trade Organization photo opportunity; Markovic, whose country has just been welcomed into NATO, graciously said that the U.S. president belonged out front. It was awful enough that he used a memorial opening ceremony to make a politically contentious speech in which he railed against NATO members’ low defense spending and, unlike any of his predecessors, avoided explicitly affirming NATO’s pledge of mutual defense — the very Article 5 of the treaty that the memorial was supposed to commemorate.

One would expect a novice political leader in his first six months since being elected to climb a steep learning curve; instead Trump appeared to demonstrate a persistent unwillingness to learn. Despite having been told repeatedly that NATO member states had pledged to spend 2 percent of economic output on defense individually, not to pay that amount into some common pool, Trump repeated the canard that under-spenders “owe massive amounts of money from past years and not paying in those past years.” There appears to be no way to explain to him that no NATO member is in arrears to the military bloc’s budget.

“I never once asked what the new NATO headquarters cost,” Trump said. “I refuse to do that.” The number is published on NATO’s website: 1.12 billion euros ($1.26 billion), an amount comparable with NATO’s common budget for 2017 (1.5 billion euros) but contributed separately by the member states in proportion to the size of their economies. Besides, each country paid for the offices to be occupied by its mission.

At the meeting with top EU officials, Trump tore into Germany’s trade surplus, showing a similar disregard for facts. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to Der Spiegel. “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the U.S. Horrible. We’re going to stop that.”

German carmakers don’t sell millions of cars in the U.S. Last year, the total unit sales of Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler reached 1.3 million (not counting Lamborghinis). At the same time, the German companies produce about a million vehicles in the U.S. For example, BMW made 32,659 sports utility vehicles in Spartanburg, South Carolina, in April 2017; it churns out 1,400 a day, most of them for export. The relatively few BMW X5s on German roads are made in Spartanburg, too: It makes sense for BMW to make the large cars closer to their main market.

Daimler made a total of 300,000 Mercedes cars in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, in 2016. The plant is the state’s biggest exporter. VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, operation has a 150,000-vehicle production capacity and also is export-oriented.

The U.S. does have an auto trade deficit with Germany. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it exported $2 billion worth of cars, trucks, buses and parts to Germany (including those BMW X5s) in the first three months of 2017, and imported $7 billion worth. But it’s with Mexico and Japan that the U.S. has the biggest vehicle trade shortfalls.

If Trump is intent on making sure Americans buy more U.S.-made cars, he should be the biggest lobbyist for German car manufacturers. They bring jobs to the U.S. and work to reduce the country’s trade deficit. The stocks of all three major car makers fell following Trump’s remark — but the drops weren’t dramatic. Investors may be betting that someone will give Trump better information and he’ll change his tune. As his NATO “debts” comments show, that is unlikely.

Trump refuses to understand things that go against his deep convictions. He wants to tailor reality to them, which may mean he’ll actually try to impose punitive taxes on German-made vehicles. That may bring the price of a Mini, not made in the U.S., close to that of an  SUV made by BMW, playing havoc with the firm’s North American sales structure — but the German Big Three will, of course, adapt to it, just as VW has absorbed the enormous costs of the U.S.-generated diesel scandal.

European NATO members, too, need to adapt. That will mean grim patience for the next few years, but also stepped-up at European military cooperation outside NATO.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

(Corrects reference to the number of unit sales from the three German carmakers in paragraphs 6 and 8.)

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Hannover evacuates 50,000 over World War Two bombs: (If This Type Of Event Were On An American City; It Would Be The Lead News; Not Silence!)

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BBC)

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  • 1 hour ago
  • From the section Europe
Elderly people from a senior care facility wait to board a bus as part of the evacuation of 50,000 people on 7 May, 2017 in Hannover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Elderly people are moved out of a care home in the evacuation zone

About 50,000 people in Hannover have been evacuated from their homes while experts defuse three British bombs dating from World War Two.

The operation is the second largest of its kind carried out in Germany, and has affected around a tenth of the city’s population.

The buildings evacuated included seven care homes, a clinic and a Continental tyre plant.

Officials hope those affected will be able to return home by the evening.

The evacuation deadline was 09:00 (07:00 GMT) and residents were advised to take necessary items like medication with them, as well as turning off gas and electrical appliances.

Local news outlet Hannoversche Allgemeine reported [in German] on Sunday afternoon that two unexploded bombs had been defused, and a third – which was severely damaged – might have to be made safe using a specialised cutting machine.

Two other suspected bombs had turned out to be harmless scrap metal, it said.

No firm deadline has been given for when the restricted zone will return to normal. Road blocks have been set up to prevent cars from re-entering the area.

Emergency shelters have been established at three schools, and tens of thousands of soup portions prepared.

Bomb disposal experts had initially checked as many as 13 suspicious objects, but only five were found to merit further attention – two on a building site at the city’s Wedelstaße, and three others nearby.

The city has set up a programme of museum tours, children’s films and sporting events to help evacuees spend the day as pleasantly as possible.

A view of the location where unexploded bombs from World War II might possibly lie underground on May 7, 2017 in Hanover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Experts believe unexploded bombs may be underground on this building site
Residents wait for the tram as part of the evacuation of 50,000 people on May 7, 2017 in Hanover, Germany.Image copyright GETTY IMAGES
Image caption Locals wait for the tram as the evacuation deadline approaches

Allied planes bombed Hannover heavily during World War Two, killing thousands and destroying much of the city.

On 9 October 1943, an especially deadly night, 1,245 people were killed and 250,000 left homeless by 261,000 bombs.

The largest bomb-related evacuation since the war happened on Christmas Day last year, in Augsburg.

Some 54,000 people had to be moved after a 1.8 tonne bomb was unearthed during building work.

Other WW2 bombs recently discovered in Germany


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