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North Korea, Venezuela, Chad among 8 countries on new US travel ban

The Associated Press
Sun, 2017-09-24 03:00

WASHINGTON: Citizens of eight countries will face new restrictions on entry to the US under a proclamation signed by President Donald Trump on Sunday.
The new rules, which will impact the citizens of Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria, Venezuela and Yemen, will go into effect on October 18.
The restrictions rage from full travel bans on nationals from countries like Syria to more targeted restrictions. A suspension of non-immigrant visas to citizens for Venezuela, for instance, applies only to senior government officials and their immediate families.
The announcement comes the same day as Trump’s temporary ban on visitors from six Muslim-majority countries is set to expire, 90 days after it went into effect. That ban had barred citizens of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen who lack a “credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States” from entering the US
“As President, I must act to protect the security and interests of the United States and its people,” reads the proclamation.
Officials stressed that valid visas would not be revoked as a result of the proclamation. The order also permits, but does not guarantee, case-by-case waivers .
The restrictions are targeted at countries that Department of Homeland Security officials say refuse to share information with the US or haven’t taken necessary security precautions.
“The acting secretary has recommended actions that are tough and that are tailored, including restrictions and enhanced screening for certain countries,” said Miles Taylor, counselor to acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, said Friday.
Unlike Trump’s first travel ban, which sparked chaos at airports across the country and a flurry of legal challenges, officials said they had been working for months on the new rules, in collaboration with various agencies and in conversation with foreign governments.
The restrictions are based on a new baseline developed by DHS that includes factors such as whether countries issue electronic passports with biometric information and share information about travelers’ terror-related and criminal histories. The US then shared those benchmarks with every country in the world and gave them 50 days to comply.
The eight countries are those that refused or were unable to comply.
Trump last week called for a “tougher” travel ban after a bomb partially exploded on a London subway.
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” he tweeted.
Critics have accused Trump of overstepping his authority and violating the US Constitution’s protections against religious bias. Trump had called for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States” during his campaign.
The new policy could complicate the Supreme Court’s review of the order, which is scheduled for argument next month.

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Trump promising huge tax cut; focus on taxes vs health care

The Associated Press
Sun, 2017-09-24 03:00

MORRISTOWN, New Jersey: President Donald Trump is promising “the largest tax cut in the history of our country” that will slash rates for the middle class and corporations to spark economic growth and jobs.
Trump says his “primary focus” is the tax overhaul rather than last-ditch efforts to bring a repeal of the Obama health care program. The health care legislation brought forward by Republicans teetered near failure over the weekend, though Trump said “eventually we will win on that.”
Trump says the tax plan that the White House and congressional Republicans have been working on for months is “totally finalized.” He was speaking on the tarmac at the Morristown Municipal Airport.
Trump’s details weren’t firm. He said “I hope” the top corporate tax rate will be cut to 15 percent from the current 35 percent.

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Fighting Pakistan’s food waste, one lunch box at a time

Amna Ehtesham Khaishg
Mon, 2017-09-25 03:00

LAHORE: Every afternoon for 20 years, Huzaifa Ahmad’s mother opened the door of her home in Lahore and fed dozens of people who had nothing to eat.
“All of us in the family were instructed not to take more than we could eat, so that no one would go back hungry,” said Huzaifa.
Eventually, the young man realized that his mother’s efforts alone could not eliminate hunger from Pakistan, and that more work was needed to address both hunger and food waste.
In 2015, Huzaifa, Qasim Javaid and Musa Aamir — friends from Lahore University of Management Sciences — set up Rizq, Pakistan’s first food recovery and distribution service. Since then, with the support of 720 volunteers, Rizq has collected more than 30,000kg of food, distributed more than 150,000 meals, saved food worth more than $85,000 and fed 200 families a day.
Before establishing a food bank, Rizq goes into communities that are seriously underprivileged and conducts feasibility surveys. “Families come to the food bank and register themselves for food support. All families are registered after proper verification,” Qasim said.
Rizq now has one food bank in Lahore and another in Islamabad, and aims to establish 50 more across the country in the next five years. “We want to establish food banks in some of the most food-insecure pockets of the country and hopefully make those pockets food secure,” Qassim said.
Their customized rickshaw bikes, which they call as Rizq-shaws, collect excess food from across the city and bring it to the food bank. “The food is then checked for quality, sorted, packed and then sold at a minimal cost, as low as 10 rupees per meal,” which is about 10 US cents. Families that can still not afford this are given food free.
The Rizq food bank also serves as a community center, Musa said. “When a family comes for food support, we investigate why they are food insecure. We help one of the family members to learn technical skills and earn a living. During the training program, the family receives free food support. Once the member graduates and finds a job, the family stops getting the free assistance. Thus, we focus not only on giving free handouts but also building human capacities.”
Rizq also provides free lunch boxes to underprivileged schoolchildren. “We have adopted two schools so far and are feeding 350 students on a daily basis. We design lunch boxes according to the nutritional deficiencies of the community children.”
Rizq is not a charity, but a business model, Musa said. “We are a company that makes food philanthropy smarter. We assist whoever wants to share excess food. We pick food from their doorstep for a fee and distribute it to the needy at a minimal cost. Similarly, if someone wants to feed school lunches to children, we design school lunches for them.”
Like his other two friends, Musa, 23, has no regrets about making philanthropy his career, although all three have now graduated. “We are earning decently. Perhaps a little less than the market rate but at least we are doing what we love.
“If I got anything right in my life until now, then this is it. I have learnt a lot and grown a lot, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.”
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization says that although Pakistan produces enough food to feed its 180 million people, more than half of households can be classified as food insecure. Its figures suggest that the cost of a basket of food staples rose by 80 percent between 2007 and 2017. Pakistanis now spend 48.9 percent of their income on food. The province of Sindh is the poorest and most deprived food-deprived province, with 72 percent of families food insecure, followed by Baluchistan, with 63.5 percent.
OXFAM says about 40 percent of food in Pakistan is wasted. “Enough food is produced to feed the entire population but because of food waste an estimated 6 out of 10 people go to bed hungry,” it said.
“Food waste is a crime,” Musa said. “The government of Pakistan should take food waste seriously and introduce laws. Many governments in the West either incentivize restaurants and consumers to share more food, or penalize them for wasting food. Such attempts will go a long way to solving the problem.”

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Trump weighs replacement to travel ban

Mon, 2017-09-25 03:00

SOMERSET, New Jersey: US President Donald Trump on Sunday was considering a replacement to his controversial executive order barring travel to the US from several majority Muslim countries.
The current ban, enacted in March and set to expire on Sunday evening, extended to travelers from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The new order could fall short of a complete ban, instead tailoring travel restrictions on a country-by-country basis.
Trump received a set of policy recommendations on Friday from acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke and was briefed on the matter by other administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a White House aide said.
As of Friday, the president had not made a final decision as the contents of the new order and which nations would be affected, leaving open the possibility that the list could be expanded. He was spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Rather than a total ban on entry to the US, the proposed restrictions would differ by nation, based on cooperation with American security mandates, the threat the US believes each country presents and other variables, Miles Taylor, an aide to Duke, said on Friday.
After the Sept. 15 bombing attack on a London train, Trump wrote on Twitter that the new ban “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly, that would not be politically correct.”
The expiring ban blocked entry into the US by people from the six countries for 90 days and locked out most aspiring refugees for 120 days to give Trump’s administration time to conduct a worldwide review of US vetting procedures for foreign visitors.
Critics have accused the Republican president of discriminating against Muslims in violation of constitutional guarantees of religious liberty and equal protection under the law, breaking existing US immigration law and stoking religious hatred.
Some federal courts blocked the ban, but the US Supreme Court allowed it to take effect in June with some restrictions.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Oct. 10 on whether the current ban discriminates against Muslims in violation of the US Constitution, as lower courts previously ruled.

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Boko Haram displaced protest poor conditions in Nigeria camp

Sun, 2017-09-24 20:08

KANO: Thousands of Nigerians uprooted from their homes by the Boko Haram insurgency hit the streets of Maiduguri Sunday in protest at food shortages and poor conditions in their refugee camp, demanding they be allowed to go home.
More than 2.6 million people have been displaced by the deadly violence in northeastern Nigeria that erupted eight years ago, forcing them into camps and host communities.
Around 3,000 people living in Dalori camp joined the protest in Maiduguri, the epicenter of the insurgency, denouncing food and water shortages as well as “appalling” living conditions.
The protesters, from Borno state’s second largest town Bama, urged the authorities to allow them to return home and rebuild their shattered lives.
“We are protesting to demand our right to return to our homes in Bama because of the appalling conditions in the camp,” Babagana Mohammed told AFP.
“We have no food, no water and our children don’t go to school,” said the 32-year-old father of five.
Mohammed also said he wondered why those displaced from other towns, such as Gwoza, Dikwa and Gamboru, were allowed to return home.

But police and the military blocked them from heading to the governor’s office.
“All we ask for is to be allowed to return to Bama,” protester Kulo Gana said.
“We need to go back and rebuild our homes, grow our food because we are tired of living in Maiduguri in abject poverty and untold suffering,” Gana said.
“We have all it takes to start a new life back home,” said another protester Mohammed Kassim.
Bama was home to 270,000 residents and a major trading hub on the road to Cameroon before it was captured by Boko Haram in September 2014.
When it was retaken by the Nigerian military in March last year, 85 percent of the town had been destroyed by the jihadists.
Borno state officials said it would require 40 billion naira (94 million euros, $111 million) to rebuild the town, a staggering amount in the impoverished region.

Funding shortages have forced aid agencies to scale back their operations in the region, compounding the dire humanitarian situation with more than five million people under threat of hunger and possible famine.
A cholera outbreak has also ravaged the camps, where 44 people have died over the past month.
The United Nations said it would need around $10 million to contain the outbreak and improve the supply of clean water and sanitation to the camps.
The lack of food forced some to return home at the start of the rainy season to grow crops after losing three seasons in a row.
But they have come under increasing attack by Boko Haram fighters, who kill and abduct them from their farms.
Mohammed seemed undeterred by the threat of attacks, and insisted he be allowed to go home.
“The suffering is too much and it is better to return home, repair our homes and our lives and fight off Boko Haram,” he said.

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Macron’s party suffers setback in French Senate vote

Adam Plowright | AFP
Mon, 2017-09-25 01:51

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron’s new centrist political party suffered its first electoral setback in Senate elections on Sunday in which the right-wing Republicans party strengthened its dominance in the upper chamber of parliament.
Results from the vote to renew 171 of 348 seats were expected to leave the French president’s Republic on the Move party (LREM) with a group of only 20-30 senators.
The outcome, which is not expected to significantly impact Macron’s ability to push through his economic reform agenda, came after months of falling approval ratings for the 39-year-old head of state.
But after a week in which he signed into law one of his signature economic reforms — an overhaul of rigid French labor laws — a new survey Sunday brought more positive news.
A poll published in the Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed 45 percent of respondents approved of his presidency, up from 40 percent last month.
French senators are elected by 76,000 local and national lawmakers, not the general public, which put LREM at a disadvantage because the party was only formed in April 2016 and is not implanted nationwide.
But Macron’s top team had once hoped to increase their presence in the upper house from the 29 seats they control presenting, comprising lawmakers who had switched over to the party.
“I can’t call it a success,” the head of LREM’s group in the Senate, Francois Patriat, admitted as he forecast that final results would show the party with 20-30 senators.
The Republicans expected to hold around 150 seats after the election, up from 142 presently. “It’s really good news,” commented senior figure Bruno Retailleau.
The election underscores some of the challenges for LREM which was started by Macron in April 2016 as a new pro-European, pro-business political movement to support his presidential bid.
It propelled him to victory as France’s youngest-ever president and it won a landslide in the far more important lower house of parliament in June.
Since then, with Macron’s approval ratings falling and the afterglow of his takeover of French politics fading, the party is grappling with the difficulty of establishing itself as a national force.
“The En Marche hurricane has not been at Category Five for a long time,” said Philippe Raynaud, a political science professor at Pantheon-Assas university, riffing on the storms that have been buffeting the Caribbean lately.
A string of policy moves have also irked the lawmakers who voted on Sunday, particularly 300 million euros ($360 million) in funding cuts for local and regional authorities.
Others are unhappy about Macron’s pledge to scrap property taxes for some 80 percent of French citizens — revenues which previously went into the budgets of local administrations.
The upper house has the power to delay government bills, but in case of a deadlock the final say goes to the LREM-dominated National Assembly.
But the Senate could complicate Macron’s plans to make changes to France’s constitution by mid-2018, including cutting the number of seats in parliament by a third.
For that, Macron would need three-fifths of support of the two combined houses — 555 seats in total.
He currently has the backing of some 400 Assembly members — 313 from LREM — but would need to garner nearly 160 more from the Senate. As a last resort, however, he has said he would put the reforms to a referendum if necessary.
Elsewhere in French politics on Sunday, hard-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon touched off a controversy with comments on Saturday when he urged his supporters to continue street protests against Macron.
“It’s the street that toppled France’s kings, it’s the street that drove out the Nazis,” he told a rally on Saturday.
As well as challenges to his reading of history — France was liberated by Allied forces — some critics accused him of comparing Macron’s pro-business agenda to the work of fascists.
Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud told French media that Melenchon’s remarks were “unworthy and shameful.”

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Explosion in Mali kills three UN soldiers from Bangladesh

Joe Bavier | Reuters
Mon, 2017-09-25 00:33

ABIDJAN: Three United Nations soldiers from Bangladesh were killed by an explosive device that detonated as they were escorting a convoy in northern Mali on Sunday, the West African country’s peacekeeping mission and Bangladesh’s military said.
Attacks on peacekeepers in Mali, where Islamist groups continue to operate in the vast desert in the north of the country, have made the UN mission there, MINUSMA, the organization’s deadliest.
Another five UN troops were seriously wounded in Sunday’s explosion, which occurred at around 7 a.m. (0700 GMT) on the main road between the towns of Anefis and Gao, MINUSMA said in a statement.
“Our thoughts go firstly to the families and loved ones. We pledge our complete support to them during this painful ordeal,” the head of MINUSMA, Koen Davidse, said. “The mission will use all means to ensure that justice is rendered.”
The UN did not immediately release the nationalities of the soldiers. But the Bangladesh military’s media department confirmed that three of its soldiers had died by an improvised explosive device during an encounter with militants, adding that four other Bangladeshi peacekeepers were injured in the attack.
West Africa’s arid Sahel region has in recent years become a breeding ground for jihadist groups — some linked to Al-Qaeda and Islamic State — that European countries, particularly France, fear could threaten Europe if left unchecked.
Despite a 2013 French-led military operation that drove back militants who had seized control of Mali’s north, the area remains home to groups that have staged assaults on high-profile targets in the capital Bamako, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
MINUSMA, established in the wake of the French intervention, has struggled to quell the unrest.
The UN Security Council established a sanctions regime this month that allows the body to blacklist anyone who violates or obstructs a fragile 2015 peace deal signed by Mali’s government and separatist groups.
Anyone who attacks peacekeepers, hinders the delivery of aid, commits human rights abuses or recruits child soldiers could also face sanctions, including a global travel ban or asset freeze.

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One dead, six injured in shooting at Nashville church

Mon, 2017-09-25 00:12

NASHVILLE: A woman was killed and at least six people were injured when a gunman opened fire at a church in Nashville on Sunday morning, officials said.
The woman died in the parking lot and medical officials were treating at least six wounded church-goers after the shooting at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ, according to the Nashville Police Department.
All but one of the wounded were over 60 years old and were being taken to nearby hospitals, Joseph Pleasant, a Nashville Fire Department spokesman, told Reuters. The gunman was among the wounded, according to Pleasant and the police.
The church is in Antioch, about 10 miles (16 km) southeast of downtown Nashville in Tennessee.
The church’s pastor was shot in the chest and was being treated at a hospital, the WKRN television news channel reported, citing the pastor’s son. (Reporting By Frank McGurty and Jonathan Allen)

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German Social Democrats in turmoil after historic loss

Frank Zeller | AFP
Sun, 2017-09-24 23:44

BERLIN: The defeat Sunday of German Social Democrat Martin Schulz at the hands of Chancellor Angela Merkel is his party’s worst loss since World War II and another blow for Europe’s center-left.
The SPD, Germany’s traditional working class party, won just 20-21 percent in its fourth loss in a row against Merkel’s conservative bloc, which scored 32-33 percent, according to exit polls.
The SPD immediately announced it would head into opposition rather than serve another humiliating term as junior partner to Merkel, after what Schulz called “a difficult and bitter day.”
Running against “Mutti” (Mummy) Merkel, seen by many Germans as a beacon of stability in turbulent times, has long been considered a political suicide mission, and few envied Schulz for trying.
The SPD campaign pledge to fight for more social justice did not sufficiently resonate in a country where unemployment is at a post-reunification low, even if the wealth gap is widening.
For the past four years, the SPD served as junior partner to the popular Merkel — a thankless task in which it failed to earn much credit despite policy successes from a minimum wage to gay marriage.
“After the latest defeat against Merkel, Social Democrats now need to seriously rethink their approach,” said Michael Broening of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, a think tank close to the SPD.
“In particular, they will have to face the bitter fact that many workers have turned their back on the former workers’ party.”

‘Traitor party’
The campaign was not helped when former SPD chancellor Gerhard Schroeder controversially took a post on the board of Russian energy giant Rosneft.
It was Schroeder who pushed through the stinging Agenda 2010 labor and social reforms, which are credited with reviving a moribund economy but also damaged the SPD “core brand” and led many disenchanted members to turn their backs on what some have since called the “traitor party.”
Many defected to the far-left Die Linke party, further splintering the left spectrum which also includes the ecologist Greens party.
The SPD’s stinging defeat comes at a time when Europe’s leftist parties are out of office in France, Britain, Spain and many eastern European and Nordic countries.
Analysts point to structural reasons that work against the left — the closure of factories, coal mines and shipyards, and a general decline in traditional party loyalties.
The working class base of the about 150-year-old SPD is now split between those with secure jobs, and a “precariate” of temporary and contract workers — and automation and digitization mean many more jobs may soon be performed by robots and algorithms.
Electorates are less split along old left-right lines, and more among winners and losers of globalization, argues German political scientist Wolfgang Merkel.
The new cleavage, he recently wrote, is between the “cosmopolitans” who favor open borders for goods and services, capital, migrants and refugees, and those who want to close them.

Support base ‘no longer exists’
The SPD “must acknowledge that the groups who used to vote for them no longer exist,” said Gero Neugebauer of Berlin’s Free University.
Some look to the way old-school Socialists like US Democrat Bernie Sanders and Britain’s Jeremy Corbyn have energized young voters.
But the German SPD “decided 20 years ago to move to the center,” said Neugebauer. “And it won’t be able to go back, given its policies and personnel and the fact the Linke now exists.”
Three quarters of German voters, and almost as many SPD members, had said before the vote they would prefer a defeated SPD to go into opposition, according to a Civey institute poll.
Broening agreed that this may help it win back voter trust but cautioned that this “in itself is unlikely to be a miracle cure.”
“In France, in the Netherlands, in Spain and elsewhere center-left parties have recently been ousted from power only to suffer further marginalization in the opposition,” he said.
“And for some of these center-left parties the move away from government has become a road of no return.”

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Merkel wins fourth term, hard right gains foothold in parliament

Agence France Presse
Sun, 2017-09-24 23:05

BERLIN: Chancellor Angela Merkel clinched a fourth term in Germany’s election on Sunday, but her victory was clouded by the hard-right AfD party winning its first seats in parliament.
Merkel, who after 12 years in power held a double-digit lead for most of the campaign, scored around 33 percent of the vote with her conservative Christian Union (CDU/CSU) bloc, according to exit polls.
Its nearest rivals, the Social Democrats and their candidate Martin Schulz, came in a distant second, with a post-war record low 20-21 percent.
But in a bombshell for the German establishment, the anti-Islam, anti-immigration Alternative for Germany (AfD) captured around 13 percent, making it the country’s third biggest political force.
While the likelihood of the AfD winning seats was clear for months, commentators called its strong showing a “watershed moment” in the history of the German republic.
Supporters gathered at the party headquarters in Berlin cried out with joy as public television reported the outcome, many joining in a chorus of the German national anthem.
The four-year-old nationalist party with links to the far-right French National Front and Britain’s UKIP has been shunned by Germany’s mainstream.
It is now headed for the opposition benches of the Bundestag lower house, dramatically boosting its visibility and state financing.
Alarmed by the prospect of what Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel branded “real Nazis” entering the Bundestag for the first time since World War II, the candidates had used their final days of campaigning to implore voters to reject the populists.
Germans elected a splintered parliament reflecting an electorate torn between a high degree of satisfaction with Merkel and a desire for change after more than a decade of her leadership.
Another three parties cleared the five-percent hurdle to be represented in parliament: the liberal Free Democrats at around 10 percent and the anti-capitalist Left and ecologist Greens, both at about nine percent.
As Merkel failed to secure a ruling majority on her own and with the dejected SPD ruling out another right-left “grand coalition” with her, the process of coalition building was shaping up to be a thorny, potentially months-long process.

‘Steady pair of hands’
Merkel, 63, whose campaign events were regularly disrupted by jeering AfD supporters, said in her final stump speech in the southern city of Munich that “the future of Germany will definitely not be built with whistles and hollers.”
Merkel, often called the most powerful woman on the global stage, ran on her record as a steady pair of hands in a turbulent world, warning voters not to indulge in “experiments.”
Pundits said Merkel’s reassuring message of stability and prosperity resonated in greying Germany, where more than half of the 61 million voters are aged 52 or older.
Her popularity had largely recovered from the influx since 2015 of more than one million mostly Muslim migrants and refugees, half of them from war-torn Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
But the AfD was able to capitalize on a wellspring of anger over the asylum issue during what was criticized as a largely lacklustre campaign bereft of real clashes among the main contenders.
The party has made breaking taboos its trademark.
Gauland has called for Germans to shed their guilt over two world wars and the Holocaust and to take pride in their veterans.
He has also suggested that Germany’s integration commissioner Aydan Ozoguz, who has Turkish roots, should be “disposed of in Anatolia.”
Law student Sabine Maier dismissed the AfD as “too extreme” as she voted in Berlin.
But she also criticized the media for lavishly covering the most outrageous comments by the upstart party.
“They aren’t all fascists,” she said.

“Catastrophic result”
The SPD said its catastrophic result would lead it to seek a stint in opposition to rekindle its fighting spirit.
“This is a difficult and bitter day for German social democracy,” a grim-faced Schulz, a former European Parliament chief, told reporters, adding that he hoped to remain party leader.
This would leave Merkel in need of new coalition partners — possibly the pro-business Free Democrats, who staged a comeback after crashing out of parliament four years ago.
In theory they could join forces with the left-leaning Greens, who, however, starkly differ from the FDP on issues from climate change to migration policy.
Schulz, 61, struggled to gain traction with his calls for a more socially just Germany at a time when the economy is humming and employment is at a record low.
The SPD also found it hard to shine after four years as the junior partner in Merkel’s left-right “grand coalition,” marked by broad agreement on major issues, from foreign policy to migration.
In the final stretch, the more outspoken Schulz told voters to reject Merkel’s “sleeping-pill politics” and vote against “another four years of stagnation and lethargy.”

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