Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Merkel man jumps ship

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The man who has been so eloquently selling Chancellor Angela Merkel and her policies to the German public as a government spokesman for the last 3 years, 9 months and two weeks has been furloughed.

But Thomas Steg’s voluntary departure in Berlin just 2 months and 2 weeks before the federal election has raised more than a few eyebrows — he is not leaving his post as deputy government spokesman to go off and write a book or study horticulture but rather he will be leading the election campaign communications efforts of the man who wants to knock Merkel out of office — SPD candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Steg’s surprise move has shocked and dismayed some in Merkel’s Christian Democrats who fear his inside knowledge of Merkel and her foibles might prove to be dynamite if used by Steinmeier. His Social Democrats trail Merkel’s conservative bloc in opinion polls by more than 10 points ahead of the Sept. 27 election and there is a whiff of desperation in the move. Yet the conservatives are nervous about Steg’s switching sides just as the campaign heats up. “There are some close to Merkel who fear that he could now provide all sorts of confidential information to Steinmeier,” wrote Stern magazine. “Steg knows everything — about the strengths, the weaknesses and the CDU’s election strategy.”

Even though Merkel’s CDU and the SPD have been locked in their awkward grand coalition government since 2005, Steg’s loyalties seemed to lie clearly with Merkel even though he is an SPD member and was first appointed to the job by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in 2002 after working as his speechwriter. Steg nevertheless proved to be a valuable and faithful spokesman for Merkel, alongside her chief spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

Nuclear heats up German election campaign

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A technical fault at a German nuclear power station has thrown a spotlight on one of the few issues that divide the two main parties before September’s election — atomic energy.

But the anti-nuclear Social Democrats (SPD), who have shared power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives since 2005, may be disappointed if they had hoped to win votes from it.

Will Germany tamper with election law before vote?

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Should Germany change its election law just a few months before September’s parliamentary vote? That’s the question that has been weighing on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s right-left coalition.

But fears that Germany might end up “smelling like a banana republic”, as Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper columnist Kurt Kister wrote, or be mentioned in the same breath as Iran if it ends up tampering with the law so close to the Sept. 27 ballot has helped kill the intriguing idea for the time being. There is also a tacit angst running through Merkel’s conservative CDU and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, that they could end up throwing away a possible victory once again (a 21-point lead melted to 1-point win in 2005) for their preferred centre-right coalition with the Free Democrats by changing the law now.

Is “baron from Bavaria” a liability for Merkel?

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Germany’s 37-year-old economy minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, could become a liability for Chancellor Angela Merkel in September’s election thanks to his open criticism of the government’s 11th-hour rescue of carmaker Opel.

Guttenberg, a rising star in Merkel’s conservative camp, had argued for an Opel insolvency in the days preceding the deal.

Cattle Rustling, Pythons and Boogie Angola Style …. the best reads of May

Climate health costs: bug-borne ills, killer heat
Tree-munching beetles, malaria-carrying mosquitoes and deer ticks that spread Lyme disease are three living signs that climate change is likely to exact a heavy toll on human health. These pests and others are expanding their ranges in a warming world, which means people who never had to worry about them will have to start.  

Spain rearranges furniture as economy sinks

Moving a 17-metre high monument to Christopher Columbus 100 metres down the road is how the Spanish government is interpreting the advice of John Maynard Keynes. The economist once argued it would be preferable to pay workers to dig holes and fill them in again, rather than allowing them to stand idle and deprive the economy of the multiplier effect of their wages.

Argentina’s Kirchner shows softer side on campaign trail

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Argentina’s Nestor Kirchner developed a reputation as a sharp-tongued leader who did not hesitate to upbraid company executives, opposition leaders and journalists as president.

Now, he’s looking to showcase a softer side as he returns to the campaign trail — this time as a candidate for Congress.

Austrian far-right leader isolated over Israel stance

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Senior figures from across Austria’s political spectrum have condemned the head of the far-right Freedom Party, Heinz-Christian Strache, over his party’s European election campaign directed against Israel and Turkey.

In an advertisement in the newspaper Kronen Zeitung, Freedom opposes the accession of Turkey and Israel to the European Union. Although Turkey is in EU accession talks, Israel is not.

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