"Suddenly there was a hand on my bottom . . ." was the rather atypical headline that ran in Germany's ordinarily conservative daily newspaper Die Welt on January 4. It described a riot-like series of sexual assaults and robberies carried out on New Year's Eve in the center of Cologne on the Domplatz, the plaza between the city's train station and its world-famous cathedral. The assailants were mostly described as Arab-looking. Thus far 120 victims have filed criminal complaints, two of them for rape. Descriptions of the assaults have appeared in newspapers across Germany. The stories are varied and shocking. ("They made a kind of wall around us," one of two high-school girls surrounded by a gang of youthsRead more
Last week Germany reclaimed its status as the leading power in Europe. In the two years since it became apparent that Greece was, essentially, bankrupt, there have been dozens of emergency meetings of the countries that use the common European currency, the euro. Most of the euro-using states believe that Germany—with a booming industrial economy, vast trade surpluses, a reputation for fiscal probity, and a history that makes it reluctant to reject the counsel of France—ought to cover the bill. Germany has long argued that Greece must become competitive again by selling off state assets and cutting government handouts.Read more
Give a man a reputation as an early riser, as the old saw goes, and he can sleep until noon everyday. The same phenomenon evidently applies to bad reputations as well. Brand Donald Trump a bigot, and suddenly every policy he endorses, no matter how innocuous or mainstream, becomes repugnant.Read more
Until mid-September, the half-million migrants who had been marching northwards into central Europe seemed like the Old World equivalent of Hurricane Sandy survivors. Families uprooted by the war in Syria were seeking safety, according to this view of things. It was sad to see little girls sleeping by the side of the road, but inspiring to see European volunteers, with their clipboards and their bags of snacks, their water bottles and Port-a-Potties, showing such compassion and logistical expertise.Read more
Moody’s must have it in for France. Sure, its economy is moribund. Sure, its trade unions are among the most intransigent in the world. But surely the socialist government deserves some credit for one of the most significant reforms in 200 years.Read more
Have you ever had two dinners in one night? I did, more than 20 years ago, in Budapest. My buddy Todd and I had gone backpacking through Europe, hitting 11 cities in 30 days. As students, we were careful not to overspend, staying at pensions and hostels and crashing at my former host family’s house in Germany. By the time we reached Budapest, our last stop, we’d saved more money than we’d anticipated.Read more
Secretary of State John Kerry defended the Obama administration's decision to take the Iran deal to the United Nations before the U.S. Congress votes on it. Kerry made the remarks in an interview this morning on ABC News:
The ABC reporter, Jon Karl, asked, "But the bottom line, the UN is going to vote on this before Congress gets to vote on this?"Read more
Two big deals were signed this week, with one thing in common – can-kicking. The Eurozone countries, more precisely Germany, kicked the Greek debt can down the road for three years by lending the already over-indebted country another €86bn.Read more
April turns out to be “Remember-a-Nazi Month.” A 93-year-old Auschwitz guard, a former member of Adolf Hitler’s Waffen-SS unit, is on trial on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. He says he “morally” shares the guilt for taking cash and belongings from the prisoners as they entered the camp, but is innocent of any criminal act.Read more
The German chancellor bestrides Europe like a colossus. She sets economic policy for the 18-nation eurozone. She says “If the euro goes, Europe goes”, by which she means that the currency’s value favors German exports to her eurozone partners, and makes it more difficult for them to sell their olives, wine and cars in Germany.Read more
In Athens in mid-January, two weeks before the election that would make 40-year-old engineer Alexis Tsipras Greece’s new prime minister, a bunch of cleaning ladies explained to me why they planned to vote for his party, the Coalition of the Radical Left (Syriza, for its Greek acronym). We met where they had lived, at least part of the time, for the past 16 months: among tents on the sidewalk in front of the economics ministry in downtown Athens.Read more
German chancellor Angela Merkel has cautioned that the adventurism of Russian president Vladimir Putin would not remain limited to Ukraine, or even to other countries bordering on Russia. Since Russia seized Crimea in February-March 2014, Putin’s provocative campaign has included imposition of phantom “governments” in two areas of eastern Ukraine, Luhansk and Donetsk, and , Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which are members of NATO.Read more
Condemnation of Israel for its conduct of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza continues unabated. The chief accusation, heard time and again, is that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have either been cavalier about civilian casualties or are intentionally inflicting them. Israel and its defenders, for their part, have been at pains to point out the great lengths the IDF has gone to avoid injuring civilians, while at the same time noting the innumerable ways in which Hamas has violated the laws of war.Read more
Edward Snowden’s revelations about the foreign and domestic surveillance practices of the National Security Agency have inspired a great deal of anger around the world, but nowhere has the fury been stronger than in Germany. “Goodbye, Friends!” read the front page of Die Zeit last November, when it was disclosed that the NSA had monitored one of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phones. Der Spiegel, which breathlessly published a report last fall alleging the U.S.Read more
There is something futile about breakfast meetings. Breakfast ought to be where you dissipate the irrationality of dream-life and find your way back to a clear view of the things you care about in the waking world. Alcoholic memoirs are full of where-the-hell-am-I stories, some funny (“I seem to have woken up with this tattoo . . .”) and some terrifying (“I seem to have woken up with my hands caked in blood . . .”). They appeal to readers because every waking, even on the best of days, is a where-the-hell-am-I story.Read more
If you couldn't tell from all the red banners this was a far-left rally, you could probably tell by the smell. It was an earthy group consisting of various age groups and even more various hair dyes. They seem to like denim. And I think I've figured out how they managed to give their blue jeans that unwashed look.
In the late 18th century, the Germans built a casino in the town of Wiesbaden. It was the first of its kind. But considering the wealth of the surrounding area, it flourished. In fact, the casino is where Dostoyevsky lost a hefty amount and, according to town historian Patrick Walz, the author never paid up. Wiesbaden is also where a Free Democrat rally took place Wednesday evening. The FDP is gambling on a large turnout of its middle- and upper-middle-class supporters here, hoping to remain in power for another four years and hoping to keep its seats in the Bundestag. The economy is humming along. Unemployment is low. Most Germans could say they're better off now than they were four years ago. So why does everyone seem so anxious?
Last week, the New York Times ran a piece on the dire demographic problems facing Germany. The short version: Germans aren’t having enough kids, and as a result the economy is in trouble and there are all sorts of logistical problems—vacant buildings that need to be razed; houses that will never be sold, sewer systems which may not function properly because they’re too empty.Read more
President Obama told a German audience today that the U.S. lags behind other countries because Americans don't speak enough foreign languages. It’s not the first time he’s expressed the sentiment: back in 2008, Obama said, “It's embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup, right?"Read more
At an event in Germany, President Obama said American youth lag behind their European counterparts because they are not taught "a second and third language." Via the pool report:
POTUS opened his remarks with "Guten Abend."Read more
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