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Flooding in France, Germany expected to worsen

Forecasters have warned of more torrential downpours, which are likely to worsen flood hit areas of western Europe. At least seven people have been killed and thousands have been forced from their homes. The German states of Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate, which have already been hit by four days of severe flooding, have been warned to expect further storms. Water levels are expected to continue rising in both states, along with parts of North Rhine-Westphalia in the west, forecasters warned. German Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute to those who had lost their lives. "The federal government is grieving for those who received help too late," she said, adding that the response to the disaster showed how "we stick together in Germany." About 3,500 homes in Bavaria are now without electricity after floods up to 1 meter (3.3 ft) in height struck many towns. Rescue helicopters were dispatched to Lower Bavaria rescue people from the roofs of their homes. On Thursday, a 75-year-old resident of the Bavarian town of Simbach am Inn was confirmed dead, and the German death toll now stands at six. The bodies of three other people were found in the same town on Wednesday evening. In nearby Julbach, the body of a woman was also discovered in a stream Wednesday evening. Four people are still missing. The death of an 86-year-old woman has also been reported in France. German officials estimated the flood damage would likely exceed 10 million euros ($11.2 million), and Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer pledged "quick and unbureaucratic help" for those impacted, adding that the state "won't abandon those affected, some of whom have lost their whole homes." Flooding in France Meanwhile, France's meteorological service said that severe flood alerts remained in effect in two Paris-area departments, while lower-threat level flood warnings were put in place in eight other departments, including three on the German border. Floodwaters in Paris are forecast to peak on Friday with the River Seine due to reach 6m (19ft) above its normal level. Across the Paris region, thousands of people have been evacuated and some 24,400 homes were without power. The Loing River, a tributary of the Seine that runs through the French capital, has risen to levels unseen in a century, since Paris was swamped by a massive flood. Emergency barriers have been erected in Paris to protect the city's vital infrastructure. Rail operator SNCF has been forced to close the RER C suburban underground train service that runs along the Seine. The Louvre and Orsay museums have been shut so staff can move priceless artworks to safety. Declaring a state of emergency for worst affected areas, French President Francois Hollande also promised money to help local authorities deal with the damage. The torrential rains have also hit the French Open tennis tournament, washing out play earlier in the week, leaving players hoping to reach the finals facing a heavy schedule of matches The flooding has also affected several areas of Belgium, after heavy rain hit northern Antwerp and the west of Flanders. Eastern areas around Limburg and Liege have also seen waters rise, leading to the evacuation of several neighborhoods after streets were submerged. Schools and roads have also been flooded in Austria in recent days, though the waters have now receded.

Forecasters have warned of more torrential downpours, which are likely to worsen flood hit areas of western Europe. At least seven people have been killed and thousands have been forced from their homes. The German states of Bavaria and Rhineland-Palatinate, which have already been hit by four days of severe flooding, have been warned to expect further storms. Water levels ... Read More »

Germany votes on Armenian genocide resolution amid warnings from Turkey

German lawmakers are to debate a resolution that would see the mass deaths of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915 referred to as "genocide." Turkey has warned Berlin of consequences if it supports the wording. Thursday's vote in the Bundestag, Germany's lower house of parliament, comes at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is relying on Turkey to implement a migrant deal with the EU. Germany also has extensive ties with Turkey, including roughly 1.5 million Turkish residents and more of Turkish origin, dating back to a "guest worker" scheme in the 1960s and 70s. As the successor state to the Ottoman Empire, Turkey officially denies that the events that started in 1915 amounted to genocide and has lashed out at countries that have officially recognized the term. When France formally called the displacements and killings genocide in 2011, Turkey temporarily recalled its ambassador; it did the same thing to Austria last year. Keen to avoid irking a key ally, the US has so far has avoided using the term, although more than 40 US state legislatures have passed genocide resolutions. Turkey's official line is that ethnic Armenians represented a fifth column backed by Russia during World War I, and that the mass deportation and accompanying Armenian deaths were not premeditated or intentional - a key requirement in the legal definition of genocide. Warning from Ankara Ahead of the vote, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned Germany against changing the terminology used to refer to the Armenian massacre. Before heading on a trip to Africa on Tuesday, Erdogan told reporters the resolution's passage would "naturally damage future diplomatic, economic, business, political and military relations between the two countries - and we are both also NATO countries." Reiterating Erdogan's stance on Wednesday, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim described Thursday's pending Bundestag motion as "absurd." "History should be left to historians," Yildirim told journalists in Ankara. Armenia's president, Serzh Sargsyan, told German daily "Bild," however, that he was sure German lawmakers would adopt the wording. "I am sure the politicians in the Bundestag see it the same way and will not allow themselves to be intimidated," Sargsyan said. The resolution, submitted by the Greens, is entitled "Remembrance and commemoration of the genocide of Armenians and other Christian minorities in 1915 and 1916" and carries the contested word throughout the text. Postponed vote On April 24, 2015 - the 100th anniversary of what Armenians call the Great Crime - the Bundestag postponed voting on a similar resolution to classify the mass killings as "genocide." German President Joachim Gauck used the term, however, drawing criticism from Turkey. At the time, the governing coalition opted not to vote on the resolution, but the Greens led by Cem Özdemir, an ethnic Turk, forced a vote this year. Officials in Turkey put the number of Armenians who died at around 500,000, while Armenia puts the number at about 1.5 million - out of a pre-war population of some 2 million. Turkish officials also point out that hundreds of thousands of Muslims died from combat, starvation, cold and disease in eastern Anatolia during the war. Armenians have documented systematic mass murder, organized banditry, raping of women, pillaging of property and other atrocities.

German lawmakers are to debate a resolution that would see the mass deaths of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire in 1915 referred to as “genocide.” Turkey has warned Berlin of consequences if it supports the wording. Thursday’s vote in the Bundestag, Germany’s lower house of parliament, comes at a time when German Chancellor Angela Merkel is relying on Turkey to ... Read More »

Heavy rains cause deadly flooding in southern Germany

Three people have been killed as violent weather struck the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Heavy rain caused an underground car park to collapse. Much of the destruction is centered in the town of Schwäbisch Gmünd in the East Württemberg region. Authorities said a volunteer firefighter was killed while trying to rescue a flooding victim - the man he was trying to save is listed as missing. Separately, police said one person died in an underground car park in the town of Weißbach after it became flooded with rainwater. The storm was reportedly centered in the Ostalb district near the state border with Bavaria. Numerous vehicles were reportedly underwater and emergency services had to rescue stranded motorists from their vehicles. Authorities also reported rising flood waters trapping people in houses and businesses with roads closed in the chaos. A state government spokesman told the DPA news agency early Monday that reliable casualty figures weren't available. But he said numerous resources had been deployed in the region as rescue efforts continued.

Three people have been killed as violent weather struck the southwestern German state of Baden-Württemberg. Heavy rain caused an underground car park to collapse. Much of the destruction is centered in the town of Schwäbisch Gmünd in the East Württemberg region. Authorities said a volunteer firefighter was killed while trying to rescue a flooding victim – the man he was ... Read More »

Lightning storms leave dozens injured in Paris and Germany

Dozens of people, many of them children, have been injured in lightning strikes in Paris and a small town in western Germany. One man was killed by lightning in Poland and several were injured. A freak lightning strike hit a football pitch in the town of Hoppstädten in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate on Saturday, injuring 35 people including 30 children, police said. The lightning directly hit a referee who was resuscitated before being transported by helicopter to a hospital in serious condition. Two other adults were also gravely injured. The 30 children aged between nine and 11 had irregular heartbeats and were taken to the hospital as a precaution. The bolt appeared to come out of nowhere, police said. "There was no rain and no dark sky according to witnesses," a police spokesman said. The German weather service had warned of continuing storms following a wet and windy Friday, which saw people and transport services impacted by landslides and flooding in some areas. Park in Paris hit Separately on Saturday, 11 people, including eight children aged about nine years old, were injured by lightning in Park Monceau in northwest Paris during a birthday party. Six of the victims were in serious condition, police said. Three of the children and one adult have life-threatening injuries. The lightening struck when the group had ducked under a tree to shelter from rain. Man killed in Poland Also on Saturday, a man in Poland was killed by lightning on Babia Gora mountain. Three others were also injured by lightning in the same area and a man drowned in a flood.

Dozens of people, many of them children, have been injured in lightning strikes in Paris and a small town in western Germany. One man was killed by lightning in Poland and several were injured. A freak lightning strike hit a football pitch in the town of Hoppstädten in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate on Saturday, injuring 35 people including 30 children, ... Read More »

Germany captain Schweinsteiger optimistic about Euro 2016 fitness

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has said that he is confident that he will be fit for Euro 2016. However, his was not the only injury on coach Joachim Löw's mind as the team kicked off its Swiss training camp. Schweinsteiger was the first to appear at Germany's first press conference since arriving at the base for the training camp, at Ascona, Switzerland on Tuesday. "I'm doing well, I am very confident," he told reporters on Wednesday, when asked about his progress in recovering from a knee injury. "I am trying to do a bit more day by day," he added. The 31-year-old Manchester United midfielder suffered from various ailments over the course of the season, before sustaining a partial tear in his medial collateral ligament while training with the national team in March. On Wednesday Schweinsteiger completed gym session, while two of his teammates who are also not yet fully fit, Sami Khedira and Thomas Müller, trained individually. More injury woes Adding to head coach Joachim Löw's concerns are newly signed Bayern Munich defender Mats Hummels, who is struggling with a calf issue, as well as his former teammate at Dortmund, Marco Reus, who has a groin injury. "It's all a bit more difficult at the minute," the coach replied when asked about how difficult it was to assess his players. However, he insisted he not risk rushing anyone back to action before they were ready, despite the fact that Sunday's friendly against Slovakia in Augsburg will be his last chance to see his team in action before a May 31 deadline to cut his roster down to a final 23-man squad for Euro 2016. Bayer Munich's Mario Götze, who missed Saturday's German Cup final with a broken rib, was part of a group of 16 players who trained together on the field on Wednesday. Götze's commitment to Bayern a 'very good' decision Both Löw and national team manager Oliver Bierhoff welcomed a statement from Götze on Monday, in which he said he was looking forward to playing in Munich next season, despite rumors of an impending transfer. "There were inquiries and offers for Mario, but in our discussions I had the feeling that his heart is still in Munich and he wants to prove himself," Löw said. Bierhoff described Götze's decision as "very good," telling the mass-circulation newspaper "Bild" that this would allow him to "concentrate completely" on the European championship. Of the 27 players invited to the training camp, only Real Madrid's Toni Kross and Lukas Podolski have yet to arrive due to duties with their respective clubs.

Germany captain Bastian Schweinsteiger has said that he is confident that he will be fit for Euro 2016. However, his was not the only injury on coach Joachim Löw’s mind as the team kicked off its Swiss training camp. Schweinsteiger was the first to appear at Germany’s first press conference since arriving at the base for the training camp, at ... Read More »

Germany coach Joachim Löw names provisional squad for Euro 2016

Germany coach Joachim Löw went for a mix of experience and youth in his provisional squad for Euro 2016 unveiled on Tuesday. Löw has named 27 players to the roster and needs to discard four by the end of the month. Löw’s squad unveiled at a news conference at the French embassy in Berlin includes three players called up for the first time: Bayer Leverkusen's Julian Brandt, Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich, and Julian Weigl of Borussia Dortmund. Löw had warm praise for all three. "Julian is very good technically and is fast," Löw said. "He's scored a few goals (in the Bundesliga) and is in good form." Löw praised Kimmich as having "trained and played at a high level, even at times in the Champions League." Weigl, Löw said, "plays a key role in midfield at Borussia Dortmund" and is a good passer and good on the ball. Also named to the squad was Schalke's Leroy Sané, who has just one national team match to his name. 14 World Cup winners The squad, though, also has a good deal of experience, boasting 14 members of Germany's 2014 World Cup-winning team. Löw included Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, despite concerns about the 31-year-old's fitness following a couple of knee injuries. Löw will have just one friendly match to look at his players before he has to finalize his roster, a game against Slovakia in Augsburg on May 29. They play Hungary in Gelsenkirchen on June 4 in another friendly. Having named just three goalkeepers to the provisional squad, all four cuts will have to come from the outfield players. Germany will be up against Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland in Group C in Euro 2016, which kicks off on June 10 in Paris. Provisional Germany squad: Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer, Berd Leno, Marc-André ter Stegen Defenders: Jérôme Boateng, Emre Can, Jonas Hector, Benedikt Höwedes Mats Hummels, Shkodran Mustafi, Sebastian Rudy, Antonio Rüdiger Midfielders/ attackers: Karim Bellarabi, Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Mario Götze, Mario Gomez, Sami Khedira, Joshua Kimmich, Toni Kroos, Mesut Özil, Lukas Podolski, Marco Reus, Leroy Sané, André Schürrle, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, Julian Weigl.

Germany coach Joachim Löw went for a mix of experience and youth in his provisional squad for Euro 2016 unveiled on Tuesday. Löw has named 27 players to the roster and needs to discard four by the end of the month. Löw’s squad unveiled at a news conference at the French embassy in Berlin includes three players called up for ... Read More »

Germany-US to share more counter-terrorism data

German Interior Minister de Maiziere has been discussing security issues in Washington with the US Homeland Security Secretary Johnson. The two allies are due to sign an agreement to improve anti-terror cooperation. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson agreed Tuesday to reinforce their partnership in the fight against Islamist terrorism. At a press conference following their talks in Washington, the German minister said the two countries wanted to share more information, counter Islamist extremist propaganda online, and exchange data about refugees who may be planning attacks. "Terrorism is a threat to all of us. Therefore what we have to do ...is to be steadfast and to cooperate internationally," de Maiziere said. The US has demanded a more intensive exchange of data following the Brussels attacks in March and the Paris attacks last November. Johnson welcomed an "increased commitment" by European nations to cooperate with Washington in the fight against terrorism. He referred to an EU directive, agreed by the European Parliament last month, where the collection of airline passenger data will be harmonized across the bloc. On Wednesday, de Maiziere was due to meet US Justice Minister Loretta Lynch, and sign an agreement to share information, but specifics of the document are unclear.

German Interior Minister de Maiziere has been discussing security issues in Washington with the US Homeland Security Secretary Johnson. The two allies are due to sign an agreement to improve anti-terror cooperation. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere and US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson agreed Tuesday to reinforce their partnership in the fight against Islamist terrorism. At a ... Read More »

Protesters take over German coal mine, block power plant

Hundreds of environmental activists have occupied an open-pit mine in eastern Germany that supplies lignite to a nearby power plant. Dozens were arrested during the second day of protests against coal. Protesters from across Europe temporarily blocked a railway line on Saturday that feeds coal to the Schwarze Pumpe - or "Black Pump" - power station near Cottbus, in the eastern German state of Brandenburg. On Friday the protesters had already occupied the nearby lignite strip mine at Welzow, which feeds the massive power plant run by the Swedish utility Vattenfall. The company said around 500 activists had spent the night at the Schwarze Pumpe facility ahead of Saturday's demonstration. According to a statement from the environmental group "Ende Gelände," at least 1,600 people took part in the protest. Police put the number of participants blocking the rail line at up to 1,000. "Germany is the world leader in burning dirty coal," said Hannah Eichberger, a spokeswoman for Ende Gelände. "Therefore we are taking the exit from coal into our own hands and closing down one of the largest climate killers in Europe." Vattenfall had requested that police intervene, citing a danger to equipment and safety as well as trespassing. But quoting a decision from the local prosecutor, police said they would not intervene. The local prosecutor's office found no grounds for a trespassing complaint because not all of the land was fenced off and protesters had not disrupted operations at the facility, since the utility had closed it down on Thursday in anticipation of the protest. Vattenfall security officials came to blows with members of the environmentalist alliance. A police spokeswoman said 120 people were arrested, and two activists were injured in the commotion. Germany has pushed to increase renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, in its energy portfolio. But a decision to shut down nuclear power after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has also left it reliant on dirty and readily available coal to produce power.

Hundreds of environmental activists have occupied an open-pit mine in eastern Germany that supplies lignite to a nearby power plant. Dozens were arrested during the second day of protests against coal. Protesters from across Europe temporarily blocked a railway line on Saturday that feeds coal to the Schwarze Pumpe – or “Black Pump” – power station near Cottbus, in the ... Read More »

Germany extradites alleged Syrian hacker to US

An alleged member of the Syrian Electronic Army has been extradited from Germany to the United States to face hacking-related charges. Two other wanted members of the group are believed to be at large in Syria. Peter Romar, a Syrian national residing in Germany, was flown to the United States to face charges in a Virginia court, a US law enforcement official told news agency Reuters on Monday. The 36-year-old alleged member of the hacking group sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will appear on Tuesday in a US federal court in Alexandria, Virginia. The US Justice Department in March charged Romar alongside two other Syrian nationals with a host of hacking-related charges for targeting the US government, news media and private companies. The other two members of the Syrian Electronic Army, Ahmad Umar Agha, 22, and Firas Dardar, 27, are believed to be living in Syria. They also face charges of creating "hoax regarding a terrorist attack" and "attempting to cause mutiny of the US armed forces." The Syrian Electronic Army gained notoriety with a high profile hack in April 2013, when the accused hackers accessed the Associated Press Twitter account and tweeted false news of bomb explosions at the White House that injured President Barack Obama. The tweet briefly caused the US stock market to plunge before correcting after it became apparent it was a hoax. The SEA has also targeted CNN, BBC, al-Jazeera, Time magazine and Vice, among other media outlets. The group also targeted the website of Human Rights Watch as well as Microsoft and Harvard University, according to the US Justice Department. The hackers also unsuccessfully attempted to access White House computer systems, court documents show. They were allegedly able to redirect the US Marine Corps recruiting website to another page urging potential recruits to refuse orders and join the Syrian Army. Prosecutors allege SEO used spear-phishing, a common and unsophisticated hacking technique, in which deceptive emails are sent in the hopes the user will click on a malicious link. Romar and Dardar were also separately charged in March for an extortion hacking scheme and wire fraud from 2013 to 2014. The Justice Department accuses the two of blackmailing hacking victims and transferring the payments to Syria. Prosecutors allege Romar acted as a middle-man in Germany due to US sanctions of transferring funds to Syria.

An alleged member of the Syrian Electronic Army has been extradited from Germany to the United States to face hacking-related charges. Two other wanted members of the group are believed to be at large in Syria. Peter Romar, a Syrian national residing in Germany, was flown to the United States to face charges in a Virginia court, a US law ... Read More »

Böhmermann: Merkel threw me to a ‘despot’

The comedian under investigation for allegedly insulting the Turkish president has criticized the German leader for allowing the probe to proceed. A 19th-century law criminalizes 'insulting' foreign heads of state. German satirical comedian Jan Böhmermann broke his media silence to slam German Chancellor Angela Merkel for apparently caving to Turkish pressure over a poem he'd read on public television mocking Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. "The chancellor must not budge when it's a matter of freedom of opinion," Böhmermann told the Die Zeit newspaper in an interview printed in full on Wednesday. "But instead, she filleted me, served me for tea to a highly strung despot and made me into a German Ai Weiwei," he said, referring to the Chinese dissident artist. The TV comedian triggered a diplomatic crisis by reading a poem on state television on March31 that insulted Erdogan in a crude fashion. It suggested that Erdogan watched child pornography and performed sex acts with animals, prompting the Turkish head of state to file a defamation complaint. The case unleashed a fierce debate about the limits of free speech in Germany which still criminalized insults to foreign heads of state and the German president under a 19th-century statute. A complicated relationship Merkel has been working closely with Erdogan to exchange billions of euros and diplomatic concessions for Turkey in exchange for cooperation in preventing refugees from seeking asylum in the EU. Critics had already accused her of ignoring Turkey's human rights record and worsening press freedoms in order to win its government's cooperation over migrants. Skewered by German press The Berlin newspaper TAZ on Tuesday published a bilingual German-Turkish edition whose lead editorial accused Berlin and Brussels of staying largely silent on Ankara's alleged rights abuses at a time when the EU needs Turkey to limit the influx of migrants and refugees. "You would have to be in massive denial to overlook the vehemence with which the Turkish president is fighting the free press in his country," the editorial said in the left-leaning newspaper. Erdogan is widely known for his sensitivity to criticism and Turkish prosecutors have opened over 1,800 cases against people - including professional journalists - for insulting him since he became president in 2014. Merkel initially called the crude poem "deliberately offensive" even though she later regretted expressing her personal view. But her government had already decided to allow the criminal probe to proceed though it's unclear whether Böhmermann will be charged. Even so, the 35-year-old comedian has been off the air since the imbroglio. But the case has rocketed his popularity and led to the nomination of at least one prestigious award as the dust-up is seen as a test-case for freedom of expression in Germany.

The comedian under investigation for allegedly insulting the Turkish president has criticized the German leader for allowing the probe to proceed. A 19th-century law criminalizes ‘insulting’ foreign heads of state. German satirical comedian Jan Böhmermann broke his media silence to slam German Chancellor Angela Merkel for apparently caving to Turkish pressure over a poem he’d read on public television mocking ... Read More »

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