You are here: Home » International (page 30)

Category Archives: International

Feed Subscription

Cuba denies sending troops to support Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

Cuba's government has denied reports that it has sent troops to Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The reports had circulated on social media. Last week the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies issued what it called an unconfirmed report from an unspecified source that Cuban troops had been seen in Syria "in support of Syria's dictator Assad and Russian involvement in that country." US news channel Fox News repeated the claims on Wednesday and said an unnamed US official had "confirmed" them. On Saturday the Cuban government called the reports "irresponsible and unfounded." Havana's Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying it "categorically denies and refutes the irresponsible and unfounded information regarding the supposed presence of Cuban troops in the Syrian Arab Republic." On Thursday, a White House spokesman said the US government had seen no evidence to indicate the reports were true. Cuba has recently restored diplomatic relations with the US. The socialist government has hosted talks between the Colombian government and left wing guerrilla fighters in an attempt to end a decades-long conflict. In the 1970s and 1980s Cuba sent troops to Africa in support of leftist governments, but has limited its overseas engagements in recent years to medical and social projects - such as sending hundreds of medical workers to help combat the Ebola outbreak in western Africa. Cuba enjoys friendly relations with Russia and Iran - both of whom support the al-Assad regime. Both Syria and Cuba are members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) of 120 countries which are not formally aligned with, or against any major power bloc. Its founding members were India, Indonesia, Egypt, Ghana and Yugoslavia and it was set up in 1961. The coordinating bureau of the NAM is in New York.

Cuba’s government has denied reports that it has sent troops to Syria in support of the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The reports had circulated on social media. Last week the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies issued what it called an unconfirmed report from an unspecified source that Cuban troops had been seen in Syria “in ... Read More »

In Paris, top officials warn climate change poses major security threat

Ahead of December's climate change conference, experts have warned about the effects of climate change on world security - and how fighting global warming can help foster peace. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Paris. Encroaching desert and Boko Haram extremists. A punishing drought in Syria, pushing 1 million people to flee the countryside to cities already choked with war refugees. Scarce rains and sandstorms in China, forcing the country to import massive amounts of wheat…and sparking a spike in global prices that fed Egypt's 2011 revolution. Just weeks before a key climate change conference in Paris, experts and defense ministers from more than a dozen nations gathered Wednesday for a rare meeting in the French capital to confront the toxic effects of climate change on world security. "Climate change is a threat to peace," said French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, describing a world where floods, desertification and droughts will intensify conflicts over ever-scarcer resources and spark a massive wave of environmental refugees. The meeting included ministers from Chad, Niger, Haiti and the Seychelles, countries that are experiencing firsthand the threats and fallout of conflicts and climate-influenced catastrophes. Benjamin Bewa-Nyog Kunbuor, Ghana's defense minister, spoke of forests where he used to play as a child now reduced to desert, rivers drying up and the country's tree cover shrinking to just a fraction of its size compared with half a century ago. "Terrorism is significant, but naked hunger is as significant as terrorism," he said. "And the relationship between terrorist activities and naked hunger are obvious. If you look at the vectors of recruitment into terrorist cells, most of the most vulnerable are hunger-prone areas." Scare resources Nearly 150 nations have pledged to curb greenhouse gas emissions ahead of December's climate change summit in Paris. If carried through, experts say those cuts could limit global warming to 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) - 1 degree beyond the limit at which they warn the planet could face catastrophic weather events. Also addressing Wednesday's meeting at the Military School in Paris, Niger's Defense Minister Mahamadou Karidjo described the nexus between climate change and the tangle of militant groups threatening the country, including Boko Haram, al-Qaida and the "Islamic State" group. All are directly linked to ever-scarcer resources, he said, as a creeping desert and vanishing arable land threaten the lives of millions of people. The surface area of Lake Chad- a lifeline that provides water to the four Sahel countries it straddles, including Niger- has shrunk 90 percent from its size in 1962 due to drying conditions. Scarce water has helped to intensify poverty, poverty, hunger and insecurity, Karidjo said - making people living on its shores more vulnerable to Boko Haram extremists. "The youth no longer listen to their parents. Increasingly, they become targets for Boko Haram terrorists," he said. "They become drugged, indoctrinated and return to their own villages to sow terror and insecurity." For his part, Defense Minister Lener Renauld of Haiti, which is threatened by massive deforestation and rising sea levels as temperatures warm, said he was convinced "there's no plan B" to fighting climate change. 'Urgent and growing threat' Even as experts say climate change is likely to intensify conflicts over increasingly scarce resources, they suggest mechanisms to fight global warming can help foster peace. "Reducing our greenhouse gasses, developing renewable energy that's accessible to all countries, decarbonising our economies, engaging in energy transition is less a constraint than a chance to seize," said French Environment Minister Segolene Royal. Officials described Wednesday's meeting in Paris as a first, but it comes as security risks are being increasingly factored into the climate change debate. In July, a report by the US Defense Department called climate change an "urgent and growing threat" to national security, and this week NATO's parliament demanded stronger action by member states to tackle a warming planet. In France, EELV Green Party Senator Leila Aichi organized a meeting this week between top military brass and environmentalists. French defense officials are lagging behind the Pentagon in confronting the risks and implications of climate change, she said, but they're heading in the right direction. "They're much more responsive on the question than politicians because they think in the long-term," she said. "The army is also in much closer contact with nature." But, she added, security risks are not fully factored into climate change talks taking place ahead the Paris summit. Nor has the French military formally incorporated climate change into its defense strategy. Olivier Dobbels, co-founder of Polarisk, a London-based consulting group that explores future risks in the Arctic and Antarctica, said he was doubtful about the military's ability to provide answers to climate change. "They're prepared from an operational standpoint," Dobbels said, drawing parallels between the military's response to climate change and peacekeeping operations in Africa and elsewhere. "Peace enforcement, civilian protection, yes. But from a strategic standpoint, they don't have a strategy to bring solutions to climate change."

Ahead of December’s climate change conference, experts have warned about the effects of climate change on world security – and how fighting global warming can help foster peace. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Paris. Encroaching desert and Boko Haram extremists. A punishing drought in Syria, pushing 1 million people to flee the countryside to cities already choked with war refugees. Scarce ... Read More »

Australian police investigate 12-year-old terror suspect

Australian police have revealed that a 12-year-old is on the radar of counterterrorism authorities. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged closer cooperation with Muslim leaders to fight a growing extremist threat. Australian authorities have warned that suspected terrorists in Australia are becoming younger, with a 12-year-old now under investigation by security agencies. The boy was listed on a federal court order among a group of males that may have helped Farhad Jabar, the 15-year-old who shot police employee Curtis Cheng in the back of the head in Sydney earlier this month while reportedly shouting religious slogans. The Iranian-born Jabar was later shot dead by police. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that the 12-year-old boy was the youngest of 18 suspected extremists named in a court document in March. The boy's name has not been published. New anti-terror laws Earlier this week, in the wake of the deadly attack, the Australian government outlined new plans to tighten counterterrorism laws, including restricting the movements of suspects as young as 14. Justice Minister Michael Keenan expressed alarm at the age of children being targeted for radicalization but declined to say how many under the age of 14 were on watch lists. Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin, meanwhile, confirmed that the threat posed by terrorism had evolved and had become younger. Colvin added that "the problem is getting worse for Australia, not better." "Some very good work is being done by our border agencies and our police and security agencies to stop people from leaving for the conflict zones, but there's no doubt that this problem is becoming more acute and more difficult," he said. National concern On Thursday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull opened a summit in Canberra of police and intelligence chiefs from around the country on how to deal with the rising threat, highlighting a dramatic drop in the age of suspects. "The shocking murder of Curtis Cheng, a shocking act of terrorism perpetrated by a 15-year-old boy, reminds us yet again that radicalization, extremism can be seen in the very young," he said in his opening remarks. "This is a real homegrown threat, and it appalls all Australians and it appalls all Muslim Australians," Turnbull added. He urged closer cooperation with Muslim leaders and greater mutual respect across the country. Growing number of attacks Canberra has become increasingly concerned about the prospect of lone wolf attacks by individuals inspired by groups such as the self-declared "Islamic State" (IS), and has already cracked down on Australians attempting to travel to conflict zones. Authorities lifted Australia's terror threat alert to high a year ago, introduced new national security laws and have since conducted several counterterrorism raids. The country has been struggling to cope with a string of homegrown terrorism crimes involving teenagers. In September 2014, an 18-year-old was shot dead by police after stabbing two counterterrorism police officers in Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city. In April, several teens were arrested on suspicion of plotting an IS-inspired attack at a Veterans' Day ceremony in Melbourne. And in May, police arrested a 17-year-old in Melbourne and accused him of plotting to detonate three homemade pipe bombs. Last December, police forces were faced with a 16-hour siege at a cafe in Sydney, where two of the 17 hostages and the 50-year-old Iranian gunman were killed.

Australian police have revealed that a 12-year-old is on the radar of counterterrorism authorities. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has urged closer cooperation with Muslim leaders to fight a growing extremist threat. Australian authorities have warned that suspected terrorists in Australia are becoming younger, with a 12-year-old now under investigation by security agencies. The boy was listed on a federal court ... Read More »

Australia plans to toughen terror laws, track teen suspects

Australia has outlined expanded counter-terrorism laws that would allow the restriction of movement of suspects as young as 14. The measure follows the shooting of a police employee by a radicalized teen. Australian Attorney-General George Brandis told national broadcaster ABC on Tuesday that there was a need for police to be able to investigate younger teens. Brandis announced that it would be possible to hold teenagers as young as 14 in police custody for up to 28 days, under the new legislation. He said the "Islamic State" (IS) was targeting increasingly younger recruits. "Fourteen is not too young an age for an order of this kind to be made," Brandis said on national radio. "Unfortunately the reach of ISIL and ISIL surrogates and agents in Australia is extending to younger and younger people." ISIL is another name for IS. Shock murder of police employee The attorney general said the shooting of a civilian police office worker by a 15-year-old on October 2 was evidence that such action was needed. Farhad Jabar shot employee Curtis Cheng in the back of the head in Sydney and had been reportedly shouting religious slogans before he was fatally gunned down by police. Brandis said there would be safeguards for minors and limitations on questioning that was "unreasonable." "The new laws will, among other things, lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14 years of age," Brandis had said in an earlier statement, referring to an order that allows movement and activities to be restricted. 'Obvious breach of rights' However, the new laws would be in breach of human rights standards, according to Stephen Banks, president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties. "The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community," Banks said. The Australian government is worried about possible lone-wolf attacks and has already stopped Australians trying to leave the country to conflict zones like Syria and Iraq. Terror suspects can currently be held for four hours before a court order must be made to extend this to eight days. Under the proposed legislation, the initial period would be four days with a subsequent legal request to extend this to 28 days.

Australia has outlined expanded counter-terrorism laws that would allow the restriction of movement of suspects as young as 14. The measure follows the shooting of a police employee by a radicalized teen. Australian Attorney-General George Brandis told national broadcaster ABC on Tuesday that there was a need for police to be able to investigate younger teens. Brandis announced that it ... Read More »

Dissent – not solidarity – follows bloodbath in Ankara

The bomb blasts in Ankara have exacerbated the political tensions in Turkey. The first accusations were made very soon after the attack. DW's Thomas Seibert reports from Istanbul. A weeping woman runs across the square in front of the train station in Turkey's capital, Ankara. "I can't find my children, I can't find my children," she cries. Near her, a man is consoling a weeping woman in his arms. Both of their faces are covered in blood splatter. A sign with "Peace - right now" written on it has been propped on a wall near them and a pool of blood has been growing on the pavement in front of it. The square looks like a war zone after the severe attack . Dead bodies lie on the street, injured people are screaming for help, and the ambulance sirens do not cease. Suicide bombers blew themselves up amid a crowd just as a scheduled rally of left-wing and Kurdish organizations was about to take place. The medical association of Ankara has called on all available physicians to provide assistance in hospital emergency units as there is not enough staff to help the many wounded. Thousands of people have gone to donate blood. Authorities have set up an additional morgue because of the high death toll. Only a few minutes after the two explosions that had taken place seconds apart from each other, the first tensions between police and demonstrators were felt. Several demonstrators attacked a police car because they were certain that the state was involved in the attack. Others have complained that the ambulances arrived at the scene only after considerable delay, even though the attack occurred in the middle of Ankara. The police apparently even fired tear gas at helpers who tried to take care of the injured. Several ministers who arrived at the site to analyze the situation were chased away by an angry crowd. A massacre The first accusations were made very soon after the attack. Selehattin Demirtas, head of HDP, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, spoke of a massacre. The bombs were set off on the spot where the HDP was to meet before the rally. The HDP and other organizations went to the rally to appeal for a stop to the violence between government security forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). HDP officials believe that the government is responsible for the recent escalation of the conflict. Observers agree that the attackers' aim was to destroy the peace process - or whatever was left of it. After months of battling between the army and police, the PKK was expected to announce a new ceasefire in the hours before the bomb attack. "Whoever it is, they do not want the current fights end in Turkey," tweeted the London-based Turkish researcher Ziya Meral. But if that had been the bombers' intention, it backfired: After the explosion, the PKK - as expected - announced a ceasefire . Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and other politicians have asked Turks not to allow the perpetrators of the attack to stir up hatred against each other. Politicians from the government and opposition have canceled election campaign appointments for the coming days. But that does not mean that tensions will be eased in the three weeks before the snap elections on November 1. Quite the contrary: Critics accuse Erdogan of having intentionally incited the conflict between the state and PKK since the summer in order to win over the conservative electorate for the Justice and Development Party. And pro-government journalist Fatih Tezcan has attributed the bloodbath in Ankara to the HDP. He believes that the party wants to win the sympathy vote.

The bomb blasts in Ankara have exacerbated the political tensions in Turkey. The first accusations were made very soon after the attack. DW’s Thomas Seibert reports from Istanbul. A weeping woman runs across the square in front of the train station in Turkey’s capital, Ankara. “I can’t find my children, I can’t find my children,” she cries. Near her, a ... Read More »

Alarm in Ghana over rise in unsafe abortions

Unsafe abortions put women's lives unnecessarily at risk. In Ghana, the high fatality rate is prompting calls for the easing of the abortion law so safe termination of pregnancy is within reach of all who desire it. Ten years ago, at the age of 18, Adease got pregnant. The young Ghanaian wasn't married and so her parents forced her to have an abortion. It was an ordeal, she told DW. "I walk into a small room and there were people lying on the floor and I had to pass them and lie down on a metal bed with a pillow. I wake up and I am feeling very weak and I can't really help myself. So the nurse took me out, my dad was there, and my dad took me home. We got home, I was bleeding all night. For a week, I was still bleeding," she said. Adease recovered but probably only because her father took her later to a proper medical facility. Another Ghanaian woman, Diane, now aged 35, has undergone eleven separate abortions, all unsafe and all carried out by herself with only her boyfriend at her side. "I didn't have any medicine or anything, the only thing I go to buy is pain killers, until the last one I did - for that one I ended up in hospital," she said. Diane also knew someone who didn't survive an unsafe abortion. "I had one friend, she didn't come back again, she died." A report by Ghana's Adolescent Health and Development Program said that the number of unsafe abortions in 2009 was over 8,000. By 2010, the figure had climbed to more than 10,000 and the following year, it was as high as 16,000. More recent figures were not available. Unfriendly facilities Unintended pregnancies are generally not socially acceptable in Ghana and official health centers can be forbidding places for young pregnant women. They may feel less intimidated in a less formal environment - sometimes with tragic consequences. Vincentia Mottey, who teaches at the Korle Bu Nursing and Midwifery Training College, admitted that medical facilities in Ghana have an image problem. "A teenager or underage person who is not married, coming alone, feels there is a stigma attached to it, so we need to make the facility itself more friendly," she said. Abortion is legal in Ghana but there are restrictions. If the fetus is damaged, if the pregnancy is endangering a woman's life or if it is the result of rape, then abortion is permitted under Ghanaian law. But most pregnant women wanting abortions don't fall into one of those three categories. The Marie Stopes medical charity with its slogan "children by choice, not by chance" is well known for its efforts to promote family planning in Ghana. It also carries out safe abortions. Maternal mortality Health rights activist Raphael Godlove Ahenu Junior said laws and attitudes must change. "Unsafe abortion is the second most common cause of maternal mortality," he told DW. But policy makers may feel they have to tread cautiously because of faith-based opposition to liberalizing abortion. According to figures released by the World Health Organization in July 2015, an estimated 22 million unsafe abortions are estimated to take place worldwide each year, almost all in low- and middle-income countries. In new guidelines on health care, the WHO noted "the unwillingness of some health care professionals to provide safe abortion and post-abortion care."

Unsafe abortions put women’s lives unnecessarily at risk. In Ghana, the high fatality rate is prompting calls for the easing of the abortion law so safe termination of pregnancy is within reach of all who desire it. Ten years ago, at the age of 18, Adease got pregnant. The young Ghanaian wasn’t married and so her parents forced her to ... Read More »

Henning Mankell will live on in Mozambican culture

Mozambicans mourn the death of Swedish author Henning Mankell, the driving force behind the country's first and most important theater company. Swedish writer Henning Mankell died on Monday morning, at age 67, after a long battle with cancer. His Inspector Wallander crime novels brought him worldwide renown. But in Mozambique, he is best known for his work as stage and artistic director of the Mutumbela Gogo Theater Company. The job was offered to him in 1986. Two years before, he had been invited to speak at a one-week theater workshop in the capital, Maputo, and fell in love with the country. Until his death, he split his time between Sweden and Mozambique. He staged many popular plays at the most famous Mozambican theater, Teatro Avenida. "It is a privilege and a great adventure to work with so many talented people and to create the country's first professional theater", Mankell told DW in 2008. He felt at home in Mozambique: "In the world of theater it is not important that I come from another culture or country, or that I'm white." Theater is universal, he said. Theater until the end Even while battling cancer, Mankell insisted on staging one last play, Shakespeare's "Hamlet". An experience that actor Jorge Vaz will never forget: "Before learning that he was ill, he asked me if I wanted to play the role of Hamlet. He would have never staged it again if I had refused. I felt a huge responsibility, it isn't an easy role. But I said yes." Vaz and other Mutumbela Gogo actors say that professionalism is Henning Mankell's biggest legacy: "He taught me so much. I learned to work very hard, to be on time and to take the theater very seriously… because it is a profession. I learned a lot and I'll keep on learning," said Vaz. He adds that it was a privilege to work two years with Mankell in Mutumbela Gogo: "It is not enough to say that his death is an immense and irreparable loss. Henning was a part of my life, not only professionally, as an actor, but also personally, since I joined the company at such a young age." "A noble, caring man" Actress Lucrécia Paco was also very close to the Swedish artist. She played the leading role in many of the plays he staged and even appeared on the cover of one of his books. "I feel I lost a father", she said over the phone, her voice choked. Paco was in Sweden when she heard the news about Mankell's death. "He was not only a great stage director; he was also a great man. Sweden and Mozambique have lost a noble, caring person with a great artistic gift." She says that Mankell helped many Mozambicans, particularly children, even though "he never bragged about it". One thing that the Swedish author never hid was his passion for Mozambique. He often said that he had a great respect for the people's constant fight against poverty. In 2008, Mankell told DW how much he cared for the country. "There is a letter in Sweden, written by me, stating that, if something happens to me, I could be buried here."

Mozambicans mourn the death of Swedish author Henning Mankell, the driving force behind the country’s first and most important theater company. Swedish writer Henning Mankell died on Monday morning, at age 67, after a long battle with cancer. His Inspector Wallander crime novels brought him worldwide renown. But in Mozambique, he is best known for his work as stage and ... Read More »

Modi’s ‘Make in India’ clashes with air force’s demands

Earlier this year, India's prime minister announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The air force says it needs 108 such planes, but this demand does not fit in with Modi's "Make in India" plans. The original Rafale deal, agreed upon with France in 2012, foresaw India buying 126 Rafale fighters from France. The new government under Narendra Modi however decided to scale down the contract to just 36 planes , saying the original deal was not in line with the prime minister's "Make in India" policy, which required foreign manufacturers to produce their goods in India and share technical information locally. India's own 'Tejas' not good enough? Officials at the Indian defense ministry also said the jets were too expensive and that an indigenous fighter would cater to the air force's needs very well. "The IAF [Indian Air Force] needs to have a minimum number of aircraft at all times. The LCA [Light Combat Aircraft] is our best option at this stage, given our resource constraints," a ministry official told Reuters news agency, referring to the "Tejas" jet, developed as an Indian government project. However, experts said the LCA was not capable of fighting today's wars. "It is a very short-range aircraft which has no relevance in today's war fighting scenarios. If you are trying to justify this as a replacement for follow-on Rafales, you are comparing apples with oranges," retired Air Marshal M. Matheswaran, who also served as the Deputy Chief of the Integrated Defence Staff, told Reuters. More Rafales needed The Rafale once more became a topic for discussion. Last week, air force officials said the number of new Rafale fighter jets would not be enough to prepare the country for potential threats from Pakistan and China. Speaking to journalists on October 3, Indian Air Force Chief Arup Raha said two squadrons of 18 jets each would not be enough. "Definitely, we would like to have MMRCA [medium multi-role combat aircraft] variety of aircraft. At least about six squadrons come to my mind," he said. The air force was also open to getting fighter jets from other "equally good" aircraft companies, Raha added. "There are alternatives. I cannot say I only want Rafale," he told the press. A share of the pie Dassault, the French company that manufactures Rafale fighters, has declined to comment on the debate in India, but other European dealers, like Sweden's Saab, want to be involved as New Delhi goes fighter jet-shopping. "There's still a huge gap that needs to be filled. We are marketing it [the Gripen fighter jet] under the 'Make in India' umbrella," a source close to Sweden's Saab told Reuters. India is in the process of upgrading its military hardware and has announced a program of $100 billion for new fighter jets and equipment. The Indian Air Force currently has 35 active fighter jet squadrons, but the number would be down to 25 once the Soviet-era MiG21 planes are withdrawn. Prime Minister Modi wants to end India's status as the world's number one weapons importer and wants to manufacture 70 percent of the country's defense hardware within India by the end of this decade.

Earlier this year, India’s prime minister announced the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France. The air force says it needs 108 such planes, but this demand does not fit in with Modi’s “Make in India” plans. The original Rafale deal, agreed upon with France in 2012, foresaw India buying 126 Rafale fighters from France. The new government under ... Read More »

Gauck trip highlights significance of German-American relationship

The well-timed visit of German President Gauck to the US and his meeting with President Obama underscore the importance of US-German ties for both countries. But underneath the surface not everything is rosy. The planning staff of President Joachim Gauck could not have chosen a better destination than Philadelphia for Germany's head of state to start his first official visit to the United States exactly 25 years after the country's unification. Philadelphia, where the Declaration of Independence was signed, for Americans, stands as a symbol for the country's hard-won freedom after the Revolutionary War against Britain. It was also where - on October 6, 1683 - a first group of Mennonite settlers from Krefeld founded Germantown - today, a neighborhood of the city. But there is also another German connection. It comes via Philadelphia's Liberty Bell, a large historic bell that first served as an icon of US freedom and independence, but during the Cold War became a larger symbol of the struggle for freedom from communist rule in Eastern Europe. In 1950, Berlin received its own Freedom Bell, an American gift still located in what then was the city hall of West Berlin. Rich with symbolism "That's a pretty powerful image," said Scott Lucas, a professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham. "There is a big emphasis in underlining the linkages between Germany and the United States on the issue of freedom and liberty," noted Josef Janning, head of the Berlin office of the European Council on Foreign Relations. For President Gauck, a former pastor and civil rights activist in East Germany, freedom and liberty have a very personal relevance, he added. "That's why he goes to Philadelphia." But beyond the reflection on Germany's unification and America's indispensable role in it in Philadelphia, Gauck will also meet US President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State John Kerry and important members of Congress in Washington – not the norm for a head of state with a largely ceremonial role. New roles "In many ways the Germans are the de-facto leader of Europe despite the fact that the British would like to claim the role," said Lucas. That's why, "it makes sense for every American administration to use the symbolic and informal ways to strengthen that relationship," explained Janning. But while both Germans and Americans routinely pay lip-service to the importance of German-American relations, the reality often does not live up to the highfalutin' rhetoric so often employed. "The question for me besides all the symbolism is what is the significance of German-US ties now," said Lucas. Notwithstanding Berlin's leading role in the Ukraine and Greek crises, Germany is still looking to find its role in the 21st century and has not been able to express a clear vision of what European power can and should do, he said. Similarly, Germans and Europeans are confused about the wisdom and future of US foreign policy, not just under George W. Bush, but also under Barack Obama, particularly in the Middle East, said Janning. The NSA spying scandal also did not help to rebuild lost trust. Gap between rhetoric and reality "So the relationship is underperforming, measured against the significance both countries assign to the other side," said Janning. President Gauck, however, due to the largely symbolic role he plays in German politics, won't be able to improve the alleged underperformance of the German-American relationship. But if the past is any indicator, he may not shy away from highlighting the deficits and offering suggestions what to do about it.

The well-timed visit of German President Gauck to the US and his meeting with President Obama underscore the importance of US-German ties for both countries. But underneath the surface not everything is rosy. The planning staff of President Joachim Gauck could not have chosen a better destination than Philadelphia for Germany’s head of state to start his first official visit ... Read More »

Heavy flooding claims several lives in French Riviera

Torrential rains and flooding have left at least 17 people dead in southeastern France. Trains had to be stopped overnight, with hundreds of passengers left stranded aboard. Flooding caused by heavy rain, accompanied by strong gusts of wind, killed at least 17 people with four people still missing along the French Riviera overnight, emergency responders and local officials said on Sunday. Tens of thousands remained without power in Sunday. One of the worst death tolls was in the small town of Mandelieu-la-Napoule on the Cote d'Azur, where five people were reported to have died in rising waters while trying to bring their cars to a safe location. Three more drowned in their car when it became stuck in a tunnel in Vallauris-Golfe-Juan, near Cannes, emergency teams said. Three residents in a retirement home died when the River Brague burst its banks in Biot, close to the city of Antibes, sending waves crashing into the building. On Twitter, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls expressed his "profound emotion in view of the terrible consequences of the bad weather." President Francois Hollande is expected to pay an emergency visit Sunday to promise government aid for victims. French rail company SNCF said around a dozen trains had to be stopped, with stranded passengers being provided with food and blankets for the night. A number of camping grounds also needed to be evacuated, which in some cases required the use of helicopters to rescue people from the roofs of their caravans. France's meteorological agency says the worst of the weather has now left the French mainland, and is headed for the Italian coast. Local authorities have, however, advised people in the region to avoid travel and not to use their cars. About 27,000 homes were without electricity Sunday after rivers and streams burst their banks and fierce thunderstorms poured more than 17 centimeters (6.7 inches) of rain on the Cannes region in two hours Saturday night, the equivalent of two months of rainfall for the region, local radio France Bleu-Azur reported.

Torrential rains and flooding have left at least 17 people dead in southeastern France. Trains had to be stopped overnight, with hundreds of passengers left stranded aboard. Flooding caused by heavy rain, accompanied by strong gusts of wind, killed at least 17 people with four people still missing along the French Riviera overnight, emergency responders and local officials said on ... Read More »

Scroll To Top