Merkel says she would prefer new elections over minority govt

German Chancellor Angela Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she would prefer new elections over leading a minority government, following failed coalition talks between parties.

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“My point of view is that new elections would be the better path,” Merkel told Germany’s ARD television, as quoted by Reuters. She said her plans did not include being chancellor in a minority government.

Merkel said that she would run again as a candidate in the event of a new election, and said that her conservative bloc is more united than ever.

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Merkel also said she sees no reason to resign following the failed talks, telling German broadcaster ZDF that she is ready to serve as chancellor for four more years. She added that she feels it is important to send a signal of stability to the country, Europe, and the rest of the world.

The German chancellor said she is disappointed by the Free Democrats’ decision to walk away from the coalition talks, but doesn’t expect them to change their mind.

Merkel could still approach the Social Democrats (SPD), asking them to return to her “grand coalition,” which it served in for four years. However, SPD leaders have vowed not to do so, opting to return to opposition.

When asked by ZDF about the possibility of another “grand coalition”with the Social Democrats, Merkel said she would wait to see the party’s response after their scheduled talks with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier on Wednesday. She added, however, that any demand for her to step down would not be a good start to a new coalition.

Merkel’s comments came after Steinmeier said that Germany is facing a situation it had not seen in decades. He warned of “great concern” across the country and the rest of Europe if the EU’s “strongest country” couldn’t form a government.

‘Situation unseen in decades’ – German president on failed coalition talks

Bundestag, Berlin

German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier says Germany is facing a situation unseen in decades after coalition talks failed. He warned of “great concern” across Europe if the “strongest country” in the EU can’t form a government.

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“We are facing a situation which [we] did not face in the Federal Republic of Germany for almost 70 years,” Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier said that he will be holding talks with the leaders of all parties involved in the discussions, along with German institutions. He also stressed that all parties have a responsibility to try to form a government in the near future.

“All political parties elected to the German parliament have an obligation to the common interest to serve our country,” Steinmeier said. “I expect from all a readiness to talk to make agreeing a government possible in the near future.”

The Free Democratic Party (FDP) walked out of marathon talks shortly before midnight on Sunday, with its leader, Christian Lindner, saying there was “no common basis of trust” between the FDP, German Chancellor Angela Merkel‘s center-right CDU party, and the Greens. He said it was “better not to govern than to govern badly.”

The walkout effectively led to the breakdown of the coalition talks and a potential attempt to form a majority government.

Explaining the motives behind its walkout, the FDP pointed to what it sees as a lack of compromise from other parties on key issues including tax cuts, curbing red tape and education policy, according to the party’s negotiator, Joachim Stamp.

The current major partner of Merkel’s CDU, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), had earlier signaled it would not engage in another grand coalition. On Monday, SPD leader Martin Schuls reiterated the decison.

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Schulz also said that German voters, whom he referred to as “the sovereign,” should be given the chance to “reassess what is going on” following the failed talks. He added that his party is not afraid of new elections, should they take place.

Merkel’s CDU received the largest percentage of votes (32.9%) in the September election, with the SPD placing second with 20.5% of the votes. Die Linke (Radical Left) and the Greens both received around 9%, while almost 11% went to the FDP.

The CDU’s 32.9% was a significant drop from the 41% of votes it received in the 2013 elections. The SPD also lost votes, after gaining 26% in 2013.

Meanwhile, the right-wing and anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party made a historic gain in the September election, becoming the third-largest power in the Bundestag after winning over 13% of the vote. The result made it the first overtly nationalist party to have a place in the German parliament in 60 years. Support for the anti-immigrant movement rose following the 2015 refugee crisis, which saw Germany accept more than one million asylum seekers.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced massive criticism for her open door policy ever since, with numerous rallies featuring banners like “Merkel Out” and initiatives teaming up under the hashtag “not my chancellor.”

Maximilian Krah, a former member of Merkel’s CDU, told RT that the refugee issue was rather central to the collapse of the coalition talks.

“If you read the declaration of the liberals when they broke up the coalition talks yesterday night, the migrant crisis was just one word among a lot of others but no one believes that they broke up because of the debate on ‘Industry 4.0’ or digital industry,” he said.

Germany’s homeless population explodes as refugee policy backfires

The latest report published by Germany’s Federal Association for Assistance for the Homeless shows the number of people living on the streets has surged by 33 percent in the two years through 2016.

“In 2016 an estimated 52,000 people were living on German streets, an increase of a third on the 39,000 people who were living rough in 2014,” the report says.

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The data also shows that the number of people who don’t have their own home last year totaled 422,000 compared 335,000 two years before. Most of them have to live in collective accommodation or share apartments with friends, partners or family.

The head of the association Thomas Specht cites continuously increasing rents, sluggish wages as well as restricted housing supply among the key reasons behind the figures. The number of council flats had decreased by 60 percent to 1.2 million since 1990, as local councils had to sell off many properties to private investors.

“The authorities have lost control of the stock of affordable housing,” Specht said, as quoted by The Local Germany.

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“The numbers presented today on homelessness are shocking. In our view this proves that ever more people are unable to pay their rents because of low wages and over-indebtedness,” said Ulrike Mascher, President of the social campaign group VdK.

Some politicians tend to blame the so-called open door policy, implemented by the current government, headed by Angela Merkel. The number of refugees from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and other war-torn countries reportedly increased five-fold during 2015.

However, Specht pointed out that although the influx of migrants had some impact on facilities for the homeless, it couldn’t be the only factor.

Last month, Angela Merkel’s CDU and its Bavarian CSU sister party agreed to limit the number of people allowed to enter Germany for humanitarian reasons to 200,000 annually with migrant workers not to be affected by the plan.

Nigel Farage calls on EU to investigate George Soros funding, collusion

Nigel Farage says while Russia is accused of funding Britain’s ‘Leave’ campaign, financier George Soros’ recent $18 billion donation to pro-EU charity Open Society has escaped scrutiny. “This is where the real international political collusion is,” Farage says.

Speaking to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Farage told fellow MEPs he believes that when it comes to international collusion, “we are looking in the wrong place.” He says Soros’ influence in Brussels is “truly extraordinary,”adding: “I fear we could be looking at the biggest level of international, political collusion in history.”

Farage, the leader of the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy Group, believes Soros has spent billions in the EU to undermine the nation state. “When we are talking about offshore money, when we are talking about political subversion, when we are talking about collusion, I wonder if we are looking in the wrong place.

“And I say that because George Soros recently gave Open Society, which of course campaigns for freedom of movement of people and supranational structures like the European Union, $18 billion. And his influence here and in Brussels is truly extraordinary.”

Farage said Open Society boasts it held 42 meetings in 2016 with the European Commission, and has published a book of reliable “friends” in the European Parliament. There are 226 names on the list, he says. He told those MEPs he would be writing to them to establish whether they had accepted money or help from billionaire investor and liberal campaigner Soros.

“If we’re going to have a debate, and talk about full, political and financial transparency, well let’s do it.  So I shall be writing today to all 226 of you, asking some pretty fair questions: Have you ever received funds directly or indirectly from Open Society? How many of their events have you attended? Could you please give us a list of all the representatives including George Soros?”

He is also calling on the European Parliament to set up a special committee to look into the issue. “I say this at a time when the use of money and the implications it may have had on the Brexit result or the Trump election has reached virtual hysteria.

“Just last week, the Electoral Commission launched an investigation to find out whether the Leave campaign took offshore money or Russian money. This came about as a result of questions asked in the House of Commons by one Ben Bradshaw, someone linked to an organization called ‘Open Society.’”

In October, Soros transferred the “bulk of his wealth” to Open Society, it confirmed. Writing on his website, the financier said: “My success in the financial markets has given me a greater degree of independence than most other people. This allows me to stand on controversial issues: in fact, it obliges me to do so because others cannot.

North Korea ‘sent Russia letter warning it would nuke US’

A delegation from the Stalinist state is said to have got a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin last month during the Inter-Parliamentary Union talks in St Petersburg. Pictured: North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un during a test launch of a ground-to-ground medium long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12

By IAIN BURNS

North Korea sent a letter to Russia explaining that the totalitarian dictatorship was ‘prepared to conduct a nuclear strike against the United States’, according to a report. 

A delegation from the Stalinist state is said to have got a letter to Russian president Vladimir Putin last month during the Inter-Parliamentary Union talks in St Petersburg.

According to Kremlin propaganda tool Sputnik News, the Americans changed their stance towards North Korea after being told about the letter by Russia.

Sputnik said the document was given to upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko by the North Korea delegation, who then passed it on to President Putin.

According to Kremlin propaganda tool Sputnik News , the Americans changed their stance towards North Korea after being told about the letter by Russia. Pictured: Trump and Putin shake hands in Vietnam on Friday

This July 28 picture released from North Korea’s state news agency shows a Hwasong-14 intercontinental ballistic missile being test-lauched at an undisclosed site in North Korea

President Donald Trump on Saturday said he was offended by North Korean ruler Kim Jong-un after official state media in Pyongyang referred to him as a ‘lunatic old man’

But Putin press secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Saturday that he was unaware of the letter.

It comes after three US aircraft carriers teamed up with Japanese ships for joint naval exercises designed to send a clear warning to North Korea.

The four-day drills that began in waters off South Korea‘s eastern coast came as President Donald Trump traded insults with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un.

The battle groups of the USS Ronald Reagan, the Theodore Roosevelt and the Nimitz will successively enter the exercise area during the drills that run until tomorrow, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Sputnik said the document was given to upper house speaker Valentina Matviyenko by the North Korea delegation, who then passed it on to President Putin. Pictured: The dictator inspecting technology

The United States has been sending its strategic assets, also including long-range bombers, to the region more frequently for patrols or drills amid accelerating North Korean efforts to expand its nuclear weapons program.

In recent months, North Korea has tested intercontinental ballistic missiles that could reach the U.S. mainland with further development and has conducted its most powerful nuclear test. It also flew two new midrange missiles over Japan and threatened to launch them toward Guam, a U.S. Pacific territory and military hub.

Trump has been working to rally global pressure against North Korea’s nuclear weapons program on a trip to Asia. That includes a stern speech delivered in South Korea’s National Assembly on Tuesday, in which he said: ‘Do not underestimate us. And do not try us…The weapons you’re acquiring are not making you safer, they are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.’

The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) are underway, conducting operations, in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise in the western Pacific

On Saturday, Kim’s government responded by accusing Trump of trying to demonize North Korea, keep it apart from the international community and undermine its government.

‘Reckless remarks by an old lunatic like Trump will never scare us or stop our advance,’ the North’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘On the contrary, all this makes us more sure that our choice to promote economic construction at the same time as building up our nuclear force is all the more righteous, and it pushes us to speed up the effort to complete our nuclear force.’

In response to that Trump tweeted from Hanoi on Sunday morning: ‘Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?”

Trump went on to say: ‘Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5077475/North-Korea-sent-Russia-letter-warning-nuke-US.html#ixzz4yQUUhMra
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TEXAS GUNMAN WAS AN ‘OUTCAST’ WHO ‘PREACHED HIS ATHEISM’ ONLINE BEFORE KILLING 26

‘Creepy, crazy and weird’

The Texas church shooter who shot dead 26 people and injured 24 others was an ‘outcast’ who ‘preached his atheism’ online.

Former classmates say Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, who stormed First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs in Texas and opened fire on Sunday, was ‘creepy’, ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’.

Patrick Boyce, who attended New Braunfels High School with the killer, told DailyMail.com: ‘He had a kid or two, fairly normal, but kinda quiet and lately seemed depressed.

‘He was the first atheist I met. He went Air Force after high school, got discharged but I don’t know why. 

‘I was just shocked [to hear the news]. Still haven’t quite processed how he could have done that.’

Nina Rose Nava, who went to school with the gunman, wrote on Facebook: ‘In (sic) in complete shock! I legit just deleted him off my fb cause I couldn’t stand his post.

‘He was always talking about how people who believe in God we’re stupid and trying to preach his atheism’ 

Christopher Leo Longoria replied: ‘I removed him off FB for those same reasons! He was being super nagtive (sic) all the timd (sic).’ 

Kelley, (pictured in a yearbook photo, left, and recently, right) 26, of New Braunfels, shot dead 26 people and injured 24 others 

Devin Patrick Kelley is pictured here in a New Braunfels High School 2009 yearbook photo

The shooting happened at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs (pictured), where around 50 people usually attend service

Michael Goff added: ‘He was weird but never that damn weird, always posting his atheist sh** like Nina wrote, but damn he always posted pics of him and his baby – crazy.’ 

Nava added to DailyMail.com: ‘I went to school with him. We had a few conversations here and there. It’s not something I expected from him.

‘He was an outcast but not a loner. He was popular among other outcast. I haven’t spoke to him since high school.’

Another former classmate, who asked to remain anonymous, told DailyMail.com: ‘I grew up going to school with him… Always creeped me out and was different.’

She said she moved away from the area while she was in junior high and lost touch with a lot of people.

Kelley, who was married, had recently posted a photo of an AR-15 style gun on his Facebook page with the caption: ‘She’s a bad b***h’

Investigators work at the scene of a deadly shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, Sunday

However, Kelley recently commented on one of her Facebook posts.

‘I said I just want to move back to Texas,’ she said. ‘And he said something along the lines of “Texas isn’t any better”. Pretty much said he didn’t like Texas.

Former classmates say Devin Patrick Kelley as 'creepy', 'crazy' and 'weird'

Former classmates say Devin Patrick Kelley as ‘creepy’, ‘crazy’ and ‘weird’

 

‘I think he had one kid, she/he is still a baby. He was married but I don’t know to who. It’s crazy to think I grew up with him. Same town. Same school. Same classes.

‘He was different in school and creeped me out but never would I have thought he would do such a horrific thing.’

A former friend wrote on Facebook: ‘It’s scary to know this psychopath has been in my house. I can’t believe I was friends with this guy and I literally would stay the night at his place when we were kids.’

He added: ‘I ended up distancing myself from him in high school after he got in an argument with me in school and he tried punching me several times. Dude was crazy man.’ 

Cord Eubank Brown wrote on social media: ‘I cannot believe this. I went to high school with this maniac.

‘There were people I knew who stayed away from this guy for many reasons, which all make sense now. He just requested me on facebook recently.

She ‘was one very beautiful, special child,’ the pastor said. His wife, Sherri Pomeroy, said her husband was out of town at the time of the shooting. Pictured: Annabelle

Kelley walked into the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs on Sunday, dressed in black, tactical gear with a ballistics belt and an assault rifle, and began shooting, according to local law enforcement sources.

Kelley of New Braunfels, a suburb of San Antonio, was shot by Stephen Willeford, 55, before he climbed in an SUV to flee the scene, a local resident told DailyMail.com.

Another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who had witnessed the confrontation refused to let the shooter get away. Both he and Willeford, a local plumber, jumped in his truck and gave chase.

In a Facebook post, Langendorff’s girlfriend Summer Caddel described how the pair had ‘jumped in my boyfriend’s truck and they chased that sick b*****d down in pursuit until the cops could catch up. He was able to run the shooter off of the road on 539!’ 

As they approached a sharp curve in the road, near the 307 and 539, Kelley appeared to lose control and his car swerved off the road.

Kelley was already dead when they found him. It’s unclear if he committed suicide or died from his pursuers’ gunshots.

Cops discovered multiple weapons and possible explosives in his vehicle.

San Antonio police also raided Kelley’s home on Sunday evening, with K9 and bomb squad units.

Kelley, who was married, had recently posted a photo of an AR-15 style gun on his Facebook page with the caption: ‘She’s a bad b***h.’

He reportedly purchased the Ruger AR-556 rifle in April last year from an Academy Sports & Outdoors store in San Antonio, according to CNN.

When he filled out the background check paperwork, he checked a box that indicated he didn’t have a past criminal history, an official told said, adding that he listed an address in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Texas Sheriff Joe Tackitt said that the shooter was not known to law enforcement.

A LinkedIn account which appears to be Kelley’s states that he joined the US Air Force after graduating New Braunfels High School in 2009.

An Air Force official said the gunman was court-martialed in 2012 and discharged two years later.

Spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Kelley was court-martialed on one count of assault on his spouse and another count of assault on their child. He received a bad conduct discharge, 12 months’ confinement and a reduction in rank.

Sunday school teacher Karla Holcolmbe and her husband Bryan also died in the rampage, their family confirmed. A local resident says their pregnant daughter-in-law was also killed

Sisters six-year-old Brooke (left) and eight-year-old Emily Garza (pictured, right, sitting on the right, next to her sister Rihanna) were killed in the shooting according to her family. Nine-year-old Rihanna (sitting next to Emily) had her glasses shot off her face but survived

Stefanek also said Kelley served in Logistics Readiness at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico from 2010 until his discharge.

Kelley volunteered as a teacher for Bible studies at Kingsville First Baptist Church, according to his LinkedIn which shows him posing which a young child.

He was married to Danielle Shields, and they appear to have a child together. She was previously a teacher at the First Baptist Church.

Kelley lived at his parents’ home with his wife and child and neighbor Mark Moravitz told ABC News he would sometimes hear gunshots coming from near that house late at night.

The gunman’s mother-in-law, Michelle Shields, also appears to have been a parishioner at the church and was friends on social media with the pastor’s wife.

It is not clear whether they were at the church at the time of the shooting.

Local law enforcement say the gunman had a relatively clean criminal record, with just a traffic offenses in recent years.

The names of the victims are now emerging and include a mother-of-four and her two young daughters, a 14-year-old pastor’s daughter and Sunday’s stand-in preacher, his wife, and eight-months-pregnant daughter-in-law.

The first victim to be identified was Annabelle Pomeroy, whose father – First Baptist Church Pastor Frank Pomeroy – had been out of town during the attack. The grieving dad told ABC he’s lost ‘one beautiful girl, and a ‘special child.’

Bryan Holcombe had been standing in for Frank Pomeroy when Kelley opened fire. Witnesses say he was the first victim to be struck by the shooter’s gunfire.

‘Bryan was filling in,’ the witness, who did not want to be named, told DailyMail.com. ‘He was walking up to the pulpit when he was shot in the back.’ 

He was killed, alongside his wife of 25 years, Sunday school teacher Karla Holcombe, as well as their eight-months-pregnant daughter-in-law Crystal, local residents reported.

‘The family is just devastated,’ the witness added.

The couple ran a canvas repair shop before retiring and had attended the church for 25 years.

Mother-of-four Joann Ward and three of her children were also shot. Family have since told the Dallas News that Joann and two of her daughters, six-year-old Brooke and eight-year-old Emily have died.

Ward’s six-year-old stepson Rylan, who was shot four times, is still in hospital after undergoing emergency surgery. The mom’s eldest daughter Rihanna, nine, had the glasses shot off her face but escaped injury by hiding under a pew as shots rang out.

The shooting took place at the church, which is located about 30 miles from San Antonio.  Sutherland Springs is a community of about 400 people

The victims ranged in age from five to 72, with two killed outside the church, 23 killed inside, and one person who died after medical transport, officials said.

And 34-year-old Amanda Mosel told MySA that her 13-year-old goddaughter was killed during the shooting. She said she was sad she skipped church this morning, but she normally attends that sermon. ‘It’s a small, tight-knit church,’ she said.

Many of the dead remained inside the small rural church Sunday evening, as crime scene investigators worked to reconstruct the scene.

Authorities declined to officially name any of the deceased victims on Sunday evening, as they worked to secure the crime scene and notify victims’ families.

‘We don’t know names of any of the victims at this time because we’re still trying to work the crime scene,’ said Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt.

Residents of the community gathered for an emotional candlelight vigil on Sunday night as the names of the victims began to emerge.

Pictured: The two heroic locals who exchanged gunfire with shooter

Two heroic locals have been praised for stopping the worst mass shooting in Texas which left at least 27 dead.

Devin Patrick Kelley, 26, was leaving First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs after he opened fire on parishioners during mass when Stephen Willeford, 55, confronted him.

Texas Department of Public Safety Regional Director Freeman Martin said Willeford, a keen biker, had ‘grabbed his rifle and engaged the suspect.’

A local resident told DailyMail.com that Willeford, who attends a different church, was first alerted to the shooting when his daughter called him saying there was a man in body armor gunning down church goers.

Stephen Willeford, 55, (left) and Johnnie Langendorff (right) have been praised as heroes after they were able to stop Texas gunman Devin Kelley’s rampage

He grabbed his gun and bravely headed down to confront the killer.

The local said that while Willeford has no military experience, he is an excellent shot, and when he came face to face with Kelley, he didn’t hesitate; he shot in between Kelley’s body armor, hitting him in his side.

The 26-year-old had dropped his Ruger assault rifle and climbed in an SUV to flee the scene.

He said that Kelley had taken a hostage in the passenger seat as he fled.

But another local resident, Johnnie Langendorff, who had witnessed the confrontation refused to let the shooter get away. Both he and Willeford, a local plumber, jumped in his truck and gave chase.

In a Facebook post, Langendorff’s girlfriend Summer Caddel described how the pair had ‘jumped in my boyfriend’s truck and they chased that sick b*****d down in pursuit until the cops could catch up. He was able to run the shooter off of the road on 539!’

Langendorff told KSAT 12 that he’d been speeding at 95mph, while on the phone to dispatch, while Willeford kept his rifle trained on the gunman’s car.

As they approached a sharp curve in the road, near the 307 and 539, he said Kelley appeared to lose control and his car swerved off the road.

‘That’s when I put the truck in park,’ he said. ‘The other gentleman jumped out, and had his rifle on him. He didn’t move after that.’

Caddel added that Kelley died a few feet from her boyfriend.

The local, who is familiar with the heroes, said that Willeford made sure the passenger Kelley had taken hostage was on the ground out of the way when they approached the car.

But he claims that Kelley was already dead when they found him, having succumb to blood loss from the gunshot wound he suffered at the church.

Martin confirmed that police had found Kelley dead, saying that: ‘We are not sure if it was self inflicted or if he was shot by a local resident.’