Global News Journal

Beyond the World news headlines

Merkel smiles through pre-election jitters

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Pressure? What Pressure?

That was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s message during a 90-minute grilling in Berlin by journalists at her last major news conference before the Sept. 27 election. Even though opinion polls show a narrowing in her re-election campaign and amid a growing nervousness in her conservative party, Merkel was a picture of tranquillity.

Although some of her conservative party allies are pushing for her to raise the volume and intensity of what has been an exceedingly cautious campaign, Merkel made it abundantly clear that she is not at all worried. Perhaps it was all a good bit of acting. But she answered even the most surly of questions from the pack of 100 journalists with a nationwide TV audience watching with smiles and jokes along with the usual assortment of evasive answers.

Like she has so often in the last four years, Merkel managed to find a shimmer of optimism in just about every query hurled her way. She turned each question about opinion polls showing the lead of her preferred centre-right alliance narrowing upside down by pointing out the centre-right still has a lead.

“The opinion polls are quite encouraging for us,” Merkel said even though the centre-right’s lead over a trio of left-leaning parties has shrunk to just two points in two polls and disappeared into a dead heat in a third. Two weeks ago, the centre-right had a six- to eight-point lead in those same polls over the Social Democrats, Greens and Left party. Four years ago, Merkel’s centre-right alliance also had a big lead before the election that evaporated on election day. The conservatives are particularly nervous after having seen their support plunge in the final days of the last two campaigns in 2002 and 2005.

Britain’s 42-day detention: draconian or necessary?

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Gordon BrownSo Prime Minister Gordon Brown has succeeded – by the skin of his teeth — in getting Britain’s House of Commons to approve new police counter-terrorism powers that were condemned by civil liberties groups, a former prime minister, a U.N. human rights investigator and several dozen of Brown’s own Labour MPs. The Guardian newspaper writes about ‘Liberty, security and an anxiety over lost rights’.

And even the government admits the power to hold terrorism suspects for up to 42 days before charging or releasing them has never been needed until now: it wants it as an insurance policy against future attacks or plots in which the police may need more than the 28 days they now have in order to investigate tangled international links, false identities and masses of encrypted computer files.

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